Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Feature ~ Salamander Feltworks

This week we are featuring the store Salamander Feltworks. Owner Hilary Powers creates some amazing creatures out of felt with wool and steel. Join us to learn more about her and her work.

1. What is your shop name and URL? 
Salamander Feltworks -

2. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?
Etsy Success
East Bay Arts Collective

3. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?
I make needle-felted creatures  - animals, birds, and fantasy beings - as true to life as possible for me, and mostly wearable as brooches or necklaces. When I walk into a restaurant wearing someone and the maitre’d starts to throw me out, I know I’ve got it right! The realism depends on a strong sense of comparative anatomy backed up by a whole lot of Internet clip art, plus individual photos for portrait pieces.

Although needle felting is a relatively new technique for me (I first heard of it on Thanksgiving Day, 2009), I’ve been a sculptor all my life, working in wire, wax, terra cotta, tinfoil, candy wrappers... anything that would stay put when molded. Felted wool is the best medium yet; it holds its shape while you’re working, you can tell what color it is without firing it, and it doesn’t break or ruin anything else in the process. And skills in other media still apply, as there’s a wire sculpture inside almost every figure, and most of them involve some wax work and finger modeling as well.

When I was first starting out in felting, I’d alternate playing with the wool (trying to figure it out from first principles) and looking at online videos. I also subscribed to some e-mail lists where people share tips on the medium. Much of what I do now I invented for myself, or modified heavily from the original ideas.

4. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you. 
In the thirty years between abandoning my ceramic kiln and discovering needle felting, I spent most of my crafting time in the Society for Creative Anachronism, doing sewing, embroidery, a little calligraphy and cookery, and a whole lot of armoring. (My member page at the Bay Area Editors’ Forum, <>, features me in body armor that I made - and a helmet I purchased, not wanting to trust my skull to my own metal work.)

I haven’t had a day job since 1984, and currently work as a freelance copyeditor and developmental editor. I also help run a series of formal dances and an annual role-playing and board gaming convention, and lead a monthly bird walk at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

5. What is your favorite item in your shop? Why is it your favorite?
The tiger dragon is my current favorite - one reason the price is so high; I’d be just as happy not to part with him as he’s just plain fun to wear. I love his personality, and I’m not alone - people want to pet him on the street!

6. What crafting skill(s) do you wish you had or hope to learn someday?
Feathers! I’ve tried a whole bunch of ways of felting wool so it looks like feathers, especially the big wing and tail feathers, and none of them are really satisfactory. Real feathers are so thin they’re like magic, and I still haven’t figured out how to make wool do that.

7. If you had to be an animal for one week, which animal would you choose to be? And what would you do?
Oh, a crow - or maybe a raven. Corvids have more fun than anybody. I’d fly and fly and eat whatever I pleased and generally get into mischief....

8. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?
The best place to see what I do - including some photo essays of work in progress - is the Salamander Feltworks website, However, after signing up for the Indie Holiday Emporium, I woke up my Facebook Page, - untouched since 2012 - and turned it into something worth looking at, with an album for each year's work.

9. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your shop or your work?
The creatures go everywhere with me - I never leave the house without at least one (and more likely two or three) of them perching on my hat and my shoulders. It's almost as good as walking a dog for starting conversations with strangers, and some of them find homes that way. One mouse left my hat and went home with a new person at the Berkeley Bowl fish counter!

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, visit Our Team Page about joining SFEtsy!

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