I regularly post photos of gorgeous wall art created by ‘Homespun from Devon’. The very talented lady behind this company, Sue Lewis, lives nearby and our paths have crossed in the crafting world before… so I thought it would be interesting to ask her about her work and how she produces her stunning wet felted masterpieces…
Sue has always been interested in crafts and trained originally as a graphic designer. Always busy with hobbies, she worked her way through textiles, home furnishings and painting and eventually arrived at ‘painting with wool’ as she calls it.
Sue explains: “Having read an article about wet felting, I was intrigued. Unable to find any local classes I taught myself. I was immediately hooked with this method of painting with wool. As I got more experienced I introduced freestyle stitching to my pieces and started to hand dye fleece to add texture.
“Using locally sourced, rare breed fleece is important to me. There’s a certain satisfaction in collecting fleece straight from the sheep, washing it, hand dying it and transforming it into a work of art. I take my inspiration from nature and the beautiful countryside that surrounds where I live in Devon.”
In the flesh, Sue’s pictures are fascinating as they have such depth – both in colour and actual texture. They are mounted in deep box frames that draw you in but which sadly also make them impossible to send by courier or post. “I spend quite a lot of my time delivering the pictures myself as I can’t get them insured for transporting,” says Sue.
Her landscape pictures are her most popular works and Sue particularly enjoys creating dramatic skies. If you think it’s a relaxing and gentle art form… think again! Wet felting takes up a lot of room and a lot of strength!
Sue says: “I create the picture ‘dry’, laying the coloured wool fibres where I want them to form the picture. Then it is sprinkled with a water and soap solution. I lay bubble wrap over the top and smooth it down, very carefully. The wool can be up to 3” thick and I then have to roll it up to start the ‘meshing’ process of the wool fibres. The knobbles on the bubble wrap are very good for this process.
“I have to roll the wool in different directions to ensure the fibres lock together. It is quite hard work and also leads to a degree of ‘randomness’ which (usually!) results in creating lovely effects that I hadn’t necessarily planned!”
Different fibres create different effects and Sue uses all sorts of things in her work including, silk, hemp, rose fibres, banana fibres and different types of wool. And then of course, there’s the issue of shrinkage. “The picture will shrink about 30% when it dries out, so I have to plan that into the design. Different fibres also shrink at different rates, so that can also lead to unexpected results.”
Since October 2014, Sue’s hobby has become her full-time job and her house is full of bags of wool, grouped by colour, a large table top to work on – and she spends a lot of time in the bathroom! “Once the picture has thoroughly ‘felted’, it has to be rinsed in cold water then very gently squeezed to get rid of excess water, so I spend a lot of time hauling the heavy felt in and out of the bath!”. If the weather is kind, Sue’s work gets to dry outside in the sunshine, otherwise it finishes off on top of her Aga.
Her work sells widely through galleries across the country and she also sells through the National Trust. As well as her stunning landscapes, she also makes gorgeous felt flowers. Having made red poppies for a British Legion fundraising event, Sue received a commission for felt flowers for a winter wedding – such a clever idea!
PS. Sue has also just launched place mats and chopping boards based on her designs.