Few of the more than 400 artists and crafters featured in this weekend's Sugarloaf Craft Festival got their start in a courtroom.
Potomac resident Jill Newman has lost hour after hour creating vividly colored felted jewelry in her Zazzy Peacock Studio, melding together pieces of combed or uncombed wool to fabricate rings, necklaces, brooches, earrings and other household items.
One of the few members of her family that didn't fall heart over loom for knitting or crocheting, Newman said she came across felting when trying to repair a favorite cashmere sweater. A small write-up in a lifestyle magazine sparked her interest, and following a quick trial-and-error weekend in which she broke her skin and a barbed needle, she's been hooked.
Felting "meshes fabric together," she said. "I get to sculpt and paint with wool."
When asked how long it takes to create the jewelry, purses or other goods she makes, Newman laughed.
"I lose track of time," she said. "I get so absorbed in it. I find it so relaxing."
It's a painstaking process to assemble felted items. First, Newman dry felts the material together, weaving together various thread-like swatches of wool. Then, she wet felts the material she's woven together, a process she said results in the kind of felt most people recognize. The following day, after the fabric has had a chance to dry and become more durable, she'll dry felt additional fabric on top of the original layer, allowing for three-dimensional patterns and accents.
In addition to selling her jewelry on her own website (http://www.zazzypeacockstudios.com/), Newman is excited to participate in her second Sugarloaf festival this weekend.
When she decided to leave her previous job, in corporate law, to spend more time at home with her then-young children, she rekindled her love of art, namely painting. Once she started felting a few years ago, Newman said she started thinking about one day taking her jewelry to the Sugarloaf festival but considered it a "lofty goal" at the time.
Undeterred, she applied for this fall's shows in January and made her first appearance in October. She's also slated to participate in December's event, followed by the Tiewyan Artisans in the Countryside holiday studio tour, taking place Dec. 5-7 and 12-14.
With a handful of shows and sales under her belt, including a show in Chicago that required a good deal of pre-planning and shipping goods to be sold on site, Newman is more prepared than ever for the fun.
"It's just exciting now," she said.