Meet the Maker - Christina de la Mare

Saturday, November 15, 2014
Christina de la Mare is the creator of beautiful scandi inspired felt animals.  She says her work has it's roots in folk art, from Mexico and Scandinavia.  Using simple yet decorative floral and plant motifs to decorate her animals. We chatted recently to Christina to find out more about her influences and her love of Scandinavian design...

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work? 
My name is Christina de la Mare and I make embroidered felt animals. The first animal I ever made was a bird. Since then I’ve gone to make elephants, horses, rabbits and foxes.

Apart from creating things what else do you do? 
I’m a writer and write English language books for children studying English overseas.
When did you know you were an artist/maker? 
I started drawing as a toddler. My mum (biased of course) saw potential in my scribbling, so I guess I knew from an early age that I was quite good at art.

What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline?
I find sewing very soothing and I love the precision of it. At the same time I’m always trying to create new patterns from stitches. I don’t like repeating the same thing too often. As soon as I worked with wool felt I knew it was the perfect fabric for me. It’s strong, doesn’t lose its shape and comes in the most beautiful colours. It also feels lovely to hold in your hand.

Where does your inspiration come from? 
Thinking about it, I think Hannah Turner’s china animals have really inspired me. I love her combination of simple shapes and retro patterns. Then there are the animals, of course, and after that come shapes, lines and angles! I’m always trying to think of another animal with a defined body shape, and how I can exaggerate it into a geometric form: a bird becomes a triangle, a horse’s body a graceful arc. And at the same time I love folk art, from Mexico, Scandinavia, anywhere around the world really. I use these art forms as inspiration for my floral and plant motifs which I use to decorate my animals.

Describe your studio or workspace? 
I have a small room which is all my own. One wall is jam-packed with photos and paintings by my children. There’s room for a desk, some shelves and a futon to collapse on when I need a snooze. Between projects it’s fairly tidy, but the rest of the time it looks like a disaster zone.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be? 
I’d like to see Matisse working on his cut-outs. I also wish I could have seen him at work on his chapel in Venice. It may seem an odd choice for me, but I love the cleanness of his lines and the purity of his colour and the way the two things complement each other without taking precedence over each other. So I think it makes sense.
How would you describe your creative process? 
I do a lot of drawing first. For my fox, which is my most recent project, I drew nothing but foxes for months. When I think I’ve established a basic shape I make a very rough model of it using old bits of felt and stuffing. Then the refining process begins until I’m happy with the shape. For the fox I made three or four models before I felt I’d got it right. As for the embroidery, I don’t plan much. I might do one or two drawings, but mostly I like to experiment as I go along.

What handmade possession do you most cherish? 
I have a lot of framed pictures made by my children, which I will always cherish. I also have a small very beautiful china bird made by Hannah Turner that I bought for my daughter on her first birthday. I’ll give it to her when she’s eighteen, but for now I look after it, and it sits in its own special framed box where I can look at it every day. I love it for its patterns and simple shape and I love it because it reminds me of my daughter.

What do you when you are stuck in a creative rut?
I look for inspiration wherever I go – on book covers, on people’s clothes, on curtains! Occasionally I’ll go to an art gallery as well, but most of all I draw, draw, draw.
Where would you like to be in ten years? 
I lived abroad for ten years and for a long time had no intention of every coming home. But now I’m back in Britain and settled in Bristol, I don’t want to go anywhere else. So I hope I’ll be here, maybe with a nicer kitchen, and still sewing.

Thank you Christina, your felt animals are absolutely delightful, a perfect Christmas gift.  You can find Christina felt menagerie in our Made in Britain shop.

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