DHAA Artist of the Month – September 2013 – Fiona Crouch Store: The Happy Mushroom

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My name is Fiona and I live on the beautiful Isle of Wight, which is a little island off the South coast of England, in a fourteen foot yurt with my boyfriend and a large American bulldog. 

me in yurt and on beach

Fiona

My shop on Etsy is called The Happy Mushroom and it is full of jolly, brightly colored polymer clay creations and tribal and boho jewelry made from new and upcycled/vintage materials.

“I am just a simple girl who loves, loves, loves to make funky things.”

The Isle of Wight /ˈl əv ˈwt/, known to the ancient Romans as Vectis, is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, on average about 3 to 5 mi (5 to 8 km) off the coast of Hampshire

Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight

Photo Credit google images: Isle of Wight tourism

www.visitisleofwight.co.uk

I moved into a yurt because I don’t like having to worry about money and these days the easiest way not to have to worry about money is not to need very much. It is a wonderful lifestyle, being so in touch with the weather and the seasons.

Our house

Having said that, my boyfriend and I now have a pretty good income between us. Well, for our needs anyway, I guess that if we had a house and a car they would keep us poor. He is a leather worker and an occasional cabinet makers assistant. He is a wonderful creator too as he seems to be able to turn his hand to anything.

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My first introduction to art was from my mother whom is a painter and is talented and lucky enough to be able to sell her work (talent is not always enough in the world of fine art, it seems). So I have been around art and crafts all my life. I remember her also sewing and my Grandmother knitting. I started making stuff when I was a little child and got handed a pack of brightly colored plastacine (kids never-drying modelling clay). I was a horrible, noisy kid who wreaked chaos everywhere I went (I am now a kind, peaceful, loving hippy who still has a secret love of chaos) and I think my mom was relieved to discover that plastacine actually shut me up and kept me occupied for a couple of hours so she has encouraged my creativity ever since, as has the rest of my family. I absolutely hated sewing as I was forced to do it in ‘home economics’ classes at school, but discovered as an adult that it was actually quite fun too.

I also do a bit of layout and design for my grandfathers publishing company and design cross stitch for a major UK magazine called Cross Stitcher which features my work monthly. I also do odd jobs, my favourite being log stacking. I don’t know why I enjoy that so much but it is really satisfying!

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https://www.etsy.com/listing/103471319/totoro-with-catbus-cross-stitch-pattern?ref=shop_home_active

http://crossstitcher.themakingspot.com/

mush house

Really my shop is a hobby which got out of hand.

dancing bear mushroom

I have an adventurous spirit and enjoy the ability I have with my art to do many different projects at one time which allows me to keep things interesting.  I am usually reading about three books at once so I can always pick up one to fit my mood.   I read a lot of non-fiction as I am very interested in science and economics, especially economics as I believe it is the driving force behind most of the worlds problems from climate change to inequality. I am currently reading ‘Stark’ by Ben Elton, which is actually a comedy about economics and climate change (if you can believe that is possible). It was given to me by a friend who is in a well known activist band called ‘Seize the day’. He said that it had a big influence on him in the early days and I can see why, it has some fabulous observations on human nature! I had a few conventional jobs but being in the same place day after day making myself available for some boss to tell me what to do just never really worked for me.

It was actually the Grateful Dead which inspired me to take up my main craft, which is creating millefiori patterns from polymer clay. I lived in the US for a while when I was teenager (you wouldn’t believe it, but most people over here in England haven’t even heard of the Grateful Dead!)  I was just getting into the music and all the beautiful GD art that went with it when I found this little pendant in a thrift store. I could tell it was made from polymer clay and it had a spiral of dancing bears on it getting smaller towards the middle, and the detail was amazing and oh so tiny. The most interesting thing was that the pattern was on both sides of the pendant because it ran right through the clay. I really had to know how it was done! I did a bit of research and discovered how.

