Thursday, 11 April 2013

Meet Feltmaker Milana

It is always interesting to see what fellow handcrafters are up to & I am delighted to introduce to you the lovely Elsa, felt handcrafter of  MILANA who sells on Folksy

  1. What inspired you to choose your path of creating with felt?
I’ve always loved creating with wool. My grandmother taught  me to crochet when I was very young and I’ve had something on the go ever since.
I had a couple of issues with crocheting. First, was the time it took to actually stitch by stitch complete a project. Second, and more importantly was that, over the years, I ended up with many unfinished projects. I just couldn’t face the sewing bit at the end to put the blimming thing together!

A few years ago I came across a felting book in the library and that plus a couple of pointers from a friend who’d done a days workshop, was enough for me to have a go at felting. It was love at first touch! What a revelation. Not only did I hugely enjoy the very physical and tactile process of felting, I was so thrilled to discover that by the end of a session I could have a completely finished garment. And not a sewing needle in sight!.
From that moment I haven’t stopped felting. I didn’t completely stop crocheting or knitting but the gaps between these projects get bigger and bigger and the projects get smaller and smaller.
Seeing a pile of random looking wool fibres be transformed into a beautiful object or garment is a magical process. I love the way there are no patterns for felting. Once you have the basic principles of the process you’re relying on creativity and imagination. Because of the very nature of the felting process no two pieces can ever be exactly the same. I especially love the unpredictability of a project. You never exactly know how things are going to turn out. Usually they’re a pleasant and interesting surprise.

  1. Can you remember the first felt item that you made & what was it?
Oh yes! I remember clearly. I’m not great at learning to walk before I can run. So I threw myself in at the deep end and thrashed about for a bit. By the end of a long session I’d made some seamless (all in one piece) booties for my little girl. The design was based on an elf story book she loved. They had a red exterior and were grey inside. They were a bit uneven and bumpy in places and not very symmetrical but my little one loved them and so I was more than happy.

  1. What have been the most difficult hurdles in becoming a handcraft business?
Believing in yourself and that others will love your creations as much as you do are the hardest hurdles to overcome for any crafter or artist.
It can take a while to pluck up enough courage to set off on a business venture. There are always people out there that will critizise you, your work, your pricing. You can never please everyone out there. Rising above it all can be hard. Some crafters take criticism better than others but nevertheless, it can take its toll on all of us if we let it.
On top of the creative side you also need to be jack of all trades in order to make your business successful (or at least know people with varying skills that owe you lots of favours!). It’s very time consuming learning all the skills needed: website designer, photographer, copywriter, sales person, accountant, marketing officer, etc. When all the while all I really want to do is felt.
Letting go of your pieces can also be hard especially if they’re one-of-a-kind.

4. What are the best things about being a handcrafter?

The free-reign on creativity which allows for self expression. Knowing you have full control of your creative process and doing something you love and getting paid for it. Completing an item, standing back and admiring how your patience and perseverance has paid off.  That’s pretty special.

  1. If you were stuck on a desert island what would be the one tool you would choose to have & why?
Fortunately, felting doesn’t rely on any specialist tool other than the raw material and some elbow grease. Soap and bamboo blinds for example are not essential as long as you are patient and willing to pee on your wool you can felt!
If I had to choose something it would be bubble wrap. It makes the felting process quicker and physically easier by providing a smooth and slippery surface to rub the wool with, creates a barrier between layers of wool you don’t want felting together and helps create a smoother more evenly finished product.

  1. What would you give as advice for someone wanting to embark on a handcraft business?
Don’t try and do too much too soon.  Its ok to build things up slowly and try to get things right rather than rushing in and regretting it.
Online shops, bricks and mortar shops and market stalls can create different business and creative opportunities. In time, they’re all definitely worth exploring.

7. What is your most favourite design to date & why?

Tricky one as I love them all and often find it difficult to part with larger pieces. They’re like my wearable works of art.
But I especially love the classic simplicity of the vintage style stoles. They fit pretty much any frame beautifully and have been so popular it’s one of the very few designs I’ve continued to make. They’ve been worn by brides, wedding guests and party goers. I love that they’re so versatile.

  1. Is there another felt worker whose work has inspired you & if so who?
Thousands! Felting has such a long tradition in so many cultures its easy to be in awe of the original techniques and classic designs created. For example I greatly admire the resourcefulness of the Mongolians using horses to drag massive rolls of heavy wool along the steppe to create their beautiful and functional felts.

Although I don’t create felt pictures for sale purposes, I love making them. One artist whose work I greatly admire and is truly inspirational is Andrea Hunter. Her use of texture and light is absolutely sublime.

  1. What techniques do you use in your work?
My work is pretty versatile and incorporates contemporary clean lines and designs as well as organic shapes. Felt really lends itself very well to both and I like to make full use of that. In order to achieve this full range I use all techniques available from basic wet felting to nuno felting (using fabric as a matrix). Needle felting (also known as dry felting) is wonderful for adding very precise and specific detail which would otherwise be impossible using wet felting techniques exclusively.
But my favourite technique by far is 3d felting using resists. I enjoy the challenges this brings especially when designing larger pieces such as jackets.

  1. Do you have any things you do to help you when you’re creating/designing eg: play particular music, go a walk etc?
I tend to kick my family out of the house. Not always possible but I’m at my creative best when I don’t have to tend to my 6 year old’s needs!
If I’m alone I’ll have the radio on. I’m happy when I felt and that’s reflected in my constant moving and bopping to whatever tunes are playing on the airwaves.

  1. How did you decide on your shop name?
After a lot of brainstorming and coming up with variations on ‘felt’, ‘wool’ and a vast array of verbs and adjectives, I decided to revert to my Spanish roots. ‘Mi lana’ literally translates as ‘my wool’. I liked the sound of the words together and they are easy to pronounce.

  1. Do you have any plans/aspirations for the future?
Short term, I’m trying to develop a range of wedding bouquets using beautiful dinner-plate-size wet felt flowers and a range of nuno baby blankets at the moment but lack of time means slow progress.

There doesn’t seem to be enough time for felting. My one aspiration for the future is to have more time to felt more. I have so many ideas in my head and not enough time to experiment with them. Its quite frustrating at times. 

Thank you Elsa, that's been a real insight & I think many of us can sympathise with that 'so many ideas, but so little time' experience!

You can catch up with Milana at;

or contact