Kay's K9s is a Cat Lover's Best Friend

 |  Sep 8th 2009  |   23 Contributions


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Cat-Fashion-Show

Today I'm interviewing Kay Stahler of Kay's K9s as part of my ongoing series on Cat Artists.

Yes, you read that right. But despite the name, Kay's K9s doesn't discriminate by species and embraces cats and other animals in the subjects she sculpts.

And her miniature sculptures are enchanting. Made of wool through a process called "felting," she creates purrfect replicas of cherished pets. Her clients can even send bits of their pets' fur to be incorporated into the sculpture, providing a great way to memorialize the furry members of your family.

Karen: Kay, do your pets influence your work?
Kay:
I think they do. In between custom orders, I enjoy creating miniatures scenes with my needle felted animals. The inspiration for a lot of these scenes comes from my experiences with my own pets. For example, Ill soon be offering a scene with a Jack Russell Terrier digging holes in a yard while a mole is poking its head up behind him. That scene was inspired by my own Jack Russell, who spent countless hours waiting patiently beside a mole hole in my own backyard.

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Karen: How long have you been making these felt animals?
Kay:
Ive been making my felted Kritters for about two and a half years.

Karen: How did you learn the felting process?
Kay:
I first heard about needle felting online a few years ago. Ive always been the type to enjoy trying my hand at a new craft, so I ordered a kit off of Ebay. After learning the basics from that kit, I started teaching myself and creating dogs based on my own techniques.

Karen: Can you describe the felting process?
Kay:
Simply put, needle felting is the process of taking raw wool roving and using a special barbed needle to sculpt it into shape. The sculpting is done by poking the wool fibers thousands of times until they interlock and felt together. This process is extremely time-consuming, and each sculpture normally takes 15 - 30 hours to create.

Karen: Is it a difficult process, or is it easy to learn?
Kay:
I would say its the same as most other art forms - easy to learn but difficult to master. The concept of painting is very simple (dip brush in paint, run brush along canvas, repeat) but of course it takes years to develop technique, not to mention it requires a certain level of innate artistic ability. Felting is very similar. Everyone can learn it to varying degrees (its an extremely simple concept of poking wool with a needle) but not everyone can master it in the same way.

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Karen: I'm always struck by what phenomenally accurate likenesses your sculptures portray. Of the 15-30 hours it takes you to make a sculpture, what percentage of that time is spent fine-tuning the facial expression and likeness to make them so realistic?
Kay:
It can take anywhere from a day to 2-3 days to complete the finishing touches on a sculpture (facial details, final posing etc). I always send photos of finished custom sculptures for customer approval prior to shipment. At times, I will get a customer who is rather particular about the details. In those situations, the fine-tuning has sometimes required over a week! Under normal circumstances though, I spend a day on the facial features.

Karen: Are there any breeds that you find difficult to sculpt?
Kay:
Tabby cats have been the most difficult so far, due to the very detailed and specific markings. I do enjoy being challenged though, it helps me bring out my creative side.

Karen: Of the sculptures you've created, do you have a favorite?
Kay:
If I had to choose a favorite, it would be a Rat Terrier sculpture that I made almost 2 years ago. I made that sculpture as a gift for my mother, and it was a replica of the family dog we had growing up and tragically lost to Cushings Disease 5 years ago. She had tears in her eyes when she saw it and she has treasured it ever since. I know it has brought her a lot of comfort, which makes it one of the best gifts I could have given her.

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Karen: What is the biggest size that you've felted?
Kay:
I once created a Boxer that was 8 tall and about 12 long. I massively underestimated the work involved, and severely undercharged it. That one sculpture is the reason I limit my sculptures to 4 body length (about 6-7 including cats tails). I would have to charge insane prices to offer sculptures that size, as they would end up taking me several weeks each!

Karen: Why do most of your customers buy these sculptures? Are they all commemorating deceased animals, are they purchasing gifts for friends?
Kay:
I generally have quite a variety of customers. Ive had several who order a sculpture of a recently deceased pet, frequently sending me some of that animals fur to include in the sculpture as a memorial. Others have ordered from me upon receiving the devastating news that their pet is terminally ill.

Ive also had several sculptures ordered as gifts (I deal with a lot of husbands ordering for their wives around Christmas).

Most customers seem to order a sculpture of their pets while they are still living, which is easier on me emotionally. Having gone through the heartbreak of losing a pet myself, it can be a very emotional process to work with grieving pet owners.

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Karen: But even as difficult as it is, it must be gratifying to be able to provide a pet owner with such a stunning memorial.
Kay:
Yes. In fact, earlier in the year I had a customer contact me about ordering a sculpture of her seal-point Himalayan. Her cat had just been tragically diagnosed with kidney failure, so she knew she had only a limited amount of time before she would be required to say goodbye. She told me how excited she was to discover my work because she had been searching for a way to immortalize her kitty.

She sent me some of Camilles fur, and also some of her whiskers, to be included in the sculpture. This way she would always have a part of Camille with her, even after she had moved on to Rainbow Bridge.

Hearing how much my work means to people, and how much it can comfort them during such devastating times in their lives, brings me so much joy. I truly love working with my customers to memorialize their cherished pets.

Karen: Thanks, Kay, for taking the time to talk with me about your work. You really capture the souls of the pets you portray.

You can find Kay online:

A portion of all proceeds from Kay's K9s sales is donated to the Ontario SPCA and local animal shelters. By purchasing from Kay's K9s, you help support animals in need.

Don't forget! You can leave a comment on this post for an entry in The Cat's Meow's giveaway of a custom oil painting of your cat by Linden Alley.

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