Interview:Tara Kennedy for Feltmakers Ireland

Tara Kennedy_ Awakening Belief_ 300dpi_ Photo by Beyton ErkmanAs part of our interview series and as we look forward to the Knit & Stitch show, Feltmakers Ireland is reaching out to participating and exhibiting artists. Tara Kennedy kindly agreed to respond to our interview questions about her journey and work. We have included links to her social media accounts at the bottom. Be sure to check out this inspirational artist.

 Tara Kennedy for Feltmakers Ireland

 Tell us a little about you as a person? e.g. upbringing/ where you work/ work other than textiles…

Ever since I can remember I have only ever been interested in the creative arts. As a child I always had a pencil in my hand, drawing at every opportunity. Having a mother with an interest in the arts and supervising children’s art clubs she would spend time with me making and creating all kinds of creations. She always had a sewing machine, (and still does), with a little old chest of drawers next to it, full of sewing and crafting bits and bobs including a little lidded basket full of buttons. I now have this chest and the basket is full of much the same. She made endless clothes for both me and my sister and even for our dolls and toys as well as most of the soft furnishings for every room in the house.  With all this creativity surrounding me I found it comforting and inspiring.

Tara Kennedy_ Hope Emerging_ 300dpi

How and when did you start your textile journey… what is your experience, tell us a little…

I went straight to Art college as soon as I could, happy to leave the constraints of school behind. I studied fashion and textiles for 4 years at the Berkshire College of Art and Design specialising in Knitwear. In my final year I was sponsored by two yarn companies who gave me huge quantities of yarn on cones, many of which I still have and use. I was also given lots of embroidery threads and wools from a great Aunt who was a big cross stitch enthusiast and I have been using many of these in my work ever since. I like the idea of using these old materials, along with recycling many other unwanted textiles to create unusual surface decoration, something I became fascinated by.

After graduating I set up my own knitwear business. A year later I went into partnership with Tim Kennedy, a fellow student and who a few years later I married. We developed our business adding items for interiors, selling at craft fairs and in small gift shops and galleries.

Over the years I developed, added and altered what I made but knew I only ever wanted to create art working for myself. After many years, my sales started to fall as the British handmade craft industry struggled against cheaper handmade imports. I was also starting to feel my work was becoming repetitive and undemanding and felt the need to challenge myself and develop more as an artist, free from commercial restraints. This was a turning point for me and decided it was the right time to move my work in a more meaningful direction.

Tara Kennedy_ Empathy_ 300dpi_ photo by Beyton Erkman

I came across the OCA, Open College of the Arts, and enrolled in a distance learning BA in Creative Arts, specializing in Fine Art and Textiles. This course was very convenient at the time, enabling me to wind down my craft business at the same time and have a small part time job, which I still have to this day. The course opened new and exciting ways of working, using new materials and helping me to be freer and more experimental. It was a valuable experience requiring both dedication and self motivation. My studies developed around subjects of personal identity with the contrasting cultures and religions of my ancestors having a big influence on me. It led me down an intriguing path of Eurasian studies, embracing politics and history, social and cultural change. These concepts had become an integral part of my work and I felt I had only just touched on the surface of ideas. I needed to develop this theme further, so I applied for an MA in Textile art at the University for Creative Arts in Farnham. This turned out to be the best thing I have ever done!  Being able to explore any creative pathway of my choosing and making whatever I desired was an incredible luxury and a significant journey.

Tell us about your process from conception to creation and what is your motivation? e.g. for hobby/ creativity/ art/ fashion/ health/ money…

My main motivation would have to be the reaction I have from creating and making. The feelings of comfort, tranquillity and wellbeing that come with the process is invaluable.
The work I undertook on the Masters course is the basis of my current work which continues to develop and change. My initial inspiration came from a need to express this unity of my mixed cultural heritage which then evolved into being less personal and became an expression of humanitarian unity. I made extensive research examining different cultures and religions in conflict and the effects of their suffering. The despair I feel of this suffering from conflict drives me to express important messages of acceptance, empathy and hope.  I feel It’s possible through understanding these messages there could be more harmonious outcomes in the world.

