Inspired by her inner child, wild imagination, and love of nature, Christchurch designer and illustrator Felicity Meade of Little Wolf Studio designs and crafts whimsical jewellery and art prints that are playful in nature and sure to delight anyone who is young at heart.
What do you make?
I make a wide range of jewellery, fine art prints and home decor. Much of my jewellery and home decor is made from laser cut wood which I paint by hand. I make native birds, rain cloud jewellery organisers, and all sorts of cute earrings. My illustrations are of bunnies, hedgehogs, fantails and other cute critters. Most of my work is extremely detailed and requires a steady hand.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have an honours degree in graphic design and illustration from Massey University in Wellington. This has given me the skills and confidence to make my creative ideas a reality. I also took printmaking papers at university which was where I learnt to do drypoint etchings. I made good use of the amazing big printing press there, adopting drypoint printing methods in several printmaking, illustration and design projects. I actually got a student bronze award from the New Zealand Best Design Awards for my honours major project Wonderful Weeds which utilised drypoint and watercolour. It was pretty amazing being acknowledged for my work.
How did you get into your craft?
I first started making jewellery while I was still studying. I was addicted to Pinterest at the time and was inspired by all the amazing crafty things I was seeing there. I was also inspired by the jewellery I was seeing at craft markets. I had lots of ideas and decided to give it a go. It was certainly humble beginnings, gradually refining the things I made over many years with plenty of experimentation. I started off just selling my jewellery to friends. When I eventually decided to sell prints of my artworks as well, Little Wolf Jewellery became Little Wolf Studio. The focus has always been enjoying the creative process and I hope that never changes.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
For my preferred illustrative style I use drypoint printmaking for the outline and texture, which I then colour by hand with watercolours. I’m also a whizz on Photoshop thanks to my graphic design training and experience, which allows me to edit the colours of my artworks once they have been scanned to try and get them looking closer to the original and prepare them for printing. I use Adobe Illustrator to design my laser cutting files for my wooden jewellery, which I then send to my wonderful local laser cutter. I spend a lot of time with a teeny tiny paintbrush painting my jewellery with Resene paints. I also love my jewellery pliers! My favourite tool, however, would have to be my etching needle. I use it in all my different craft processes – etching, holding fine chain, and digging little blobs of paint out of places they shouldn’t be!
What inspires you?
My work is inspired by my inner child, wild imagination and love of nature (especially animals and birds). My happy place has always been the outdoors, especially if I have a pet or native bird for company.
Describe your creative process:
I will start with an idea which I then follow up with lots of visual research. Once I have decided on my images, I might mess around with them in Photoshop, combining multiple images into a single design. I then use this as a base for illustrating/designing my artwork or laser cutting file.
For my laser cut birds, I lightly sand the board before painting it with a base colour. The laser cutting machine then cuts my design out of the board and engraves away the areas where I want to reveal the wood. To clean off the burn marks from the laser cutter, I use white vinegar and a toothbrush before letting them dry slowly to avoid the wood splitting. Once dry, I paint on the details with a tiny paintbrush. A lot of my time is spent mixing my own paint colours. Once the paint has dried, I give them a coat of protective varnish before gluing on the hooks and pins, ready to turn them into necklaces and brooches.
For my drypoint illustrations, I scratch my designs into a clear plastic sheet with an etching needle. Once the plate is ready, I ink it up with printmaking ink then wipe off the excess with a special mesh fabric. I have my printmaking or watercolour paper soaking in water while I ink the printing plate. I dry off the excess water before placing the printing plate on the press bed with the damp paper on top and several layers of felt on top of that. Then I pull it through the rollers! You never know how it’s going to turn out with printmaking, you end up with a lot of misprints. But once I have one that I’m happy with I let it dry before painting into it with watercolours, scanning it, tweaking it in Photoshop, and sending the file off to the fine art printers. I like to print onto textured papers so my illustrations look almost like the original.
Describe your workspace:
My craft desk is largely being used for storage as I have more craft stuff than I have space for, so I have to use the dining room table! This often means I have company while I work which is always nice. I try to leave plenty of space for my flatmates! I have to set up and pack down every time I make something, but at least my workspace is always tidy.
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
‘Guess How Much I Love You’ by Sam McBratney, and Beatrix Potter’s books have always been my favourites thanks to the beautiful watercolour illustrations. They are similar in theme and style to my own illustrative work.
What are you reading now?
‘A Dance with Dragons’ by George R. R. Martin (the 5th Game of Thrones book). I’ve read all five books in the series back-to-back. Before that I read ‘The Rosey Project’ by Graeme Simsion and ‘The Undomestic Goddess’ by Sophie Kinsella, both of which made me laugh.
Tell us about your pets:
I have two bunnies called Faun and Toffee. I sadly lost my beautiful bun Louie just before Christmas last year. My friend has kindly gifted me her old bunny Toffee to keep Faun company. Faun is a cashmere mini lop and Toffee is a mini lop cross. They share a bunny mansion set-up in the backyard. It’s lovely going out and saying hi to them regularly throughout my day.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
If you have a crafty idea you are excited about, go for it. Don’t be afraid of failure. Yes, there is a chance it won’t sell, but you won’t know until you try. The most important thing is that you enjoy the creative process. You’ll learn something new from everything you make, whether it turns out to be successful or not!
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
Buying handmade goods supports real people and allows them to continue doing what they love. You also know you’re buying something unique and special that has been made with love and skill rather than mass produced by machine.
What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
Since my work is so personal and unique to me, it’s like they’re buying a little piece of myself. It’s a huge buzz knowing that you have made something that someone likes enough to spend their hard-earned cash on. Every time I make a sale I do a little happy dance (on the inside). It’s a much-needed boost to the self-esteem.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I purchased lots of handmade items from The Kowhai Collective as Christmas gifts, but the last item that I bought for myself was from Libby Chambers Art at the Christmas Encraftment Market. It’s a beautiful art print of a rainbow-coloured watercolour bunny in a white frame. I had been eyeing it up for at least a year and finally decided to treat myself.
What are some of the best things you get out of your craft?
Little Wolf Studio has enabled me to express myself creatively and has given me something to be passionate about. More unexpectedly, it has also helped me to meet other amazing creatives. I am part of a creative collective in the Christchurch CBD called The Kowhai Collective where we all help to run the shop and sell our handmade items. It’s wonderful being part of a local community of such talented creative people.
Do you have any hobbies outside of your craft?
I love horse riding and am lucky enough to have a good friend who is happy for me to ride her lovely horse Rocket. I usually get out for a ride about once a week. I also really enjoy mountain biking and have slowly been improving over the last couple of years since getting my own bike (which I have completely covered in colourful stickers). The Christchurch Adventure Park is great fun with its downhill trails, although I’m still too inexperienced to do most of them!
Prize draw for Felt readers!
Felicity has very kindly offered a sweet prize for a lucky Felt reader: your choice of one of her brand new gorgeous wee acorn necklaces! (See below.) These beautiful hand painted acorns with real acorn caps hang from a fine rhodium chain, and are accented with a lovely leaf charm that dangles over the acorn cap. A sweet little flower pendant also hangs from an extension chain down below the nape of the neck.
You have three colours to choose from – mint, purple, or navy with a gold stripe. To be in to win this great prize, leave us a comment telling us which colour you would like (or if you think there’s another colour Felicity should do!), and what you love about Felicity’s story and her creations. The draw closes at 5pm Monday 15 February and is open to New Zealand residents only.