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Why create artwork with natural fibres?

Fibres used in the artwork of Sarah Ritchie

Throughout my artistic life, I have used various mediums, from acrylics to pastels to silk painting inks. I never knew about “painting” with wool and other natural fibres until I tried needle felting. I started by creating 3-dimensional animals out of wool fibre, but I kept stabbing my fingers with the needle, and my results were not good. Thankfully, my friend had sent me a book about needle felting, and one of the projects in the book was a needle-felted 2-dimensional picture which ultimately challenged and changed my idea of how “art” could be created.

By incorporating natural fibres into my creative work, I started to connect with the environment and unlock a world of textures, colours, and tactile experiences that began to elevate my artistic expression.

The allure of wool

When creating art with natural fibres, I prefer to use wool and silk. Wool stands tall as a versatile medium and is derived from the fleece of sheep and other animals. Wool’s various unique qualities make it a favourite among artists and crafters. The fibre’s natural crimp and elasticity also contribute to its excellent resilience and shape retention, ensuring that artistic creations stand the test of time. Felted wool is incredibly robust.

Moreover, wool’s natural ability to absorb and release moisture makes it ideal for capturing vibrant colours. Whether dyeing the fibres yourself or working with pre-dyed wool, the results are often rich and captivating. Wool fibre readily accepts dyes (both natural and synthetic), allowing endless possibilities to create stunning colour combinations and gradients.

The elegance of silk

Silk, derived from the cocoons of silkworms, has long been treasured for its lustrous sheen and delicate, lightweight nature. Artists and crafters gravitate toward silk for its ability to reflect light effortlessly, imparting a radiant glow to any artwork.

Silk is a dream to work with for my style of fibre art. It absorbs colour dye incredibly well and adds a sheen to my work that you don’t typically get from wool alone.

The benefits of creating artwork with natural fibres

While the allure of wool and silk is undeniable, there are broader benefits to incorporating natural fibres into your artwork and crafts.

  • Sustainability: Natural fibres are renewable resources derived from plants and animals, making them more environmentally friendly than manufactured synthetic fibres. Choosing natural fibres contributes to a more sustainable and responsible artistic practice.

  • A wide range of fibre options: Including plant fibres such as cotton, hemp, flax/linen, jute, bamboo, sisal, coconut, ramie, lyocell (Tencel), nettle; and animal fibres such as silk, Samoyed (dog), angora (rabbit), sheep, alpaca, mohair (goat), possum, and more.

  • Unique textures: Natural fibres offer an array of textures that add depth and visual interest to artwork. Whether you desire the softness of cotton, the rustic charm of jute, or the sleekness of bamboo, each fibre brings its character and enhances the tactile experience of your creations.

  • Connection with nature: Working with natural fibres establishes a deeper connection with the natural world. As you handle and create with materials derived from the earth, you become more attuned to the beauty and intricacy of the natural world, fostering a sense of appreciation and mindfulness in your artistic journey.

  • Timeless appeal: Natural fibre-based artwork and crafts possess a timeless appeal that transcends trends and fads. Pieces created with natural fibres often evoke a sense of authenticity and craftsmanship that can be cherished for generations, becoming heirlooms and treasured keepsakes.

In an art world dominated by artificial materials, embracing the beauty of natural fibres offers a chance to reconnect with nature and indulge in the wonders of tactile creativity.

So, let your imagination soar, explore the possibilities, and embark on a creative journey that celebrates the beauty of the natural world. Discover the joy of creating art that inspires and leaves a lasting impact, both on your artistic endeavours and the environment around us.


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