MARCH 15, 2023
A HELPING HAND – HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I live in rural Northamptonshire with a view over fields and woods. There isn’t another building in sight out behind the house.
When the field at the bottom of the garden came up for sale, I knew I had to buy it to ensure it stayed unspoilt. But then, what should I do with a field? How should I look after it?
The answer came in a very roundabout way.
Some friends had taken me to a car boot sale, but it quickly bored me. Wandering off, I found myself at the annual national alpaca show. I was intrigued. Was this the answer? Cute furry lawnmowers!
My husband-to-be was not amused by the idea and arranged for us both to go on an alpaca husbandry course – I think to put me off! But, by half way through, these curious creatures had captured both our hearts.
Another stroke of serendipity: my neighbour told me about some alpacas nearby that needed a new home. So, six white alpacas – Reggie and the boys – came to live with us, looking after the field, adding to the view and providing excellent manure for the garden! It was the beginning of ‘from field to studio’.
Their serene presence rekindled my creativity, but I was slow to start – I was about to get married! My cousin told me about nuno-felting – my wedding dress – of course! I would make it from our own alpaca fleece. Keen to learn, she said I must go to a nuno-felting designer who lived in Norway – May J Hvistendahl. So, I set off to her home on the west coast of Norway taking Truffle’s fleece – our finest alpaca – in my bulging suitcase on Ryanair to make my wedding dress.
The visit was transformational; I did a course with May to learn how to make a tunic from nuno-felting. The results were a fine, flowing material. The fleece bonded into a silk foundation using nothing more than soap and water and hard work. Its airy versatility was intoxicating and then I stayed on with May to help make my fabulous dress.
A few years later, lockdown forcing stay-at-home activities, I felt I had permission, indeed the need, to devote time and effort to working in my studio. I had developed weaving skills too and new designs for necklaces. My husband produced the beautiful, simple wood pieces from the trees on our land – continuing the environmental theme ‘from field to studio’.
So that is how I got back to making again after many years running art charities. I trained as a painter, but with these new materials, there are many common threads running through my work – colour and simplicity or line and shape to mention only a few.