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Meet Jaane Salujoe a.k.a. Nodsu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jaane Salujoe a.k.a. Nodsu.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up in a little town in Estonia (Europe). Growing up, I witnessed the Soviet occupation, the Baltic chain, the Singing Revolution, the struggles of a starting anew after regaining our freedom- everything was in a constant change and unknown, yet I loved seeing people united and full of hope. I absolutely enjoyed participating in our song festivals that have the joint choir about more than 30,000 singers performing to an audience of 80,000, singing about hope and love for our country, it’s such an indescribable sense of belonging and power, as a young teen, standing along with others, singing, was one of the highlights of my life.

The town’s population was only 2.5 K, had no traffic lights and had no opportunities to stand out – everyone looked the same, there was nothing much to do for young kids and I couldn’t wait to graduate and get out of that stagnant small depressing (yet gorgeously green) town.

I spent four years becoming a special Ed in our oldest university but quit my studies to move to the US.
Those years opened my eyes to all the different people and struggles- visiting hospitals with disabled patients, helping in a shelter with young children and schools with special needs kids – I had never seen any of this or given it much thought, but those memories stayed with me and shaped my curiosity toward diversity, compassion and understanding everyone’s story and reasons.

After moving to the US and settling down, having my two children and staying home to give them the best head start we could by instilling the values we care about, teaching them both languages and enjoying seeing each of their milestones and loving seeing them grow, I really started missing having a purpose for myself. Like many other SAHM moms, I was losing myself in the domestic whirlwind and had to reinvent myself.

I started making little things, toys, clothes for the girls and looked to connect with people with similar interests. I stumbled upon Craftster.org and started swapping with other crafters, accumulating supplies and spending more time on improving my skills, until I opened my Etsy shop in ’11, which gave me the validation I was desperately looking for and got me to using my artist name “Nodsu” (a variation of Piglet [from Pooh] in Estonian, my SO gave me due to our very similar clumsy but well-meaning personalities}.

Please tell us about your art.
I was known as the artistic kid in my class, growing up. During those years (’80s/’90s), there were no online tutorials and pinboards, no inspiration and limited supplies, so I just admired my mom’s creativity and her wonderful seamstress work, but didn’t really have any outlet to try my had in art.

My mom says since I was three years old, I wanted to become “art” and that wish followed me as I grew, but decided to choose the safe path of becoming a teacher cause “they will always have work and who needs artists anyway”. I really regret not even trying to get in and study art- something I hope to fix one day.

As a country in Northern Europe, our people have always been very resourceful, not into consumerism, full of creativity and tradition and growing up with those mainstream values and learning many skills early and in school (knitting, crochet, sewing, cooking, embroidery etc) they became expected and in *my* eyes undervalued – “everyone does that”, “why would anyone buy this, they can make it”, it took away from my desire to make things. My family was financially burdened and as a child, I didn’t know to value the love and time my mom had put into my sewn/crochet/knitted clothing and chose to saw it as a sign of shame and poverty. Those opinions were hard to lose as I grew older and started making things – it took me many years and lots of wonderful art lovers to fully feel handmade is more, not less and to take pride and see value in my work.

I started with making small toys and got fascinated by needle felting about ten years ago and have mostly been focusing on that. I love weird, odd and different. Something that makes you take a double look- something that looks cute or normal at first but then you notice- oh, wait, something is off. But also cute little weirdos that make you smile. Life can be a struggle and creating any reason to smile is a job well done – it’s one of my favorite comments by my customers. My favorite things to felt (or make from polymer clay) are creatures being considered ugly, defective and weird by majority- natural curiosities like blobfish, naked mole rats, aye-aye, just name a few – I find them adorable and misunderstood and love bringing them to life highlighting their cute features. And the same when it comes to pets- dogs and cats that are older, have amputated limbs, missing eyes or fur/feather loss etc – they’re often considered to be less, an eyesore and more often than not deemed unworthy as potential adoptees. I love seeing the cuteness, the added personality, the proof of the resilience and desire to be accepted and loved.
I also love making quirky odd art dolls – some of their features are quite off-putting but their adorable features balance it all out and they become dolls of inner struggle – popularly known as a term “creepy cute”.

And another main category I’ve been making is pet sculptures – needle felted 3D portraits of pets. They’ve been some of my most popular items that take a while to make but the comfort they bring to people, who have lost their furbabies, is so worth it.

All that said, I don’t have any favorite mediums or styles- I love it all and call myself Jack of all arts/crafts. I tend to draw my inspiration from nature and supplies- like mushrooms and berries and the odd creatures or when organizing my supplies, finding a long lost set of eyes or vintage lace I had forgotten about. I have little patience and a great need to try it all- always looking for that extra time to practice watercolors, colored pencils, digital drawing, acrylic painting, felt painting- everything and anything, so my closets are full of all the art supplies and I live for trying new things and new materials and can’t wait to attend art classes and courses to create more whimsy and curious to spark interest and smiles.

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
I think starting small is the key- you’ll need just a little supply, time and effort and have better chances of succeeding. My Etsy shop was started with 2 needles and 1 oz of wool I ordered online – as I sold my work, I ordered more supplies. But even if you don’t plan to sell but make for yourself or as gifts- start small. Order the basic supplies needed for what interests you – just choose good quality over quantity.

Many of the supplies “needed” really aren’t necessary – many bits and bobs around the housework for polymer clay tools (toothpicks, needles etc), Couch cushions work as felting surface instead of the foam blocks sold, thrifts stores can have great discarded supplies for crafts, but also high-quality materials you can get from taking apart clothing (silk shirts, cashmere sweaters, trims and buttons). I’d recommend practicing brand new skills on a small scale, using lower grade materials until you feel confident to break into that block of clay or bolt of silk. And look for tutorials- there are gazillions of them out there – just make sure to stay focused on the ones that interest you and not to get overwhelmed or be pressured into ordering every tidbit the video maker is using. I watched only 1 basic video about felting before I started- but it was a good video because it addressed the qualities of wools and needles and showed techniques to get you started – look for substance over fluff when choosing your YouTube teachers.
And just start somewhere- it doesn’t need to become a masterpiece and change your life – just make something that makes you happy and takes your mind off things that you can’t change and you will have a good time and learn something new.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I am currently posting about my work on Instagram as @nodsukas and appreciate everyone’s support and have my website to contact me as well – www.nodsu.com.

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