[caption id="attachment_24196" align="alignleft" width="400"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2019\/04\/DSC_0030.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="570" class="size-full wp-image-24196" \/> Felting artist Jan Skellion draws inspiration from the animal kingdom \u2013\u2002wild and domestic \u2013\u2002when felting her 3-D and 2-D creations. Above, Skellion stands among a display of her felted animals at the 4th Avenue Gallery in\u2008Marlinton. At left, Skellion holds a felted portrait of her German Shepherd Jax. L.D. Bennett photos[\/caption]\r\n\r\n<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2019\/04\/DSC_0024.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="610" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-24195" \/>\r\n\r\nLaura Dean Bennett\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nAnimal lovers who step inside the Pocahontas County Artisans Co-op at the Depot in Marlinton will be delighted to encounter the menagerie of lifelike animals made by Jan Skellion.\r\n\r\nThey\u2019re not like the stuffed animals that most of us had when we were kids, and they're not stuffed like animals displayed as trophies.\r\n\r\nThis is a different breed of \u201cstuffed\u201d animal \u2013 made by a process called needle felting.\r\n\r\nSoft to the touch, and with such realistic faces, Skellion's animals are the next best thing to the real thing.\r\n\r\nAnyone who has ever sketched, painted or sculpted knows that faces can be challenging. \u00a0But Skellion must have an instinct for it.\r\n\r\nMaybe because the artist has a real affection for the animals she makes.\r\n\r\n\u201cAll my animals have names,\u201d Skellion said.\r\n\r\nBesides the common popular animals, she makes more unusual ones, as well. They include a sloth, a bobcat, a camel, a snail, an ostrich and a toad.\r\n\r\nThe toad was originally going to be part of a scene with a bobcat, but he took on a life of his own, so to speak.\r\n\r\n\u201cI was making a bobcat and I thought it might be fun to make a little scene with the bobcat chasing something, so I thought I\u2019d include a toad in the piece,\u201d she said.\r\n\r\n\u201cWell, I started making the toad, but I guess I got a little carried away with him, and he got too big to fit in with the bobcat piece.\r\n\r\n\u201cSo he went out into the world on his own and found a home with someone who likes toads.\u201d\r\n\r\nOwls are also popular. Besides a beautiful owl, there\u2019s a charming fox, Slow-Mo the Sloth, Mack, the Scottish Highland cow, and Cleo the Camel.\r\n\r\n\u201cPeople often come to me with an idea of a certain animal that they want me to make.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve done dozens of commissions,\u201d she said.\r\n\r\nSkellion described the process of creating these felted friends.\r\n\r\n\u201cI start with a sketch of the \u2018skeleton\u2019 of the animal,\u201d she said.\r\n\r\n\u201cI make the armature for the animal from pose-able wire. Then I wrap it with pipe cleaners so the wool will stick to the wire and stay in place.\r\n\r\n\u201cAfter that, I wrap the armature with wool or fiber and then create the shapes of the animal's face and body and apply them to the armature.\r\n\r\n\u201cSome animals are easier to make than others. For instance, sheep are easy- cats are hard.\r\n\r\n\u201cI use a needle to felt the wool covering the armature and then use a finer needle to do the details and the colors. That\u2019s all there is to it,\u201d Skellion said, modestly.\r\n\r\nSounds easy when she says it, but somehow I think that making those exquisite faces must require a lot of artistic talent.\r\n\r\nWhen I compliment the realism of her animals\u2019 faces, Skellion admits that they often require a few tries to get them right.\r\n\r\n\u201cWell, it\u2019s not like I always get them perfect right off the bat,\u201d she said.\r\n\r\n\u201cBut it\u2019s no big deal \u2013 if something isn't coming out right, I just take the piece apart and start over.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve had to do it many times. I\u2019ve ripped whole heads off and put them back on again,\u201d she laughed.\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s one of the aspects of needle felting that Skellions likes best.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s a very forgiving medium!\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s so versatile \u2013 you can do so much with it. And there are so many different fibers and textures.\r\n\r\n\u201cEven if you\u2019re just talking about wool, there are so many different varieties of sheep, and they all grow different wool.\u201d\r\n\r\nBesides her \u201c3-D\u201d animals, as she calls them, Skellion has also started making \u201c2-D\u201d versions, as well \u2013 her animal portraits.\r\n\r\nThe first portrait that she felted is on display at the gallery.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s a magnificent needle felted portrait of her German Shepherd, Jax.\r\n\r\n\u201cSince I made that one, I\u2019ve done several,\u201d she said.\r\n\r\n\u201cI love doing them \u2013 it\u2019s like \u201cpainting with wool.\u201d\r\n\r\nMany people know Skellion as a hairdresser.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve been doing hair for 43 years,\u201d she said proudly.