My present work now is about creating expressions of hope emerging from this pain. I aim to leave an impression on the viewer, causing them to contemplate and consider but it’s not essential to me they understand what it’s about. People see different things and I find it intriguing to hear their views and how it makes them feel.

My sketchbook has been invaluable in helping me to progress and develop my ideas. I collect information connected to my theme alongside related images of colour, form and texture and use these to help create ideas. I then make numerous drawings, creating shapes, patterns and forms in various scales, out of which designs for finished pieces transpire.

Tara Kennedy_ Hope Emerging detail 1_ 300dpi

The materials I use are chosen for their soft tactile quality to create a comforting feeling which include yarns, threads, carded wool and fabrics. I use various techniques including knitting, wrapping, felting, knotting and stitch depending on the expression, for example I often use knotting to convey tension, felted holes to express suffering and shibori felting to suggest buds of hope.

I have also realised how significant process is and how the act of wrapping and binding not only feels therapeutic but adds to the feeling of protection and healing.

The designs of my pieces take the forms of soft sculptures, wall hangings and more recently works on canvas. I use the imagery of cages suggesting protection, bundles and wrapped lengths conveying togetherness and trailing lengths to convey the spreading of hope.

Colour is also central for the expression, using blood red to suggest suffering and ivory to convey hope and often using a graduation of the colours from one to the other.

I also create detailed drawings which provide an alternative viewpoint and compliment my 3D work.

Tara Kennedy_ Continuous_ photographed in Somerset_300dpi

What currently inspires you?  

My work will continue to evolve, and I hope to work on many different concepts. In fact, I am presently planning other work on a very different theme after undertaking a month’s art Residency at the Textile Centre in Blonduos, Iceland with the ‘Textile Echoes’, a group of four textile artists. My work as a textile artist is usually inspired by emotional connections so the idea of coming to Iceland and using landscape and nature was to be a new and exciting challenge. After a few weeks of trips out exploring in the north I finally discovered the emotive feeling I had been hoping for.  The awareness of immense space from the endless landscape became increasingly overwhelming. Being totally absorbed by these incredible surroundings and the continually changing scenery I started to develop some ideas for a piece expressing these sensations. It was important to me I use solely Icelandic materials applying all the colours of the land from the black sand of the beaches to the imposing white snow topped mountains and everything else in-between.

From all this inspiration I created a 37-metre-long wrapped piece using Icelandic yarn, horsehair, raw sheep’s wool, fish skins and yarn dyed from Icelandic plants. By making such an extensive piece using a repetition of technique it helped me to express this continuous landscape.

I took the final piece to the coast, a short distance from Blonduos, and photographed it stretched out along the shoreline. It felt appropriate and was perfectly positioned amongst all the colours involved.

This piece is just the start of new making, working with landscape, experimenting with natural dye and natural materials. Wool will always feature in my work, as my favourite material whether felting, knitting, stitching or wrapping it.

Thank you so much to Tara Kennedy for taking part, for your inspirational images and work. We look forward to seeing and hearing more.




Tara Kennedy_ Becoming_ 300dpi





An interview with Daisy Collingridge.

Burt LungesSome of you might know of the amazing and wonderfully fantastical work of textile artist Daisy Collingridge. I’m an avid follower of her work on Instagram and when I saw that she was coming to the Knit & Stitch shows including the RDS Dublin venue I was just delighted at the prospect of seeing the work up close!

Felt makers Ireland decided to get in touch ahead of Daisy’s exhibition to ask her a little about her journey as a textile artist. We realise that this work is not felt, nor made from wool but I hope, that you like me will love it and it will inspire you to develop your textile practice further.

Tell us a little about you as a person? e.g. upbringing/ where you work/ work other than textiles…

Mum is a sewer, stitcher, patchwork maker. She decorates cakes and constructs curtains. It is her influence that has guided me towards being practical and ultimately towards stitch. My family home is full of fabric, threads, paints, wood. We are all hoarders so there is always plenty of materials to get a project started. I still return to my family home to do large parts of my sculptural work. My family play a huge role in what a do, whether it is practical or moral support they are always there.

The current form my artistic work takes isn’t the most financially rewarding so I am also an illustrator. I have my own greetings card company; DMC Illustrations. It is very different to my sculptural work, but keeps things fresh! When I’m not sewing or drawing, I like to run. Running has always been part of my life and it has given me the discipline to grow my card company and continue to sculpt with fabric. It keeps me sane.

