Pippa Sweeney uses her own unique style of the Shibori method of felting to capture the beauty and natural realism of rocks and stones, exploring the metaphor of stones as people, their origins, journeys and destinations.
Irish land and beachscapes are major inspirations for her work. Whether polished and washed up on our shoreline, crushed and scattered for a forestry path or stacked firmly together as a farm boundary, stones like people hold their memories and have stories to tell.
Pippa studied needle felting under Master Felter Birgitte Krag Hansen in Denmark, has a Masters Degree in Authorial Illustration from Falmouth University in Cornwall, and is a member of the Design & Craft Council of Ireland and Feltmakers Ireland.
At a meeting of Feltmakers Ireland she saw examples of Shibori wet felting work and was captivated. "Shibori felt is when partially felted wool is either stitched into a shape or has
items tied into it. When the fabric is shrunk again, washed and dried and the stitches taken out or items removed, the fabric retains the memory of the shape" explains Pippa.
Pippa thought that perhaps this technique could be incorporated into her character modeling and she attended a workshop run by Nessa McCormack in Dublin. She experienced her eureka moment following this workshop.
"I was experimenting with some small sample pieces of Shibori. Little random fibres had found their way into the felt, I didn't spot them initially, but when the felting process had finished, these fibres appeared like tiny veins or fissures. I experimented a few more times with different colours and suddenly faces had become stones and stones had become faces.
"The pebbles I select are rich and varied in colour and are only borrowed from Clonea and other beaches around Dungarvan for this work and returned!" emphasised Pippa.
Her first piece using the Shibori method was selected to be hung at the Annual Feltmakers Ireland Exhibition at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin and subsequently at the RDS Knitting & Stitching Show.
"I knew by the response to this piece of work that I had found a way to connect with people through my art. This spurred me on to develop the body of work Between A Rock and a Soft Place Chomh Buan le Carraig, a solo exhibition in Joan Clancy Gallery" said Pippa.
Pippa Sweeney owns The Beach House Irish art & craft shop in Dungarvan, Co Waterford. Her children's book on dyslexia Words Get Knotted published by Bloomsbury 2012, 2013, got Best Education Resource at the BESA awards in the UK. She sells her artwork and print ranges in galleries and craft shops nationwide.