Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Rabbit Girl

The Ruthin Craft Centre in Denbighshire, North Wales is one of my favourite places. Set in the vale of Clywd, there is always some interesting work and you can see the beautiful Clywdian range from the gallery. Plus, they have a great cafe. I first came across the work of Julie Arkell there some years ago. 

What, or who were these bewitching creatures? They were half-rabbit and half-girl, or perhaps half-horse and half-cardboard box. To me, they were folkloric and childlike, but also a tiny bit sinister. 

I could see old newspaper, handknits, fabric scraps, treasures from the shelves of a serious collector of things. I have always been a fan of serious collectors of things, so I bought her book and learned more. 

Turns out she lives not a million miles from me in London and there are some gorgeous pictures of those shelves in the book:

Terrible thing, shelf envy.

Best of all she taught courses where you could make your own creature. But as it does, life took over and I did not go on any courses run by Julie Arkell. 

Then, last December the stars aligned with the winning combination of Christmas present, offer of childcare, imminent maternity leave and a need for creative well-filling.  What a great combination.

And so it was that I went to a very fancy wool shop - Loop, in Islington, north London  - to do a course with Julie Arkell. Above are the scraps - some mine and some supplied by Julie - I used.

Julie had made some bald, naked creatures (they are solid papier mache: layers of The Guardian finished with pages from old books) then shared her patterns to sew clothes and knit headwear. 

It was strange to be working so close to another artist's vision, but I enjoyed it very much. I also enjoyed very much the high-end snacks at Loop and the chat with fellow knitters, teachers and makers.

Whilst it was nice to see if I still had it (just about) I won't be going back to two needles anytime soon. I am just too slow.

Above are all the creatures made on the day, mine is second from left.

Rabbit Girl has made herself at home around here.

I like to think she has a French provincial feel about her. She works as a waitress in a cafe in a tiny village. The cafe has sun-scorched little floral curtains. She has just taken off her faded apron to lean against the doorway for a Gauloise break. 

I appreciate it may only be me that sees that.

The fun you can have with a hot glue gun, papier mache, wool and fabric is limitless really. Amazing.


  1. Gorgeous rabbit-girl! It's lovely how we create narratives for the creatures we make. I made a crochet budgie for a community project a couple of years ago and by the time I finished he had a fully-fledged(!) persona as a slightly camp hairdresser. I love Julie Arkell's work too, but have never been to Ruthin despite seeing it constantly referenced in craft magazines. Must put that right.

    1. A budgie hairdresser! I love it. I can picture him now, combing his quiff. Brilliant. x

  2. She's lovely and surreal. Full of story possibilities. I like it that words make up some of her face. "I never." "Laconic." "Driving."

  3. Julie Arkell is teaching a two day workshop at Ruthin Craft Centre this weekend, how fab it that!!! With it being not too far from me I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss, I'm soooo looking forward to it. Annie


a year above the shop

a year above the shop