Over the last couple of weeks, some of our WebinArt Establish members have created their own Instagram challenge exploring the reasons behind what they make. They have explored materials, processes, inspiration and more. For this month’s blog post, we are sharing some of the posts from Rachel Morley and Ann Charlish. For more inspiration and information, search for the hashtag in Instagram #5DaysOfWhyWeMake
This photo of me really sums it up as I am proudly showing the camera my hand made wool felt items made from British Breed Sheep’s Wool. I am endlessly fascinated with this wonderful sustainable natural material and absolutely love creating my sculptural items from wool. This is a close up shot of the wonderful fleece of the Blue Faced Leicester which felts beautifully. I consider myself very lucky to love what I make and do.
I have always wanted to make things with my hands since I was very small. There’s definitely a creative streak running through my family. I have also been so lucky to live in the countryside for all of my life, growing up in the Cotswolds and now living in rural Leicestershire, both beautiful parts of the UK. Having a dog gets me out and about in the landscape wherever we are, and in all weathers. I know that nature has a huge influence on my work, the shapes, textures and colours all around us. I picked this recent photo from our favourite place in South West Scotland to illustrate where my main inspiration comes from. I feel like a creative sponge when I am there and the wonderful array of colours from the heathers on the hills to the gorse in the headlands down to the wonderful colours of the rocks and smooth pebbles on the coastline - it has definitely influenced me and my work. I think this is why my use of natural wool fits so well and we have such a wonderful variety of sheep breeds in the UK offering a beautiful natural palette to work with.
It’s a funny thing but I rarely meet my customer - the person who actually buys one of my felt items for themselves. For the last few years I have exhibited at trade fairs and have met many lovely gallery/shop owners who have supported me by buying my work. They of course have been my main customer and they meet the people who buy my work. Since the pandemic turned our worlds upside down all events including trade fairs have been cancelled or postponed sadly. This photo is my stand at the British Craft Trade Fair in 2019. Luckily for me some of my galleries have continued to support me with placing orders and I am grateful to them. I have also established new contacts and received some private sales through my website, so there is hope for us artists! Thank you to all of my customers. Your support over the last few months has really made a difference!
I use the wet felting process in all of my work and luckily this involves minimal materials and equipment. This image suggests some of my process but basically all you need to add to some wool fibres is warm water, soap and friction - which is applied using a bamboo blind and textured hand tools, and some skill and knowledge of how wool fibres begin to felt together. Every item is hand made by me, (no machines are involved!) and it is quite a physical activity taking a number of hours. Some items take a couple of days to make but it still absorbs me and I love the making process.
Wool is sustainable, renewable, biodegradable, versatile, warm and such a wonderful material to work with. Sheep have grazed the land here for thousands of years and today there are more than 60 pure breeds of sheep in the UK, some of which are becoming very rare. I have become fascinated by these different British sheep breeds and how they all felt. It’s great to make use of this sustainable material and support our British farmers too. I took this photo of a Blue Faced Leicester Sheep a few weeks ago in Scotland. She came right up to meet me and really posed for the photo! I use a lot of this breed in my work as it felts beautifully. Our wonderful British Wool! I am also conscious of using sustainable packaging materials too as this complements my use of wool.
You can see more of Rachel's work here -
I wanted to start with the face behind Ann Charlish Studio. This is a rare photo and I very much prefer being behind the camera, but thanks to my lovely daughter the photoshoot wasn’t too painful!
MATERIAL: Harris Tweed
I have grown up surrounded by Harris Tweed as I remember my Poppa wearing a Harris Tweed flat cap whilst he gardened in all weathers. My Gran was stylish and had a passion for Harris Tweed skirts (she had quite a few!). They both wore the more traditional colour palettes, but on a visit to Edinburgh many years later I discovered the amazing range of available colours. These vibrant colours are created because Harris Tweed is dyed in the wool, rather than after the wool is spun, allowing blending to take place leading to a depth and variety of colour in each individual yarn. Harris Tweed is simply a stunning fabric to work with and it is vital to me to support the weavers and provenance of the fabric within my own practice.
Natural forms have always inspired me. I am intrigued by the vast array of different forms, structures and patterns that can be found in plants and flowers. I am currently producing a body of observational drawings inspired by the fabulous Maranta Leuconeura plant also known as a Prayer Plant. These plants have such vibrant colour contrasts and beautiful linear qualities. These drawings will be developed to create further new designs.
PROCESS: Silkscreen Printing
Drawing is an essential part of my practice as it underpins all my design work. I investigate natural forms through observational studies where I experiment with a range of mark making techniques to achieve a broad range of responses. These drawings are developed and refined into my final designs which are hand silkscreen printed onto the fabric. My first silkscreen print was made at school many years ago and the process has continued to captivate me.
One of the best parts of running a creative business is meeting the customers!
I have exhibited in a number of events over the years and it is always fabulous to actually talk and meet my customers. It is intriguing to find who they buy for and why they chose a specific colour or design. I have learnt so much from my customers and I value their feedback, engagement and support!
SUSTAINABILITY: Functional storage solutions
This is my stationery pouch which I have used every day for the last few years! The wool has become so much softer with use and the print is still as crisp as ever. I design and make my pieces, so they are both functional and aesthetic, but I am also keen for them to be sustainable due to their longevity. Sustainable approaches are also embedded within my selection and use of materials, processes and packaging.
You can see more of Ann's work here -