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Meet the author: The Woolly Felters

Roz Dace and Judy Balchin are crafty sisters who love to felt. Their frist book together, How to Make Little Needle-Felted Teddy Bears, will be published by Search Press in October 2014.

An Interview with The Woolly Felters (Roz Dace and Judy Balchin)

Where were you born?

Big sister Roz:  I was born in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

Judy:  I was born in Brigstock, near Corby.

What is your educational background?

Roz:  After grammar school, I lived in Paris, where I studied French at L’Alliance Francais, then went straight into a career in television when I came back to the UK. Following this I enjoyed time working in the media, and then joined Search Press back in the 1980’s.

Judy:  After grammar school, I did a foundation year at Cardiff College of Art, followed by a three year degree course in Graphic Design at Maidstone College of Art.

What first got you interested in craft?

From early childhood we have both loved making things. Like most siblings, we had our moments of rivalry and tension - but we did play together a lot, and from those early beginnings we both went on to develop a lifelong interest and passion for art and crafts. It was never planned that we should both end up working in the craft industry – but we are delighted that we did!

How long have you been crafting?

Roz:  Crafts became a part of my working life when I joined Search Press. With a love of everything arty crafty, I loved it immediately, and have spent many happy years as first an Editor, and latterly as Editorial Director. I have retired now from the office now, but enjoy a freelance role as their Consultant Editor, commissioning art and textile books. Judy and I are also developing our Woolly Felters’ business – we both discovered felting through our craft connections, and love it. The business is now ready to go, and it is all very exciting!

Judy:  I have always enjoyed making things, but crafts became a big part of my working life from 1994, when I started writing articles for Crafts Beautiful magazine and wrote my first book on Glass Painting.

Where do you get your materials?

We get all our sheep wool and needle felting materials on line from Norwegian Wool, Frank Herring and Sons, Efco Creative Emotion and World of Wool. There are a wonderful variety of dyed wool fibres online, and the delivery services are excellent. We also wet felt alpaca fleece and make it into wonderfully soft new born baby photo props. We regularly visit Lightfoot Alpaca Farm in Hawkhurst, Kent where we talk to the alpacas and buy our fleeces.

How/Where did Search Press discover you?

Roz:  Well, I was in the right place at the right time! Judy too. We went through the proper process of having the book presented by our editor, Katie…and were over the moon when the proposal was accepted.

Judy:  As Roz’s sister I have had contact with Search Press through her. In 1996 I wrote my first book ‘Classic Glass Painting’ for Search press and haven’t looked back since!

What were your first thoughts when asked to write a book?

We were absolutely delighted, and couldn’t wait to get started.

Has publishing a book changed your life in any way?

Roz:  Yes. I had no idea – as an editor, what being an author would be like. It has been a fascinating experience, and I must say that it has been rather like giving birth. There was the hard work during the writing of the book and the making of all our little characters, the wonderful experience of seeing everything photographed, the pain of checking and waiting, then the untold joy of seeing the printed book. What joy!

Judy: I can well remember getting a copy of the first book I wrote. Writing a book can be a pretty solitary experience…it was lovely to know that it would reach so many people out there…and even more lovely to meet the readers at workshops and craft shows.

Any tips for beginners?

Yes. Before submitting a book proposal – if you are thinking of approaching Search Press, read the submission guidelines on their website first. These tips have been written with beginners in mind, and they are general, so they can be used if you are approaching any craft publisher.

Judy: I started my author career by writing projects for craft magazines. These small projects helped to build up my confidence as a writer. Then, my advice is to ‘go for it!’ If you are passionate and enthusiastic about your subject, it will come across in your talking and writing. Don’t be frightened to approach a publisher with your ideas.

What is your favourite craft tool?

Roz:  The needle felting needle. This is a magical tool and with it you can sculpt fibres into any shape, and make almost anything. You are limited to size of course, with just one, or a few needles (several needles can be used at the same time in special holders), but the beauty of needle felting is its simple method and amazing results.

Judy:  I love my felting needles too, but my old scalpel that has been my constant studio companion for far too many years, comes a close second.

Have you travelled for your craft?

Roz:   I haven’t done any ‘felting’ travelling yet – other than to Cumbria to the Woolfest this year, which was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Judy:  I have been lucky enough to have travelled extensively both here and abroad with my different crafting talents.  Felting has been pretty home-based so far but I am sure that will change as we progress with our business.

Where does your inspiration come from?

We get our inspiration from everywhere. We are surrounded by inspiration in books, magazines, on television, in films, and in our everyday lives. We study nature when making our little animals and characters, and often in the making, they take on a life of their own. They very rarely turn out how we want them too. We start off with scribbled sketches, then the personalities evolve as we sculpt the wool. That is the magic of felting. It is the same with our pictures and the products that we make.

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