Updated: Aug 28
I felt an instagram post wouldn’t quite cut it for this fabulous online event organised by the champion of British wool that is Rainy Williamson , so here’s a blog post instead.
you will have to forgive me for my appalling grammar and lack of proper English, believe it or not I had business cards printed once for my felting business and left the apostrophes out of Charlotte’s and that’s my name... you get the point.
SO why wool? the long story.. obviously missing chunks out but you guys don’t have all day 😉
It all started in 2013 at Ormside WI where we had a demonstration on felting and I was hooked, at the time I worked full time as a carer and farmed in my spare time with Roy, he didn’t have sheep and hadn't had any since foot and mouth in 2001 our friend Sam kept Zwartble sheep and I jumped on in there and got my first fleece in may 2014. the processing was trial and error and yes I tried to dry the washed wool in the dryer... this resulted in some perculiar balls and quite a bit of wasted wool.... I didn’t learn and tried to do this later on with Alpaca and ended up with multicoloured balls instead.
Martin giving the Zwartble girls a hair cut.
My first ever attempt at a Zwartble sheep from Zwartble wool was questionable but the buzz i got from creating art from a product that was practically worthless outweighed everything else. Charlotte’s Sheep was born (with ’) and off I went creating sheep left right and centre with the correct wool to match the breed just to add that special touch. I started experimenting with wool sourced from friends and neighbours and much to Roys Horror I learnt how to dye my own and gradually I practiced my art and got a bit better.
People started asking for commissions and I was floating on top of the world.. fast forward my friend Diane Gainey who is a very talented artist herself and has a gallery in Keswick gave me my first chance and asked if I wanted to appear in a spotlight exhibition. I jumped at the chance and couldn’t be more grateful to her for noticing me.
I had slowly expanded my knowledge of wool and it’s properties and although I didn’t have my own sheep my goal was always to grow and process my own wool into portraits. All my wool was collected from friends around the local area, I found a preference to Jacob wool for its length and the softness, I also felt it came up whiter than other wools somehow and was always took dye easily. over the years I have collected a Vast amount of wool covering many breeds my favourite being Wensleydale as it’s like silk And the Lleyn as it’s white and so fine and unlike the Wensleydale doesn’t cost the earth.
slowly my art evolved from sheep only into other things and Charlotte’s Sheep turned into Charlotte Ashley Art I felt dropping the quirky name was the last step in a transition from craft into art which is a big barrier to break down when you dont use oils or watercolour and are uneducated artistically. the farmers guardian wrote an article about my love of wool and the work I do And as a farmer there isn’t a more fitting accolade.
in 2019 I took part in a BBC program called Home is where the art is and I was plonked onto prime time TV. I tried my best to convey my love of wool and the excitement I feel sharing it with other people. on a normal year (because this ones been anything but) I enjoy taking part in certain summer shows and have created a stand that not only sells my work but advertises the qualities of British wool and highlights the differences in breeds which I find fascinating. I’ll be putting a video out about different breeds and their wools this week.
as an Art medium I find wool tactile and very forgiving. Artistically I’m not the most confident mark maker and much prefer a loose sketch and need to be able to edit and change bits up until the end, I’m quite a chaotic worker. with paint I find once you have put it on and it’s dried that’s it your stuck and it’s hard work to undo, with wool you can change it right up until the end in large bits or just certain areas. wool is easy to manipulate when you get the hang of it and I feel gives real texture and fine detail if it’s done right.
if you follow me on social media you may have noticed the influx of sheep pictures recently and this is because after many years felting with other people’s wool and many many years of farming Roy has decided in his wisdom that we are to get our very own sheep and I am overjoyed 😁😁😁 the breed we have chosen are the Lleyn a welsh breed not only are they excellent sheep for producing meat they grow a brilliant quality white wool which is perfect for my art. I will be processing all of the wool and selling it on my website. I am so so excited to share the new arrivals and my personal journey learning about them.