Guest blog by Nancy Shafee

Why do you make what you make?
How did you start?
What were your influences?
Do you have more than one craft/interest?
And are you still learning?

I started asking other sellers I met at fairs and workshops how their hobby began and developed into a passion or a business, even if not one that fully supports them.  It wasn’t surprising to find that many crafters have more than one enthusiasm, and like me, their interests are not always allied. Mine are only connected in that they are inspired by my obsession with colour!

I discovered feltmaking by accident and was immediately won over by the ‘alchemy’. You start with fibres and end up with fabric – probably the oldest non-woven known fabric at that! Felt-making is an ideal craft for colour-crazy people like me – you can buy fibres ready-dyed in about 150 colours and you can blend and mix to your heart’s content!

felt room-scent inspired by seedpods

I can mix fabrics too for my baskets with contrasts being as interesting as blends and not only can I use vintage and new fabrics but also print and dye my own, so there’s never any danger of running out of ideas, styles or colours!

Helen Deighan who taught me to make coiled fabric baskets, has passed her teaching in Surrey on to me as she doesn’t have enough time for it now she’s taken up … weaving. Check ‘coiled fabric baskets Surrey’ on Google and you will get almost exclusively ME!  (well I am allowed the odd show-off moment, aren’t I?)  However I’m mentioning it more as an important reminder how important SEO is when promoting –  but that’s a subject for another time. Other co-members of The Surrey Guild have diverse interests – one member makes decorative items in metal, clay AND glass and one jewellery maker not only produces delicate bead designs but works with recycled paper to create unusual decorative items. And almost all of us selling in The Surrey Guild gallery make unusual cards, often very unlike our main crafts!

A coiled fabric basket in silk using small contrast strips to create interest

I’m always keen to learn more about my own media, but also I seem to be forever finding crafts that make me want to discover more about them.  I met my chum Jane Cameron, member of the Guild of Silk Painters, when she introduced me to silk painting. Like me, she has other passions – glass and clay, to name but two.  In return, I encouraged her with felting and in the end we finished up combining the two, handpainting felt with silk dyes. Amazing fun!  And now I’m learning about glass (watch this space).

I love teaching, passing on my enthusiasm in felting and coiled fabric baskets to others, just as my first teachers enthused me.  Like many other felters, I regularly attend other people’s workshops – every teacher has a different way of approaching a similar problem, and one learns so much from their experiences.  It was through one such class I met Carol Crowdy, with whom I was able to plan demos and workshops at the Wisley Arts Fest in July.  We make very different things with felt, but found we were thinking alike with our admin planning for this event.

Whenever I write for Magenta Sky I suggest you comment, so I do hope this month you will share your own passions with the rest of us – and maybe spark a new interest for other followers of this blog. I am also regularly reminded that I need to focus on making it to a Magenta Sky workshop, linoprinting having been a favourite when I was at art college!

I wonder how many of you play my ‘internet procrastination’ game – a chance to do a little inspiration-chasing on Google Images. Words this time:  sun, sea, sand

About Nancy
Nancy Shafee is a member of the International Feltmakers Association, Surrey Guild of Craftsmen and Professional Crafters Guild. She runs regular workshops both for wetfelting and for coiled fabric basket making and examples of her work can be seen at:

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