Sheep fleece and findings scouted from around her farm's environs are the basic components of Norma Jean Campbell's needle felted art folks.
Her creative genius lies in sculpting exquisite faces for the characters she develops. Abe and Mary Todd Lincoln are in the works. Elvis has already been brought back to life crooning for visitors.
During this ho-ho-holiday season, Campbell says she enjoys sharing her expertise with others, and offers classes in creating a woolen Santa at her Westwind Farm studio, near Springfield in Washington County. It's about an hour's drive from Lexington.
Needle felting is a process in which a special sewing needle is jabbed into wool batting or felt to create three-dimensional shapes.
Campbell has been raising her own sheep since she and husband Virgil moved to their farm in 1986. She births lambs, cleans, cards and dyes their wool, spins yarn, and weaves.
"I use mostly natural material," says Campbell. "Wool from the sheep, and clay that I dig here."
Dyes come from plants she grows and include warm browns from walnut husks, gold from goldenrod growing in the hedgerows, and green from fleabane daisy in her garden.
"Just about every time I dye, I experiment" she says.
A rainbow of yarn colors in her studio covers a wide palette.
Campbell's family has a long history in Washington County, including being neighbors of the Lincoln family two centuries ago. Some of her weaving patterns were gifted by Lincoln descendents who inherited papers from Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Campbell, who had worked as a weaver in the Kentucky Historical Society's museum in Frankfort, understood how to translate the patterns into cloth.
With a life-long inclination for investigating the natural world and collecting objects for use in crafting, she has nurtured a spark of creativity which is contagious.