|Gallery||Sheep & native wool||Process of feltmaking|
We make yarn, and small individually-designed wool felt items from the wool of our rare-breed Soay and Shetland sheep. We do all the processes by hand: from animal husbandry, plucking the fleece, washing, carding, dyeing, felt-making or spinning.
The work includes hats, bags and jewellery, some combining silver and semi-precious stones. We use our own hand-made soap and the local soft water, and introduce silk and other fibres to produce special textures, colours and effects: or we use undyed natural sheep and alpaca colours and fleece textures with stone, leather and horn fastenings. Sometimes beachcombed findings are incorporated, particularly sea-scoured glass and pottery fragments. We avoid plastics and man-made fibres and fabrics. Many of the dyes are our own, produced from natural, local vegetation. We were among the first to hold the Peak District Environmental Quality Mark for the sustainable nature of the work, and its use of recycled, and local raw materials.
My husband, Scott, is a hand-spinner, and he sells handspun wool yarn in natural sheep colours.
My inspiration comes from the natural landscape, particularly the rocks, flora and fauna of the local upland landscape of the Peak District, and the shifting patterns of sand, sea and light around the West coast of Britain. But having studied Byzantine art for many years, including a PhD, I am aware of its influence of strong shapes, colours and textures in my work.
I sell the finished felt work and paintings in craft shops and galleries and curated fairs in the Peak District. I am happy to work to commission to make exactly the colour and style or hat, scarf or bag that you want. I also run workshops in basic and advanced felt making for groups, and give talks on all aspects of wool work from rare-breed sheep rearing to designing and making the finished artefacts.
Wool felt animal sculptures
I started to make these to find a use for the soft, but very short, fibres from our sheeps' fleeces that are too short for spinning. The bodies of these little sculptures are made from this fluffy wool. They are then wrapped in longer wool fibres to form the smooth outer surface.
The sheep in the picture to the left have the traditional marking patterns of Shetland sheep. The pattern of the one with dark circles round its eyes is called "yuglet". The mice in the picture on the right are life-size, and have leather ears.
I use the natural colours of our Shetland sheep for these, with brighter, dyed wool for some features. Some people find the brown mice "a little too realistic", so I started to make some with bright blue and pink flowers. These have proved very popular.
Wool fleece corsages.
These are made from the wool of rare-breed North Ronaldsay sheep, which is so springy and firm that I don't need to felt it.
New Mills Gallery, 12 High St. New Mills, has a display of these items. Here are some images of my work in the window there. The Gallery is a cooperative of 24 local artists and makers who sell only their own work in the Gallery; for many, including me, it is their only retail outlet, so what you buy there is totally unique.