Meet the Maker: Felt Me Up Designs
Melanie Ann Green from Felt Me Up Designs is a needlefelter and printmaker based in Scarborough on the North Yorkshire coast. Mel made her first bird 10 years ago when she felted a little white dove as a gift for the lady living above her damp, cold basement flat who used to feed the birds outside her window. Since then Mel has made literally thousands of birds, including 100 (and counting!) needle-felted dodos. Fellow Folksy seller Sarah Bell from SarahDesigns caught up with Melanie to find out more about her work, studio and inspirations…
Treat yourself to 10% off all Melanie’s needle-felted birds, creatures and prints with the code FELTMEUPDESIGNS before midnight on 26th May 2019. Shop Felt Me Up Designs on Folksy now – https://folksy.com/shops/feltmeupdesigns
A pal of mine said she doesn’t believe I make the penguins, she thinks I just follow them around with a camera and document their antics.
Hi Melanie! Your shop and pieces are gorgeous! Can you tell us how you began felting?
I learned wet felting at a community course ran through the WEA and my teacher mentioned needle felting to me. I went online and looked at some videos and became fascinated. After that I taught myself using books and you tube.
Why birds? And has it always been birdies?
When I started out I was making all sorts of things but eventually the birds became more popular and I decided to just focus on them. I’ve always be fascinated with birds – I collect vintage bird books and my grandad gave me a love of nature, even though most of his bird knowledge was made up!
My Kickstarter project to bring back the dodo got a little out of hand and I now have to make 179 dodos. I’m about three-quarters of the way there!
I hear you’ve been up to your eyes in dodos this year. Can you tell me more?
I ran a Kickstarter Project based around creating an unextinction event to bring back the dodo and help raise awareness of man’s impact on nature. The goal was to make 100 dodos to exhibit at Coastival, a Scarborough arts festival that took place in February. It all got a little out of hand and I now have to make 179 dodos, I’m about three-quarters of the way there.
I share my studio with two other artists, which gives me a bit of social contact and stops me having conversations with the telly.
Can you describe your creative workspace? Do you have more than one?
I have two work spaces. I have a studio where I plan, plot and package my creations, which I also use it for printing and for the larger or messy things, but most of my birds are made at home on my big squishy chair while I binge watch Netflix. The studio gives me space to think without all the clutter of home and I share the space with two other artists, which gives me a bit of social contact and stops me having conversations with the telly. The studio used to be my mum’s workspace, so it’s nice to have that connection to her there. It’s above a barber shop and was empty for nearly 20 years before my mother and her friends converted it into a studio space. Now it’s playing host to a whole new set of artists.
Take a tour of Melanie’s studio.
Can you tell me about your materials and tools? Do you have favourites?
I work with merino wool and felting needles. Needle felting uses very little specialist equipment, so it’s easy to get into without a big initial outlay. I’ve just discovered twisted felting needles and they are my new favourite thing. They felt the wool a lot faster than the traditional straight needles.
Needle felting is a magical process, you turn fluff into stuff by poking at raw wool with a needle, it’s like your making something out of nothing.
What about your creative process? How does the magic happen?
I’m a huge bird nerd, so inspiration is never far away, I collect vintage bird books and watch a lot of nature documentaries but sometimes it’s just a matter of scrolling through Instagram and seeing a bird that sparks my imagination. Needle felting is a magical process, you turn fluff into stuff by poking at raw wool with a needle, it’s like your making something out of nothing.
Watch Melanie create one of her needle-felted birds and see how the magic happens!
Your photography is stunning. Can you give us some tips?
Keep it simple. Good photography doesn’t need to be about having flashy equipment. Just find something you’re comfortable with, it could be your phone or a proper camera it doesn’t matter, and then play until you find what’s right for you. I have a basic pop-up light box/tent and try to use natural light. I do have some lights but they only come out in the dead of winter. I’m not a great photographer, so I take dozens of pictures to get the right shot and lighten them up in Photoshop Elements (an ancient version).
When I photograph the penguins I try to do it in a way that tells a story: are they stealing biscuits or having a pizza party? When you’re doing lifestyle shots, telling yourself a story really helps to capture a mood.
I’m going to marry Mr Felt soon – the penguins are going to be our bridesmaids
You’ve had three fabulous Kickstarter campaigns. Can you tell us what’s involved in those?
Kickstarter is a crowd-funding platform, which means you ask a bunch of strangers to fund your project. I’ve done four now, two of which funded new product ranges (a tea towel and a new range of pin badges) and two that were personal challenges to help inspire and motivate me. The first was to make 100 random birds and the second was the dodo project.
Kickstarter is a great way to fund an idea that maybe you wouldn’t be able to get off the ground without a little extra financial help, like a new product line or opening a bricks-and-mortar shop. You promise your backers rewards in exchange for their pledge and if the project is funded you create your product/dream/100s of dodos and fulfil the rewards. It is a lot of hard work and promotion, but they can be very rewarding and help bring your work to a whole new audience.
Most of my birds are made at home on my big squishy chair while I binge watch Netflix.
How do you fill your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
I just moved to a new flat with a garden and now I’m either out there or sat inside watching the birds through the window. A lot of my free time is filled with my dwarf hamsters, Houdini, Bucky and Dinky. Bucky is a mama’s boy and will happily sleep in my hood while I work, Houdini is small in stature but large in rage and bites everyone except me, and Dinky is my baby girl, always in fast forward and on the hunt for treats
Watch Melanie’s chickadees come to life in our Folksy Friday animation.
If you could bring one of your creations to life as a trusty companion, which would it be and why?
A pal of mine said she doesn’t believe I make the penguins, she thinks I just follow them around with a camera and document their antics. I made a pirate penguin called Captain Jack Penguin who came on holiday to Scotland with us and got into all kinds of trouble, he even found some mini bagpipes.
Be yourself. Work out who you are and how you want to be perceived, then do it your way. There are no hard and fast rules.
What pearls of wisdom would you impart to crafters just starting out?
Be yourself, everyone will have advice for you, so smile and accept it with grace, then do what you were going to do anyway. There are no hard and fast rules, so work out who you are and how you want to be perceived, then do it your way.
If it stops being fun or rewarding, ask yourself why and change things.
Don’t be afraid of failure, it’s how we learn and nobody gets it right first time round, despite what it may look like on Instagram. If it stops being fun or rewarding, ask yourself why and change things. Always remember why you set out on this road in the first place.
What next? Where do you see yourself and your business in five years’ time?
I’ve had some personal setbacks in the last three years, so my goal is to get back to a place similar to the one I was in three years ago. I want to do more exhibitions, Kickstarters and craft fairs. Oh and I’m going to marry Mr Felt soon – the penguins are going to be our bridesmaids.
Get 10% off all Melanie’s needle-felted birds, creatures and prints with the code FELTMEUPDESIGNS before 26th May 2019
Meet the Interviewer
The maker asking this questions this time is pyrography artist and maker Sarah Bell from SarahDesigns.
Shop Sarah Designs here – https://folksy.com/shops/SarahDesignsUK
Read our interview with Sarah here – https://blog.folksy.com/2019/04/30/sarahdesigns-pyrography-gifts