Dalmally Station on the Oban branch line may seem like the last place you’d expect to find a designer, but felt artist Liz Gaffney thinks it makes perfect sense.
‘The landscape of Argyll was shaped by sheep following the Clearances and people are becoming more and more interested in following the story of wool from the sheep on the hill through to the hand-felted fi nished articles,’ she explains.
Liz’s partner, Graham Whaite, bought the railway station building about 15 years ago and began the long process of drying it out after it had been left derelict for 35 years.
Having travelled backwards and forwards from Ayrshire to Dalmally at weekends to restore the building, the couple took the plunge two years ago and moved her business, Heartfelt by Liz, to Dalmally so they could work on the project.
Graham had farmed sheep in Ayrshire and met Liz when she was looking to buy fleece. He now works full-time restoring the station and will soon be keeping sheep on the site. Liz now runs textile workshops from the station.
‘We’ve also started a project to collect stories about the history of the station,’ says Liz. ‘We’re displaying some of them at the station but we’ve also started a website so people who can’t visit the station can still share their memories.’
Liz, who is from Clonmel in Ireland, worked as a florist before starting to make felt baby booties for her children about 18 years ago. Friends liked her designs and she began selling the booties.
Her work with felt led her to join the International Feltmakers’ Association and to help create ‘Scotland’s alternative Millennium Dome’ – a felt tent that is now used as the Scottish Storytelling Yurt. Liz travels around schools and community groups telling textile stories from around the world inside the yurt.
‘My most unusual commissions have probably been baby booties for a dog that had dermatitis,’ remembers Liz, ‘and felt covers for The Highgrove Florilegium, which was a book of watercolour illustrations of the plants at Highgrove House. When Prince Charles saw the covers, he said he would like to wrap himself in a giant one when he went out into the garden on winter days – which was very sweet of him.’
Liz’s distinctive designs have even helped to solve crime.
‘A lady bought a handbag from me that was a “vibrant pink” colour – there’s no other way to describe it,’ explains Liz. ‘Her home was broken into and the handbag was stolen. She described it to the police and a policeman saw a woman in a pub with the exact same handbag. They arrested her and it turned out that it was her who robbed the house.’
Find out more at www.heartfeltbyliz.com
This feature was originally published in 2014.