I come from a background of teaching. During my time in London, I was teaching part time in adult education, special needs classes and family workshops covering a wide variety of textile subjects from dress making to knitting and crochet. I loved teaching; helping others to be creative, watching the sense of achievement mastering a skill and then the glowing with pride at the result. I was teaching all levels and all ages from 5 to 85 year olds. There is something fundamentally nurturing in creating: the process of creation as important as the end result. The quality of the work differed with ability, but the sense of self-worth fed by the achievement and creative process was present in everyone.
During this time I also started to run my father’s educational charity, Kairos. Through Kairos and its main teaching core of geometry I appreciated even more the natural world surrounding me. Nature is wonderful inspiration, from the colours on the pebbles and spirals on the shells on the beaches, to the colours and shapes of the trees, leaves and flowers. I love the flowers: their wonderful array of colours, shapes and colour combinations are a huge influence on my creativity. I have a large garden and enjoy growing many different ones; our youngest daughter and I counted 54 different roses in our garden!
To me, that philosophy and way of looking at the world cannot be separated from my own way of looking at it. There is a deep respect and reverence for all natural creations. I still stop and gaze with wonder at the colours of the sunset for instance, or point out a beautifully shaped tree standing alone in a field, or marvel at the delicate patterns on a shell or mushroom found on a walk. All of these things influence us, if we care to look and observe; all around us is this limitless source of artistic inspiration.
Felted creations take up a large amount of the items I make. A couple of years ago I was asked to join a project helping to regenerate the textiles in Burnley, Lancashire with the aim of helping a group of the community to make marketable felt products. I had not made felt before but did have the necessary experience of making the products they wanted. To do the job properly I did a crash course on making felt fabric and then felted every minute I could to understand the textile enough to teach with it. I have not looked back.
To learn more I have just completed a course on fibrecraft with Gill Burbidge of Bicton College. We learnt about the finer ‘nuno’ and network felt and acid dying. When Gill showed us how to make 3D felt flowers I had to make a flower I thought would represent the flowers I love in my garden and the orchids I have in the house. These make beautiful corsages and go very well with the felt scarves I am making. Gill reintroduced me to natural dying and it has been a joy to colour my own fibres and fabric with basic things like onion skins, beetroot, eucalyptus leaves and walnut leaves. I now have a new collection of natural dyed scarves, fine felt pots and felt fabric purses and handbags.
I have only recently come to felt, relatively speaking, but I love it. Mixing the colours, creating texture and combining woven fabric with a mixture of fibres; it all excites me. I love being able to create my own fabric to use. A member of the International Felt-makers Association recently said to me felt-making should come with a warning as it can be addictive. Too late – I already am!