Saturday, May 28, 2011


 My website is where you can go to see lots of pretty pictures of the things I make but I thought this blog would be a good place to share their background stories.

This little chicken I made for Emma in our needle felting class back in January.  It's the very first thing I ever needle felted.

The next thing I made was this very simplified "portrait" of our dairy cow, Pride, complete with udder and teats.

Next I made this sheep, based on the Border Leicesters we keep here at The Farm School.  Up until this point I had been using nothing but wool from our own sheep, along with whatever scraps were left over from our fiber arts classes.  But then Emma discovered this incredible store in Easthampton, MA called New England Felting Supply that specializes in materials for wet and dry felt crafts and has an unbelievable selection of different colors and varieties of wool for felting.  Ever since then I have been buying my colored wool from them because they carry pretty much any color I could possibly need.  For this sheep I used mostly wool from our Farm School white Border Leicesters and the pink black and tan I picked up at New England Felting Supply.

In February there is not much to do on a farm in New England, so our class spent the month in Italy living and working at a place called Spannochia, a historical farm just outside of Siena.  Of course I brought all my needle felting supplies with me since there was no way I was going to go a whole month without them.  There was a group of extremely friendly donkeys at the farm who inspired me to create this guy here.  Since donkeys look pretty similar to horses, I had to make him a lot more detailed than anything I had made before.  This is the first time I tried making realistic looking eyes by making little wool eyeballs and then actually covering them with eyelids.  I've been using this same method ever since.

Spannochia specializes in cured meats made from a very special breed of pig known as the Cinta Senese, which dates back to at least the 14th century.  The pigs on this farm live basically just like their wild boar ancestors.  They are given huge tracts of forest in which to roam around and forage for things like acorns and truffles.  My needle felted Cinta Senese I actually no longer have because it was my very first successful sale!  I've made two Cinta piglets since then but one is for Emma and the other I gave to my grandmother for her birthday (she's year of the pig in the Chinese zodiac)

The first project I took on as soon as we got back from our trip at the beginning of March was to make portraits of The Farm School's two beloved farm cats, Pedal (the brown tabby) and Clutch (the black cat).  Pedal was a big challenge because of her complex pattern of stripes and her...unique face but I think she came out pretty well in the end.  Clutch is a master hunter so I decided to depict him stalking some unlucky rodent.

I have loved birds probably more than any other kinds of creatures since I was a little kid.  The feeling of awe and excitement that many people get when they meet a big time celebrity, I get from catching a glimpse of a rare species of bird.  The first wild species of bird I chose to make was the barn owl, mostly because I couldn't wait to try and capture their haunting, almost supernatural eyes.

I made this red fox as a gift for the 9 year old daughter of two close friends of Emma and me.  The red fox is her favorite animal because she sees it as the animal most closely representing her spirit.   It was a big challenge for me because I had to figure out a way to give him long flowing fur.  In order to accomplish this I used merino wool roving which is particularly fine, and because it is in roving all the fibers are lined up together.  I would attach the wool in small bunches that were longer than I actually needed and then with my sewing scissors, trim them to the right length and shape.

This rooster I based off of my favorite rooster here at the Farm School.  It is going to be a birthday present for my brother, who was born on the year of the rooster.  Since chicken feet are so long and skinny I decided to try using wire armature.  I cut and twisted fine steel wire into the general shape of chicken feet and then wrapped the wire with wool, which I then poked with my felting needle to tighten and secure.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thank you Kelty!

At The Farm School, all of us students are given some time over the spring and summer to work on our own projects on subjects of our choosing.  I decided for my project I wanted to see if it was possible to create a small business out of selling my animal sculptures.  Luckily, my friend Kelty happens to be a professional artist and graphic designer and all around creative genius.  She generously offered to mentor me and help create my website in exchange for some pet portraits.  In addition to this blog site, you can see the  beautiful website she designed for me at the "portfolio" link on this page.  I just wanted to thank Kelty right off the bat for making all of this possible.   If I go anywhere as a professional artist, I pretty much owe it all to her.

Below is the banner for the Stanford Women's Water Polo website, one of the many that Kelty has designed.  How awesome is that photo?!

 and some of Kelty's many beautiful postcard designs

Check out Kelty's website: for more of her incredible work.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Hi everyone and welcome to my blog!  My name is Kiyoshi and I like to make things out of wool.  I grew up in Chicago, and went to school in Massachussetts.  I joined the army right after college and was introduced to Afghanistan.  I found it so interesting that I went back after getting out of the military to do aid work.  My experiences in Afghanistan helped me to realize that life should be less about "success" and more about spending time with the people we love.   In keeping with this, when I got home I married the woman I'd been pining after since my first day of college (about 10 years) and decided to become a farmer!  My wife Emma and I are currently spending a year learning to farm in the Practical Farm Training Program at The Farm School in Athol, MA and this fall we will be headed to Central Illinois to start our very own farm.  For more details you can follow us on Emma's blog.

I was introduced to needle felting in January in our farm school class on fiber arts and have been hopelessly addicted ever since.  For those of you who are just like I was 4 months ago and have no idea what the hell needle felting is, it is quite simply poking clumps of wool with a barbed needle.  Wool fibers have microscopic scales so when you push them together they hook on to one another.  The more you push them together with a special felting needle the more tangled up they get, which means that if you are patient (or obsessive) enough you can eventually poke a clump of wool into whatever shape you want.  I loved to draw when I was a kid but I never in a million years would have thought I might want to be some sort of an artist.  My discovery of needle felting changed that, and I guess it's because I love being able to produce tangible objects.  Also, depicting three dimensional things in three dimensions is just easier for me than trying to take a three dimensional subject and turn it into a two dimensional image.  Finally, I've always loved animals of all kinds and wool seems to me to be the perfect medium for sculpting them.