Learn needle felting with Emma Herian of Sew Recycled. Emma is a textile artist, craft writer and tutor from Brighton, and she shares with us her love of good tea, the story of her creativity – and the magical felted woodland she was commissioned to create for Kirstie Allsopp…
Tell us little bit about the story behind your creative journey
I have been creative ever since I was able to knit on two pencils during school story time! Having studied ceramics and plastics at Brighton University I then went on to work for a furniture design company in London. My life changed when I had children and I got back in touch with my love for textiles. I started exhibiting and selling unique handmade pieces all over the world.
Needle felting really took off for me when I was asked to teach the technique at a workshop and, 15 years on, and my workshops are proving to be a popular way of learning this therapeutic craft. I love to create needle felted animals, flowers, fruit… the list goes on. My terriers are always very popular as are my flowers and brooches. As you’re shaping the wool to make a one of the animals, I love that you start to create a real sense of personality. Each one is slightly different as you can see from these recent images of my work.
I have also been a feature writer for Making magazine, as well as creating and writing various craft tutorials for my own blog Sew Recycled and have had my work published in various craft books.
What’s your favourite way to start the day?
I always start the day with a cup of tea in bed and mull over what I need to get done. I usually start work when the children have gone to school and the house is clear of breakfast chaos!
What’s your morning routine?
I like to clear my email inbox first, check on any social media that needs updating and then start needle felting. This will either be a new piece or carry on from the previous day’s work. All with the help of a few cups of tea.
Describe your workplace for us
Living in Fiveways, Brighton, on the South coast is a great place for the artistic scene especially in the area I live. 30 years ago this part of Brighton started the Open House festival in May and the rest is history. Unfortunately I don’t yet have a studio (I dream that one day I will have a studio at the bottom of the garden) so I work from my dining room table. Not ideal, but it’s a great space looking out over the garden. My tools are very basic: a foam block and felting needles with an array of wool from various breeds of sheep, natural or dyed in amazing colours, stored in airtight boxes. These materials allow me to create a myriad of needle felted life-like animals, brooches and anything else that my creative mind thinks up. As a tutor, my work has taken me to some amazing venues including Nymans National Trust house and Upper Lodges . This is where I teach my needle felting workshops. It’s always such a pleasure and a popular event as there’s also gardens, tea and gorgeous cakes on offer!
What do you like best about your area?
Living up on a hill, the light and airiness makes the space feel spacious. It’s a short walk into town but we also have amazing local shops right on our doorstep. The Sussex Downs National Park isn’t far away and is great for walking or cycling. The countryside and sea views are stunning.
I also love that my corner of Brighton – Fiveways – is an area where so many creative people live. Being freelance and working from home, you can feel isolated. Living where I do, I know I’m not too far away from so much inspiration and motivation.
Tell us why you do what you do
I grew up with a father who was a joiner – he made our beds and other furniture for the house. My mother sewed our clothes from Liberty fabric, baked bread whilst looking after 6 children as well as being creative. I was surrounded by practical hands on artistic makers, so it comes as no surprise that it’s in the blood! Having many strings to my bow has allowed me to work on a variety of projects. But needle felting has melded a few of them together to create three dimensional pieces of work.
Describe your typical working day for us – best and worst bits?
It depends on what needs to be done, if I have a workshop coming up I like to get all the materials together, print off worksheets for the students and make sure all my needle felted models are looking their best. Otherwise it’s emails first, more tea and then a day of making. After all that is the best bit!
What keeps you going through the day?
Apart from tea, I love the work I do, especially if I am getting to be creative.
Best moment so far in your business?
I was featured with my work on the Channel 4 TV show Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas 2015 (above). I created a Christmas tableau of needle felted animals in a winter wonderland! It was an amazing day being filmed at her house and meeting Kirstie, the queen of British craft.
What’s special/unique about what you do?
Due to the nature of the materials I use, no two pieces are the same which makes them so unique. When I make a commissioned piece I like to find out about the character of the animal from the client, it all helps to capture their personality.
How important is sourcing British/local to you – and why?
Using wool from British breeds of sheep is something I’m looking into more these days. The main type of wool I use at the moment is great for structure but it’s New Zealand wool. With the help of SouthDownYarns www.southdownsyarn.co.uk we have explored this a bit and I’m hoping to use more locally bred sheep but I do use Wensleydale and Gotland to achieve the lovely curls and texture found in my work. Im always looking to collaborate so if someone out there has the material then please contact me!
What’s your newest/most exciting creation?
I’m working on a fox terrier at the moment, always popular and full of character but my most exciting piece was the Christmas tableau for the Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, it was a larger scene piece and I would love to work on something bigger in scale or for an animation.
Best piece of advice you could share based on your experiences so far?
Always go for your dreams, take a chance as you never know where they may lead and don’t give up!
Emma is listed in our directory. Check out all the contact details you need to hook up with her here