Susie Sage is the needle felting artist and wool sculptor behind Wild & Wool. From tiny mice, birds and badgers, to metre-high foxes standing on two legs, her charming wool creatures are wonderfully characterful and true works of art. Read on to find out what inspires Susie and how she finds focus to make her handmade, miniature felt friends.
Why did you start Wild & Wool?
I worked with BBC News and Current Affairs as part of their Graphic Design team in London for many years and then after serious illness I took time out to raise my two children. I always knew I wanted to start my own business but it wasn’t until I took up needle felting as a hobby when my kids were young that I found my passion for sculpting with wool and making needle felted animals which are inspired by my love of nature. My friend Ayo Akintola, MD Oddbins approached me in in April 2015 and asked if I would take on a commission to make 47 one metre tall needle felted foxes to star in Oddbins Christmas shop windows from Aberdeen to London. I didn’t know if it was even possible to needle felt to this huge scale but accepted the mammoth challenge and created a prototype fox. The Oddbins “WhatTheFox” campaign that followed was a great success also raising money for charity through a celebrity auction of the foxes with stars including Olivia Colman & Greta Scacchi. It was a collaborative project which I am very proud of. Wild & Wool was born and I haven’t looked back!
What does the kitchen table mean to you? What role does it play in your home and/or business life?
The kitchen table is the hub of our house and a place where we tend to gather as a family, swap stories and eat. I have two busy, independent teenagers now and the kitchen table is where we start and end the day as a constant. I also package, parcel and wrap Wild & Wool creatures, cards and prints on my table as I can spread out. It is a place for eating, laughing, debate, homework and a cosy place to chat with friends over a cuppa.
What do you most love doing at your kitchen table?
When all the hustle and bustle of the morning has left with my husband and children, I enjoy that small window of time before my morning walk with my dogs Piper & Millie to sit quietly, eat my porridge alongside a hot cup of tea and catch up on what is happening with all the wonderful creatives and friends that I have found on social media, particularly on Instagram.
Hand-making a needle felted animal must take immense patience. How do you find focus?
I am lucky to be able to do what I love as a business so it rarely feels like work. I never make sketches before starting a creature or have a firm idea of exactly where I will take the animal or bird. This is a large part of the magic and interest for me in that they seem to develop their own personality and character as I work on them and they evolve. This process keeps it fresh and holds my attention as I strive to make everything I create unique and one off. My wool sculptures are time consuming and labour intensive - hours can go by and I get lost in this unfolding and revealing of a character. They all form their own story in that making journey.
Who or what motivates or inspires you?
My early childhood years were spent on the island of Islay in Scotland, which shaped my love of the natural world and my passion for the British countryside and the wildlife within it. I am inspired every day on my dog walks in and around Bath and love to try and capture the character and quirk in our native creatures and birds in my wool art.
My ethos is to work with British made materials and artisans as much as possible. My larger animals are dressed in Harris tweed and Liberty fabrics. As humans we need to be conscious of our choices where sustainability is concerned, and it is hard to challenge wool for that, as sheep are not intensively reared. Wool occurs naturally and is renewable. At the end of its life, wool is biodegradable in soil, releasing important nutrients. If you invest in wool - whether it is a blanket, clothing or a needle felted piece - it will last for generations. I feel strongly that we should support the time honoured traditions in the UK with weaving, spinning and felting.
What’s new in the world of Wild & Wool and what’s on the agenda for the coming months?
Wild & Wool has had an interesting year in 2019 and I particularly loved taking part in the Meles Meles Badger Exhibition at the A2 Gallery in Wells this Summer. The exhibition brought together the work of 26 wildlife artists from all over the UK who sought to express the love of badgers through varying art forms and dispel some of the negative press that surrounds these magical creatures.
At present, I am looking towards Christmas and will be bringing out a new range of six Christmas greetings cards featuring Wild & Wool creatures. I have an ongoing list of commissions to work through and will be hoping to find time to add some new animals and birds to my online shop. Next year will see more additions to the Wild & Wool greetings cards and prints range.
What is your favourite thing about Christmas?
Christmas is a magical time of year and one that Wild & Wool embraces. I love the excitement and build up to Christmas. I enjoy seeing my wool sculptures packaged and sent out knowing that they will make someone smile on Christmas Day. I also delight in seeing the community of makers and artists I know showing their beautiful hand made pieces and look forward to my favourite Christmas fairs.
Describe your perfect coffee or tea moment at home.
Usually I drink my mugs of tea on the go at my desk, as it is always a race against the clock to get as much work done as I can before my kids arrive back and need feeding. But if I can, weather permitting, I like to sit outside with my dogs Piper and Millie and enjoy my tea with the sun on my face and a Tunnocks caramel wafer in hand!
Shop Susie's collection of wool creatures, cards and prints at www.wildandwool.co.uk.