Having successfully managed three companies with turnover as high as $M50, I retired at 49 due to health reasons. My brain remained active and watching my partner felting, and suffering in the process, gave me the impetus to develop the Gentle Roller felt rolling machine - an on-off labour of love for several years.
It gave me great pleasure to finally convince my greatest (felting) critic, that I had created something that could benefit her and felt-maker's world-wide. Only surpassed by the realization of my dream of producing The Gentle Roller and seeing it sold worldwide.
It was a happy accident that Joni came to work with felt back in 2000. She was studying arts therapy when her path crossed with a felt maker.
Like most felt makers she started with layers of wool and silk or cotton carrier, making basic scarves and wraps. With simple equipment like bubble wrap and a pool noodle, anyone can do the same. Part of the attraction was that she didn't have to invest in expensive equipment to make felt. Looking back on those early pieces she now sees how poorly they were made.
Over the past thirteen years Joni has researched, developed and practiced her technique of marrying the wool and silk together. Her wedded fabrics describe a finish where the wool and silk are virtually homogenized and visually inseparable.
Joni has never resorted to the use of powered equipment such as an electric sander, washing machine or clothes dryer, often employed by other felt makers to accelerate the felting process, because she doesn't believe in highly distressing the felt fabric. Neither does she thump, or shock the fibers during the felting process. As a result, the process of making nuno felt has all been gentle work by hand, rolling and rubbing – which is undeniably a labor intensive process.
Joni suffered an injury in 2013 that not only made it virtually impossible to sit or stand for several weeks, she was also unable to felt for over four months and the road to recovery has been slow.
Like the marriage of silk and wool in a favourite piece, the marriage of Philip's engineering/business background and Joni's felting process has produced something rather unique.
She didn't think it possible but the Gentle Roller has changed her felting forever - without changing felting! Gentle, nuanced and matching the process of hand rolled felt, yet never tiring, always consistent and efficient.