Jane creates needlefelt portraits of animals, mainly sheep, from locally sourced wool. After a career in education, she moved to Ullswater and set up her craft business.
“This had always been the long-term plan. We moved shortly after our youngest child left school and both continued to work from a different location. It opened up many new opportunities though!”
After receiving requests for commissions via Twitter from people who had seen the things she’d been making, Jane decided to turned her hobby into a business.
You can now purchase a wide range of felt pieces from Ullswater Felt Art, including portraits of sheep, alpacas, cows and hares. When asked where she gets inspiration, Jane told us: “I always work from photographs, preferably my own.”
“I am a keen walker and always take a camera. When I went to the Westmorland show, I was there two hours and took 400 photographs, mainly of sheep.”
“We recently cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity. I was able to look at the distribution of British sheep breeds along the route and came back with about 2000 photos, some of which I have already used for new pieces.”
Jane is passionate about ensuring that different breeds of sheep are around for generations to come. She said: “A recent project has been to needlefelt my way through the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Danger List of sheep and goats. I cannot keep sheep myself, so this seemed a good way of publicising their plight.”
“Many of the sheep on the list are wool breeds because we wear a lot of synthetic fibre these days. No breed has gone extinct since the Rare breeds Survival Trust was set up in 1973. We lost 26 breeds of British farm livestock in the first 70 years of the twentieth century. The work of the RBST is crucial as we may need the genetic diversity in the future.”
When asked about her favourite breed of sheep she said it has to be her “two local ones”: Herdwicks and Swaledales. We have to agree… They certainly are cute!
One thing that we love about Ullswater Felt Art is that, as mentioned earlier, the work is made from mainly locally sourced wool.
Jane told us that: “Herdwick and Swaledale is easy to source. I collected some from my neighbour yesterday.”
“I also go to Woolfest in Cockermouth where I am able to buy some of the more unusual breeds, such as Devon and Cornwall Longwool.”
“Now that I am better known, people do offer me wool, which is great! There is also a very useful Facebook group called ‘Fibre Swapshop’ where you can swap something you have plenty of for something you would like.”
“My Wensleydale, Teeswater, Lincoln Longwool, Leicester Longwool and Masham all came by this route.”
Jane receives many commissions from her customers for portraits of sheep and she sometimes gets to use the wool of the sheep who’s image she is recreating, which “is the best.”
As well as selling her at online, there is also a permanent exhibition showing off her work at the Brackenrigg Inn in Ullswater.
This is a great achievement for any artist, and we were keen to find out how Jane managed to make it happen. She told us: “I live 10 minutes’ walk from the Brackenrigg Inn. I went in wearing a different hat, in my capacity as a member of the Friends of the Ullswater Way about something totally unrelated.”
“I noticed their empty walls and asked if they would be interested in putting some of my work on them. They had recently had another artist remove their work, so said ‘yes’ immediately.”
“This has worked extremely well. I am close enough to replace things quickly when they sell and even meet some of the buyers.”
When she isn’t running her craft business, Jane is a guided walk leader with the Lake District National Park, which she told us is “another excuse to get up on the fells with a camera!”
She also enjoys cycling, gardening and spending time with her granddaughter. And as if this isn’t enough, she also teaches maths privately!
We are excited to see what the rest of 2019 has in store for Ullswater Felt Art and Jane told us that she will be spending time continuing to learn all about the craft.
“I have only been needlefelting for two years and I feel that with every piece, I am developing new techniques and ideas and always getting better.”
“Often, I will take a photograph that is simply asking to be felted and I cannot wait to start. These are the best ones!”
We rounded up our interview with one final question… About insurance! We asked why this is so important for crafters to have and Jane told us: “Insurance gives you peace of mind.”
“It is also a prerequisite to having a stand at many art and craft fairs.”