Here's my latest needle felting commission. Her name is Mathilda, or Mattie for short. She lives with a very nice lady here in England. Her son contacted me to create a sculpture for his mother's birthday and I was only too happy to oblige.
Mattie is mostly black, which poses special challenges. It's harder to photograph a black animal (so it's harder to get the right pictures to work with, especially because I'm not the photographer and have to rely on someone else's skills). It's also harder to give a wool sculpture a nice sense of volume when the main colour is black, since it tends to absorb light really well and make it look very flat.
To add yet another level of difficulty, Mathilda had recently got a haircut, but her human wanted me to make her with more fur, so I had to use my imagination. This has the potential for disaster, because what I imagine isn't necessarily what she looks like pre-haircut in real life, and I can end up coming up with a completely different dog. No pressure there.
Instead of using sheep's wool, I resorted to a shinier fibre with good curl: mohair. It's great for this because it dyes well (this mohair was originally white) while retaining lustre. The dye I used resulted in a black with purplish undertones that I think works well to create volume. You can just about see some of it on the photo above on her face and on the shoulder to our right-hand side.
Like with any animal, the face is going to be the focal point of attention and every detail is very important. We humans are drawn to eyes, it's an evolutionary trait, so everything that's near the eyes needs to be very detailed and as close to the model as possible.
I used high quality glass eyes and made her a clay nose that I then painted black and sealed with a shiny glaze. The hair on each side of Mathilda's nose and on her chin are different colours. I used brown Merino wool for the brown and some Blue Faced Leicester in natural oatmeal for the chin.
I've been making sculptures for a while but I always feel slightly nervous to take scissors to the fibre to cut it to size. I have to keep reminding myself that if my hairdressing skills fail I can always take that wool off and do it again. I might anthropomorphise my makes a little too much.
(On a side note, I don't seem to have the same concerns whilst cutting my own current mohawk hairstyle...)
Once I've taken my time with the making, I let my work "rest" away from me for at least a few hours, or more if I can (at least a whole day is ideal). When I'll look at it again with fresh eyes, it's easier to spot things that need adjusting.
Once I'm happy I take the best photos I can (have I already mentioned how hard it is to photograph black animals or their minis?) and send them for approval. Luckily, it seems my imagining of Mattie's longer fur was good. Out comes the sigh of relief...
In a rare treat, I'm getting to spend some extra time with this girl, since her new owner is away for a few days. Because of this, I've discovered a new trait of mine, which I'm sure won't be a surprise to a lot of you: I need to keep myself from looking for things to improve and change. When is a sculpture finished? Apparently, only after it's left my hands. I've so far resisted the impulse, mainly because I wouldn't be comfortable changing something without taking new photos and awaiting for feedback, which would delay things and be completely unnecessary - my clients have already given me the thumbs up, so stop overcomplicating things (repeat this 100 times until it sinks in.)
Mathilda means something like Strength in Battle in Germanic Gothic. A fierce name for such a cute and cuddly girl!
If you'd like a mini of your own, contact me and I'll be happy to discuss your needs. I also have a handy Frequently Asked Questions section that answers most queries, but feel free to message me if you'd like.
Enjoy your weekend!