How and when did you start your textile journey… what is your experience, tell us a little…

From making over 40 stuffed toys as a kid. (I was a little obsessed with teddy bears) it has been a direct route through Fine Art GCSE, A-level, Art foundation and finally a degree in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins that has led me to this point. There were always textiles elements to my work during school, which naturally led to fashion. On reflection my heart was never really in fashion, but the freedom to create and the people that I met during my degree were invaluable. Since graduating I have predominately left fashion behind focusing more on sculpture (though still wearable). These have been shown as part of the 62 Groups’ Ctrl/Shift group exhibition as well as part of the World of Wearable Arts in New Zealand. My best story is still making a dress for Bjork. That was unreal!

Dye bath for DaveTell us about your process from conception to creation and what is your motivation? e.g. for hobby/ creativity/ art/ fashion/ health/ money…

I like a deadline. It’s good to work towards an exhibition or competition. I take great pleasure in seeing a project from start to finish and more importantly to create with my own hands. I felt that I would lose that if I were to be a designer for a company. I never stopped making even during the years that I didn’t have a focus. It is impulsive and rarely planned. The act of creating makes me happy. So, I guess my motivation is happiness!

Projects usually start with a period of experimentation. My work is driven my fabric manipulation and experimentation as opposed to concept. It can be difficult to allow yourself to just play without an ‘end piece’ at the end. I think it is vital phase to keep your ideas moving forward. The ‘Squishys’ have been a development on from my graduation collection. They are the culmination of free machine quilting pushed to the extreme. I work in the same way as I would making clothes, I work mainly on the stand. Draping and physically wearing the pieces as I go to see how they hang and move. The result is no longer a ‘couture’ dress but a ‘couture squishy’!

The fabric is hand dyed. Once I’ve selected my colour palette, I used Procion dyes to create the pastel shades. This is done in the sink (my parents kitchen sink). Each Squishy is made from 5-6 different garments; mask, trousers, top and/or jacket and gloves. I build up the underlying volume at this stage using thick wadding; essentially build the silhouette. I then begin to build up the relief and shape by hand sewing on blobs of fabric with wadding and beans (both heavy and light). I always start with the head first. This informs the character of the person I am making. They are all made up in this way (rather than based on real people).

Daisy Collingridge clive kneelerWhat currently inspires you? 

Bringing things to life.

I worked with the animator Isabel Garrett to produce a miniature squishy for a short animation called ‘Listen to Me Sing’. It was pure magic to watch the small person I built around an armature actually breath and come to life!

Similarly, I love creating videos with my wearable pieces. I am excited to do more film work. They are the most fun.

Felt makers Ireland would like to thank Daisy for her time in participating in this interview process. We can’t wait to see the work in November. We wish her every success in her textile journey.

The Knit & Stitch show is on at the RDS Dublin 7th-11th of November- where you will be able to meet Daisy’s fantastical creations- in person!


Instagram: @daisy_collingridge


basic and beyond hat making 2020


Delighted to announce the date of our “Basic and beyond” as the 25th January 2020.

A great 1 day hat making course. brilliant for beginners, but also intermediate feltmakers as a refresher course. Fibre provided and come away with your own unique hand made hat as well as a host of newly learned skills.


Application forms available and being accepted.

basic and beyond application form 2020


Interview with Catherine Kaufman

12-Lee-Parkinson---Live-Magazines-Photography---Catherine---Sculpture-14Catherine Kaufman, sometimes affectionately known as the “Woolly Queen”. Feltmakers Ireland requested an interview ahead of seeing her work in this years Knit & Stitch at the RDS, Dublin.

Following on from her win at the Ribble Valley Craft Open Exhibition 2019, Catherine Kaufman was asked to exhibit her work at Olympia in London, and she is set to showcase her sculptures in Dublin as part of the Knit & Stitch show 7th-11th November this year.

Catherine grew up in a household full of art –her father was an antiques dealer and as a small child, she recalls her mother drawing beautiful elaborate pictures.

“Our home was filled with beautiful art and furniture – this greatly influenced me. My mother drew dancing ladies with crinolines for me which I loved.”

