Philadelphia fiber artist Heidi Bleacher creates felted
sculptural forms from raw wool using a technique known as needle felting.
Bleacher’s sculpture recreates familiar, everyday objects from food like donuts
and cakes to nature – bears, ladybugs, flowers, river stones, and mushrooms.
Bleacher often alters the scale of her work as some elements are life-size,
some are smaller than reality, while other forms are larger such as a mushroom
that is 3-feet high.
Her work is representational yet stylized as the forms are
not true to nature which creates a child-like playfulness. Both elements, the
change in scale and stylization, allude to fantastical dreams and enchanted fairy
In 2006, Bleacher started making handmade felt created from
un-spun wool. Using a felting needle – a barbed needle originally designed for
use by industrial felting machines – Bleacher uses a repetitive jabbing motion
to turn natural wool into felt. By jabbing the wool with a barbed needle, the
technique is described as “entangling the fibers to interlock the wool forming
a dense felted material.” With every jab, the barbs catch the wool and matts it
together. Bleacher says about the technique, “after a few hundred or thousand
times, you have felt.”