Thursday, February 11, 2010


Here is a fiber artist from Canada doing something a bit different. Come and meet

Here is our interview with the artist, Sarah

Briefly describe what you make?

I design and sew toys and accessories from recycled wools and cottons—plush dolls, mostly, mittens and pouches, all with hand-embroidery. The dolls, aka “Beasts” come in two sizes: the small ones (about 5” tall) fit snug in a hand and larger ones (about 10”) tuck nicely under an arm.

What mediums do you enjoy working in most?

I’m a scavenger at heart (part hawk, I figure) and love upcycled textiles. I find 100% wool sweaters from thrift shops and shrink them. Cotton flosses and wool yarns are for ornamental embroidery. I avoid synthetics and polyesters as much as possible. Friends drop off their inherited button jars and mistakenly shrunked sweaters, so my stock is growing.

How long have you been creating craft?

I’ve been crafting things since my first dandelion wreath in the sandbox, but since then I studied at art college where I made drawings and ceramics. I taught high school art and now I’m home raising kids. I learned to sew and embroider as a child (my mom was a prolific quilter) and returned to the craft a few years ago.

How did you get started?

The sewing sprang from the need for a birthday gift for my mom, who’s in a nursing home and unable to talk, read, or do much of anything independently. I wanted to give her something small and soft that she could hold and feel my love. I tried sewing a heart from fabric but it wasn’t good enough, I thought, (the first one was really ugly) so I made about a dozen more until I could get it right. I learned about felting wool along the way. I love the freedom of cutting and sewing felted materials—it’s very immediate and almost all your work shows—there are few hidden seams. There’s something honest and upfront about that.

Where does the name of your shop come from?

A “wildebeest” is a gnu, but literally means “wild beast”. I slipped “wool” into the name as a nod to both my material and the goofiness of the plushies’ personalities. Or maybe it’s me who’s the wooldebeast!

What would you most want people to know about your work?

I’m inspired by the concept of comfort dolls—knitted donations for kids in Africa who have lost loved ones. Comfort dolls are packed in place of Styrofoam chips for HIV-AIDs medication. I made and sent one via I-Cross Canada a few years ago and loved the small scale of the doll. Sewing with recycled wools suits me better than knitting but I still like the idea of the beasts as gifts for anyone in need of a smile or comfort.

What words of advice do you have for other artists?

Tip 1: Take time to play, to develop a personal style. Experiment. Make some stuff you’d never sell.

Tip 2: Be careful not to smudge your work with the remains of your chocolate stash.

Tip 3: You can find time to make things in strange places. I hand embroider on long car trips, for instance.

Tip 4: Don’t drop straight pins under the table where your husband puts his feet.

Tip 5: Inspiration comes from the most unlikely of places—a faded decal on an antique teacup, maybe. Be ready for it.


Go right now and visit Wooldebeast - and then come back and tell Sarah what you think!

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