A handmade menagerie

Needle felted little white mouse by JR Simpson

Needle felted little white mouse by JR Simpson

Jay Simpson describes herself as a peculiar maker and illustrator “who loves wildlife, made-up words, staring into space and sleeping.” It’s an apt description, given that many of her creations seem to have escaped from children’s telly of yesteryear (Button Moon and Finger Mouse inevitably spring to mind).

As it happens, art has been on the agenda since Jay was tiny. “My parents and granny are artists and they always encouraged me to look at the world with curiosity, respond to what I saw creatively,” she says. “I’ve always loved making and drawing but never considered that I could ever be a ‘real artist’. Luckily I’ve now discovered there’s no such thing, so I can just make art without worrying!”

Needle felted succulent by JR Simpson

Needle felted succulent by JR Simpson

Jay is fascinated by nature, and loves “exploring the weird miniature worlds I find in rockpools and at the bottom of the garden. This interest originally led me towards a career in science, but after illness forced me to quit my degree in biology, I found I preferred studying nature in a sketchbook to in a lab.”

Baby plant pin badges by JR Simpson

Baby plant pin badges by JR Simpson

Jay completed a foundation course in art, and recently begun studying for a degree in Illustration at the University of the West of England. “It’s loads of fun so far.”

Her family’s pragmatic approach to making a living through art seems to have rubbed off on Jay. “I sell my work through Etsy and through Blaze, a wonderful co-op of makers and artists in Bristol.”

Needle felted Elwood the Otter by JR Simpson

Needle felted Elwood the Otter by JR Simpson

Popular makes include her menagerie of needle felted creatures, “born out of my desire to share my love of small, common, underappreciated animals. I wanted to show others how cute they are!”

Each of Jay’s animals has a fully developed personality, ready to embody any story their characters encounter.

Jay discovered needle felting a couple of years ago and was immediately impressed by the infinite possibilities and immediacy of it. “It’s like drawing with wool.”

I particularly fond of Jay’s needle felted snails, with real snail shells mostly sourced “from the beach near my parents’ home in Somerset; the sea washes them clean, which saves me a lot of work!”

Needle felted snail parade by JR Simpson

Needle felted snail parade by JR Simpson

Her mice in teacups and other receptacles are also a delight. “I love combining soft sculpture with found material, like the snail shells or charity shop crockery. It provides a lovely contrast in materials, and gives the creatures a new dimension, adding context and history.”

Needle felted snail by JR Simpson

Needle felted snail by JR Simpson

Jay enjoys meeting other artists “and being part of wonderful creative communities like Blaze and the Illustration department at UWE. It’s really energising to be surrounded by so much excitement and enthusiasm. At the moment I’m concentrating on developing my visual language as an illustrator, and eventually I hope to write graphic narratives, so I can share the weird worlds and characters I have in my head!”

You can see more of Jay’s work at her Etsy shop, www.etsy.com/uk/shop/jayandthesnails, on her blog magpie-moth.tumblr.com, and at Blaze.

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.