My Felt Story – a wooly journey

1991 and I was depressed. The recession had take away my Interior Design and Build business leaving me kicking my heels and wondering what I should do next. Having been a lover of textiles for many years I made the decision to tackle education again. Finding a weaving course locally I graduated to a City and Guild course in constructed textiles. Nice but not enough, so I went on to a Diploma course in weaving, spinning and dyeing in Bradford. Now, this was better, but still not enough. I needed something to stretch me a bit more.

Luck was with me. I found an MA course in Applied Art and Visual Culture, the meaning of which I am still trying to work out, at the John Cass Art School in London. This was a new course and attracted students, mostly mature, from all different artistic disciplines. I had a wonderful time being given permission to work in all the different departments. I tried everything from knitting with silver wire to paper making to textiles in clay with a bit of black and white photography thrown in. Bliss!

In was during this two year course that I found a week long course at the V&A looking at their textile collection. By this time I was well on the way to deciding on my final thesis which involved a lot of studying of different ancient textile methods and materials worldwide, so this week seemed like a gift. We started by going into the cold store to look at the amazing fragile textiles stored there. After that the leader of the course, an anthropologist expert (and I discovered later, a feltmaker) on Central Asia, took us back into the workroom and told us we were going to make our own versions in felt. FELT! this was a new one for me. I made my first piece and not only did the light bulb switch on in my head but it positively exploded.

That was it. And it’s been the same ever since. Twenty three years now and I still have that light switched on. Needless to say my final piece for my MA was in felt for which I received a distinction. 

Since that time I have progressed from having a piece bought by the Oxfordshire Museum for their contemporary craft collection to writing a book on felting to teaching feltmaking all over the world. I have taught North American Inuits in Canada, at the Design Museum in New York, for the Victorian Feltmakers in Melbourne, to a group in Japan and also Israel. I now work for the Woman’s Institute at their teaching centre in Oxfordshire and other craft schools across the country teaching everything from slippers to hats and cobweb scarves to collaged pictures with an awful lot of needle felting thrown into the mix.

And I still love it!.

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