There are a lot of things that make us happy, one of them is making things and the creativity involved. People use creating as a method of relaxing, a way to learn new skills, or a way of spreading joy. We spoke to Susie, the lovely creative behind Wild and Wool (One of our favourite Instagram accounts, which always makes us happy, with the lovely photos of creatures created and of wire-haired Daschund Mille.
When and how did Wild & Wool start?
Wild & Wool came about after initially starting as a hobby for myself and Katrina when our families were young. We both have a passion for the British countryside and it’s amazing wildlife so making many needle felted woodland creatures as gifts for family and friends kept a bit of our sanity when children were very young! Our ideas of turning our crafted items into a business were in our thoughts for a few years with ideas building and lots of enthused discussion on our shared dog walks. The business was catapulted into the real thing by the opportunity given us by my friend Ayo Atkintola (MD Oddbins) Ayo saw the pieces I had been making and proposed a collaboration with Oddbins to create featured creatures for their Christmas campaign and shop windows from Aberdeen to London. After much discussion about small creatures getting lost in large shop windows and the impossibility of making the amount they would need to fill their windows in the timescale they had we decided to try something new and as far as we know a first in needle felting, in that we created one metre tall standing needle felted characters. To our knowledge Wild & Wool are the only company in Britain doing this and possibly globally!? #WhatTheFox became a mammoth project and one we are very proud of.
Our ethos was and still is to work with British made materials and artisans as much as possible so the foxes we made for Oddbins were dressed in Harris tweed and Liberty fabrics and made in the main with British wool. The Campaign was a huge success for Oddbins and Wild & Wool was born!
Katrina sadly at this point had to step out of the picture due to increased family commitments and since then I have carried on pushing the business forward and doing the commission work solely. Katrina has helped me on a freelance basis with the retail installation work which I hope shall continue.
How long does it take to make one of your lovely designs, for example your lovely mice? (You can change this if there is a particular animal you want to talk about)
The time it takes to make a creature depends on the scale and intricacy of the creature. If we take a mouse for example. It would take a day to make the mouse and then possibly up to another day to finish it in intricate detail with any added accessories and props like flowers etc. The large animals can take over a week to make and then their clothing is bespoke tailored to their bodies which are not always symmetrical! We cause our lovely sewing lady Ellie Scotton many headaches! 🙂
We love your window displays! How long does each one take from concept to the big reveal?
The timescale with our window installations is dependent on our client. On our last project with Katherine Fraser, an independent weaver in Bath I approached Katherine after she commissioned some pieces from me just before Christmas 2017 and suggested a collaboration. At this point after Katherine agreed to the idea, we started discussion on theme and concept in early January and started making. I was making the last needlefelted mouse right up until the last couple of hours before installing the window! So four months on this project from initial discussion to finish with theme/ concept, making, bespoke tailoring sewing and prop finding all included in this timescale along with a smattering of commission work!
Do you have a favourite animal to make? And have you ever loved one so much you couldn’t give it away?
I enjoy making all the animals and birds and love the challenge of a new one. It is really hard to choose a favourite but if pushed I think it would have to say the badgers. I made one who starred in Laura Shipley’s shop Wool in her Christmas window. An American lady on holiday from Seattle fell in love with him and bought him alongside a pigeon and hedgehog but he was hard to part with as I had a real soft spot for him! I find that when people commission a creature their enthusiasm for their purchase and the process of making all their bespoke choices helps you part with your creation as it becomes personal to them.
What do you love most about creating these gorgeous creatures?
Oh a hard question because I love the whole process … I really enjoy using wool to sculpt. It is such a beautiful material to work with and so versatile and easy to change if you go wrong! I think when the character and personality of the animal or bird starts to appear that is a great joy but also adding the handmade accessories to build that personality further is so satisfying too!
To be honest by the time Sunday comes like most of us I am so tired and so a long lie followed by tea in bed and some research, news reading and looking at what other artists are making or doing in peace and quiet is treasured followed by a walk in the countryside with my family and dogs!
You have recently worked with an independent weaver. How important do you think the UK wool industry is?
The Campaign for Wool (patron Prince Charles do amazing work to promote this important natural fibre and as humans we need to be conscious of our choices where sustainability is concerned and it is hard to challenge wool for that as sheep are not intensively reared. Wool occurs naturally and is renewable i.e it quickly grows back. At the end of it’s life, wool is biodegradeable in soil, releasing important nutrients however if you invest in a wool made needle felted animal, blanket, carpet or piece of clothing it will last for generations! We use Harris Tweed to clothe our creatures and I feel strongly that we should support the time-honoured traditions in the UK with weaving, spinning and felting.
Yes most definitely. It is my most happiest time when I know my children are off to school with a good breakfast enjoying their days, my dogs and I have had our early morning walk so I can settle down to create and make. I love that “me time” and get great calm and energy from creating a new piece. The satisfaction of having a happy customer at the end of the process is so good and the knowledge that hopefully that unique handmade piece will become a family heirloom with it’s own history and passed on through the generations makes me happy 🙂
You can find out more about these beautiful creations by clicking here- Wild and Wool