Today we welcome library-inspired fiber artist Danielle Bonney to the site! Danielle went to the library looking for a hobby and ended up embarking on a new adventure that involves not only hand-making items for her online shop, but also teaching her craft in libraries! Enjoy! ~Laura

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): Please introduce yourself! Who are you, and what kind of creative work do you do?

Danielle Bonney (DB): I am Danielle Bonney and I sculpt birds and other animals out of sheep’s wool through a technique called needle felting. I live on the coast of Maine. It is here in the forest and at the ocean where I find inspiration for my work. I sell my work locally as well as all over the United States and Europe through my Etsy Shop, Wild Things Maine!

LAIP: As an artist/maker, what is or has been your relationship to libraries?

DB: My local library was the spot where this all started. I had never had any talent in any way with art or crafts, or really any interest in developing a talent for it. I could not paint, draw, knit, frost a cake, etc. I am a Social Worker and although that is very rewarding, but I don’t make anything tangible. I was thinking one day as I walked into my local library here in Kennebunk, I wish I had a hobby! As I approached the desk to return my books, a man brushed by me and threw a book on the desk in front of me. It was an instruction book with a penguin on the front, all about needle felting. I thought, this doesn’t look that hard, wool and a barbed needle, maybe I could do this? I went home, ordered the wool and needles and followed the instructions. Once I learned what I needed to know from the book I continued by watching birds outside and looking at pictures.

LAIP: How can libraries invite current – or potential – artists and makers to utilize their collections and resources?

DB: It is ironic, that now I not only am very busy creating and selling my work, but I teach classes in libraries all over Maine. The libraries invite me to teach and then offer the classes to local patrons and provide the supplies. My classes are full every time and people love it. It is so fun to see them all come in thinking and saying “I won’t be able to do this” or “I am not artistic” and then they leave having made a beautiful hummingbird, or a rabbit, or owl. They are so proud of themselves and surprised that they actually do have talent. Everyone does, they just need to try different things until they find something they love and a subject they love.

That is the great thing about libraries. We can research what we are interested in already, discover a subject we have never thought of or heard of before, but also be provided with a space and instruction to actually try something new.

From there students are so excited they want to keep going, find books on the subject that they can take home, and try other creative pursuits. They discover something new about themselves they never knew was there, just like I did.

LAIP: As an artist, what does your ideal library – real or imagined – look, feel, smell like? What’s in it? 

DB: As an artist, my ideal library looks a lot like my library I had as a kid in Kennebunkport. The children’s room in particular. It is filled with sunlight, a fire is going and the walls are painted with beautiful murals from all the stories we know and love: Alice in Wonderland, Charlotte’s Web, Peter Rabbit. I would Add Harry Potter of course! But my ideal library now offers a space for people to come from the community to not only read about other’s adventures, but learn about themselves, to dare to grow and dream, make new friends and laugh.  An attached bakery with the scent of coffee might be nice too! 

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