Take a moment to scroll through these gorgeous felted “paintings” by Tracey McCracken Palmer. They have such wonderful depth, color and interest — giving the viewer a feeling of a real place with a real story. You might find it hard to believe, but at the time of this article, Tracey has been felting less than 2 years.
We really enjoyed our time meeting with Tracey and getting to know her better. She is as sweet and humble as she is talented, and her distinct South Eastern accent is just delightful to listen to as she tells her story. Tracey says she has painted and drawn her entire life, and while she discovered felting after taking a needle felting class several years ago, she did not begin exploring the medium right away.
“I planned to invest in some wool and try it at home, but I was mainly painting in acrylic then and just never got around to it. Then in June of 2013, I saw Moy MacKay’s work on Facebook, and was completely blown away by her felted landscapes. She had just published her first book so I got it and learned her method of layering wool and wet felting landscapes.
Since then, while I’ve used her method of felting, I’ve also developed my own techniques to create my own style. She uses machine stitching and embroidery floss for much of her detail work and since I don’t sew, I needle felt all my details in with wool. Also her work is a bit more abstract, while I’m a detail freak and try to make it look as close to the real thing as possible. I wouldn’t want to copy her style anyway, but I am so thankful to have found her work, and the medium that I’ve been looking for my whole life – I just never knew what it was until now!”
TRACEY SHARES HER METHOD FOR “HOW TO FELT LANDSCAPES”
“My process begins by layering different colors of dyed wool over a double layer of un-dyed wool to create a scene. Next, I wet the piece with hot soapy water and work it, pressing with my hands, turning and rolling it repeatedly in a bamboo or bubblewrap mat for over two hours until the friction of the rolling process binds the fibers together, creating felt. I then rinse the soap out of the felt and mat, and roll it again several times before letting it air dry.
After it is completely dry, I use needle felting to add more details to the landscape, using special needles which have notches along the shaft. The notches on the needles grab the layer of wool fibers which I have added, and tangle them with the inner layers as the needle enters the felt. Since the notches face down toward the tip of the needle, they do not pull the fibers back out as the needle exits the wool.
Each felted landscape is totally unique and made entirely by hand, using pure wool from Merino and Corriedale sheep, with silk and other natural fibers sometimes added as well.”
“…my favorite thing from LF [Living Felt] is your merino cross batts, and by golly those batts are where it’s at!!! Truly they are my most valued wools, because they make such great textures in leaves, and even rocks, and grasses, I can even card them a bit to make other color variations if I need to.”
Painting on canvas is quite a different medium, but Tracey really enjoys everything about the felting process of creating felted landscapes. “I love smelling and feeling the textures of different types of wool, and even picking out wee bits of burrs from some of the batts. I also love seeing the changes that occur each time I wet felt a piece, and I learn something from each one about how to best layer the colors and even the different types of wools to achieve what I’m wanting. But I think I enjoy adding the details with needle felting best, because I love the way one tiny wee bit of wool, either added or taken away can make such a huge difference! Living Felt’s cross batts are so wonderful with bits of different colors, and I use them for all my trees, whether summer or autumn leaves.”
“I’m just so thrilled to have finally found the medium that truly fuels my creativity!”
For Tracey’s felted landscapes, she says inspiration is everywhere around her.
“The texture of the wool makes my landscapes almost 3-D, and I’m inspired by everything it seems! As I drive to work and back I see so many beautiful skies and farmland in the mountains here in western NC, and I keep my camera handy to capture it if I can, so I can add it to the list of scenes I want to felt. Skies, trees, water and misty mountains are my biggest inspirations.”
Tracey was kind of enough to share specifics of the fibers used in her work, and says the greatest majority of her fibers come from Living Felt. See below for colors in her felting palette
Tracey also creates in other mediums including graphite wash, acrylic,watercolor, and pastels. “I’ve dabbled with art my whole life, but let everyday life get in the way of really being serious about it until I found felting. I am now the driven artist I’ve always wanted to be, and I love my palette of wool!”
Her Most Challenging Project to Date?
“…creating waterfalls, but the tussah silk I use from Living Felt makes wonderful water. I push the limits of felting with my landscapes all the time, to make them as realistic as I can, and learn a bit more from every one.”
We asked Tracey about her “next big challenge” … or the project she is dreaming to do:
“Oh, I want to do so many things, and just wish I had more time to felt !! I plan to do a close up of an owl, and a sheep, and other creatures, and I hope to create even more detailed landscapes and dramatic skies. I just keep adding things to my list of ‘Must Try To Felt That’ !!!”
Just by following her passion, Tracey is helping to bring felt and fiber art to the fine arts & crafts scene.
In 2014 Tracey was invited to hang a solo exhibit of her work in one of the branches of her local Public Library , which ran from January through March.
In June 2014 she was featured as the “Artist of the Month” at Twigs & Leaves Gallery, where she sells her work. She has given several demonstrations of her felting technique over the past year at the gallery, and also at a “Quick Draw” event in Haywood County where she lives. Tracey was on the Haywood Art Studio Tour.
At time of our interview Tracey was hoping to pass the second jury to become a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild; and we are so happy to announce that she has been accepted! As a member, Tracey hopes to show her work and demonstrate at some of their galleries also. And she exclaims, “I’m just getting started!!”
We asked Tracey what she might offer to those just getting into felting.
“I would encourage beginning felters to just go for it and give it a try. The best part of wet felting is that you can fix things that don’t come out just as you thought they would by adding a bit of needle felting after it dries. And, you can always pull the wool back off after you’ve needled it in, if it doesn’t suit you. It’s a very user friendly medium, and there are so many things one can make with felt.”
We sincerely wish Tracey all the best, and don’t be surprised if you see a book of her own coming out one day…just remember, you heard it here first, oh, and buy it! :)
Tracey… You Are Brilliant! and Thank you for Felting With Us!
You can follow Tracey on Facebook:
Tracey uses a combination of Living Felt MC-1 Felting Batts, Merino Top, Merino Silk Blends, New Zealand Corriedale and other fibers. For the paintings in this post:
Living Felt MC-1 Merino Cross Batts: bamboo, bluegrass, buttercup, true olive, spruce, honeysuckle, foliage, meadow green, shire, birch, vintage brown, winter grey.
Merino Top: yellow, apricot, plum, chocolate, white, black, fir, bottle green, garden ivy, lima bean, olive, mint.
New Zealand Corriedale: cherub, lima, cocoa, candy, apricot, butterscotch, natural white, ice, sky, lagoon, royal, natural light.
Merino silk blends in Woodland for the sky in Moondance, and the water in Borve Beach.