My felt art works were initially inspired by a visit to one of my favourite counties, Yorkshire. Dan (my husband) and I were on holiday in the Yorkshire Dales and we visited a gallery where we saw paintings using the medium of wool.
In the past, I have experimented with different forms of art and have created clothes, dyed fabric, batik pictures, lead pictures and paintings. When my daughters were young, I ran a smocking business.
Now, creating felt pictures, clothing, 3d felt flowers and leaves from Merino wool, became an idea that I wanted to pursue. I was inspired by using merino wool, which is the perfect medium for felt art. I first experimented creating a few pictures using merino fibre (tops), and I am now using a variety of dyed and natural wool. I am very keen to use wool that has been produced in the UK, so I have learnt to wash, card it and prepare it myself. Supporting British wool is close to my heart. I am so aware of the struggles that farmers have, often the cost of shearing is higher than the final value of the fleece!
When I was 16 I returned to my place of birth Kenya, to work on a 25,000-acre farm in Ngobit near the Aberdares. I was to be the first student on this farm, which was first taken over by British settlers in 1919. Land that had not had, 'a hoof of livestock, an acre of tilled land or a single building on it’ before. When I arrived, it was a very successful enterprise, selling milk, meat, mohair and Merino wool. I had the most amazing experience for six months, milking by hand wherever the cows were grazing, being chased by rhino and buffalo when driving around, shearing the merino sheep and angora goats. I had the job of sorting the fleeces and grading them.
Forty years on and I am back using merino wool which has been dyed into the most wonderful colours, in addition to fleeces from sheep breeds farmed in the UK, such as Balwin, Black nosed Valais, Herdwick and Lleyn. One of my inspirations has been my love of farm animals (cattle sheep, chickens, donkeys). The others include wildlife observed on our many walks in the UK, Africa and Europe; life experiences such as Cornish Pilot Gig rowing and landscapes, light and plants that we see around us.
I always take photos to record our travels and these images and memories are invaluable for the creation of my work. I would love to create felt painting in the open air, but to my annoyance the wool blows away!
In the summer of 2016 a painting using wool was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, I am very keen that this medium should be exhibited far and wide!