If stitching be the food of love read on…that’s right folks, nothing like the casual butchering of Shakespeare to herald the imminent approach of Valentine’s Day. So whether you may be gloriously loved up, happily single or just ignoring the whole thing, let us all unite today in our adoration for all things needlecraft. The stunning creations I have the privilege of sharing with you all today know a thing or two about shaking their tail feathers and strutting their stuff, created by the talented Jill Ffrench they call her shop, ‘Fantails and Feet’, home.
Living with her family on a large leafy block in the Dandenong Ranges, located east of Melbourne, Jill doesn’t have to look far for inspiration. From her windows she’s treated to trees and birds of different types, including the ridiculously beautiful peacocks that occasionally wander through her garden from neighbouring properties. Jill first began making her felt birds a few years ago, for a friend who had just had a baby. She set herself the challenge of creating something refined and elegant using purely natural fibres, and decided on a peacock for its perfect symmetry and glamour. She also loved that their complex natural form would lend itself to a truly fabulous pattern. Having studied Environmental Science, Pattern Making and Clothing Productions at university this was the perfect project to combine the two disciplines. Jill has chosen only to ever work with 100% wool felt for its fine fibres and wonderful softness. She also isn’t interested in using any kind of glues or synthetic fibres that do not biodegrade, using different types of wire, stone, wax and hemp alongside the felt. As one of the world’s most ancient textiles, felt remains popular today for its flexibility and strength and with the availability of different grades and colours, makes the perfect medium for Jill’s beautiful birds.
What is your earliest stitching memory?
Throughout my childhood I was always encouraged to think creatively and to nurture my inbuilt curiosity about the natural world. I was given my first sewing machine at a very young age so I spent many hours making and constructing toys and skirts that I would later hand paint or embroider to wear to school. Like many kids growing up in the 70’s one of my favourite early toys was the hugely popular Fuzzy Felt, that I think of often now when I’m piecing together a pattern. Also around this time I was lucky enough to try my hand at 3D embroidery taught at my school by a talented local artist who blew my mind with her stuffing ability and stitching prowess. Armed with just a plain piece of calico, paint and a few savvy stitches she could whip up a bohemian masterpiece with ease.
What fires your imagination?
I spent most of my 20’s travelling the world and it’s memories of this that I sometimes think of when I begin a bird project. In Africa I fell in love with the colourful roller birds that live in the Acacia trees. In India I was drawn to the bright colours of the hand dyed saris against the hot dry desert plains, and of course the stunning Indian peacocks that strut through palaces and temples. Traditional symbols of integrity, fertility and beauty they also appeal to my sense of humour for their outrageous masked faces and ostentatious displays. Sometimes ideas come to me when I’m working my job in the real world at an academic library. I am always drawn to books about fine art, photography, printmaking and weaving and sometimes I have the chance to flick through the botanical drawing or life sciences section to seek out new ideas and be inspired. The opportunity to have unlimited access to an extensive collection of art and science publications is certainly a privilege and it’s images from these that I occasionally use as a starting point for a new project.
I think you’ll agree that Jill’s attention to detail is simply glorious, her intricate stitching, sculpting and wire work bring her work to life. So venture on over to her stunning shop to check out more!
Jessica Taylor aka Loadofolbobbins is a Textile Artist and Illustrator based by the sea in Portsmouth. At her happiest with a needle and thread, with a passion for genealogy she often explores old photographs in her textile art. With her fingers in many creative pies she loves to experiment with new techniques, creating illustrated and stitched goodies for her new Etsy shop.