Flock is a range of wool felt animals by felt maker Jamie Lewis from his Dublin City centre studio. He works by hand, turning wool into felt components using olive oil, soap and water and a domestic washing machine. We asked Jamie some questions about his practice.
Tell us a bit about what you make.
I make a range of 100% wool felt animals call Flock. They’re not toys or sculptures, something in-between. Something people just seem to like to have around the house or on a desk at work, just to look at or feel. I’ve been making them since 2006 and they’ve evolved and grown up a good bit over the years. I try to use mainly natural un-dyed wool from different breeds of sheep, I love all the varying browns and greys and the textures.
Could you describe your studio to us? What is your favourite thing about the space?
I work in an old Grocers shop on Benburb Street, Dublin 7. It’s part of the ground floor of a 4 storey red brick apartment block along the Luas track near Smithfield. It’s got a great big heavy door and a large window letting in plenty of natural light. My favourite thing about the space is that most of the shelving, display furniture, sink unit, work benches were made from whatever building materials had been left there when I moved in - it was cheaper and easier to reuse it than to get rid of it but also gives it an authentic and natural aesthetic. I also like that customers can just wander in and buy stuff while I’m working. I don't really miss the whole events based selling thing.
How do you get into the mindset of making?
I think you have to accept that sometimes you're in the mindset and sometimes you’re not and trying to get into a mindset when you’re not, doesn't really produce the best work. I try to do whatever I feel most like doing on the day, whatever I’m already in the mindset for, even if its something small or trivial.
What is your favourite tool and why?
I don’t so much have one favourite tool but I do have a favourite scissors for each task. I have a lot of scissors. Some are cheap awful ones that still seem to perform one particular job better than any other. I don't even know where most of them have come from, I’m sure I've only deliberately bought scissors a few times. My first son could say scissors before he could say Mammy and Daddy.
Can you describe your making process to us?
I start with wool tops, which is the form wool is in before spinning, and lay out patches on my work table, all the fibers crisscrossing each other. I’ll fill the whole table surface so I might do 36 tiny creatures, 24 small, 18 medium or 12 large. Then I grab a handful of stuffing wool and dip it in warm soapy water and sprinkle that on the wool tops before rolling the stuffing up inside it. I felt it and loosely shape it by hand, rubbing it with olive oil soap and then put all the parts in a normal domestic washing machine to shrink further. I reshape everything when it comes out and leave to dry before shaving all the parts with a beard trimmer. I cut animal features from sheets of felt, which I also might have made from wool tops, and then hand stitch all the parts together.
What is your inspiration?
I’ve just always liked making things. As a child, I would make toys (bows and arrows, lightsabers etc.) and instead of playing with them when they were finished I’d just try and make another one better than the last. And I always liked making money for myself. At school, I would sell drawings of animals at the craft fair, design t-shirts or paint peoples Doc Martins and through university I put on band nights and did some DJing.
What led you to choose this craft as a profession? What do you love most about it?
My mother got into felt making when I was a teenager so there was always wool around. While at Art College I started making wallets and record bags from it, just for myself. It was easy enough to do at home at first as there weren’t any special tools I needed. Eventually I started taking them to markets and then left my job and it grew from there. There were a lot of different products along the way and it really took years before I was doing what I am now with the felt animals.
I love being my own boss, being able to decide how important everything is and like all creatives, I love when I get to work on new things.
How do your surroundings affect your work?
Having an area of my studio set up as a shop space means work is displayed all the time so it makes me time to think about creating a coherent range. So I think my studio surroundings give me a sense of direction. But it can be a battle to stop making items you know don't sit right and you’ve moved on from but still sell well.
What is your favourite piece?
Usually whatever is the newest or the latest to have a redesign. I’m really liking the rust coloured Merino crabs right now. (which are available to purchase here.)