The needlefelt work of Karin at Celestine and the hare captures a variety of wonderful characters in a most beautiful way. The lifelike and whimsical creatures are all made from pure wool and produced with minimal environmental impact. We love her use of upcycled objects that enhance her scenes especially the dormouse in a teacup and weasels in teapots!
We asked Karin to tell us more …
Where are you based?
I work in my studio workshop in my garden in Monmouth Wales.
How long have you been a professional artist?
I have been teaching crafts for about 20 years and making all my life but started as a professional artist in 2014
What first inspired you to work with felt?
My mother was a spinner weaver and dyer and I grew up surrounded by and loving the feel and texture of wool. I have always worked with textiles and loved trying out new crafts. I had got stuck into greenwood working for a while but I got ill and my treatment meant I was unable to lift my axe for over a year. I turned back to needle felting as a craft I could do in bed and remembered how much I loved it and the feel and colours and before I knew it I was selling them.
Did you attend college/university or are you self taught?
I am a self taught needle felter. I studied history of art and science at university and have done many courses on crafts but am a self taught felter.
What do you create?
I create needle felted creatures from wool. They have their own characters and mischief.
What methods do you use?
Needle felting, using a barbed needle to tangle the fibres to sculpt pure wool into a 3D form. Some of my work also includes some wet felting.
How is your work eco friendly?
I use natural materials as my creatures are all made from pure wool straight from the sheep with just a wash. No power needed apart from elbow grease, (just a little wire or a pipe cleaner for legs in some larger models and glass beads for eyes). Pure wool, no chemicals or plastics or machine production methods, I don’t use foam pads to work on which is what most needle-felters use and end up in landfill but hessian and rice bags which are compostable once worn out and I encourage people on my workshops to use them too. I use wooden handles and not plastic and I try to source local Welsh wool where possible. I don’t use plastic and use sustainable recyclable and found materials for props if needed e.g. . Old cups, glasses from charity shops or markets.
Which is your most popular creation?
I think King Norty the King of the Weasels, baby weasus (a baby weasel who was found on the doorstep last Christmas eve) She is a girl and very clever and brave and Emily the bear who is kind and wise and makes things and reads to the others are the most popular. I also try to encourage people to make things from nature through the stories I do with the animals.
Can you tell us about the first piece you created?
I made a fox. I still have him as a reminder how far I have come when I have one of those days that I think I can’t make anything half decent.
Do you have a favourite piece?
I think my favourite is Emily and King Norty the weasel though I think I am most proud of the hares I have just finished.
Are you working on any new lines?
Currently I am making some jackalopes for an exhibition which I haven’t done before.
Do your undertake commissions?
Yes, most of my work is commissions. I make animals that people love like a red panda, armadillo or octopus and also likenesses of people’s pets.
Do you teach/run workshops?
Yes I run workshops in needle felting in galleries and beautiful places. A fun day out with lots of chat and giggles and cake and new skills. I am also starting to do some workshops in wet felting again too.
Have you won any awards?
This year I was chosen to be part of the Cambrian Wool challenge.
The Cambrian Mountains Wool Group has been created with the support of the Cambrian Mountains Initiative, set up to encourage and support the development of sustainable, rural communities within the area of the Cambrian Mountains. The 2015 International Design and Make Challenge gave designers the opportunity to work with 100% Cambrian Mountain wool from the heart of Wales. The common factor: a passion for design, sustainability and quality. Our aim: to demonstrate the beauty and versatility of our wool.
The opportunity was for emerging or established textile designer-makers to work with their choice of 1kg of wool tops; 1kg yarn; or up to 3 meters of fabric in plain woven structure, or a mixture of the three to create a unique textile work – whether functional or purely decorative – to help us show the versatility and beauty of Cambrian Mountains Wool. 128 entrants. I was one of the 35 chosen.
Other notable achievements?
I have a calendar published with Graffeg the Welsh publishers for 2016. It has photos of the creatures and some silliness too and some extra holidays! Available now from them or direct from my website.
Which artists inspire you?
I was very keen to not look at other needle felters while I found my style but I have always loved art and studied history of art at University. I think my main inspiration comes from stories from my childhood and the images I grew up with. Being half Swedish, my walls were covered with illustrations by John Bauer, Elsa Beskow and Tove Jansson as well as Shepherd and Rackham and those stories and the characters of the animals have become part of how I see the world. I have a sense of fun and nostalgia and a love for the small, often looked over things. I have a wall in my workshop full of pictures and looking at those they are those I just listed above and also Lars Lerin, Emil Nolde, Jackie Morris, and I also have a love of medieval marginals and illustrations so lots of those. I also have lots of photographs of animals. Most of my inspiration comes from in my head somewhere and the funny way I see the world.
Do you have any advice/tips for aspiring artists?
The best advice is to practice. And work hard. It doesn’t come to you on a plate, you need to work really hard and keep practising. People say oh you are so good at it and I’m not, when I teach a workshop and I always say, yes but I do this for 14 hours a day 6 days a week for years. You have been doing it for half an hour. When you’ve been making for 15 years come back and see how we compare. You can have a bit of talent but a passion for what you do and then do it and try and try and keep going even when you want to throw it in the bin. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We learn when we make mistakes, we learn when it ‘goes wrong’ and be open to what the material is telling you. There is a running joke in my family about what I am making as a crow might turn out as an Arctic fox or a hare a reindeer. Sometimes the wool wants to be someone else and go with that.
Where can your work be seen and purchased?
My work can be seen and is available online on my website www.celestineandthehare.com and on Facebook.
Films are on my Facebook page and also on you tube. I also exhibit in galleries – current lists are on my website gallery page. I am part of the Cambrian Wool challenge that is touring various venues having just been at the Hay Festival, next stop London. Currently my work can be found in Blue Ginger Gallery, Cradley, Oriel Cric in Crickhowell and I am about to send off a lot of hares to New Brewery Arts in Cirencester for an exhibition The names of the hare.