A Bertie Bear Interview
After a recent Felting Workshop , Our Raring To Go Reporter Bertie, caught up with Shelley from Felting Crazy, to have a quick chat about herself and why she loves, what she does.
Hello Shelley, I am Bertie, The Ballymena Bear and I am pleased to meet you, I see you had a very busy Needle Felting Workshop,this morning
So, tell me a little about yourself, like where you are from and how did come to be living, here in Ballymena.
Hello Bertie, It's a pleasure to finally meet you. Yes, The workshop was good fun and everybody got to make something. My monthly workshops are becoming popular and there are new people, every month.
I am originally from West Sussex, But,I have been visiting Northern Ireland regularly for the past 36 years having married a local man .
I moved to Ballymena early in 2013 after retiring from a career in mental health nursing of 36 years .
So when did you discover Felting ?
I have always “made things” starting with clothes for my dolls then clothes for myself. Textiles have always interested me. In my early twenties.
I became fascinated by the traditional technique of spinning, turning fleece into yarn, some years later this lead me on to learning about felt making, turning fleece in to fabric.
A one off two hour workshop had me hooked. I find felt making a magical and transformative process one which you are not fully in control of the result it is a process that has a “life of its own”.
So, Shelley, How Long have you been Felting now and where do you draw the inspirations for your felted work?
I have now been making felt for about 16 years and my inspiration for my designs have always come from the natural world.
I am a keen gardener so flowers feature strongly in my work. As Well, since moving to Northern Ireland to live, I have fallen in love with it's Rugged Coastline and Beautiful Mountains, I find their black stone fascinating as it is rarely black but a collection of subtle colours. Their tones and colours have found their way into my felting designs, which I have captured in such things, as pictures, scarves, flowers and the landscapes, that I have created features. One of my favorites is my portrayal of our closest mountain, Slemish. I love the ways, that the local countryside, uses it's colours as a prelude to the mountain in it's background. For me, it was the only choice to use on my business card.
As, I am not an expert, could you explain, What Felting Is ?
Felt making is the process of turning loose wool fibres in to a solid fabric and it is done by using very simple equipment.
You need a soap solution to “wet” and open up the wool fibres, you lay down a web of these fibres and then you agitate and rub them to encourage then to mat together. Finally you “full” or roll this web to shrink it, the result is a strong yet soft fabric. The felt can be made thick or thin, flat or into a 3D shape such as a bowl.
Felt can be made with many types of wool and some other animal fibres such as Alpaca. Other natural fibres such as silk, cotton and linen can be incorporated into the felt, this is called nuno felting.
For my work I tend to use very fine washed and dyed merino fleece. This comes from a Mill in Yorkshire who dye and prepare the wool. They produce bright intense colours that do not fade in sunlight.
The main producers of this high quality wool are South Africa and Australia.
I do use local fleece for some of my work but it is courser and more springy so not suitable for everything I make.
Shelley: You make it sound so simple, So the actual process of felting, has it been around for a while or is just a new technique?
Bertie, It is thought that felting is man’s oldest way of producing cloth it seems to be the bridge between using just animal skins and the process of using animal and vegetable fibres to initially spin to produce a yarn then woven to produce cloth . Nomadic tribes used felted fibres to make their tents.
The untreated wool rich in lanolin made warm water and wind proof tents light and easy to transport.
In the Middle East and Eastern Europe many rugs and mats were and still made from felted wool. There is also a strong tradition of felted goods in Scandinavia.
Today it is part of an increasingly art based craft with decorative vessels pictures and tapestry’s as well as decorative clothing such as coats, hats and scarves.
So. What is your plans, for the future.
Well, Bertie, I am going to continue with my Workshops, here at Midtown Makers. My next one is on the 16th of August and is an all day workshop, where we will make a Nuno Style Scarf. As, well as that I am continuing with my Crazy Felted Kennel Company and the Crazy Felted Cattery, where I use photographs of people pet's to create a commissioned piece of their pet as a keepsake. Plus, I still have fairs and other works I hope to attend as well.
Thank you, for spending your time and it is a pleasure meeting you and I wish you well. Before have you a final thought to share with us.
Thank You, Bertie. Likewise.
A final thought.
I personally believe being Creative is essential to Human Contentment and Our Well Being.