Known for her extraordinarily dramatic felt animal masks, Gladys Paulus can still remember an important moment of about ten years ago. 'It was my first experience of making felt, of understanding its magic and the way that the material transforms in your hands,' she says. 'I immediately started thinking about its potential.'
Paulus describes her entry into the world of felt making as a happy accident. Born into a Dutch-Indonesian family, she grew up in the Netherlands and studied fine art. But art school and its demand for conceptualisation, she says, crushed her spirit and instinctive love of painting. 'I felt completely blocked,' she explains. Then, after moving to the UK, something happened on a chance visit to the local sheep farm at lambing time with her young daughter.
'I was shocked that farmers often end up burning fleeces, because there is so little money in wool,' she recalls. 'I bought a fleece to bring home, partly from indignation at the waste and partly because I was curious.' After dyeing and spinning the wool, she tried her hand at knitting ('I made a very ugly hat,' she laughs), before moving on to felting after borrowing a book from her local library. 'I’ve since learned that I was lucky, because a lot of wool doesn’t felt well, but my fleece was from a breed that worked beautifully,' she says...
You can read this article in full in Selvedge issue 69.