As a young girl Catherine always had a love of nature, imagining a world of fairy tales in the forests, countryside and riverbanks as she played near her childhood home.

“I remember that I always gravitated to the nature table at school, it was a magnet for me. I was always making and putting things together. I loved sand, playing with water and my favourite was fuzzy felt.

36-Lee-Parkinson---Live-Magazines-Photography---Catherine---Sculpture-38This was the start of things to come.

“I loved the smells of nature and the birdsong and noises. While among nature my imagination would be full of fairies and pixies and characters from stories I had read. It was all there, a rich tapestry just waiting to emerge.”

Attending a Catholic school in Altrincham, outside Manchester. Catherine left school at 16 but it wasn’t until she was living as a housewife in Rossendale, that she began to re-engage with her love of art.

“I began painting, I joined a local watercolour class, while bringing up my three children and I was asked to apply for a place at Blackburn University to study for a BA in Fine Art. At first, I thought it was crazy as I had no academic experience and I was a housewife with children! I wasn’t sure they had the right person to be honest!

“I made every possible excuse not to goas I was scared, but they kept pursuing meso eventually I decided to try it.”

Catherine went on to gain a first-class Fine Art degree in 2012 and is now one of the UK’s leading needle felt fibre artists.


“Working as a felt fibre sculptor happened by chance. One morning I saw a lady who was demonstrating spinning and felting. I had never considered this medium before.

I asked her if she thought I could make sculptural figures with wool. She went onto teach me all the craft skills I needed to start creating my work.

That lady was Judith Beckett of the Wonder of Woollies and she became my guru and mentor. “Wool is now my love and being a fibre artist is my life.” says Catherine.

Catherine gleans inspiration from many things to create her beautiful life-size sculptures, as she explains: “It all starts with a thread of an idea. Where to start comes in many forms, I may find a figure whirling around in my subconscious – I often don’t really know who will surface so it’s very exciting!

“Then I get to work practically and physically, and the figure literally comes pouring out. It’s something that once I start, I don’t stop until its finished, so I never quite know how long it’s going to take or how I’m going to create it. It all happens naturally and organically during the creative process.”

Catherine admits that her creations are a reflection of her emotions. It is a way of working that suits my personality. I work for long periods with my pieces, so I can attach myself and immerse myself

completely into it. I find this very healing and comforting. The making process is so physical – it is very therapeutic and cathartic.”

Having chosen wool as her medium for her art, Catherine says it was important to her to select a material that is environmentally friendly and organic.

“In a world of synthetics there is no substitute for wool. Wool has a celestial symbolism that represents purity and truth.”

She sees her work as a ceaseless daily discipline: “It stems from my love of the making process, the physical repetitive act of making and assembling. I explore my own sense of self and that of the female narrative within the yarns.”

Her award-winning work showcased at the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show in London, was highly praised and she was delighted to be able exhibit there:  I was chosen to be an exhibiting textile artist there and was lucky to have a large stand where I displayed my collection of sculptural needle felt. The show was wonderful, and I have had a great response to my work, and I met some wonderful people.

I hope to raise awareness of the value of traditional crafts. This at the heart of what I do and if I can inspire young people to keep these ancient skills alive, then I have succeeded.”

You can see Catherine’s work at this year’s Knit & Stitch show in the RDS 7th-11th November… support your fellow felters- and get along!

Catherine Kaufman

Sunday Session 13th Oct 10:30am

october 19session

we hope to see many of you there… we will hear from participants of the recent workshop. Share ideas and cosy chat. Lets have a full house again. Tea/ Coffee and Buns as usual. Come along for an autumnal craft & chat.

Fibre sales available as usual and plenty of anticipation around the Knit & Stitch show also.

See you then! 10:30am Knockmarroon Gate Studio. Phoenix Park.

Sunday Session 13th Oct 10:30am

october 19session

we hope to see many of you there… we will hear from participants of the recent workshop. Share ideas and cosy chat. Lets have a full house again. Tea/ Coffee and Buns as usual. Come along for an autumnal craft & chat.

Fibre sales available as usual and plenty of anticipation around the Knit & Stitch show also.

See you then! 10:30am Knockmarroon Gate Studio. Phoenix Park.

CIFD and GANS Collaboration.

