This exhibition features the work of Nidderdale based photographer Melissa Peakman and feltmaker Yvonne Le Mare. Melissa documented Teeswater Sheep and their breeders over 12 months, in fields, barns and show rings. Her often gritty images contrast with Yvonne’s beautifully crafted, colourful feltwork, which transforms humble fleece and locks into sophisticated, stylish textiles. The Teeswater fleeces used by Yvonne are from Andrew Fisher, of Low Laithe.
The Wedding Dress, made entirely by hand, was created from one of Andrew Fisher’s prize winning Teeswater fleeces. This particular fleece was exceptionally fine with long, well formed ringlets and ideal for such a clothing project!
Before I could start felt making I needed to prepare the fleece by picking out any vegetable matter and carefully hand washing it. I wanted to showcase the beautiful locks without making the dress cumbersome and heavy, deciding that the way forward was to have some sort of overall pattern to give texture and interest, with a froth of lustrous locks at the hem.
The garment is seamless as it was nuno felted on a resist. Fine Merino wool was laid out on a base of silk chiffon and lots of hand washed and sorted Teeswater locks added during the process.
The skirt section has 6 godets, to give fullness, so about nine metres of silk chiffon was required in all! The hem circumference measures 7.5 metres and has approximately 350 grams of locks wet felted onto it.
About a further 175 grams were manipulated to form the all-over spiral pattern.
Nuno felting is a technique whereby wool fibres are encouraged (by gently massaging with soap and water) to migrate through a finely woven fabric, thus producing a strong, lightweight felt that can be draped, but is also durable for clothing.
Marie-Jean Taylor was an amazing model, posing in a freezing cold Nidderdale barn in December for the photo shoot and Melissa Peakman has done a fabulous job in bringing the dress to life!
Yvonne Le Mare
Yvonne creates eye-catching items of wearable art employing wet felting techniques using wool, silk and plant fibres. Her pieces include bridal capes, exquisitely delicate wraps, scarves, coats, jackets and dresses.
The range of clothing is testament to the versatility of felt, from solid and structured garments, such as jackets and coats, to light and floaty elements.
Long lustrous ringlet-like locks of locally sourced rare breed sheep feature in a number of her designs, adding wonderful extra texture and movement to the garments. Some of these are in natural colours, others are hand dyed to give an exciting combination of colours.
But it is with Nuno Felting that Yvonne’s love of colour and texture is apparent – in this technique, wool fibres are encouraged to migrate through an open weave fabric by gentle massage. The wool shrinks, but the fabric does not and instead, produces a lovely crinkled surface.
Using hand dyed silks or hand painted Italian devoré silk, fine felt can be created with a riot of rich colour or more subtle tones.
She delights in both the feltmaking process and the basic natural ingredients, being captivated by the transformation from humble fleece to sophisticated textile using only water, soap and friction.
Yvonne is a textile artist using traditional and historical techniques of felt-making as a springboard to explore, manipulate, and transform a wide variety of natural fibres and fabrics, thus giving this ancient process a contemporary and sophisticated edge.
She experiments with wool in the same way as an artist uses canvas and paint, building up fine layers of colour to give depth or exploring the sensual, tactile and sculptural qualities using stitch, nuno and shibori to form permanent raised shapes, textures and patterns.
Her inspiration is wide and varied, ranging from ethnic art to the constantly changing seasonal colour and texture in nature in the surrounding countryside and complex patterning within tree bark, stone and water.
By displaying this Felt work Yvonne hopes more people will understand and appreciate the incredible diversity, power and beauty of felt as an expressive medium. The goal is to help highlight and affirm its current re-emergence into the world of creative arts.