One day, a few weeks ago, I received a comment on Instagram asking me whether my Uncle Bracken could possibly be the same Bracken that Alison Rumbles knew from her walks with her dog Tilly. Alison is an artist who makes felt dogs by hand, and she sells her pieces through her shop on Etsy and also takes commissions. Alison had messaged me because she had started working on a felt dachshund inspired by this wirehaired dachshund she knew called Bracken.
And yes, you guessed it, it was indeed my Uncle! It turned out that Alison knew my Uncle Bracken and my Grannie, and so the ‘Bracken’ she was in the process of making was fashioned on my Uncle’s gruff and rugged looks. The amazing thing about Alison’s work is the way she captures the personality of each dog, their facial expressions and manner, which is quite a feat when you’re sculpting wool using fine needles.
So, of course, you know what happened next…
Yes, having looked on Alison’s Instagram gallery, clearly Mum and Dad needed to get an ‘Uncle Bracken’ for Grannie – specifically for Grannie’s birthday. “My Mum’s going to love this, I mean love this,” Mum said. So having sold ‘Bracken 1’ to another customer, Alison set about making ‘Bracken 2’, and Mum and I followed his progress on Instagram. Here’s a great photo Alison took when she was working on the little guy, and another where my ‘Uncle’ is getting cosy with a Westie, while Tilly is overseeing production. This is one of my favourite photos of the two ‘Brackens’ together, one needing his paws while my ‘Uncle’ was waiting on his coat.
Being able to watch my ‘Uncle’ take shape was undoubtedly part of the enjoy of this whole process, as Mum and I started to see his character develop. But then, last Sunday, we met with Alison and got to see The Dude in the flesh – well, in the wool.
We hadn’t appreciated that Alison also reflects each dog’s physicality. My Uncle is a big dude with strong shoulders and a deep chest, and Alison had sculpted this muscle onto the felted version. “I can’t believe the detail in this,” Mum said. “And you’ve nailed his gruff and doleful expression!”
And, the finishing touch: Alison had made my Uncle a felt coat in his trademark green. “Every time I see Margaret and Bracken, Bracken’s wearing his green fleece coat, so I had to make one for him,” Alison explained. It was the perfect final detail and, as Mum said, is so reflective of the attention to detail in Alison’s work.
And Grannie loves him. How could she not? As for me… well, I have to be honest here, after the episode with Fantastic Mr Fox at Christmas, Mum is really, really careful with me and anything felt. “I’d love a photo of the two of you together,” she said. I had the more delicate of sniffs at the new felted Dude and then thought, “I’m having his ear…” It was just too tempting friends. Thankfully, Mum has quick reflexes. (Ed: I saw it coming.) The felt Dude was saved. And after seeing Grannie’s reaction when she unwrapped him, well, I understand why.