THUNDER BAY -- Local artist Christina Meadwell saw needle felting online in 2018. “It really grabbed my attention,” she says, and she ordered a little starter kit on Amazon. “I was hooked after that!”
Meadwell now has an Etsy shop where she sells her needle-felted animals. Born and raised in Thunder Bay, her favourite subject matter is the flora and fauna around her. “I live in the country so I see more animals than people,” she says.
There are deer, foxes, bears, owls and other birds in her shop, and she also does custom pieces by commission. People send her photos of their horses, dogs and bunnies, and she creates a perfect little miniature, complete with the pet’s distinctive markings and even expressions.
Customers find Northwest Woolies on social media as well as by word of mouth. She also participated in the Fibre Art Exhibition at the Baggage Building Arts Centre for three years (until COVID) and in Craft Revival in 2019, which gained her new followers. She hopes to participate in Craft Revival again later this year, if they have one during the holiday season.
For Meadwell, turning her art into a business, marketing and selling online, has been a learning experience. “The online stuff is way more work than you think it is. I have more photographs of the things I’ve made than of my kids now,” she laughs. She takes all her own photos. “It’s good, though, because it’s also a way to document what I’m doing,” she adds.
Each creation takes a few hours to make, stretched out over several days. She takes unspun lamb’s wool (she now gets it from Olives and Bananas on Cumberland Street) and rolls it up. “So I make the basic shape of the animal, a blob. Then you stab the wool to tangle the fibres,” she explains.
She uses polymer clay for eyes, beaks and claws, and for animals that need to stand up, she uses armature wire as a skeleton. “If there are lots of spots and colour changes, it takes longer,” she adds.
“Needle felting really sparked the creative passion, more so than drawing and painting,” the artist says. “I never felt the need to draw or paint, but with felting, I have to - even if no one’s ever going to see it, I probably would still make them, because they’re fun, and I like filling my cupboards with them and decorating the house. I put them in my plants. [I’ve made] Christmas tree decorations, lots.”
Meadwell is happy with the way her needle felting is going. The silver lining of the lockdown is that it has removed a lot of distractions and made her focus better. “It’s been a good stress reliever,” she laughs. “I get to stab something!”