Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Zoe Djukic and I live in Charlotte, North Carolina with my husband, Nick, and two children, Trifun and Sofia. I was born in Belgrade, Serbia and lived there until I received my degree in Pedagogy (child education) at the Philosophy College of Belgrade University. After graduation Nick and I decided to begin our new life together in the U.S., where he is from.
It’s here that I had my first experience with felting, but I actually learned from a friend in Austria. I immediately fell in love, and this newfound madness led to experimenting with wool and all of its potential forms. My first shop on Etsy, 3FUN, was born shortly after this life-changing discovery, and the shop offered a wide variety of eclectic felted jewelry. The name 3FUN is a playful gesture to my son, Trifun. I felt a need to see what else could be done with wool, which led to the birth of SoFino. The name is another playful gesture, but to my daughter, Sofia.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Being a mother of a curious 6-year-old boy and an energetic 2-year-old girl, there is not much time left between family life and felting life. In many ways, they coexist. My family is very involved in my creative life and vice versa. Both Trifun and Sofia have served as models for my products and they love being around while I work.
Besides felting, I also love to cook without cookbooks, create without instruction, experiment with life’s wonders and watch wacky British TV shows with Nick.
Felting is tied into most aspects of my life because I draw from everyday events and apply them to felting.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, Have You Any Wool? Creativity has had a massive influence on my life since very early on, which led to me thinking about the world in a different way. I didn’t want to be a part of the herd. In the book, I would meander around the pages of my memoir, looking at mundane objects and trying to bring them to life in a wooly, felted form.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I draw my inspiration from the world around me and the colors and smells in front of me.
We usually take trips that inspire us as a family and remind us that there is a wonderful, natural world out there that strip malls and shopping centers could never replace or replicate. These trips energize me and inspire new ideas for felting. I feel like each piece I create is full of my family — the sound of their laughs, the pride in their achievements, and the visions of the funny things they have done. These emotions end up as part of my joyful, colorful, aromatic felted soaps.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade means uniqueness. It’s the result of talent, love and drive to create. Handmade objects bring faded memories to life — they are vibrant and have a history and a unique story to tell.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My husband. He has always been there to support me, to offer his advice and criticism along with a realistic evaluation of my work. He is often my inspiration because he is himself creative, having written and published a book in Serbia about daily life in difficult times. That is where our creative paths crossed. In trying to get back into a creative state of mind, he has recently opened up MausPadHaus on Etsy, where he has been making mouse pads out of his original photographs. Nick has been there to inspire me and help keep me going when I feel down about it all — and he also knows when to take the kids far, far away so I can get some work done.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I grew up in a culture and family where handmade was the norm. My mother was really into needlepoint and my grandmothers both loved to crochet. Learning how to do both was just a part of life. I’ve always enjoyed creating something new that is practical, especially in times of crisis, like Serbia in the 1990s. During that time, we would either not have money to buy something, or there would be nothing worthwhile in the stores to spend our precious money on. I hold gifts from this era dearly because I know that my friends put a little bit of themselves into every present.
How would you describe your creative process?
The process itself is a positive experience that I enjoy during every phase, from selecting the scent and the shape of the soap to the selection of the wool and detail work. I approach the work as a kind of game and let inspiration guide me through the process.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
As an artist and a parent with a degree in child studies, I would love to get into the mind of a child while they are creating. I want to know how creative ideas come to a mind that is not influenced by art theory, forms, color combinations, sizes, spatial relationships, etc. These little artists can only rely on their limited experience with the outside world to express their pure, honest thoughts.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Two canvases hang on our living room wall. They came to be in a two week period when Trifun was three years old. The first canvas was painted by Trifun and Nick for my birthday, and the second one was painted by Trifun and I for Nick’s birthday a week later. The size of the canvases are the same, but each have their own special spirit. Both have shared brushstrokes. Both are abstract and unique. Both emanate the same, positive energy.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I walk away from my work and get away from the daily routine, begin another project, re-organize my studio and buy new materials. Also, the Carolinas are great for getting away for a day or two. We have the Appalachian mountains a couple of hours to the west and the Atlantic Ocean a few hours to the east. Nature always brings new energy and inspiration to me.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I would like to be doing exactly what I’m doing now. Having an add-on to the house that could be my permanent, dedicated studio is a solid plan. I will see where life takes me.