Sandra Grieve of The Felted Room is a mixed media artist who designs and creates eco friendly artworks: unique textile creations, needle felted sculptures, designer cat and dog beds, wedding boutonnieres, and much more – all from her cosy workroom in Wanganui.
What do you make?
Original mushroom, butterfly and dragonfly textile art, designer cat and dog beds, wedding boutonnieres, fibre sculptures made with New Zealand wools, fabrics and recycled treasures.
How did you get into your craft?
Ever since I was a little girl I would paint, draw and sew. My Mum was a florist and I used to go into her work and watch her create for many years.
After being a graphic designer for 15 years, I took a break from that to homeschool my son, and while doing that I came across a tiny little needle felted dog sitting on a staircase in an interior design magazine. I thought he was just gorgeous and so realistic, like a tiny dog that had shrunk. I literally went out straight away brought felting needles and wool, sat down and had a go at making one. That was the start of it all.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No, I’m completely self taught.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Anything old, whether it’s fabric, thread or jewellery to embellish. My sewing machine is special as it reminds me of my Grandma every time I use it. She left me her sewing box and scissors which I use daily, and dearly treasure.
New Zealand wools are gorgeous to work with. I get huge enjoyment from using them for needle felting. Just the fact that it’s such an ancient art – using various very sharp specialised barbed needles which you work into raw wool, causing the fibres to bind and compress together to form your desired shape – this can take anything from hours, days or weeks to complete.
I love the fact that the materials I use are vintage, natural, recycled, upcycled, eco friendly or New Zealand made wherever possible.
What inspires you?
A beautiful blue sky sunshiny day right through to a overcast rain filled day. Nature is all inspiring to me, boundless colours found everywhere. Gorgeous pieces of fabric. My big brother and my son who always has a smile on his face and un-dwindling encouragement and support for his Mama. I’m also inspired by my Grandma who was a professional seamstress and loved to create many things.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I enjoy designing and creating original pieces. When you’re buying from The Felted Room you can know that everything is made with love and attention to detail. I love the fact that the materials I use are vintage, natural, recycled, upcycled, eco friendly or New Zealand made wherever possible. If it puts a smile on someone’s face, then that’s even better.
Describe your creative process:
Usually ideas just pop into my head! Usually after a lovely long sleep, although sometimes waking early to sketch out a thought on paper before going back to sleep. I create what feels right, especially when working with wool. My sculptures usually just evolve themselves into being as if they take on a life of their own.
Describe your workspace:
My workspace is a small but cute room under my house, built for me by my Dad. It still has the original stairs in the corner that make great storage. The room is filled top to bottom with all sorts of treasures. I’m surrounded by some of my work, my favourites being a large needle felted white rabbit and a giant moth that I adorned with a small antique silver ornate belt clip and mirror, that my Grandma rescued from the fire when she was a little girl.
All the furniture is recycled or upcycled: wardrobes with shelves added to store my wool, an old dining table cut to make shelves, and the drawers from my workbench were the town clerk’s in the 50s! Dad added a rimu top. Even my sewing table was made for me by Dad when I was in my 20s. You can shut yourself away in this space and totally lose yourself to the outside world, it’s lovely.
Five words that describe your mind:
Imaginative, calm, grateful, flexible, creative.
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish. I loved how she was different to everyone else, Amelia thought and did things differently… a little like me only I wouldn’t go so far as to peg my lightbulbs out on the clothesline!
Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
Lesley Eru is a truly inspiring person to me. She started her own business, Iron Alley, here in Wanganui. She always uplifts, encourages and empowers you. Lesley is living proof that with hard work, focus and determination you can succeed in what you set out to do with amazing results. Stay on track, start strong and finish stronger.
A favourite quote:
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein.
Tell us about your pets:
Sherbert and Luna are my British Shorthair cats and I just adore them. They were the inspiration behind my cat beds’ design and production, as they never wanted to go into cat beds I’d brought for them. So, I designed these and they absolutely love them – in fact its hard to get them out sometimes! From that I designed the small dog bed for my Italian Greyhound Chakotay so he wouldn’t feel left out either.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Have diversity with your products. Good photos are essential, and using social media like Facebook. Designing and creating things you love, and having a passion for your craft is a must.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A small cat, it was so sweet I bought it and now use it for a pin cushion, it’s super cute and different.
What’s in store for the rest of 2016?
Exciting things are ahead, with so many new ideas waiting to come to life and be made for my shop The Felted Room, I can’t wait!
Sandra has very kindly offered a prize for one lucky Felt reader of this stunning moth textile art wall hanging (below). This beautiful creature has wings fashioned out of gorgeous vintage floral and magenta velvet fabrics, and her body is a vintage brown faux fur with glass eyes and wire antennae. Measuring 34cm x 19cm, she’ll look stunning hung on the wall or simply placed around your home as if ready to take flight.
To be in to win, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Sandra’s story and creations. The draw will be made on Friday 1 July and is open to New Zealand residents only.