I don’t see felted art that often, so when I came across Susan Kenna’s Artfelt Creations, I was interested in learning more about the craft and the artist. I met Susan during a holiday Open House at the Marblehead Arts Association where she was working on making a bead.
The best way to describe needle felting would be stabbing a bit of wool with a special needle designed to make the fibers interlock. I found a Youtube tutorial on how to make hearts and might try it. From the look of it, it takes time and patience, and adding designs like swirls and polka dots takes some creativity, which is why I reached out to the artist behind Artfelt Creations.
BOM: When did you decide to become an artist?
SK: In the fall of 2003, I was introduced to needle felting by my close friend, Sue Young, an accomplished potter and artist in the Adirondacks. I was visiting her gallery and she was wearing a beautiful felted necklace that she had made. Of course, I fell in love with the necklace and asked her to make me one. She declined, saying she was too busy and pulled out some wool roving, a needle and felting pad. She gave a quick demonstration how to make a bead and then told me about a website to order all that I would need to get started. The rest is history. I fell in love with needle felting. One necklace turned into many. In the fall of 2004, I decided it was time to start my own business, Artfelt Creations.
BOM: Have you ever tried other forms of art besides needle-felting?
SK: Growing up, I did the usual kids craft stuff, decorating eggs, etc. I did start sewing as a young girl, inspired and taught by my mother.
BOM: Your website’s home page indicates you make purses and handbags, but none of these are shown in the felt gallery. Do you still make these as well?
SK: I started needle felting handbags and purses, but with the knitting and felting process being done by many other artists, it was too time-consuming. I took a knitting class with my daughter, hoping to incorporate knitted bags with needle felted designs into my business, but knitting was not enjoyable to me.
BOM: How do you choose the materials? Have you experimented with different types of wool, chord, and the non-felted beads you use to separate the felted beads?
SK: I have experimented with many types of roving and find that New Zealand Corriedale wool is best suited for felted beads. For jewelry, I want my beads to be smooth and the Corriedale provides this effect. Some wools, like Merino, will not felt dense enough to felt a design into it. It is just too soft. To put the designs into a felted bead, the bead needs to be almost as hard as a marble. Otherwise, the design would just disappear into the bead. I have incorporated many types of beads, including wooden and seed beads, but have found that glass and sterling beads best compliment the wool beads.
BOM: How do you choose the color combinations? Do you plan out how the completed piece will look or do you start with one color and see where inspiration takes you?
SK: For color combinations, it is quite random. I felt two beads, same color, lots of sizes, for hours on end. Sometimes my inspiration for a necklace will come from walking through a store and seeing a sweater or jacket that catches my eye. I may take a photo of the item and then make up some beads with those colors. Then I lay them out and see what colors look good together. Sometimes I mix colors together that do not necessarily go together, but with the right combination will make a lovely and unusual necklace. Once I organize four or five necklaces, I then needle felt the designs into the bead.
BOM: I noticed the necklaces have specific names. Are they one-of-a-kind, or do you remake the same necklaces? Why are names given only to necklaces?
SK: I started naming the necklaces a very long time ago and found that people enjoy the names I come up with. It is also easy to identify a piece that someone may have seen at a show but did not purchase. There are some necklaces that, while they will all be slightly different, I make over and over. The solid light blue necklace, some with polka dots, some with swirls, is quite popular. There are many others over the years that I have made several times.
BOM: Do you use the same techniques for your purses, sweaters, and cat toys as you use for the beads? Are there different techniques to needle-felting?
SK: To make the Cat Fish and Dog Jackets, I use recycled wool sweaters. I felt the sweaters by washing them in hot water and drying them between each wash. The sweaters shrink a little bit each time so they become dense enough for me to felt a design onto the sweater. The Cat Fish are made the same way, but with no felted design. I sew a long burlap bag, stuff it with catnip, and sew it into the Fish. I put a decorative yarn around the edge.
BOM: Besides the Marblehead Arts Association, where do you show your work?
SK: While I mostly participate in shows, in the past I have sold items in shops in Portland, ME; Portsmouth, NH; Rochester, NY and Newburyport, MA. Currently, I have some work at Chapman’s Greenhouse in Beverly, MA and Riverwalk Art Gallery in Amesbury, MA. I am currently showing my work at Marblehead Art Association in Marblehead, MA.
BOM: Do you have any new projects? Are there any new items you want to try to make out of felt?
SK: I also make felted soap and Birds of a Feather (a suet feeder stuffed with wool roving for birds to make their nests, along with suet once the wool is gone). I took a class on making nuno-felted scarves and have been making them off and on for a few years. They are extremely time-consuming but the end result is beautiful. I am also working on some flat felted pieces, a choker style necklace with seed beads incorporated into the felt. I also have started a new wrap bracelet with felted designs and seed beads. Hopefully in the fall when my show season really begins, I will have finished some of these new items. I have been wanting to make felted fruit also and am determined to get started on them as well.
BOM: How can someone purchase your work?
SK: The best way to purchase is through my website, www.artfeltcreations.com. There is a contact email on the website. I have many necklaces, along with other items, not on the website and because each necklace is unique, the availability changes constantly.