Hi! My name’s Sarah. I’m a full-time mum and a freelance needle felter living in the U.K. I started needle felting nearly ten years ago. I used this medium for the main project of my university degree, BA (Hons.) Drawing and Applied Arts at UWE, Bristol, U.K. I was handed the tools, fell in love with the medium and haven’t stopped since. I had a regular day job until I fell pregnant with my son three years ago. Instead of going back to work after maternity leave, I decided to fill all of my spare time with needle felting, and it has now taken off as a business.
Tell us a little bit about the beautifully crafted wool animals that you create.
Most of the animals that I make at the moment are commission-based. For example, the dogs are normally people’s pets. I’m planning on branching out into new ideas, such as cute farm and zoo animals, and will always continue to make the unicorns as they are so popular. I fall in love with everything I make. Each model is different with its own character and, because they are handmade, a part of me goes into each one. When I send them away to their new homes, it’s like saying goodbye to a friend, or rehoming a beloved pet.
How long, on average, does it take for you to create each animal? Describe the process.
The time it takes to create my projects varies depending on the piece. For a pet portrait, I start with a wire frame and then make the body shape out of core (plain white) wool. The unicorns and bears are made of solid core wool, without a wire frame. To make the main body of the animal, I use a thick gauge needle, which has large barbs, so that the wool can be felted more quickly. Then, I make the face of the animal before using finer needles and a blend of different types of wools to add fur texture and colour. Finally, I add the finishing touches, such as glass eyes and facial details using a marker pen. Pet portraits take 13-30 hours to make, depending on the size of the piece. Unicorns only take 3 hours, because they are a very simple design, whereas a bear will take around 12 hours.
You are big animal lover – do you have any pets?
I have loved animals since I was young and used to have pet rats. They were best pets! Now we have two labradors called Bella and Charlie. If you look on my Instagram feed, you will find pictures of the pet portrait I made of Bella, and plan to make a model of Charlie in the near future.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received and how has it helped you?
During my time at university, my tutor advised me not to make things too realistic because, from an artistic point of view, you should aim to leave some things to the imagination of your audience. When I create something from my own imagination and of my own design, such as a bear or a unicorn, I take this into account and create an animal that is recognisable, but has a simple shape. They are sculptural, artistic representations as opposed to life-like models. However, when I create a pet portrait, I work hard to honour the customer and their pet, and therefore pay more attention to accurate details. These make the pet unique and are recognisable features to the owner.
How do you best balance home life and creative work life?
I dedicate most mornings to spending time with my son, be it going to the park or just playing in the garden. Afternoons, however, are my time. If he naps, I will work. Although, now that he is a bit older, even if he doesn’t nap, I can work and he is happy to amuse himself. I also manage a couple of hours work most evenings, once he has gone to bed. Sundays are for family time and my fiancé, our son and I will spend the day together.
What inspires you most from day to day?
I’m inspired by the world around me, and am driven by the desire to always be creating new things. I never stop!
What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of felt making?
When I’m not felting, I like to cook for my family and go on nice long walks in the Wiltshire countryside. To relax at the end of the day, I always enjoy chilling out with a good Netflix series. Girl Boss is my current favourite, and I absolutely love Gossip Girl.
What do you love most about being a creative woman?
The best thing about being a creative woman is being a part of a close-knit online community and being able to share ideas and support each other’s businesses. I have established valuable relationships with other female needle felters and crafters across the world. It is fascinating to see all the different interpretations of needle felting and I am encouraged by the increasing popularity of the craft.