Belle begain her artistic journey as a painter. Studying through TAFE NSW to get a technical grounding and then gaining a degree in visual arts at University of Wollongong. She began exhibiting her work regularly in Wollongong and Sydney while continuing to study. Finally Belle completed a Masters in Arts Administration through the College of Fine Arts, University of NSW and her life as a practicing artist diverted to a life working with collections and other people’s art.
In January 2000, Belle moved to Queensland. She continued to paint and draw until early 2006 when she attended a half day workshop on handmade felt, run by Fiona Hocking at the Noosa Regional Art Gallery. It was an epiphany.
“I realised that what I really loved doing,” Belle said, “is playing around with colour, pattern and texture. Moreover, I found that many areas of textiles allowed me to do this.” Belle has continued to learn and experiment with felting techniques since then. This has led her on a journey of discovery with silks, cottons, linens and dyeing techniques.
Most recently, Belle has gone back to spinning and weaving. She obtains beautiful fleece from Australian small producers. The fleece is cleaned, dyed and spun, often with the inclusion of silk fibres for added lustre. “I am not much at knitting or crochet, but I love weaving fabric from my hand-spun wool. It takes a lot of work to go from fleece to garment, but this is Slow Fashion. These garments and accessories will last a lifetime if looked after properly.” They are beautiful to hold and wear as well. Treat yourself to a hand-spun, hand-dyed, hand-woven wearable work of art.
But Belle lives in Queensland where summer is way too warm for her woollen garments. Using her surroundings, her garden and the bushland as inspiration, Belle now also creates masterful 3D felted pieces. Her Glow Lamps have become quite a hit with people wanting beautiful and unique object d art to brighten up their décor.
How long have you been making felt and silk accessories?
I used to be a painter, potter and art curator. In early 2006 I attended a short felt-making workshop and never looked back.
How did you get started?
I could see from the workshop that I could work in 2-D or 3-D formats. That I could play with colour, with texture, with form. And if I wanted, I could do all of this on items that could be worn. So I began to play. Just small things at first, like brooches and flowers. Then I moved onto scarves, and vests and coats, all the while learning more techniques in felt and fabric dyeing. Wall hanging ‘paintings’ in felt came next. I never stop learning and experimenting.
What is your greatest inspiration?
I draw very much on nature. My garden, which more often than not is a jungle. The surrounding bushland, the tree bark, leaves, birds, insects, rocks. It’s all fascinating.
What is the greatest challenge to owning and operating your own business?
Of course, finding the time to do everything.
What is the best thing about owning your own creative business?
Having the time to create.
“I have received many awards for felted garments including first places and champion ribbons at both the Sydney Royal Arts and Crafts Show and the Brisbane Royal Show (EKKA). I have also been awarded a Medal of Excellence at the Sydney Royal for a nunofelted full length coat.”
Into the future…
“Fleece never ceases to amaze me. There are so many things you can do with it, make with it. At the moment I am still on a very steep learning curve with my weaving. I am using a simple rigid heddle loom but have picked a four shaft floor loom which needs a little refurbishing. This will present so many more possibilities.
I am also exploring natural dyes. I am using synthetics mostly at the moment. They are dependable, light-fast, rub-fast and wash-fast. Natural dyes are a little more difficult and there-in lies the challenge and excitement.”