In the beautiful setting of the Slieve Mish Mountains on the Dingle Peninsula, you will find Jayne Gillan felting in her home studio. Her light-filled studio looks straight up at the mountain and out over Tralee Bay towards the Atlantic Ocean; her source of inspiration and creativity.
Jane trained as an accountant and ran a business for many years but her passion was always with fashion design and craft. When a friend introduced her to felting, she got hooked, and Jayne quickly saw that she could express her creativity through felting, designing her own line of fashion accessories.
Jayne grew up around wool. Her gran was a pioneer on the knitting machine and loved to hand crochet while her mum hand knitted Aran sweaters to provide for her young family so Jayne grew up with a love of the craft. Her passion for felting has become a lesson about the properties of the wool itself. “I am used to seeing the sheep on the mountain behind me and in the fields around, she says. “Wool is an eco-friendly product. It naturally decays in the ground and yet we can preserve it to last a lifetime. It is skin-friendly in that it allows our skin to breathe without sweating whilst keeping us warm. It has anti-bacterial properties, so it doesn´t hold mold. It is water resistant, wind-proof and fire-proof. What man-made material can match up to all that?!”
Jayne’s color palette is also based on the Irish Landscape. Deep-sea blues mixed with shades of evergreens, deep heathery purples, and tones of the grey bedrock that is the foundation of the island of Ireland.
On her journey of learning, Jayne has been to observe local sheep shearing (the sheep love it like they know that summer is coming). She has washed the fleece and processed it. She has experimented with spinning and carding. She has tried felting various sheep and llama breeds, but her favorite is Merino wool. Why? “Merino wool is soft on the skin, and yet quite hardy. Depending on the fiber grade, you get different consistency in the felt, so you can have superfine merino which is so fine to felt you end up with near silk properties, or a medium merino grade, which gives you a soft thicker felt that holds shape and form. I work with the medium merino grade as its the texture that I achieve that makes my designs so unique.”
Her unique designs incorporate a modern twist to the traditional. A classic example is her Men’s Collar, made of soft merino wool and mulberry silks, and featuring a traditional wooden toggle button. It is such a popular design that many women are buying it too. Jayne tells us “when I was designing a scarf for men, the biggest thing I couldn´t reconcile was why a man would want a long scarf that is awkward and bulky under a jacket. And so the men’s collar was born.” It is smart and modern and very New York chic, yet has an Irish Design look.
If visiting County Kerry, you can make appointment to visit her studio, and maybe even take a class.