Who are Ernie and Irene?
Ernie and Irene are my husband and my middle names, his great-grandfather and my grandmother. Plus, they're an anagram! My husband is a huge helper with Ernie and Irene and I couldn't do it without his love and support, so it made sense to include him.
Where did you get your start?
I got my BFA in Fibers at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2011. There, I learned every aspect of fabric making. From weaving, crocheting, knitting, and felting to embellishment with beading, embroidery, and screen printing on fabric.
Straight out of college, I worked in Print Design in the fashion industry and still do some freelance designs, but I always knew I wanted to work again with my hands, so in 2013, I took the leap and started Ernie and Irene.
Many of my pieces originated as projects from my time at SCAD and have evolved over time.
How do you make your crocheted pieces?
It is a very long process, but that is 100% why I love it. I start by gathering all of my chosen yarns and crochet little round domes until I literally run out of yarn. I let each dome kind of decide how big it will be; I don't ever use patterns. Each dome is completely unique. Then, I create the composition by laying out each dome just where I want him. Once I like the composition, I flip them over, sew them all together, then stuff each one with raw, virgin wool. Then I flip the piece onto cotton drill fabric, sew a blanket stitch around the entire edge, and hand stitch between each and every hat to secure the wool stuffing.
What is felt?
Felt is wool that has become fabric through the interlocking of fibers. There are two ways to felt - wet felting and needle felting. Wet felting involves soap, warm water, and agitation. Long ago, shepherds used to put wool into their shoes to make them more comfortable for their long days of walking. As gross as it is, their sweat and the pressure of their foot on the wool would knot the fibers together to create a strong fabric. Now, we use a similar technique by laying out raw wool, soaking it in hot water, while agitating and rolling the fibers together over time, which creates a flat piece of fabric.
Needle felting is a product of the machination of wet felting. They found that sharp needles with tiny knicks in them could pull and knot the fibers together in a similar way as wet felting, so they'd put out a large bed of raw wool and lower and raise thousands of these needles into the wool to create yards of fabric. Legend has it that one day, a factory worker brought home one of those needles and began poking some raw wool with it, and needle felting as a craft began.
I use a combination of wet felting and needle felting in my pieces.
Where do you get your wool and yarn?
I source my wool as locally and sustainably as possible. My wool mostly comes from America's oldest woolen mill in Cherry Hill, NJ, originally from Philadelphia. The others come from various small businesses that promote sustainability and care for their sheep. My yarn comes from a local Philadelphia yarn supplier, O-Wool. I love all of my sources, especially that I am able to help sustain old businesses and conscientious manufacturing in the US.
How do I hang it?
All Ernie and Irene pieces come ready to hang with yarn tabs on the back. I like to keep all parts of my pieces "soft" so that if you felt especially inclined, you could easily take them off of the wall and interact with them. Each tab can be supported by a nail with a broad head or a Command-style hook. For the crocheted pieces, I would recommend using a piece of masking tape, laying it over the back of the piece, and marking each tab with a Sharpie on the tape, then placing that masking tape onto the desired wall for reference when nailing. The felted pieces are so lightweight, a single nail will do.
Are custom paintings still available?
If you are interested in a custom painting or illustration, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to fit you into my schedule.