Learning to felt paint – a Mandarin Drake

In August 2021 my husband and I visited the studio of Nicky Heard, a wildlife artist whose stunning images are created from wool! Call it felt-painting, wool art, needlefelting, whatever you like, her work is amazing and award winning. And she leads classes in her studio in Locks Heath, near Southampton.

It took two attempts, because Covid. Even then, the pattern of classes stuttered slightly, because Covid. But they have been a total joy, despite the two hour round trip from Yateley each time. I have learnt so much, not only through her explanations of how to use wool and other natural fibres, but also by watching her work on her own pieces alongside us.

In January this year, I visited Eyeworth Pond, in the New Forest with my Dad – who used to be Head Keeper for the north of the New Forest. As a young child I had riding lessons in nearby Fritham and regularly passed this pond. For both reasons, this is a favourite place to return to, not least because of the community of stunning Mandarin Ducks that have become naturalised since their ‘accidental’ release there many years ago. One of the photos I took that day, became the subject of my first foray into felt-painting under Nicky’s expert tutelage.

My photograph of a Mandarin Drake that Nicky helped me to emulate – in wool!

I’ve created a short video HERE of how the painting developed, as a memory-jogger for myself, as much as for anyone else!

Nicky has recently been featured in the Guardian Arts magazine, is exhibiting with Chalks Gallery in Lymington, has an online shop and often appears at craft fairs. She will be part of this years Hampshire Open Studios, and with her ocean-artist daughter Jasmin with whom she now collaborates on some projects, will be exhibiting at the Southern Nature Artists Exhibition over August Bank Holiday. I can thoroughly recommend you visit any or all of these – or take one of her classes!

I’ve got some ideas for combining these skills with my contemporary Dorset Button wallhangings… but I must get ahead of myself!

My finished Mandarin Drake – given to my Dad to celebrate the occasion of his 90th birthday.
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