This week’s interview is with Jenny Hildebrand of The Felting Penguin. A desire to create led Jenny to experiment with weaving, sewing, quilting, pottery and woodworking, but when she began working with wool she was drawn to it immediately, and began making and selling beautiful felted scarves that are full of texture and organic in design.
Living in Cordova Bay on Vancouver Island, Jenny compares the “simple, quiet moments of engagement” that felting provides to a sort of meditative process, like “walking in a beautiful forest, picking berries or building a rock wall.” She also enjoys travelling and motorcycling, and when she isn’t in her studio she can often be found on the road, gathering ideas for her next project.
Jenny describes felting as “play, really, and this is what I continue to treasure most about felting.” She loves the very fluid process and unexpected results of her medium of choice and calls it “humbling and delightful at the same time,” and says “every day is an adventure.” Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Let’s find out more….
Besides your Etsy shop, are your scarves sold elsewhere?
Thank you for your interest, Kate. My work is also currently available at the Royal BC Museum Gift Shop in downtown Victoria, and The Gallery at Mattick’s Farm in Cordova Bay.
Where does your inspiration come from?
That’s an interesting question. Inspiration comes to me from many places, actually, and while it’s hard to pin down or predict, I’m learning to become more attuned. Sometimes inspiration flows naturally from the desire or need to create a specific item. Other times it’s the idea itself that leads the process, with inspiration following behind. Most often though, for me it’s drawn directly from the materials themselves. For example, all woollen fibres have different qualities and therefore behaviours, and it’s by experimenting with them I become better able to create works which bring forward the intrinsic beauty of the materials, and that inspires me to continue learning.
What is your favourite part of what you do?
I love the freedom of working from my home, the flexibility to structure my day as I choose and especially not knowing what each day will bring. This makes it easy for me to gratefully approach each day as an adventure, a challenge I have some control over and the opportunity to learn and grow personally. I especially appreciate the enriching relationships and connections that are formed as a result of sharing and selling my products.
For anyone who might be unfamiliar with felting, could you briefly describe the process?
Felting is the very simple organic process of melding woollen fibres together into non-woven fabric. This is done through the application of water and soap to the fibres and then applying pressure. I am self-taught and encourage anyone interested to give it a try at least once. There are some really helpful videos on You Tube that demonstrate the process quite effectively.
Where do you source your products?
While I thoroughly enjoyed caring for my own little flock of sheep in the past years when our family lived on acreage, I now collect and purchase wool from as near to home as possible. I have it processed at either Qualicum Bay Fibre Works or Custom Woolen Mills in Alberta, which have both been great resources for me.
What is your living/working environment like, and how important is that to your creativity?
I live in Cordova Bay, just a few blocks from the ocean and the Galloping Goose trail which makes it easy and fun for me to get outside and be active. Recently I reorganized a sunny west-facing room as a studio, which has had a positive impact on my creativity and productivity. It’s a bright, cosy restful space that I relish spending time in and can keep organized easily. Quiet and order are key requirements for me to get started on a project and then I need to be able to spread out. Depending on the project I might take over a large part of the rest of the house for several days – fortunately I have a very supportive husband!
While I don’t travel extensively, I’ve just recently returned from an unforgettable three week learning tour of Jordan, Palestine and Israel. This challenging trip provided some historical context for a better understanding of the present day struggles and conflicts in that region. Generally though, warm, dry and sunny is what I‘ll predictably seek come winter and my favourite destination over the past few years has been California. I especially I love exploring the many quiet back roads and small towns by motorcycle on our holidays there.
What’s coming up next for you?
While I’m not looking too far ahead I hope to be producing some unique designer fabric and separates in the next few months. Jackets especially interest me and I hope to have a few up on my Etsy site soon!
All images courtesy of Jenny Hildebrand