After years of working within the restraints of architectural drawing, a Richland woman has let her artistic passions loose and created what amounts to a pint-sized zoo.
It was a passion Gerry Mulloy kind of stumbled into after retiring. It began with an excess of knitting yarn she had acquired after a career with builders such as Richard Zaveta, based in Doylestown. She also was head of design for Traditions of America, a 55+ community in the Lehigh Valley.
With retirement came a need to do something a bit more artistic, a way to satisfy her creative urges.
“I was a knitter,” Gerry explained. “I started knitting wool socks. I’m one of eight siblings so I had a lot of socks to knit, but then everyone stopped wanting them because they had to be hand-washed. I had all this yarn and I had to do something with it. Plus, I love animals.”
That’s when Gerry’s Wooliefeltniks were born. One of her sisters suggested the name for her textile sculptures and Gerry liked the idea.
The enchanting little creatures spill out of a cabinet in the living room of her Stonegate Village home. They come in all shapes and sizes — a big, brilliantly colored rooster, a giraffe that has become her logo. She said that was “so difficult to make. It took hours and hours.”
Then, there’s an imposing elephant, a tiny koala bear, a tawny lion. Penguins and a skunk sport their black and white. There’s a fox, a donkey, deer, sheep and many more.
Some are just meant to stand on a table or shelf. Others, such as the handsome King Charles Spaniel, are designed as hanging ornaments.
In a nod to fantasy, there are some gorgeous fairies with delicate little wings, ready to settle on Christmas trees. Gerry’s newest creations are a line of little chickens in wild colors.
“I started to make the animals as gifts and everyone loved them,” she said. “Someone asked, ‘Why don’t you sell them?’ so I decided to do that and it’s turned into a business.”
She offers them at craft shows and also works on commission to fulfill specific requests. Prices range from “nine or ten dollars up to $200 for the more complicated creations.” She warns her sculptures are not toys — at least not for children — because they’re not designed for heavy handling and the wires could harm little hands.
Gerry’s art is a demanding one that begins with lots of research to make sure she gets the details right.
“I have books and books to look through,” she said.
After she’s decided on the details, she builds a wire armature and then works with felt to create the little animals. At first she used scraps of material and even made her own felt from leftover yarn.
Making her sculptures is a meticulous process, she said, working with core wool and top wool felt.
First, she wraps the armature with unprocessed core wool, also known as roving, It’s been spun only once, she said, and is bulky.
Then she covers that with a finer wool, the kind that would be used for sweaters, or even angora, before she adds the details that complete the figure. Each one has its own personality.
Wooliefeltniks will be among the items featured at the Holiday Craft Show at the Pearl Buck House in Hilltown from Nov. 24 through Dec. 3 and at the Kringle Christmas Shoppe at the Haycock Township Community Center Dec. 1-3.
Gerry’s email is email@example.com.
Kathryn Finegan Clark is a freelance writer who lives in Durham Township. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.