Art for bark's sake: felt Fidos go walkies as stars go to the dogs
Say hello to the hottest dogs on the planet – cute canines made of felt by a Scottish designer which have become the latest celebrity must-have.
Domenica More Gordon, an East Lothian artist, started out making the miniature dogs around her kitchen table with friends, using sheep's wool and a felting needle, but sales have gone global after they appeared on the internet.
When her work went on show in a new Edinburgh gallery last week, the initial collection of 40 felt mutts – the biggest three inches high – all but sold out within 24 hours despite costing as much as 485.
The Dog Show is the first exhibition in the new The Work Shop gallery in West Bow and More Gordon's work is being displayed alongside paintings of dogs by artist Sheila McInnes.
Interest exploded on the internet after the diminutive dogs were featured in The World of Interiors, the home design bible. About three-quarters of them have been sold to buyers in New Zealand, Australia and the US, said The Work Shop's director Henriette Stoehr.
"It is unbelievable, just overwhelming so far," she said. "There is only one dog left for sale, a greyhound, one of the nicest ones but also the most expensive," she said.
It was Stoehr who took a call from an American enquiring about whether the gallery could forward some images of the dogs by e-mail. She says she was stunned when the caller revealed his identity as Brad Pitt, arguably the world's most famous film star, who may have been looking for a present for his wife Angelina Jolie or one of their children.
Rachel Fullar, the partner of Townshend, guitarist with The Who, has confirmed she has bought several of the dogs.
The Yorkshire Sculpture Museum has also been in contact about a possible exhibition, as has an art gallery in Sydney, Australia.
The handmade dogs are mournfully expressive, ranging from tiny terriers to languid lurchers.
Since the images of the dogs appeared, More Gordon – who owns two real dogs herself, a terrier called Archie, and Bobbie, a mongrel the family adopted in Greece – says she has been deluged with commissions from around the world, adding she is "amazed by all the attention".
Everything began with a group of women meeting round her kitchen table last year to make handmade items for a Christmas charity sale.
A friend showed her how to do needle felting, and she became "completely obsessed". Using imported wool, or clumps gathered from barbed wire, she uses a felting needle with tiny hooks to "felt" and shape the wool by pushing and pulling strands.
Married to the screenwriter and novelist Charlie Fletcher, More Gordon has strong artistic credentials as the daughter of the distinguished Scottish watercolourist Harry More Gordon and his sculptor wife Marianne.
She studied textiles at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London, where a national newspaper listed her as "young talent to look out for."
She often begins each dog by sketching it first, or working from photographs, and takes three days or more to finish the tiny sculptures.
The dogs, she said, "were the kind of thing I've done since I was a child. Some people think of them as art, and some people just say how cute they are."
E-mail and phone orders have poured in. One woman from Milwaukee sent an obituary and pictures of her dog, Sara, a mongrel, to order a model based on her dead pet. "We were both in tears over that one," said More Gordon.
Another potential customer sent dog hair, asking More Gordon to fashion a version from the material.
The popularity of the dogs reflects a trend in the art world towards handmade objects.
"There's a strand of thinking that is valuing 'making'," said David Weir, director of the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, which stages shows of art, design and craftsmanship.
"We certainly find that traditional hand skills that simply can't be replicated by a machine are back in fashion and are being given the recognition they deserve."
To take the pressure off More Gordon, The Work Shop is selling felt dog-manufacturing kits for 15 for enthusiasts to make at home.
More Gordon's current plans include an internet film featuring the dogs and also a children's book.
She does not want to be stuck just churning out felt models, she said. "It's not just producing a line of dogs. I will only do a dog if I feel an emotional response to it."