Tell us a bit about yourself.
We are Amy Lum, Mandy Troxel, and Kari Van Gelder, a three-part felting collective on Orcas Island in Washington State. We named our business after Bossy, the smartest and most endearing sheep in the Lum Family Farm flock. This allows us to call ourselves Bossy Moms, refer to our work day as Bossy Day, and call our kids Bossy Children.
Our island is north of Seattle and a one hour ferry ride from the mainland. We live here with our families and about 5,000 other year-round residents. We collectively have three fine husbands, four rascally dogs, five darling daughters, and sixty-two chickens of all shapes and sizes. The Lum Family Farm is also home to sheep, horses, ducks, turkeys, pigeons and many a cup of tea. On Bossy Day, we occasionally get distracted, gazing out the kitchen window watching sheep graze in the pasture (especially this season, as we watch for baby lambs).
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Do laundry. Wash dishes. Make dinner. Check Etsy. Make lunches. Read stories. Chat in the grocery store. Go to the post office. Shuttle kids. Check Etsy. Plant peas. Pick apples. Can peaches. Weed the garden. Collect eggs. And spend Saturdays at the farmers market for half the year.
As we break out of our felted universe, Amy can be seen shuttling her ducks around, teaching folks about oil spills and care of oiled birds (she even ran off to the Gulf last summer); Kari crusades for affordable housing with OPAL Community Land Trust (and supports housing for chickens by obsessively building coops); and Mandy homeschools her daughters and brings her guitar to most of the Bossy gatherings.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
“Where There’s Wool There’s a Way,” borrowed from our 2010 mock mayoral campaign of Bossy the Sheep.
Where does your inspiration come from?
In the early days of Bossy, we were learning our craft by felting colorful balls and white sheep. One fateful day, then 2-year-old Rachel wondered why we couldn’t make her a blue sheep with a yellow head. Of course we could! Suddenly, the sky was the limit. We have so many ideas, inspired by the farm, our animals, our families and our customers too.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade is from the heart.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
We have influenced each other more than anyone else. Five years of Fridays at the kitchen table with two of your favorite artists is very inspiring!
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
While Kari and Mandy have always considered themselves artistically inclined (both went to art school and dove deeply into the artists’ world), they have only recently been able to convince Amy that she is an artist. Even as a co-owner of a successful crafting business, her standard refrain was “I’m not crafty!” Now she has come to admit that she is indeed crafty. We’ve seen it all along.
How would you describe your creative process?
Our collective creative process is vibrant and satisfying. We are like super bouncy balls in a small room padded with piles of ideas, wool, and deadlines. We are constantly interrupted — we have had our daughters with us on our weekly work day for all five years we’ve been felting. While it has involved a lot of negotiating and a lot of snacks, merging family life and work life was (and is) one of our main priorities. This means our creative process is, by necessity, something that can be interrupted and picked up again.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
The collective Bossy aesthetic has gained tremendously from the authors and illustrators of truly great children’s books. In particular, Patricia Polacco creates a world of farm humor that we have revisited again and again. We’d love to visit her studio to say thank you.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Bossy’s Feltworks. We’re not being cheesy. “Bossydom” has become our creative outlet and a huge part of our family fabric. We built it with our very own hands, and we’re both grateful and proud. In this adventure together, our friendship has been transformed to include business and creativity. We are family for life.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
We show up on Bossy Day. It happens every week, and we show up no matter what, even if we have to drag ourselves through the door. There’s tea, a kitchen table, and a pile of wool. There are tasks both grand and mindless, and they are all worthwhile and necessary. We lovingly prop up whomever might need propping, and tell each other to get felting.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
In ten years, we will be right here on Orcas Island. Our daughters will be teenagers aged 19, 19, 17, 17 and 14, and we will have a lot more grey hair than we do now. We hope to have a book out there with Bossy’s name on it, part how-to and part memoir. We will be smiling big Bossy smiles at the farmer’s market. And we will undoubtedly still be up to our ears in wool, surrounded by garden projects and cackling hens.