Conversations with craftspeople: light, colour, technique, tools, process, livelihood, story and business model

So, as introduced in my last post, the annual Contemporary Craft Festival in a wooded park in Bovey Tracy, Devon, is probably the Westcountry’s finest. Much of the work doesn’t even look handmade, it is that well crafted. It is a very glamorous, smooth-operating, but nonetheless human, event, with rusticity poking out and real people shining through.

Contemporary Craft Festival makers' cards

Woefully underprepared, inadequately kitted, hurriedly crazed and over-excitedly voluble, I dove back into the middle of Saturday’s throng fearing that stallholders would be too busy to talk, but found my most exciting snippet-giver momentarily still between sales, and warmly receptive.

Valérie Wartelle is a textile artist whose treatment of light, contrast and depth in her wet felted wool landscape abstractions is as striking – or moreso – as Turner’s treatment in oils, and even more of a marvel. Let’s call her ‘the felter of light’. Like the artist says of herself in my recording, I’ve never been drawn to feltwork, but Valérie’s is truly magnetic.

Small, blonde, French and beautiful, she met my intensity immediately, and as with the succeeding conversations, we were forging into rich, dense matter before I’d even had time to explain my interest, ask if I could record and press play. She explains that, as with many of us, she ‘fell into’ her craft and loves the surprising emergence of it as the materials and light ambitions lead her a merry dance which, her work shows, she steps with masterful agility.

Here are 9 minutes of our snatched discussion – Valérie Wartelle podcast.

I’m just editing my conversation with second craftsperson weaver Sarah Beadsmore and will post that soon, but first, below a screenshot to entice you to Valérie’s stunning website:

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