Report by Breda Fay- GANS rep (edited by Tamzen Lundy)

Breda Fay/ Michelle Kearns
GANS & CIFD collaboration

Since the beginning of April, some members from Felt makers Ireland have been working with designers from the fashion world on a collaborative project linking craft persons and designers.

Today – August 29th– was the culmination of our work, when our projects were modeled as part of the CIFD Fashion Show/ Media Day. The fashion show itself was amazing and one could only be inspired by the address and commentary of Eddie Shanahan, chair of CIFD, a truly enthusiastic and inspiring speaker.

For the last few months, Carmen Garcia, Niki Collier and Breda Fay have been engaging with our partner designers from the council of Irish fashion design. We had been randomly matched to “accentuate learning and ensure innovative engagement”.

I worked with Michelle Kearns, a milliner from Tuam.

Michelle and I shared stories of our likes and dislikes, dreams and history to come up with a theme for the design. We also discussed different textures and shades of felt. Samples and photographs went back and forth until we finally decided on a very fine and feathery black Merino and Silk with embellishments of cerise Tussah silk that Michelle would incorporate into a wire structure. The finished work would illustrate overcoming adversity (thick and gnarled branches) growing into more open structure with birds and blooms of hope and resilience.

In all, 15 pairs brought their projects to completion and the resulting hats, baskets, dresses, scarves, etc were amazing. The crafts of calligraphy, metal smith, lace making, felt making, basket making, crochet, textile art and embroidery were all represented.

Carmen Garcia's collaborative work
GANS & CIFD collaboration

This is the second year of the collaboration and I would urge members to watch the GANS page of the website and read the blog posts for notice of next year’s event, when we will once again advertise this opportunity. For those that managed to get along this year and became involved it was certainly and enriching and lasting experience.

See a word from Eddie in thanks below.

The below was received from the Council of Irish Fashion Designers

Ladies & Gentlemen,

On behalf of all of us in CIFD I wish to express our gratitude to you for the skill, inspiration, dedication and creativity you brought to our collaboration project.

It is not often that one of Ireland’s most eminent journalists declares an event as ‘Triumphant and emotional’ – but those were her first words at the end of our presentation on Thursday.

My colleagues and I have enjoyed the process, our respect and admiration for your skills is difficult to put into words. Design and Craft came together last week in an engaging evocation of Irish culture, proving beyond doubt that our heritage crafts can be extremely engaging in a contemporary context.

I hope you too enjoyed the project and the presentation.

I know Mary has exciting plans to give the work further exposure and I will also be seeking extra opportunities in the coming months.

We can expect some newspaper and magazine publicity in the coming weeks. In the meantime I am sending you a hi res image of your contribution by WeTranfer. I hope to have some video clips of the pieces in the next short while and will also forward those in due course.

I look forward to the possibility of working with you again in the near future.

Best regards,


Magazine Archive



Hi Folks,

We have donated our copies of Feltmakers Ireland Magazines to Nival in NCAD yesterday. NIVAL is the “National Irish Visual Arts Library”.

Renata the archivist was delighted to add FI to their files – magazines should be a great resource to students and researchers.

We are missing some copies and it would really be lovely to be able to find these and complete the archive.

The issue numbers missing are

1-23, 26-33, 36, 45, 51, any after 54?
The feltmakers Ireland committee would love to find copies of these magazines.
If you have a copy at home and are willing to part with it for the NIVAL archive at NCAD, please contact

Workshop: October 2019 Anna Gunnarsdottir: REMINDER



Hi Folks,

We are so lucky to have a visiting international tutor booked for October 2019.

This is a 3 day course on 4th, 5th and 6th October with the talented Icelandic tutor, Anna Gunnarsdottir. The title of the course is “Sculptural Felt Making”. Anna is known for her large scale sculptural pieces.

The course is limited to 12participants, ensuring that everyone will receive attention. Existing members will be given priority in the event of over subscription. The closing date for application is 06.09.19 (after which in the event of oversubscription a draw will take place).  It will be first come first serve after this date- if not full already.

We hope that you are as excited as us about this opportunity and anticipate that this course will be filled quickly.

Application forms should be sent to:

You can read about Anna in the blog post interview we did earlier in the year.

Interview with Anna Gunnarsdottir