Barbara Keal (b.1981) graduated from Wimbledon School of Art in 2003 with a first class Fine Art (Sculpture) BA honours degree. She has since worked on a variety of performance based projects involving and influenced by diverse methods and concepts which include felt, ceramics, song and the role of the individual as part of a group.To see more of Barbara's performance work visit her sister site www.kealwork.co.uk.
As part of this work Barbara was looking for ways to become an authentic member of the community of creatures living on neighbouring Malling Hill. As the most prominent of these are the sheep Barbara made a huge felted dress from their fleece- however it wasn't quite enough- she needed furry ears! This project led to the birth of the first felted animal hat and a new passion was ignited. Barbara quickly started to create a myriad other animals, realising her only limitation was her imagination or that of her client.
An important aspect of Barbara's work is the transformative effect the hats have on the wearer who usually ends up with a massive grin on their face and a jaunty spring in their step. In this way they have become an every day live art work within the public arena- "I had strangers coming up to me in the street all day and every one of them was smiling- a truly precious thing"- Diablo (fox hat). Barbara's dream is for her hats to effect as many people as possible and is documenting the effect they are having out in the big wide world, as they form their own unique global community of creatures.
Following a fabulous reception at Origin London 2010 Barbara was swamped by interest and orders and is now moving from strength to strength making pieces for individuals, leading boutiques and costumiers alike- alongside some really incredible new work recently unveiling at this years Origin, another roaring success!
Barbara lives and works in Lewes, East Sussex in the UK. Lewes is a picturesque county town known for it's eccentric and welcoming attitude which is located in the South Downs national park. Barbara's riverside studio with it's pretty patio is awash with wool, alpaca and many other fibres that are entirely donated from local farmers who would otherwise throw it all out. They are then sent to a local farm to be cleaned and carded and return to the studio to be cleverly felted together into hats by Barbara, her husband Richard and trusty assistant Carrie. Barbara and Richard met and married while at Wimbledon together and now have two sons Isiah and Abednego.