\r\n\r\nShe used to have a beauty shop in Marlinton until a fire destroyed it five years ago.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe fire was a terrible thing,\u201d Jan remembered.\r\n\r\nJan\u2019s Corner Salon is in Buckeye now, and she works there on Monday and Tuesday of every week.\r\n\r\n\u201cDoing hair is also an artistic pursuit,\u201d she mused.\r\n\r\nSkellion grew up in Greeley, Colorado, and was an art major in college at West State College in Gunnison, Colorado.\r\n\r\n\u201cEven then I didn\u2019t see myself as an art teacher or a commercial artist. I wanted a more rural life,\u201d she said, as she thought back.\r\n\r\n\u201cI didn\u2019t want to live in a city. I was horse crazy, and I knew I wanted to be a country girl.\r\n\r\n\u201cI always said that one day I\u2019d take up riding and have some horses of my own.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cI was never able to have horses until I came to Pocahontas County.\r\n\r\n\u201cSo, here I am, living my dream,\u201d Skellion said, beaming.\r\n\r\nTwenty years ago this April, Skellion and her husband, David, moved here from Colorado.\r\n\r\nThey used to come here from Florida for fall vacations and, like a lot of our visitors, fell in love with Pocahontas County.\r\n\r\nJan and David live on a farm near Mill Point with three horses \u2013 a mini, an Appaloosa mare and an off-the-track Thoroughbred \u2013 and two German Shepherds and three cats.\r\n\r\nAnd Dave raises African Cyclid fish.\r\n\r\nAnd speaking of cyclid fish, her \u201cfamous fish,\u201d Mousse (yes, like the hair product), was living in an aquarium in her shop in the Old Bank Building when it burned.\r\n\r\n\u201cBut, thank goodness, Mousse came through the fire unhurt. And I\u2019ve still got him,\u201d she said, smiling.\r\n\r\nSkellion\u2019s needle felting started out as a hobby.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt was really just something to do so Dave and I could join the Pocahontas County Art Coop together.\r\n\r\n\u201cThey really wanted Dave,\u201d Skellion laughed.\r\n\r\n\u201cDavid does beautiful carved wooden bowls. But we wanted to join together so I had to come up with something.\u201d\r\n\r\nSkellion came across making needle felted animals as she was casting about for a unique craft that no one else was doing.\r\n\r\nShe happened on YouTube videos about a relatively new art form called needle felting posted by a lady named Serafina, a fiber artist who lives in Maryland.\r\n\r\n\u201cSerafina started out with a small cottage industry and has turned it into a huge business,\u201d Skellion said.\r\n\r\nAnd, on a smaller scale, so has Skellion.\r\n\r\n\u201cI started out small. I bought local wool from a fiber artist in Renick and people seemed to like what I was doing,\u201d she said.\r\n\r\n\u201cNow people bring me local alpaca fiber.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhat started out as a hobby has turned into a business,\u201d Skellion said.\r\n\r\n\u201cMy animals sell locally, nationally and even internationally.\u201d\r\n\r\nBesides showing and selling their work in the Pocahontas County Artisans Co-op, both Dave\u2019s and Jan's work can also be found at Tamarack.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019d only been doing the felting for about a year when my work was accepted at Tamarack,\u201d Skellion said.\r\n\r\n\u201cI show at the Allegheny Highland Gallery in Clifton Forge and at a shop in the Art Colony at the Greenbrier Hotel. And I also sell through Facebook.\u201d\r\n\r\nBut Skellion has kept her love for the art form by not putting too much pressure on herself.\r\n\r\n\u201cI work when I'm inspired \u2013 not necessarily every day.\u201d\r\n\r\nSkellion\u2019s needle felted animals may originate in Pocahontas County, but they really get around.\r\n\r\nWhen I ask where some of her animals have ended up, Skellion tells me about a bulldog portrait she sold to a customer in Seattle.\r\n\r\nAnd one of her animals \u2013 an adorable squirrel clinging onto a piece of screen \u2013 has found a home in Australia.\r\n\r\nA man from Michigan came into the Marlinton gallery and when he saw her animals he asked if she could do a squirrel hanging onto a screen.\r\n\r\nHe had in mind a Christmas gift for his sister who lives in Australia.\r\n\r\nHis sister, who\u2019d married a man from Australia, had told him about a squirrel who kept coming around. It would climb onto a screen door and would look inside at them, and they\u2019d gotten quite attached to it.\r\n\r\n\u201cAnd I did the white rabbit and the door mouse from Alice in Wonderland for a fiber artist from New York who was putting together a large Alice in Wonderland display.\r\n\r\n\u201cNeedle felting is really a neat medium,\u201d Skellion said, \u201cand I enjoy talking to people about it. I get the best reactions from people.\u201d\r\n\r\nFor those who would like to learn the skill of needle felting, Skellion will be teaching a class on April 12 for the Pocahontas County Art Guild at the McLaughlin House in Marlinton.\r\n\r\nStudents will get a kit with a couple of needles, the wool to make a little sheep and a felting surface - a burlap \u201cenvelope\u201d stuffed with rice.\r\n\r\nSign up at firstname.lastname@example.org\r\n\r\nThere is a fee for the class.