Meet the members of the International Feltmakers Association Committee
We are all volunteers whose job it is to continue the work of our founder, the late Mary Burkett, OBE. Each officer has a role to play in promoting an interest in felt and connecting feltmakers around the world. If you want to get in touch with any of us individually, we can be contacted here.
Sheila Smith | President
I joined the IFA in 1984 and over time took a more active part in the Association. I served on the committee in various capacities and was Chairperson from 2000-2003. I was honoured to be invited to become President in 2016. Throughout this time I have combined my love of felt with my interest in education and am currently a member of the Education sub Committee and working with them to develop this important function of the IFA.
Mandy Nash | Chair
This has prepared me to contribute and be part of the IFA committee team. As Vice Chair, my role is that of an odd job person and general dogsbody. I work alongside the chairperson and support the other committee members, contributing to their projects and events to ensure the smooth running and development of the organisation.
Henny van Tussenbroek | Vice-Chair | International Officer
Having started felting a year or 10 ago, I slowly developed a network. At first, in the Netherlands, where I was born and still live and am a member of the Dutch Feltmakers Group. Later, over the years, my network became more international, as a result of travels abroad, following workshops with feltmakers of different nationalities and my IFA membership.
I have always enjoyed keeping in touch with people I meet through felting. It is so nice to share your mutual passion, your knowledge and to inspire each other.
There are many ways to communicate, such as by e-mail, Facebook and via video meetings.
In my role as International Officer, this is my main task: keeping in contact with IFA members all over the world, sharing information and ideas on felting and thus supporting the international network of Feltmakers!
Belinda Delany | Secretary
I have loved textiles for as long as I can remember – knitting and sewing my own clothes as a teenager. I discovered feltmaking at a textiles show about 8 years ago and I was intrigued by the possibilities it offered. I learnt more about it at my local FE college where I also discovered the IFA. I haven’t stopped feltmaking since, and I continue to be inspired by and to learn from feltmakers from around the world.
As secretary, my role involves preparing agendas and minutes of committee meetings, acting as a link between our membership and the committee, and assisting with the redevelopment of the website. During my working life I wrote court reports and this has prepared me well for the role of secretary.
Margaret Chalmers | Treasurer
I have been a maker as far back as I can remember; some of my dolly’s clothes offerings still come to mind. I have taken up all sorts of textile activities along the way and I think my “stash” must have started very early on, too!
At school, my arithmetical skills being “OK”, I was streamed into the science route, when I would have been much happier in Home Ed, and Textiles. After University, a professional life, and three children, I landed a fantastic job in the newly created Leeds University International Textiles Archive, which confirmed my preference for behind-the-scenes, rather than front-of-house, activities.
So, in 2014 I joined the IFA committee, first as Membership Secretary (in the days of the new upgraded website), and now my arithmetical skills are being put to use as Treasurer. This keeps me in touch with members, and with all the activities that the committee are involved in to reach and inform the felting world at large, as well as projects specifically for our members. There are a lot of exciting developments going on.
Natalie Lyons | Membership Secretary
Art and needlework were my favourite subjects at school, so doing a degree in Fashion & Textile design seemed appropriate. My working life took me into the world of retail.
My first job was working as a junior designer for Mary Quant. I then worked as a fashion buyer with Jeff Banks and went on to being the print co-ordinator of the graphics department for Terence Conran. After having my two children, I worked part time as a market researcher. Before I retired in 2018, I worked for 20 years in a primary school.
I knitted, crocheted, and sewed from a very young age but didn’t discover felt making until 2005. My first workshop was with Lizzie Houghton, and I became an IFA member in 2008. More recently, I have taken up spindle spinning and joined the WSD Guild. I am also interested in Basketry and am a member of the Basket Makers Association.
I love to travel and the world of textiles has taken me to some wonderful places. Hopefully, I’ll get more opportunities in the future.
As I’ve always been good with numbers, I became IFA Treasurer in 2013. Six years on, I became IFA Membership Secretary.
Androulla Jeffries | Education Officer
I grew up in a household surrounded by textiles. My mother and aunts all worked in the textile industry. They were fine needlewomen and together they were determined that I should be taught all that they knew. The ‘apprenticeship’ has served me well and today, I thank them for it.
However, I chose teaching as a career, training in London before gaining an M.A. in Education at York University. I have been fortunate and privileged to have taught all age groups from 3 – 18 years before taking on headships during the last 20 years of my career…yes, I do have an ‘Education’ background!
My introduction to feltmaking was an unexpected, happy accident. I was not in a good place and I enrolled onto a feltmaking workshop with a lady called Sheila Smith. Encouraged to undertake the City & Guilds Level 2 and 3 in Feltmaking, another apprenticeship had started until the quality of my felt could pass the ‘Sheila Test’! The rest, as they say, is history….
Ally Matthews | Publicity Officer
I have always been obsessed with textiles. I learnt to knit, sew and crochet as a small child and over the years l taught myself tailoring skills, embroidery, tapestry, rug making and in the last fifteen years added feltmaking, upholstery, weaving, spinning, dyeing and printing. I sometimes wish my interests weren’t so wide.
What I love about feltmaking is that it takes on so many forms and the possibilities and learning opportunities are endless. I can also combine it with many of my other crafts.
I have always worked in computing – from using punch cards at University to analyse my dissertation, to computer programming as my first job, then research and information and the development of the web, email and social media to disseminate information and communicate with the wider world. As Publicity Officer I hope to promote the IFA and raise the profile of feltmaking.
Heather Potten | Communications Officer
As a child, I was obsessed with reading and stories. This love of storytelling took me to university to study English and then to Greece to teach the language those stories were told in. All my life as a teacher has been about communication skills…first as an English as a Foreign Language teacher, lecturer and teacher trainer and latterly as a computer skills teacher, not to mention feltmaking tutor.
Not much of a leap then to the role of Communications Officer, where the emphasis is on connecting people and communicating the story of felt, past and present, to the widest possible audience. My job is to help create an appealing, informative website for our felting community and beyond. I also help the Regional Coordinators keep in touch with their members by means of MailChimp, an online emailing service. In my free time, I work on my feltmaking techniques with the help of our CiFT course.
Laura Mabbutt | Exhibitions Officer
My first experience of feltmaking was at University in 2004. I was instantly fascinated by the medium and chose to specialize in it for my BA degree during which I created home and fashion accessories from undyed wools, using wet felting with particular emphasis on seamless sculptural techniques and enjoying the possibilities of the medium without the addition of other materials, until my more recent work.
After graduating I began work at the National Centre for Craft & Design where I stayed for 8 years, curating and programming exhibitions and touring shows. What better way to combine and utilise these past experiences than through the post of Exhibitions Officer for the IFA, through which I hope to assist in finding opportunities for members to exhibit and to showcase our unique medium to the world.
Janine Rees | Coordinator Editorial Committee
I always had a love of textiles, learning to knit and sew at an early age. My ambition to become a needlework teacher was thwarted as I failed most science subjects at school, though I passed my needlework A level. I fell into Banking as a career and spent twenty years living in different parts of the UK, finally moving to Surrey and working in London. When I left that career, I once again pursued my love of textiles and making things.
My introduction to felting came via spinning and weaving and brought me to the IFA in 2003. I was publicity officer for four years and also joint coordinator for the conference and AGM in Kent. I now coordinate the editorial team, researching and selecting potential feature artists for Felt Matters and am one of the proof readers. I still enjoy working with textiles and other craft activities and love learning new techniques.