WAUCONDA – Claudia Lenart has always wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book. The Wauconda resident accomplished part of that goal when she needle-felt illustrated Jewel Kats’ “Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist.”
Lenart’s mother taught her the handwork arts – sewing, crochet, knitting and embroidery – when she was a child. When Lenart’s son was a student at Waldorf School, in Wauconda, she took it up again.
At Waldorf, the children play with natural toys, made from things like wood and wool, so many of the parents take up crocheting or knitting, Lenart said.
As a young mother, Lenart started crocheting finger puppets for her son Johnny Hochrek – now a 15-year-old student at Wauconda High School. Somewhere along the way, she decided to sell them at the Waldorf Holiday Market. Her success at the holiday market prompted Lenart to look into Etsy, an online marketplace where people around the world connect to buy and sell unique goods.
“I checked out Etsy and I found a needle-felt artist and it was beautiful,” Lenart said.
So, Lenart bought a book and began teaching herself needle-felting. For the past few years, she has created animals, angels, fairies and more by needle-felting. She opened her own store on Etsy, ClaudiaMarieFelt. Now is the time of year she gets busy with custom orders. In fact, it was Etsy that led children’s author Jewel Kats to Lenart.
“She found me through my Etsy store and liked my work and thought I would make a great book illustrator,” Lenart said.
The needle-felter spent months creating 17 scenes for the book.
“When illustrating, I can take things out of my head and that’s really liberating,” Lenart said.
Although at first she wasn’t sure what the author was looking for in terms of illustration, the two agreed it would be ideal to create characters in the various settings of the book.
Lenart created both the characters and settings from mostly wool and some wood. After creating the characters and scenery, it was a matter of properly positioning the characters within the scenery. Those needle-felt scenes were then photographed by professional for use in the book.
“It’s a very sweet story and when I read it, I cried at the end,” Lenart said of the book.
“Hansel and Gretel” is the second book Lenart has illustrated for Kats, though it’s the first to be published. It is available for purchase on Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble.
Kats has already asked Lenart to work on a third book for her. In addition to keeping busy with her Etsy store and illustrating for Kats, Lenart would like to take the time to illustrate the three children’s books she has written herself.
Lenart is inspired by nature and really enjoys illustrating early 20th century children’s books. This year’s Waldorf Holiday Market is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 22 at Waldorf School, 150 Bonner Road, Wauconda. Lenart will be present at the market, selling her needle-felt creations.