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Bear Millefiori by Fiona Crouch
 I do love anything I make with the polymer clay millefiori pattern of a dancing bear.  I am so proud of how it came out.  It is only the head of a bear but it was still quite a tough thing to make. I just hope I can get the design right again when this cane runs out, as I have never tried to make the same cane twice.
Millefiori is an ancient technique traditionally used in decorative glasswork, but it works beautifully with more modern materials like lovely, user friendly polymer clay.
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Millefiori In Glass by Jen DHAA Team Founder
Making Millefiori
To make a polymer clay millefiori ‘cane’ I create the picture, or pattern by breaking it down into shapes and invidual elements and making a sort of long, shaped sausage in the correct color for each element. All the different shaped and colored sausages get arranged next to each other and then I kind of compress the whole lot together and roll it out thinner and thinner until I have a long sausage, or ‘cane’ with picture running through the middle. It is amazing because the picture can start off big and be reduced down to a minute size with amazing detail. I can then take slices off the end and each one will contain the picture or pattern. Tadah!
millefiori canes
Millefiori

My favourite piece in my shop right now is actually one of my mens tribal necklaces, made with beads which I purchased, rather than a polymer clay creation I made myself from scratch.
I love the smoke dyed, carved and batiked bone beads and I have been looking for a supplier to buy them from for two years. I finally found some just a couple of weeks ago and have been having a whale of a time ever since!
Fave thing in my shop

Everything seems to inspire me to create!  Sometimes it is just like being bombarded with a constant barrage of designs and ideas which just seem to fling themselves at me. Bright colors and patterns seem to inspire me the most, and I love Grateful Dead art and merchandise, the psychedelic bears and teeshirt designs always inspire me, as you can see by my new range of upcycled leather patches!

 upcycled leather patch
Times don’t really feel hard to me when sales are slow, although I do get a bit obsessive about checking my shop and listing new things until they pick up again. I am very lucky to live in a beautiful place surrounded by nature and I spend a lot of time off hiking and climbing and getting covered in mud.
That is just about all you need to keep you sane.

My first live music experience was actually a bit of a nightmare. When I was a teenager I lived in Boston in the US. Green Day, who had just become famous with their first big album ‘Dookie’ did a free concert at the ‘Hatch Shell’, an outdoor stage in a narrow park between the freeway and the Charles River. The local authorities just didn’t realise that Green Day was such a popular band. They expected three thousand people to turn up and got about thirty thousand. It was seriously overcrowded and Green Day started playing late and everyone was getting really rowdy. The authorities then decided that for safety reasons they should stop the gig after three songs. That was not a smart idea! Everybody just went nuts and started surging unpredictably in random directions, including towards the river and the road. I just hauled myself into a tree!
Youtube video of the Green Day Event in Boston

I don’t get to many festivals now as we don’t have a dog sitter but the little island I live on is a really musical place.   It has actually become ‘festival island’ as it has two major festivals and a lot of minor ones, and it is quite a music lovers destination. The Isle of Wight festivals in the late 60s are famous worldwide and Hendrix played his last gig here in 69.

The Isle of Wight festival

The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was held between 26 and 31 August 1970 at East Afton Farm an area on the western side of the Isle of Wight.  According to wikipedia It was the last of three consecutive music festivals to take place on the island between 1968 and 1970 and widely acknowledged as the largest musical event of its time, greater than the attendance of Woodstock.  Although estimates vary, the Guinness Book of Records estimated 600,000, possibly 700,000 people attended.

 This led to the introduction of the “Isle of Wight County Council Act 1971” designed to control any further happenings of this kind

1970 Isle of Wight Festival Video:

http://youtu.be/4wr8MmAT860

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by Katie Wilkinson

Tonight we are going to see some live music.

We are going to a nice little local pub for ‘folk night’. It is a bit like open mic but all acoustic and playing old traditional music. It is wonderful!

My future holds plans of teaming up with my boyfriend and his boss to create a second shop on a new site called Artizanz which is going to be a high end shop selling jewelry and accessories, mostly mens, which are a mixture of traditional and modern funky style. That is going to be a fun project (although it is starting to sound like a lot of hard work). I am hoping that my shop The Happy Mushroom will continue to grow, which I am sure it will, as long as I keep working hard at it!

favorite quote

‘The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’

The Happy Mushroom:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/thehappymushroom?ref=si_shop

Artist Contact:

 littledasypus@yahoo.com

Social Media Facebook Link:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Happy-Mushroom/224481617639439

Congratulations Fiona!
We wish your Art a Future of Success and Happiness
We’re proud to have you as a member of the Deadhead Art Alliance Team
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2 responses »

  1. Great blog post for a fantastic artist. I love all the beautiful colors in your art, everything is so happy and feels good. I also love your yurt and simple lifestyle. Stacking wood is good for the soul and so is splitting firewood. I love splitting firewood. Good luck going forward in everything you do. 🙂

  2. Boy oh boy!! WHAT A READ! Fiona, You are amazing! I absolutely love the fact you live in a yurt & the lifestyle you lead! I yearn for something Similar one day!! And thank you for the look into your world on Polymer Clay!

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