What do you create? I make hand felted and embroidered fashion accessories and interior products. This includes scarves, bags, purses, wraps & throws, lampshades and cushions.
Where do you make your work? I predominantly work from my home studio, it’s a purposes built insulated ‘shed’ at the bottom of my garden. I make my work and deliver Feltmaking workshops from here, and also travel to teach in schools, colleges and with groups in their venues.
What is your inspiration? I love texture and surface pattern and find most of my inspiration comes from nature, in particular plant forms, corals, bacteria and funghi. I also find my medium, wool, an inspiration in itself. It is an incredible medium to work with, has amazing qualities and is so adaptability. Its ability to form permemant shapes and fuse with other fibres and fabrics continues to fascinate me.
What materials do you work with & why? Wool – in particular merino, but I also use other wool breeds including Gotland, Blue faced Leicester and Masham. I enjoy working with wool and combining it with other fibres and fabrics such as bamboo, soya and silk. Felting wool appeals to me because it allows me to take the raw materials and take it through a variety of stages to create not just the fabric but the finished product too. The fibres, the process and results are both therapeutic and satisfying to work with.
What process(es) do you use and how do you go about creating your work? I use a variety of traditional and contemporary felting techniques such as nuno and adapt other techniques, including Shibori processes, to create my work. I make use of the wools’ ‘memory’ – this is its’ ability to form and retain sculptural shapes and textured surfaces. I achieve this by manipulating the wool by hand and with stitch to explore the fibers potential to create permanent shapes and patterns that echo my sources of inspiration.
Which aspect(s) of your work do you enjoy most? Experimenting with different fibres and fabrics and developing new ideas is definitely the most enjoyable part, then seeing ideas successfully come to fruition is a great motivator.
Who inspires and influences you? I love the work of the designers Iris van Herpen Seeijaku and Issay Mayike who create sculptural garments, and the work of Shibori artist Michelle Griffths. The fabric development and innovative use of fibres by the designers at the Japanese textile company Nuno, is inspirational and thought provoking too. I am also in awe of the work by Felt artists Claude Jongstra, Anna Gunnarsdottir and Andrea Graham and admire Margo Selby’s use of colour and woven surface textures.
Have you always been an feltmaker? Initially I studied textiles at Newcastle College of Art and then Art History & Architecture at UEA (Norwich) in the early 90s. I then trained as a Careers Adviser, and worked in FE/HE student guidance for ten years before becoming creatively frustrated. I would teach children’s craft workshops during my annual leave and undertook a Cert. Ed in Teacher Training which led to teaching textiles with adults. I continue to combine teaching textiles in schools, colleges and with creative groups.
How did you get started? I was introduced to Felt Making during a session at a night class with Sally Harper, when we first moved to Birmingham in 1997, and haven’t looked back. The materials and process captured my imagination. Since then I have been largely self taught, taking a couple of masterclass workshops with Jenny Mackay, Evelyn Refsahl and Rutsuko Sakata. I began selling my work in 2000 with People, in Kings Heath and encouraged by the enthusiastic response to my work, took the plunge in 2004 to leave my job in education guidance to concentrate on Felt!
Where do you exhibit/ sell your work? I sell my work to galleries and museums, through trade fairs and directly at craft fairs, open studio events and online. Recent exhibitions and outlets have been with New Brewery Arts, Art in Action, the British Museum, and Farfeild Mill. I also undertake commissions, a recent one is the Alter Cloths for St. Martins in the Bull Ring, Birmingham.
What have you been doing / making this year? What are your plans for next year? It has been a quieter year for me since I had a back operation in 2016 and I’ve had to re-adjust my pace of working to accommodate this. I have been concentrating on teaching from my studio and focusing on making for the busy autumn/ winter season ahead. I’ve also been developing a new range of lighting, working with Matt Foster of Plane Structure to create wooden bases to compliment my lampshades. I’m beginning a Textiles and Surface Design MA at bcu in September on a part time basis. I’m thrilled to have been accepted onto this course and really looking forward to making new contacts and developing new work as part of it. Plus, I have been planning and organising Made in Kings Heath, which I’m really pleased is growing to include more artists and venues this year.
Do you have upcoming events? I’m off the Cardiff 2 – 5th November for Made by Hand, then Made in Kings Heath the weekend of 25th & 26th November and at mac for the Christmas Contemporary Craft Fair on 3rd, 9th & 10th December. I am also about to announce my 2018 teaching schedule for Felt and Textiles workshops on my website www.silversoles.co.uk