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Wool Whispering

My adventure into Fibre Sculpture lead me down a wonderful track to a sheep paddock. In this paddock stood a sheep named ‘Stanley.’ Now Stanley was no ordinary sheep, he had come with the house my sister bought as a large lamb on the bottle and my niece saw to it that he was NEVER eaten like some were intended.

The trouble with this was he needed to clipped annually and the other sheep were shedders. The previous house owners grandson was a shearer so that was no issue, but what to do with these merino fleeces? I think there were around three fleeces when my sister googled ‘what to do with raw fleece’ and the rest is history.

Today Stan the man stands in my paddock and rules the roost as an elder. He lays down a lot these days and has a persistent snuffle from old age and obesity but he is almost out of teeth. After 9 years of service he has earned a certain respect and the vets know him well, it is what it is now.

Stan and his flock

Back then, in the beginning I had Friesland Warmbloods in my paddocks, but now I have these amazing co-workers who convert weeds into wool. This impresses me so much I have literally become an ‘Outback Shepherdess,’ keeping a small boutique flock of assorted breeds.

I also have several local farmers that I buy fleeces from each year with a promise to increase my intake the following year. This is the basis of my plan to create ‘Aussie Outback Boutique Core’ and so far so good. I am passionate about changing the way these so called ‘inferior’ fleeces are utilised and valued. Diversification is such an Aussie trait and so it is that I set off to change the view of wool in my country.

I am after particular types of fibre, especially when it comes to core but certainly not exclusively, however it’s mostly a core problem for Aussie Needle felters.

“Core wools need to be shorter, coarser and kinda crazy! A bit more like Afro hair than straight hair,” I was told by Laura C. Frazier from FarmGirl Arts. This information transformed my life even more than her fantastic core had. I set off to find my very own supply of unlimited core. This was a massive game changer for my fibre sculpting.

Carded wool

Now I regularly purchase large batches of Cheviot, Romney, Corriedale and Llama fleeces. In my paddock I have Merino, Poll Dorset and Border Leister blood lines all mixed up. Each sheep in my paddock has a name and a job, not to mention a personality and a brain. This is something that becomes very apparent with a small friendly flock.

Each fibre has its own unique qualities and therefor specialised application. My core wool needs to be a fast builder with little stabbing and then open enough to accept a finer top coat like Corriedale or Merino. This gives me the freedom to create life sized creatures. The different natural colours of fleece lend themselves uniquely to each project and allow the novice stabber to create easily without too much stressing about bare patches of top coat.

This is the cornerstone to my unique style of creating the illusion of realistic creatures. This core wool gives me the freedom to build shapes fast using instinctual freedom and then later on when I’m more restrained and calculated with the detail there is still room for plenty of dedicated stabbing with out the core being over felted and yet remarkably stable in its shape. I love that I can leave this frantic stabbing until then end only as it’s such a repetitive action which requires moderation.

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