This week we are delighted to introduce you to Melissa Benzinger McGlynn of Dancing Vulture Designs. This "selt-taught artist and self-proclaimed swamp hermit" from Northern Pennsylvania creates soft sculptures, art dolls and other works of art depicting local wildlife. A bit of realism, whimsy and a whole lot of talent are infused into each of her unique creations.
I am primarily a fiber artist and utilize the process of needle-felting. I also sculpt with polymer and epoxy clay, and paint my own pieces. Sometimes I also enjoy woodburning on found pieces of wood, and etching in marble. If I can get my hands on something, chances are I'll try making something with it!
While “Dancing Vulture Designs” has only existed since late 2013, I've been creating art my whole life. When I was in middle school, I wanted to pursue comics and animation. Financial troubles kept me from pursuing art college, so after I graduated high school, I decided to try learning more art skills and mediums on my own. It wasn't until 2012 that I finally found myself drawn towards the wildlife of the Poconos, and started sculpting miniatures of them in polymer clay. In 2013 I found needle-felting, and it's been a match made in heaven since then!
I am most inspired to create the local wildlife in my area. As a resident of the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, I'm always surrounded by wildlife. During some dark times in my life, it was actually the turkey vulture that first inspired me into creating animal art after a series of dreams about them and finding two of their massive flight feathers on my property. They're the reason behind my name, “Dancing Vulture Designs”! It was all I could do to not run off into the woods after that! There are so many beautiful neighbors right at my backyard feeders alone. My father and I watch the hawks migrate in autumn from open cliff faces, find our local owls in March, and witness timberdoodles do their mating displays in early April. There's always something exciting to watch in the natural world, and I want my work to convey that joy and fascination of seeing an animal in the wild for the first time.
It's so hard to get my thoughts into one-word answers, but I'll try! Teachers, soul-mates, neighbors, inspiring... I've always felt that animals have a lot to teach us, especially in terms of coping with our overly complicated human society. They remind us that sometimes we get too wrapped up in things that just are not important. Sometimes we just need to forget the stress of everyday life and focus on being with our loved ones, chowing down, taking a good nap, and having fun whenever possible. As someone who has struggled with anxiety, these are all things that I look to our natural world to remind me of constantly.
I had my best friend and art buddy, a cat named Trunks. He sadly passed away in 2015 and I have simply been tending to the backyard birds and my aloe plants since. I miss him every day. Trunks was the best cat a fiber artist could ask for. He only liked playing with the wool while it was still just roving, and never laid a paw on my finished soft sculptures!
I've been involved with a few charities, mostly by donating little felted critters for them to auction or raffle off. I absolutely love seeing my work go off to help such amazing causes.
The Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is an amazing center that helps raise wildlife awareness and rehabilitates our injured neighbors. Every year they hold an open house to show off their hard work and the animals who are in their care. This will be the second year I'll be selling my fuzzies at their event in June and donating a portion of the proceeds to the center, along with donating a fuzzy for their fundraiser.
The Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network is a rescue network for cairn terriers! Pets in need are so important, and they need our help.
Billy's New Hope Barn is a local shelter for injured and abandoned farm animals to settle down and live peacefully. These folks do an amazing job and pour all of their love and energy into their herd of rescues.
You can see more of Melissa and her "Dancing Vulture Designs" by clicking on the following links:
Bird lovers unite! We've got some great Outlaw Owl goodies just for you!
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