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The Fabulous Fleece Company Blog

The making of Granny Greymuzzle

While most Fabulous Fleece customers buy our sheepskins to use rugs and throws in their homes, we sometimes receive orders where they are being using in more unusual ways.

Our fleeces have been ordered to dress characters for theatre or TV - the English National Opera for their production of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, or the production team needing costumes for making a Game of Thrones style TV advert for Aldi.

We’ve also had talented makers out there buying a fleece to dress a rocking sheep before. So we were really intrigued to find out about Granny Greymuzzle - a sheep character crowned with hair made from one of our lambskins that was created by York-based artist Jay McGahan.

After initially asking if Jay would mind sharing some pictures and the process of how she made Granny Greymuzzle, we also discovered a compelling backstory behind the character and its creator. It’s an inspiring insight into how 29 year old Jay has used her artistic talents to create a character that helps her connect with an enthusiastic animal-loving community and also cope with her chronic illness.

So over to Jay to tell us more…

"In 2011, I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease, a spinal condition that causes constant pain in my lower back and lower half of my body. So I had to give up my career as a tattooist as I was no longer able to work. I've seen specialists and had a number of treatments, but there’s currently no cure in my case, so I've had to adjust to life being chronically ill.

"With medication, aids, and regular physiotherapy I'm coping better now, and despite my health issues, I still continue with my art as I find a lot of joy in creating things. However they are mostly hobby projects for myself or my friends because my health means they progress at a very slow pace.

Jay's myriad materials for making her characters

Finding the furry fandom

Before I can tell you about Granny, I'll have to tell you about the furries - in its most basic description, it is a fandom of people who enjoy anthropomorphic characters. That's animals with human like characteristics; a good example is Disney cartoons. The furry community is huge, and heavily driven by people being creative and making up their own characters through art and writing, or even music, videos and costumes.

We have conventions and meet-ups in cities all over the world, and often do entertainment for kids and fund raising for charity. In fact, I recently went to the UK's biggest furry convention 'ConFuzzled' 2019, where they raised over £30,000 for The Vale Wildlife Hospital. It's through this amazing community of artists and animal lovers that I found life-long friends as it's a very supportive group.

I've been a furry since I was around 13 year old and first discovered them on the internet, but it wasn't until my health issues stopped me working that I invested more of my creative efforts into making my own fursuit, which is what we call our costumes.

Creative costumes with many purposes

"Granny for me, is just a fun costume to wear when I go to these sort of events. But for everyone that has their own suit, bought from makers or built themselves, they can mean and be used for so much more.

These fursuits are used for TV and movies, for charity fundraising, general entertainment and performance. Some people even use them to help ease their anxiety and depression by becoming something fun and different for a while. I know that creating Granny and using her has certainly made me happy."

Designing around disability

"I had made some characters before Granny, but I eventually figured out that with my health conditions I needed a fursuit that would be easy and comfy for me to wear, and not look out of place using my cane or rollator.

That's when I came up with the idea for Granny, I designed her specifically around my disability and aids, and so that people would be more likely to treat me gently. People often design their own characters as an ideal animal version of themselves, or an alter ego they can play.

In Granny's case, she's very much a character. Her second name 'Grey-muzzle', is an affectionate term people in our fandom use for older members of our community, so 'Granny Greymuzzle' was the name I based her whole design around."

Finding strength in weakness

"Most people have just been calling her Granny though, since she's the first elderly character that I know of that has been made into a fursuit. And as for why a sheep? I just like sheep, and one of my first stuffed animals as a kid was a big fluffy one that I still have.

The response I got while making Granny's début at ConFuzzled was amazing - what really touched me was how many people said how Granny reminded them of their own grandmothers. One person in particular told me how they too have chronic health issues and they thought Granny was a great idea of how to play off that weakness."

How Granny Greymuzzle was made

"The base is made out of upholstery foam, which I hot glued, carved and sculpted into shape. Then I taped the base up with regular parcel tape, then cut it off and made darts and seams for it to lay flat on paper to make a temporary pattern. The rest is mostly just a lot of hand sewing and acrylic paint.

Granny’s eyes, nails and hoofs were sculpted out of wax clay, which I then molded using silicone and made resin casts of. The part you see out of, the iris and pupil, is acrylic painted buckram. Her eyelashes are made from foam and cut out plasticard. And her glasses are just some metal craft rings and a bit of metal from the DIY store that I haphazardly stuck together!

Lastly, she also has a small 9V battery powered fan inside her snout, which makes wearing her a lot more tolerable, but she's still quite hot to wear! I also have a ice-pack neck scarf that was specifically designed for costume performers to help with the heat."

Wow - the resourcefulness and attention to detail that has gone into this character is astounding. Thank you so much Jay for sharing your personal story - your creativity and determination in the face of such adversity is truly inspiring.

If you’d like to find out more about Jay’s work, please click these links below.

All images ⓒ Jay McGahan.

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