MAKER SPOTLIGHT: Helen Winter Textile Art
This week we've been speaking to Helen from Helen Winter Textile Art and finding out about where she started and what she loves about needle felting.
Helen's work is both 2D and 3D, and you may have already seen her stunning leopard featured in our gallery section!
When did you start your craft?
My creative journey began early, learning to knit at 5 from my aunt. After studying art and knitwear design, my career veered away from creativity. Working at John Lewis and later designing for Argos, I found solace in art, especially wool, during my downtime. About 12 years ago I stumbled upon needle felting online, inspired by Amanda from Fit To Be Loved and her felted bunny. Attempting to recreate it, I discovered a deep connection and was hooked from my very first attempts.
What do you like best about it?
Needle felting is pure magic to me! It takes the humble material of wool and, with just a bit of poking using a needle, you can create something beautiful from a 2D picture to an intricate 3D piece. What captivates me is its flexibility; you can pick it up for just a few minutes and set it aside, but more often than not, I find myself so absorbed that those few minutes effortlessly extend into hours. Over the years, I've delved into various experiments, and what I adore most is how needle felting allows me not only to capture the visual essence of my subjects but also their spirit; it's an immersive and expressive journey that continually enchants me.
Do you have a favourite thing to make?
It's hard to pick just one! I have a brain that can flit from one thing to another, so one week my favourite can be a 2D commission then the following week it’ll be one of my 3D sculptures. I find I get so engrossed in the project that I’m creating and as the energy flows, it creates such a connection that I get lost in the process and love the whole thing, making each piece a unique piece filled with my joy and love.
Why is crafting important to you?
Crafting, especially needle felting, is vital for my well-being—it's immersive and expressive, offering therapeutic benefits. The process, inherently meditative, allows me to infuse the natural world, into my artwork with joy and inspiration. Beyond personal crafting, I extend this joy through in-person workshops and online tutorials. Teaching brings me immense joy as I guide participants to connect with their creativity, focusing not just on skills but on well-being. The tactile quality of wool, with its softness and comforting smell, coupled with vibrant colours, sets a positive tone for expression. Felting's simplicity means anyone can achieve amazing results, fostering a sense of accomplishment and pride. Witnessing the transformative power of crafting, seeing people calm, relax, and discover their creative capabilities, is incredibly rewarding. Participants often leave feeling excited, inspired, and fuelled with creative ideas, emphasising the value of time spent in a nurturing and mutually beneficial crafting environment.
What are your preferred products to use?
I swear by the World of Wool 100% wool felt for my 2D artwork pieces, carded slivers for base layers and building up the bodies for my 3D work. I also include this in my needle felting kits as they’re perfect for beginners to get going. Wool roving tops and natural wool and silk blends to replicate the fur for my commission pieces. I love WoW for their quality and how well they allow me to bring my visions to life. The right materials and tools make all the difference in capturing the intricate details.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to take up your craft?
Start with patience and lots and lots of practice. Needle felting can be intricate, but every poke and visit to your felting mat contributes to your skill. I’ve had numerous ladies tell me they can’t do it but with lots of encouragement and reassurance they have been able to achieve amazing results. There are no limits to what’s possible other than your own mind and rest assured that you can do it. Embrace the learning process, connect with other artists and resources, and let your love for nature guide your creations.
What's your favourite thing about World of Wool?
(Part of us feels we should apologise for this obviously leading question, but we're not going to :P)
I love the extensive range of wools and equipment at WoW. With just a click, I can always find what I need at incredibly reasonable prices. It's a valuable resource that aligns perfectly with my dedication to crafting unique, high-quality pieces.
Their customer service is exceptional. Last summer, I faced a dilemma preparing for a needle felting workshop at Le Festival Interceltique de Lorient in France. Despite placing an order well in advance, it went awry. The parcel ended up on the wrong doorstep due to a new postie's confusion. WoW, without hesitation, swiftly sent a replacement via express delivery. Their prompt and unwavering support saved the day, and I'm immensely grateful for their assistance in that tricky situation.
Do you have any closing comments or words for our readers?
To those considering taking up needle felting or any craft, start with genuine curiosity, surround yourself with a supportive community, and a fabulous supplier like WoW and remember that every creation is a step on your artistic path. Each creation is not just a piece of art but a reflection of your connection to nature and the joy it brings. I hope that through my craft, I can inspire others to embrace their creativity, find wonder in the details of life, and experience the profound joy that comes from connecting with the natural world.