We would love to introduce you to Mariella, the talented artist behind Mariella Felts! Based out of a small town in New Jersey, Mariella has been a maker since her teen years, when she started making macrame plant hangers and curtains. She’s transitioned her craft multiple times but currently focuses on needle felting. Specializing in 2D portraits crafted from wool, Mariella’s expertise lies in creating custom, lifelike pet portraits, bird portraits, and seasonal pieces. We got to know Mariella and a bit more about her business through a series of questions.
Briefly tell us about yourself:
I live in a small town in Central NJ. I married my wonderful husband soon after high school and have a son, daughter, and daughter-in-law. They are my best cheerleaders and supported me from the beginning. I still live a few streets away from my childhood home. I’ve always been a person who enjoyed crafting. Back in my teen years, I made macrame plant hangers, curtains, and wall hangings. I then moved on to cross-stitch and making dried flower wreaths and arrangements. Now it’s all needle felting! In my free time, I enjoy going to the beach, listening to music and attending live shows (especially blues), reading, gardening, and spending time with family.
The uniqueness of this art form in itself sets it apart from other portrait makers. My clients love the detail of the portraits and are amazed by how each personality is captured – and all done with just tufts of wool and a needle!Mariella
How did you get started with needle felting?
I create needle-felted 2D portraits. I specialize in custom realistic pet portraits and enjoy making bird portraits and seasonal pieces made with wool. In 2017 I worked for a doctor, who first told me about the art form of needle felting. I was intrigued from the beginning. She even gifted me my first batch of wool to start creating! I started with small 3-D animal figures such as owls, bunnies, and lambs. I loved the whole concept of using wool and a barbed needle and that it was a natural, sustainable material. In 2020, I became interested in 2D “painting with wool”. After trying it I was hooked!
At that point, I wanted to learn all I could about this unique art form. After watching hours and hours of YouTube videos, I couldn’t get enough. I made a few portraits, two being my grand pup and cat. Then took a course by the needle felting artist, educator, and author Dani Ives, which took my artistic level to new heights.That’s when I knew that I wanted to try to make this my business and devote my time to creating beautiful portraits made of wool.
I wanted to incorporate my first name in my shop name, being it was unique. I like the idea of “Felts” being a play on words, a noun, and also a verb.
Is this your full-time job?
Yes, this is my full-time business. Before this, I managed a medical practice. When the doctor retired, I decided not to return to the medical field and pursued my passion.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My love of animals and nature is my biggest inspiration. Also, whenever I see someone’s adorable pet, I think, “Wow, what a great portrait that would make!”. Watching the beautiful birds in my backyard makes me want to replicate them in a portrait. Honestly, this art form is so meditative, and I love doing it so much that I think that also keeps me motivated and inspired to want to complete one portrait and start another. I can get lost in each portrait for hours and can’t believe how fast the time slips by. When I felt I had to make a conscious effort to actually stop, get up and move.
Tell us about your workspace and a typical day as a maker:
I use one of my spare bedrooms in my home as my workspace. My husband refinished an antique hutch for storage of my beautiful, colorful wool. I also made sure my desk was facing a window so I could always have a view of my backyard.
First, I package any orders that have come in and send them out for shipping. I try to get all listings, social media, Pinterest pins, etc completed early so I can get to felting. Usually, if I am starting a portrait, I resize and print the subject I am felting and then gather most of the colors of wool that I think I’ll be using for that portrait. I have a vast array of colors to choose from. Then I get busy felting!
What does your creative process look like?
Needle felting is the art of poking wool fibers with a special barbed needle to create a form or a 2-D portrait. The barbed needle entangles and interlocks the fibers of wool when stabbed. As this is repeated, the fibers cling together tighter and tighter. A 2-D portrait, or “painting with wool”, is done on a flat surface using a base of foam or a mat to accept the stabbing of the needle. Linen or wool felt is usually what I use as background material. Different colors of wool are layered or combined to create depth, texture, color change, and detail. Once the order is initiated, customers email me the photo of their pet. Then, I resized the photo for the size portrait they ordered. I transfer the image line for line to copy exactly the pet’s important details.
I usually start with the pet’s eyes, nose, and ears. It’s amazing to see the portrait come to life, especially regarding their eyes and eye reflections! I try to fit in as much detail as possible, depending on the portrait size ordered to show the pet’s details and unique personality. I am a detail person and enjoy adding every little bit I can to make each one as realistic as possible. Each portrait takes quite a bit of time to complete. Photos are always sent to the customer to ensure they give final approval of the portrait or if any small changes need to be made before I pull it off the foam. I then go through the process of framing the piece, usually in an embroidery hoop.
What is your favorite product to make?
I enjoy creating all pet portraits, but especially the memorial portraits. It’s so heartwarming to hear how much these portraits mean to the client. These portraits become a cherished memory and a heartfelt tribute of a beloved part of the family. It’s such a great feeling to know I have brought some happiness and comfort to others while allowing me to express my love for animals at the same time.
My most popular product definitely would be my dog and cat portraits. Clients love seeing their favorite photo of their pet made into a portrait using wool.
Why did you choose to sell on goimagine?
I appreciate that goimagine is a total handmade platform, and love the charitable side of it. The support and integrity of this company is something you don’t find with other marketplaces.
Where can we find you?
Stephanie is naturally creative and is passionate about art, design, and everything handmade. She has always enjoyed exploring new techniques and trends in the handmade industry and has channeled this into her role as the Creative Director and co-founder of goimagine. Through her love for creating, she has successfully sold her unique wares, which range from fine art to simple crafts, in both online and in-person markets.