About Bellacouche wool felt studio
Bellacouche – meaning “beautiful resting place” – is the old name for the ancient granite building where I started designing and making the Leafcocoon wool felt coffins. After many years in the Chapel at Moretonhampstead, Bellacouche Wool Felt Studio has now moved to a beautiful, light and ample workshop in Chagford on Dartmoor, Devon.
The Bellacouche philosophy is not affiliated to any religion, but respects all religious faiths and the right to believe in none. Wool is my raw material, which is made into felt, classed as a non-woven material. The pieces are all handmade, motifs are either sewn or needle felted in.
Sustainability: Read more…
“If you have to make a thing, you must know the background of it, the skeleton, the foundations, the actual stuff that the materials have grown out of, their connections with their natural background, their biotechnics – and then building can begin. And then the reason for making, the purpose, the human connection. All sides must be considered and known. You cannot just make.” – from Hand Weaving and Education by Ethel Mairet (Faber & Faber 1952)
A law of 1666 decreed that the dead must be buried in wool. The reason for this law was to ensure a continuing trade that was key to wealth in Britain at the time. I believe this – now defunct – law has a relevance today, but for different reasons. The wool…
- Wool is the only fibre that it is currently possible to grow and process within the UK and could be part of a ‘green’ economic revival post-COVID.
- Wool is a ‘soil-to-soil’ fibre, meaning it can be returned to benefit the soil at the end of its useful life.
- Wool felt is a low-energy process – there are fewer stages in production than for woven cloth.
The sheep… With a more ecological management system – holistic/mob grazing, high welfare and appropriate breeds – sheep can become part of a regenerative agricultural system, sequestering carbon and increasing biodiversity. Appropriate breeds are more resilient and robust, needing less housing and intervention during lambing, for instance. Shetland sheep are a good example: they are naturally resistant to fly strike and survive on rougher pastures, allowing space for more ecological diversity on the land. They are less ‘meaty’ than modern breeds and happen to produce some of the finest coloured fibres in the UK. By using regenerative livestock principles and appropriate breeds, sheep have a valuable contribution to providing sustainable fibre in the British Isles. Natural Burial… Bringing the 17th Century Act into a contemporary context:
- completes the natural circle – the Cycle of Life
- makes good use of a readily available sustainable fibre
- sequesters carbon
- offers a more comforting alternative to a hard-edged coffin
All materials are 100% natural: more…
Locally Sourced: more….
Organic Wool: more…
Natural Dyes: more…
- Madder and Weld – from Green Ingredients
- Indigo (natural) – from KMA Exports – Tamil Nadu
- Walnut hulls and leaves – locally foraged
- Alder Bark – locally foraged
- Alder buckthorn – locally foraged
- Cochineal – (tiny amounts used for scarlet colours) – Textiles Naturales – Lanzarote
Mordants – Isabella uses:
- Oak galls – locally foraged – after the gall wasp has left!
- Cream of tartar
- and sometimes rusty nails (iron)