What’s better than a handmade gift? Perhaps a handmade crochet taxidermy head of a unicorn. When we found Taylor Hart of Nothing But a Pigeon, we instantly fell in love with her cute mounted animal heads. With a successful Etsy shop & year long tours on the handmade market circuit, Taylor has made quite the name for herself (and her incredibly cool critters)! We sat down with her to ask her a few questions about her process.
How did you get started doing crochet taxidermy?
It’s actually a funny story… My husband Matt and I moved to Austin from Columbus, Ohio a little over nine years ago. I had just got a new job working for the city as a call taker and had a lot of time on my hands. I ended up buying a crochet for beginners book + kit that had about five different projects with all the tools I needed to create them. I quickly worked my way through all five patterns and was instantly hooked. Pun intended! I then found an amazing book of Amigurumi patterns and fell in love with creating cute, little plushie toys. All my co-workers started requesting them and I soon started charging for my little critters and then began selling them at “First Thursday” on S. Congress Ave. One day I was struggling with a faux fox scarf and just couldn’t get the head to look right on the actual scarf. I ripped off the head in frustration and left it on the kitchen counter top. Later, my husband Matt came home and laughed at the sight of the severed head on the counter. He picked it up and put it against the wall and told me he thought I should mount it like a taxidermy head. Voila! The idea was planted in my brain. I rushed out to my local craft store and bought a plaque, stained it and together we figured out how to mount him. We hung the little faux fox head proudly in our living room for all to see. Our friends and family that came over got such a kick out of him that they too started to request different critters for their own home… thus Crochet Taxidermy was born.
How do you get creatively inspired?
I find inspiration in nature. Matt and I love to hike and love gardening with our two puppies in our backyard. I’m also a big animal lover. I seriously get on Pinterest at night just to look at pictures of cute critters. I also have a lot of creative gal pals that keep me inspired on a daily basis. They also help to support my ideas and give me amazing feedback when I need to bounce ideas off of them.
How do you fight burnout?
I do get really burnt out after the Holiday Season. My hands hurt and I hate crocheting…. but it does fade. You just have to learn to take breaks and sometimes just walk away. Self care if really important too during the Holiday Season. If I don’t eat right or get eight hours of sleep I start to get sick and it’s just not worth it to me. Learning to say no to commitments that pile up and finding time for your self to just relax is what I find I have to do in order for me to be productive in the long run.
What’s the most challenging thing you’ve faced as a small business owner in the makers sphere?
There are several things that I’ve been faced with that I can think of but writing my book “Crochet Taxidermy” is the big one. I literally had no clue what I was doing and didn’t want to fail or let anyone down. I remember being sick to my stomach with worry and doubt, I couldn’t eat or sleep.
In the end it was one of the most challenging but most rewarding experiences of my life thus far.
What’s your favorite crochet taxidermy piece you make?
The Fox from the Woodland Creatures I hold near and dear to my heart because he’s the first critter I ever created but the most fun to make is the Jellyfish for sure.
You’re now a published author which is just the most fantastic thing. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing your book!
My journey was a little different, I tried to write a book proposal on my own and send it out to various Publishing Companies that I knew were big in the Craft Scene. I did get a few bites back and one company in particular strung me along for a few months until I wised up. I then meet a gal at a show that worked on the book with my now agent Martha Hopkins whom I adore. Martha helped me spruce up my book proposal and sent it out using her various connections in the book world. She helped me get a great deal/offer from Storey Publishing. Storey was amazing to work with and so is my agent Martha. After the contracts were signed I was knee deep into writing my patterns and sending them in chapters at a time to my editor Gwen Steege. She would then give me feed back and we would make little changes here and there. Finally after three months of writing and testing out my patterns to make sure they were correct and accurate the final manuscript was made. I then went through the manuscript using track changes and wrote little notes back and forth to Gwen until we both felt secure about all the changes. Essentially there are several rounds of editing before everything is finalized. In the meanwhile, Storey flew me out to MASS MoCA for a very fun photo shoot. I brought all my critters to be photographed for the step-by-step portion of the book. It was such a treat! They had already photographed the actual trophy heads that I had shipped them over the course of those three months. A few months later I received a paper copy of my book. It was such a delight to see all my hard work right there in front of me. A few months later my book was being shipped off to China to be printed. So in reality it took a good year to write my book, do the photo shoot, edit it and have it be sent away to be printed.
What do you do for fun?
Matt and I love to hike and hang out in our backyard garden with our two dogs Lucy and Sophie. Now that the weather is getting cooler we are taking advantage of it and going out on the weekends to Farmer’s Markets and hiking trails around Austin. Matt built an amazing screened in porch that we sit out on in the evening and read books and cuddle the dogs.
What’s your favorite thing about where you live?
I love that there’s always something to do in Austin. There are so many places to explore here such as watering holes and greenbelts. We’ve also discovered some fun little towns that we like to visit on the weekends such as Wimberely, Bastrop and Smithville.
Can you tell us a little bit about what creative community means to you?
I was really lucky when I moved here to discover a huge craft scene in Austin. I joined a craft group called “Craft Riot” and found a lot of support and made a lot of friends that I still have to this day. Being involved in the creative community to me is finding that support system that you need as a small business owner and helping out your fellow friends and makers. My crafty gal pals and me are always asking for advice and or help from one another. It’s nice to know that if you have a question or problem that you can seek guidance and advice from them. I think it’s a wonderful thing when you see strong female small business owners come together and work towards a common goal.
What’s next for Nothing But a Pigeon?
Now that I’ve written a book I feel a lot of pressure to immediately start to write another. I think it’s just kind of expected. Although, I do see more books in my future I’m not necessarily going to jump on that horse right away. I am currently enjoying teaching workshops and am working on introducing a line of DIY Crochet Kit’s that I’ve designed. I’m also going to be participating in a plethora of Holiday Shows this Season and after I survive that we shall see….