While on a new quest for 2014 to find unique and talented artisans to feature on our Creative Chicks Café blog, I found a portrait of a stunning women on Facebook caught my attention. Her eyes were looking into my soul, they were beautiful and reminded me of my mother's eyes. She looked proud and prominent, but her eyes shown sadness and sorrow. It was not a photograph, or a painting. Rather a portrait created from wool fibre and I was mesmerized by this unique talent and I wanted to learn more. We are honored to connect with Jill Harrison, and share her story.
|Jill Harrison, Wool Fibre Artist|
I was born in 1956, just outside the wool textile city of Bradford, Yorkshire U.K. where I lived with Mum and Dad and three brothers in the same village that the famous Bronte Sisters were born that is Thornton. In fact, I went to school just a few yards away from the house that they were born in! I had a happy childhood and my memories were that of riding horses and playing on farms. I had always been artistic as a child and spent a lot of time drawing.
After leaving school, I went on to study Graphic Art at Bradford College of Art, unfortunately I left college before finishing the course to have a baby and did not pursue my art until years later when I returned to college part time to study Sculpture.
After my four children had grown up and gone their own ways, I moved to Scotland. I now live in rural Aberdeenshire on a smallholding with my second husband and my grandson. We have lived here for 8years now and we moved here to follow our dream of having land and being able to have the many animals that we love. Horses, goats, chickens and of course the sheep .
We wanted the rare breed Hebridean sheep and the beautiful small Shetland sheep, which are both native to our region. The Hebridean's have black fleece, but they range in shades of brown, cream and even white as they age . The Shetlands have the most beautiful, soft wool which is famous for the extremely fine garments which can be knitted with it. They are both hardy little creatures and tend not to need much doing with them .
When I bought my small flock, little did I know how these lovely little animals would change my life. I didn't know anything about textile art until 4years ago, when after a sheep shearing I decided to have a go at felting!
I bought myself a little book and followed instructions, my initial attempts were fun but very crude. I soon grew tired of 'abusing' the fibre, it was hard work! Instead, I started to 'paint' with fibre, carding the wool and laying it in very fine layers ,building up my images like a painting.
I was inspired by film stars and pop idols and later silent movie queens the haunting images of beautiful, but tragic looking women whom they portrayed . I was excited with the whole process researching their backgrounds and then recreating their dramatic beauty with my own wool. They just grew as if by magic.
I still love doing my portraits, but also draw inspiration from the sheep themselves and have made wool images of them in different positions as they move around the fields. My work and technique have progressed somewhat since I first started. I now dye my wool and blend the subtle colors as I work to create a more interesting finish. The final stage is placing the finished image between glass and board, this produces the 'painterly' look which I favor.
I work in my “Crofters Cottage,” everyday. At first it was just for my own satisfaction, but after being featured in various newspapers and on Scottish T.V. News. I have been selling pieces to individual collectors, interior designers as well as gettingmore commissions to do.
I have had exhibitions in U.K and Italy and some of my work is in Galleries. I am now venturing into the world of Fibre Festivals. I have been asked by many people all over the world to do workshops but I am afraid I have declined. Not because I don't want to share my technique, but because I am just too shy. I would be no good at standing up in front of a group and talking about my work.
I have a few questions for Jill to help you get to know a bit more about the artist . 1. Question: What is the most significant decision you ever made? 1. Answer: Moving up here to Scotland. 2. Question: What is your favorite food? 2. Answer: That's easy...cheese. I don't eat meat so cheese is good. 3. Question: What things make you laugh the most? 3. Answer: Usually everyday occurrences, silly things that others don't see. 4. Question: Who is your favorite artist? 4. Answer: I bought my husband a book for Christmas, Henry Moore's Sheep Sketchbook. It is made up of squiggles without taking pen from paper. Exquisite sketches of sheep which I actually prefer to his more monumental sculptures. 5. Question: If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it? 5. Answer: I would upgrade our home to incorporate a big studio space and also a gallery in which my husband and I could work alongside one another. Each of us would feature our own art and also host other artists work. 6. Question: What words of advice would you have for someone starting out? 6. Answer: Never stop dreaming, even when you get knocked back. Have fun creating your own ideas straight from your heart.
To see more of Jill Harrison's work, please visit her links and send a LIKE to her Facebook page from CCC.