Meet Carla from The Mousehole Woolery
The first of a series of blog interviews with our 2018 tutors.
In this first one we meet Carla from The Mousehole Woolery who is teaching needle felting over the next year.
Her first workshop is on Country hares and foxes on Saturday 20th January. Click here to book and view our other workshops.
Who are you and what do you do? I’m Carla Taylor of The Mousehole Woolery. I am a fibre artist based in Dorset that creates contemporary sustainable wool sculptures inspired by the conservation, animals and landscape of the British countryside and coastline using the technique of needle felting. Bringing a little piece of nature to your home.
Can you tell us a bit more about your craft? Needle felting involves using special barbed needles to repeatedly stab and sculpt wool fibres together to form a solid mass. I specialize in creating 3D sculptures but you can use the techniques to create 2D textured pictures, flowers, portraits, embellishment on clothing and it can be combined with wet felted creations, the possibilities are endless!
How long have you had an interest in what you teach? Since 2013, my felting journey started in in the fields of the Dorset countryside rolling fleece at shearing time. I fell in love with the colours, textures and feel of the wool and liked the idea of recycling a sustainable material that was almost classed as a bi-product to the meat of the sheep and the rest as they say is history.
Who was the first person to show you this craft? I am self taught, initially I bought a kit that I read to understand the basic techniques of needle felting and went on from there to create a hare wearing carrot headphones of all things but you have to start somewhere! I keep my first piece in my studio as a reminder of how my work has developed over time in to what I create now which is quite different to where I started, you’re forever learning and experimenting which is what I love and I believe it’s how you develop your felting and your own style. I greatly admire True Style Lab Art’s felting, it is so detailed and out of this world and I have been lucky enough to see it in the flesh and it is outstanding!
What do you enjoy most about needle felting? I love the diversity that it brings; you can create anything with just a few needles, some wool, your hands and imagination. I also love sharing my passion for local Dorset and British wool with others and seeing people from workshops develop and follow their own felting journey, developing their own style, that makes me very happy.
Where do you get their ideas/inspiration? Working with animals throughout my life and living in a farming community in the Dorset countryside provides me with a great source of inspiration for my sculptures as well incorporating vintage finds of an era past reflecting my lifetime passion for collecting antiques, recycling and the history of each piece.
An ammonite collected from a walk along the Jurassic Coast to a magical sighting of a fox cub in the garden can all be sources of inspiration captured on my ipad or mobile phone, recorded as an everlasting mobile reference that I carry with me throughout the ever changing seasons of the year.
I don’t usually tend to make any sketches before I start, I prefer to physically handle objects or visualize images in my mind and then refer to my ever growing beautiful collection of wools, pondering over the colours and textures to inspire me further. Natural, undyed fibres are usually my first choice to work with such as Blue Faced Leicester, Manx Loaghtan and Shetland but I have recently taken a liking to some of the bright Merino variations with silk and dyeing my own locally sourced Dorset wool with natural plants.
Conservation awareness is also featured in many of my sculptures as I believe we are all guardians of our beautiful British countryside and coastline helping to conserve the wonderful environment that we share with our wildlife for future generations to come.
What is a good starting project for someone who is new to your craft? A good project for someone starting needle felting for this festive time of year might be something like a Christmas pudding or a snowman as it’s based on round balls.
How long will it take a beginner to make something they’ll be pleased with? Needle felting is a craft that can be picked up quickly, especially at a workshop where we share lots of our tips and tricks that we have learnt along the way that you may not find in a book or kit. For me it’s not just about the end product but about the inspiration behind the piece, where the materials have come from and that connection with the land. Most of all it’s about enjoying the process and having fun with felting and seeing where it will take you.
What has been your personal favourite make? Now that’s a really difficult one to answer as each of my sculptures holds special memories and meanings behind each piece. I suppose if I really had to choose it might be my white ghost hare as it was the first piece that I exhibited to the public and it had a strong conservation awareness meaning behind it linked to the decline of the brown hare and their preservation. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I sold this piece as they always go to the right home, but I still get updates on how they are from their new owner so that makes me happy and I still feel like I have a connection with the piece.
Can you teach your craft to someone left handed? Definitely, I’m left handed myself so I know exactly what it’s like to learn a new craft skill and it’s no problem at all, there are many ways to do things, there are no set rules to this wonderful craft.
What secret tip can you give us? Oh a secret tip! Well learning proportions and how much different fibres will reduce down by when working in 3d can take a little time and practice to master which is all part of the fun so if you air on the side of using less wool to start off with you can always add more to making your shapes a little bigger.
And now for some fun ones!
What’s your favourite hobby outside of work? Walking our rescue dog Rusty down at Lyme Regis searching for fossils, he’s the CEO of quality wool testing but seems to sleep most of the day; you just can’t get the staff these days.
What’s your favourite food? At the moment most things that I can’t have as I’m on a diet! Maltesers are my daily treat and believe me they don’t last long.
What’s your favourite book? The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel.
Photo credit: Heidi Burton.