How did “The Wander More with Welsby” project come about and how long have you been working on it?
We were contacted by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and the Lake District National Park about their idea of doing a trail to help visitors explore more of the area and it started from there. It took around five months for me to make the characters.
How did you start out as “Felt Mistress”?
I was making a felt gift for my friend Craig and I packaged it up in a nice, lined box and wanted to include a fancy business card with it, I knew he would know it was from me, so I just signed it Felt Mistress. From then on that’s what I’ve used when signing work.
For many years I worked as a bespoke dressmaker, making mainly wedding dresses and the character work was something I did in my spare time. I was asked by Brix Smith-Start if I would make some of the characters for a window display for her boutique during Longo Fashion Week. This pretty much changed my working life as after that I was asked to do the Christmas Window displays on Selfridges, Oxford Street, and the character work took off from there.
What has been the best part of doing what you do as a creator?
I feel so lucky to be able to sew all day. I can’t believe it’s my job. We did a window display for the prestigious Hankyu Department Store in Osaka, and our characters were recreated as life-size mascot costumes. To see video of them wandering around the store and the streets of Osaka and Tokyo was a dream come true.
What inspires you most in the creation of your characters?
That’s a tricky one, as I think that it comes from everywhere. Jonathan [Edwards] and I love to travel so that’s always inspiring but other things we love are music, Japanese Kaiju, street fashion blogs, vintage toys, folklore, costume, plants, architecture, I could go on and on.
Following up on that, has any particular local landmark or encounter in Bowness inspired you during the making of “Welsby” and the other creatures on this Trail?
We had an idea of the locations for each of the characters, so tried to work with those in mind when designing them.
How long does it take to create one of your amazing characters? Does one element of their creation take longer than another?
An average character would take around two weeks but some of the huge pieces have wooden frames inside. These are built by my dad. I make up a full size-model in cardboard to show him what I need. These pieces take around four weeks.
You’ve worked on many similar projects around the globe, but are you worried Welsby and gang may have to battle the elements much more than some of your other creations?
We had to take certain things into consideration when making these as we knew they would be in different environments than my pieces were used to. One of them will definitely be facing the elements so I embraced the fact that nature may take its course. I have to see it as a collaboration with nature rather than a battle with it!
I think it will be interesting to see it change as it braces the weather, wildlife and the general public. I think it may be sharing its space with some sheep, so it may make some new friends too.
Is it sometimes hard to let your creations “out into the wild” after all the work you’ve done creating them?
Some pieces are harder than others to let go. I do like to be there for the install/set up, as I want them to look the best they possibly can when people first see them, but once they are in situ I am pretty chilled about it.
Will you be back in October to oversee Welsby and gang’s second out for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival?
I haven’t thought that far ahead for this year but if we’re free then it would be good to visit LICAF in their new location and reunite with Welsby and his friends.
Finally, what advice do you give to people who discover your work, through exhibitions or your books, or online – and want to create something similar?
Keep creating. Don’t give up on a piece. I’ve nearly binned lots of pieces in the early stages thinking they were “going wrong” but then they in the end they turn out okay.
• “Wander More With Welsby Trail” launches 17th March 2022 and ends 25th April, the character trail starting at Glebe Road and ending at Queen Adelaide’s Hill. The Felt Mistress creations will return in October, in time for the annual Lakes International Comic Art Festival(14th – 16th October 2022) in Bowness-on-Windermere
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival will run from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th October 2022 – and is online at: www.comicartfestival.com | Lakes International Comic Art Festival Podcast: www.comicartpodcast.uk | Twitter: @comicartfestpod | Facebook: @ComicArtPodcast | Instagram: @ComicArtPodcast
Tickets for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival will go on sale soon. Watch out for further announcements about guests, events, exhibitions, family-friendly programming and more from the Lakes International Comic Art Festival very soon!
Announced guests for 2022 so far, in alphabetical order, are: Dimitris Anastasiou, Lucie Arnoux, Lina Ghabeih, Jaime Hernandez, Andrew Humphreys, Olivier Kugler, Mick McMahon, Bill Morrison, Rebecca Ollerton, Sean Phillips, Mike Perkins, Greg Rucka, Posy Simmonds, Fiona Stephenson, Jorg Tittel, Twin Cartoons, and Andi Watson
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