By Pauline Neville
Amanda is the smiling face behind Felt Fabulous Gifts. She was originally from Bromborough, on the Wirral. Following completion of a degree in Psychology, she was unable to identify an appropriate path of employment and took a job with the police. Here, she met the man who would become her husband. The couple moved into a flat in Liverpool together and she never left.
Amanda says that she loves much of Liverpool and is especially drawn to certain areas that she describes as little islands with their own personalities such as Lark Lane with it’s relaxed hippy vibe and extensive choice of quality food and drink options. Of course there is also The Old Police Station, home to the monthly flea market and the Liverpool Makers Bazaar, where Amanda regularly sells her delightful handmade art alongside other talented local artists. She enjoys the friendly atmosphere and interested customers.
Over the years Amanda has dabbled in a variety of crafts. She laughs, explaining how she would buy equipment, use it a few times then tire of that craft, moving onto something else. I had recently seen an amusing post pop up in my feed where a crafter had explained that “people need to realise that buying craft supplies…and actually crafting are two different hobbies!”
I confess, my personal cupboard of shame boasts several uncompleted projects that languish in bags because I was too impatient to see them through. I was unsatisfied with my ability to master a new technique to my satisfaction or unhappy with the progress I had made. One day I will challenge myself to revisit them but that day is not in the foreseeable future!
Luckily for us one day Amanda happened upon needle felting. She began by needle felting onto a felt background, creating landscapes which she gifted to family and friends. She developed her style in this way but was never truly happy with the texture. To her mind, it was “too fluffy.”
So, she began experimenting with wet felt. She explored techniques and made 3D objects, such as bowls. As her confidence in her work grew, she opened an Etsy shop. Her husband also encouraged her to set up as a sole trader and Felt Fabulous Gifts as we have come to love it, was born.
Now firmly committed to her felting journey Amanda wanted new challenges and sought out books covering many styles and techniques. These books led her to experiment and she began making small 3D needle felted animals….and she was home. More experience, combined with her love of nature resulted in the range of tiny woollen creatures she is creating today.
Amanda has also offered classes in needle felting approaching a friend who was running a sewing group to request that she use her space to organise and run sessions for beginners. This felt like a natural progression as Amanda had taught in a previous life and was keen to share the joy and satisfaction of creating such unique creatures with others. She discovered that even when a group of people are following the same instructions the resulting owl or robin would each have their own character, personality even.
Teaching the workshops, Amanda found a great sense of achievement, in assisting people with starting their own crafting journey. Their satisfaction came from creating something new but also from enjoying the mindfulness that making any piece of art can so often bring.
At this time, Amanda began leaving her work at retail outlets Arts Hub and Florence and Fox and ran more workshops. These were popular with groups celebrating occasions such as Christmas, special birthdays, or hen dos.
With experience of commissions, Amanda learned to identify the tiny details that makes each pet unique. She was creating representations of much loved pets whether totally freestanding or as a 3D wallhanging panel. Making pieces of an actual living creature involves so much consultation, she tells me. The customer provides photographs, but will also relay information specific to their pet, such as commenting on their especially fluffy ears or extra lolling tongue. It is this combination of pictures and personal impressions which allow Amanda to faithfully reproduce the essence of each animal.
When making a memorial model for a customer it came to Amanda that some of the actual dog hair could be needlefelted into the artwork along with the usual British wool, making it even more special for the owner to treasure.
Most recently, Amanda has been creating brighter bolder models to make nursery mobiles or home decor. When she received a commission to construct an underwater themed mobile for a new child Amanda worked closely with the customer to agree colour schemes and even characters to be included. This resulted in a particularly personal and unique piece of art that thrilled the customer. Such a special item is surely, destined to become a family heirloom.
Amanda found that she enjoyed being taken outside her comfort zone colour-wise, as working to recreate nature had meant gravitating to a very muted colour palette. It has also led to the development of a range of underwater creatures. Which nestle quietly alongside her favourite range of British birds.
Obviously with commissions Amanda adheres to a greater extent to a brief and enjoys the satisfaction that the customer demonstrates on receiving the artworks reflecting their very own pets. However, when creating for herself, Amanda enjoys the freedom of creating her version of creatures rather than a more faithful representation.
Like so many artists Amanda mentions the therapeutic nature of art, going so far as to say she has on occasion “felted her way through trauma.” I think all artists can identify with the feeling of total absorption in creation and how it can be a lifeline to switch off and provide a short holiday from daily life when needed.
One favourite commission saw her make a dog for an elderly woman with dementia, the finished product provided a comforting presence, something to cuddle.
She has had customers cry happy tears on receiving the finished artworks.
She recalls the woman who had to return home abroad after an extended stay with her grandchildren. She expressed her joy at feeling more connected to the family after commissioning a small model of the pet dog for each of the children and posting these to them, after she was home.
In common with many makers, Amanda expressed a preference for selling her art directly to the public. She mentioned that the face to face contact afforded at markets or workshops offers instant feedback (whether directed to her or overheard from the other side of the trestle table). This allows her to develop her product line and keeps her ideas fresh, interesting and relevant to the customers. This way of selling also allows her to witness first hand that rewarding moment of engagement that people have when they first come across her charming work
If you would like any more information about Amanda’s work or you would like to discuss a commission for yourself or as a thoughtful gift, contact Amanda at @FeltFabulousGifts on insta or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or better yet, come have a chat and pick things up to examine in person. Her next event is at Liverpool Makers Bazaar, The Old Police Station, Lark Lane L17 8UU on Sunday 10th September, from 11am-4pm.