Felting is a craft with a long history dating back thousands of years: from nomadic peoples to artists and craftspeople throughout the ages, felting has been used in industry and art and has experienced a recent resurgence in popularity.
A standout practitioner of this craft is York-based artist Nell, who has been toiling to create flocks of felted birds that she hand crafts from her home studio and sells at fairs and galleries in Yorkshire.
"The birds are all unique and take just under two days each to make," says Nell. "They’re created with solid Merino wool throughout: some people use polystyrene forms but I make them from 100% wool because I like to see them start from nothing and gradually take form."
Making the birds is also, Nell finds, "a nice way to play with subtle colours."
A first-class graduate of York St. John’s Art & Design course, Nell learned how to felt at York Mind, developing her technique in her backyard studio, which she recently opened to the public for a special open exhibition. "I tried lots of experimenting with different types of wool and different felting techniques to find the right method, combining wet and dry felting techniques: sometimes even using my hair straighteners on them."
Continuing her resourceful ‘homemade’ experiments, Nell uses recycled knitwear to add textures to the birds’ nests to make them look more realistic before boxing them up to sell at York’s Blossom Street Gallery and Sunnybank Mills Gallery in Farsley (see links below).
Nell has spent the last few weeks busily making and boxing up her birds to be delivered to their gallery destinations: "I get very attached to each bird and feel sad when they leave, so much so that I line their boxes with a little nest of straw. I realise that’s a bit soppy but they do seem to me to have personalities. I always do their eyes last so I don’t feel bad about stabbing them with my felting tools!"
Nell’s felt birds are available to buy or order. Use the links below to find out more.Blossom St Gallery