By Andrea Arnold
Long time Dome Creek resident Jan Norton has discovered that sitting next to a warm crackling fire, watching the snowfall and working on one of her needle felted creatures is a great way to spend time in the winter. Her business Domegnomes Felted Faeries and Friends gets busier as Christmas gets closer. Norton has lived in Dome Creek since 1976, and has never had the desire to live anywhere else.
“Except maybe the really bad mosquito years,” she said.
About a dozen years ago Norton had the chance to learn the ancient craft of wet felting. In 2017 she created her first needle felted gnome. Her second one went to her husband Guy. Both of these are still in their possession.
She said her daughter Kelly suggested she take some to the Whistlestop Gallery in McBride.
“It is such a good resource for local artists,” she said.
She had been attending some larger Prince George markets with her son Daniel, selling furniture he created out of antlers, and although she enjoyed the markets, she didn’t have the gnome stock needed. She opted to keep sales to the Whistlestop and small local markets.
“Markets are a great way to get out and get to know people,” she said.
She lives a very active lifestyle and can often be found gardening, farming, boating or hiking. Norton finds needle-felting to be a very relaxing hobby, especially on cold winter days.
“I would love to source all of my supplies locally, but that isn’t possible. I try to purchase from cottage industries, and try to keep my orders Canadian.”
Certain kinds of wool work better for felting. Norton’s favourite materials are merino wool and curly angora. Long silky fibres do not felt well. The wool that Norton uses is not yet yarn. It comes in bats, or roving fibres. It has been processed, but not spun.
“I have thought about raising my own merino sheep,” said Norton. “Once I factored in the cost of feed, care, and shearing, I decided I’ll leave that part of the process up to someone else.”
Although Norton enjoys both wet-felting as well as needle-felting, needle-felting is the less messy hobby. Wet felting requires warm water, a sink, soap and uncarded wool. Rubbing the wet wool, creating friction, creates the felt. This felt is good for making hats and slippers.
In contrast, for needle-felting one only needs a barbed needle and wool. Norton relied heavily on different internet-based tools to learn this skill.
“It is portable, and versatile,” she said. “I often have a small project along with me, especially when we are driving to the city.”
Although wet-felting is messier and more of a time commitment per project, Norton does still enjoy working in that medium when she wants to make gifts. She would also like to create a piece of landscape art.
Norton has branched out from only creating gnomes. Her felt garden displays now include fairies, roosters, and bunnies. She has also created more functional items including pin cushions, brooches, and is hoping to try her hand at bookmarks.
Her 14-year-old granddaughter Jana has taken to the art as well, and Norton is thrilled to share what she has learned. She excels at making minis; mushrooms, gnomes, farm animals, bees and other creatures.
Norton often takes on custom orders. She has made gnomes in a variety of themes: graduation, drone flying, bird watchers, fishing, gardeners and the ever-popular Gandalf.
She was once commissioned to create a Scottish gnome in his kilt, anatomically correct, with a polymer clay chainsaw, for a friend of son Daniel’s.
“He lives in Scotland but worked in BC as a faller. So my little gnome now lives in Scotland. Others live in Denmark, New Zealand, the Yukon, Saskatchewan and the US. It’s so much fun,”
She can be reached through Facebook, and Instagram where she posts images of recent work, and by email [email protected]