Text and photos by Connie Leinbach
Ocracoke is magical to many and now it has fairies to prove it.
These are “Fairy Stitches,” small, hand-sewn felt creations by islander Carol Bullard, who also wears other hats as many do on Ocracoke.
Bullard, who studied art in college, is known for her photography skills. She and her husband, John, are the assistant innkeeper and innkeeper, respectively, of the Castle B&B.
Bullard, one of several island artists, hails from Whitburn, Scotland.
In her still thick but charming Scottish accent, she related how she creates her “wee beasties” out of felt.
An artist who felt insecure about her drawing and painting, Bullard got into photography at college in Manchester, England. She participated in the exchange program the school offered and chose ECU, where, during the first week, she met John.
“It was love at first sight,” she said about the couple, who with their son, Tommy, for seven years lived on a houseboat docked at Community Square.
She did bead jewelry to feed her artistic need prior to living on the boat. A few years after moving to Ocracoke, she dis- covered the Ocracoke Needle & Thread Club and learned quilting from them. That led her to making felt items, which phased out the beading.
One day she saw a bunch of felt on sale in an Avon pharmacy and bought all of it.
“It could be a convenient little hobby on a boat,” she said about the impulse.
Using three stitches -– blanket, back and running stitches — she started first with owls and then “animals that are cute,” such as “teddy cats,” as she calls them.
“I’m obsessed with owls,” she said. “When I was a kid, collecting owls was my mum’s hobby.”
Barn and snowy owls are Bullard’s favorites.
These days, Whitburn, along the River Almond in Scotland, has an owl center, which Bullard visits whenever she goes back to see her family.
She does drawings first of her ideas, many of which she posts on her Instagram account “Fairy Stiches,” but she doesn’t yet do online sales. She has sold her work in island shops and other times at local vendor fairs, such as Ocrafolk and the holiday gift bazaar.
Now, she’s in her tenth year creating felt Christmas ornaments, pins, lost-tooth holders and more.
A new twist two years ago was the creation of “dollies,” as she calls them.
“And it came out right the first time,” she said. “OK. I love these.”
Her latest doll creations take after medieval upper class and royalty.
“I spent a good deal of time this winter researching medieval costume,” she said, as she pointed out a white headdress, called a hennin, on one of her dolls.
“They were in fashion in the 1400s across Europe,” she said.
If she’s not creating art, Bullard gets depressed, she said, and her “fairy stitches” fill that need.
“I really like tiny, tiny things,” she said about her work.
Others do, too, as evidenced by how quickly she sold almost all of her wares during this year’s Ocrafolk Festival in June.
“They’re so fun,” said customer Erica Fedor of Winston-Salem, who with her boyfriend Max Messinger sported Bullard’s felt pins. “They make my heart happy.”