Martha May Maulyou and Felt Friends

Jenny Barnett’s menagerie in a suitcase

Heart Space Studios attracts all sorts of different people, but sometimes we have to invite them in because one of us has spotted work that they feel is really exceptional and that we should try to exhibit or, even better, get the maker work to with us. Sophie, Heart Space’s administrator, has been raving about Jennie Barnett’s needle felted figures for months  since she saw them at a Vintage Fabric fair, and finally we managed to lure her over last week and this is what we saw…..

ceramic and cloth dolls with some odd felted animals

First out of a very battered, old-fashioned and customised suitcase came 2 dolls, well miniature figures would be a better description, they had ceramic heads that were beautifully modelled with cloth bodies and dressed in some lovely old printed cotton clothes. Jenny was a model maker in the ceramics industry before she took up a life living on a canal barge and working in needle felting.

detail of the modelled heads of the 2 small figures

Now I have to admit that needle felting seems like purgatory to me, poking a ball of woollen fleece with barbed sticks until it surrenders itself into a fluffy something or other is not  my idea of a good time …but when Jenny started to unpack her felted animals and other creatures, I could suddenly see why she had chosen this discipline,  apart from the obvious constraints of firing up kilns on boats.

2 needle felted and frocked animals.

It was obvious that her sculpting sensibilities were fully expressed in this simple medium – and she could have some fun while recreating gestures and stances that have surely come from her own acute observation. It is easy to see why she has started to name some of the figures, above Felicity Flowerfield and Bethany Breadbake are  delightful little characters.

warty watchful wild animals

These animals aren’t just cute though, they possess characters that are recognisable – I  have seen these attitudes in my own dogs (fox terriers) particularly the look on the large brown hare in the centre of the image above  – that sort of  ‘ can I trust you?’  specially when they are unsure of my attitude towards some mischief as yet undiscovered. Jenny has many such creatures and her most popular selling animals,the sheep,the hares and the foxes she now produces as needle felting kits.

Jenny Barnett’s needle felted Hare kit

But back to the suitcase, out came another creature, a very foxy looking character, but she was grey and dressed in a sinister green translucent skirt from which her tail stuck out at the back.  She was a wolf in Victorian clothing and her name gave the game away, Martha May Maulyou – you wouldn’t turn your back on her…..

Martha May Maulyou makes her appearance

Now I was intrigued and started to play with the animals – so easy to develop a story with them all – watch out girlies…

Martha Maulyou sidles up to the girls…..the fox is minding his own business

However to the rescue hopefully comes Harvey Hipslinger…he looks a proper gent.

Harvey Hipslinger to the rescue?

But should we trust a gent who wears such flamboyant clothes?

I had intended this post to be about Jenny’s small animals (she has agreed to teach some half day workshops to make some of her popular Christmas Robins and Mermaids with us later in the year) but having realised that her creatures are perfect for inspiring stories I am really pleased that we persuaded her to sell some of her character animals in the Heart Space shop.

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