Thoughts from Laura
In my childhood, I began drawing in pencil the powerful animal that captured my imagination and my heart: The Horse. I worked hard to create realistic portrayals of these magnificent beings by studying photographs, artists’ drawings and by watching them in person. My eyes honed in on the tiniest of details: curve of the ankle, where the pastern met the knee, the definition of the tendons in the legs and the shape of those powerful haunches and shoulders. Over and over I practiced capturing the nobility of expression and the beauty of horses’ heads and faces.
At the same time, I was using my hands to create things with sticks, clay, moss and all manner of materials in my forest and home environment. Sand, rock, bark, grass, mud, bone and clay experienced through my hands informed my creative impulse in a nuanced and potent way.
I’ll never forget my first attempt at sculpting. In 3rd grade we were given the obligatory chunk of red “school” clay and told to make an animal. I rolled it around and held it in my hands, then set it down on my desk before me. There was a side of the chunk that looked like the head of a dog, a Boxer. Two impressions made by my thumbs seemed to form the beginning of a snout. I started there by pulling it out longer. Next came the forehead and eye sockets and finally the ears. The process seemed magical, like it happened all by itself, exterior to me. I was smitten. Today that mysterious process of taking what I see and transforming it into a sculpture still amazes me.
I worked in clay for many years but was constantly frustrated with the problems associated with making animals stand on legs.
When I married into my husband’s family and was faced with the fact that sixteen or so Suffolk sheep fleeces were not being used, I took up needle felting. Now I sculpt with wool!
I learned the process on a farm tour in Ashville, NC. The woman on this farm showed me how to use an industrial felting needle and that, through stabbing the wool, I could shape it into the vision I had in mind. I primarily use Suffolk/Hampshire wool from the family flock because of its wonderful needle felting capacity. It’s the best I’ve used.
My work celebrates the lives of animals—wildlife, barnyard and companion. For me, as the maker, and for those who commission or purchase my art, a finished sculpture represents a relationship of love, respect and gratitude between human and animal.
When I am asked about my work I say: “I sculpt with wool” not “I needle felt.” Some may see it as a fine distinction but my medium is wool and my tools are felting needles. The work is sculpting. Sculpting in wool via the needle felting technique affords me the control and time to create fine detailing within realistic portraits of animals as well as abstract expressions of beauty, peace and creativity.