Felt Animals Come to Life in This Artist's Hands

Felt deer
This felted deer seems like it could wake up at any moment.

 True Style Lab / Facebook

From his downy fur to his dozing eyes, it's hard to believe the deer above isn't real. Instead, the lifelike creature is the result of hundreds of hours of painstaking work by Japanese artist Terumi Ohta. She has mastered the art of needle felting, creating wild and domestic animals so incredibly realistic that they easily warrant a double- or triple-take.

Although Ohta began drawing as a child and studied European and traditional Japanese flower arranging, it wasn't until about four years ago that she turned her attention to felt. The self-taught artist was drawn to animals, a subject she has loved since childhood, she says.

Now she shows and sells her work under TrueStyle Lab, a Tokyo-based studio where she also teaches workshops on her craft.

felt bullfrog
This handcrafted bullfrog looks like it would be at home in a garden.  True Style Lab / Facebook

"I was born, raised and surrounded by nature and animals in Hokkaido in the most northern part in Japan," Ohta tells MNN. "I spent time with dogs, birds, fishes, iguanas, and pigmy jerboas as pets in my life so far. My favorite TV programs were always related to animals."

felt puppy
Ohta makes felt replica of pets on commission, like this puppy.  True Style Lab / Facebook

Ohta started her artistic career making simple sketches when she was a little girl.

"I've loved drawing since I was a child. The models were wild birds from dad's garden, all my pets, and animals from illustrated books," she says.

felt fennec fox
This tiny fennec fox looks like it came out of the wild.  True Style Lab / Facebook

She began experimenting with needle felting just a few years ago and immediately transferred her interest in animals to 3-D creations. Ohta uses various colors of wool to create the texture of an animal's fur or skin. She turns to clay when she creates details, such as the eyes, nose, teeth, nails, and claws.

felt mouse
This is a felt degu, also known as a brush-tailed rat.  True Style Lab / Facebook

Ohta says she takes her inspiration from nature.

"It could be many things. When I walk my dog at a park and find a unique shape of trees, the shadow, moss, etc., not only animals. I'm very inspired by shapes and texture from living things, including animal eyes, nose, fur ... every part."

felt wolf
Images of this felted wolf went viral, earning international attention for Terumi Ohta.  True Style Lab / Facebook

Depending on the size of the animal she is creating, Ohta's projects can take hundreds of hours.

"Sometimes I need more than 200 hours to complete if it's a whole 3-D sculpture. If the size was bigger, it could be more."

felt baby elephant
Baby felted elephant takes a nap.  True Style Lab / Facebook

Ohta has had her work on display at various events in Paris, London, New York, Osaka, and Wales, and recently she had a solo exhibition in Tokyo. She gained a broader audience when photos of her felt wolf went viral in Japan and then hit social media worldwide.

felt cat
Merino fibers make up this cat's coat.  True Style Lab / Facebook

Ohta says she has received commissions from all over the world to make replicas of people's pets or even copies of company mascots. Currently, she's on hiatus from taking new made-to-order creations because she has so much work on tap.

felt boxer
This relaxing Boston terrier looks so lifelike.  True Style Lab / Facebook

You can follow Ohta's work on Pinterest and Facebook.

felt kitten
This handmade kitten looks ready to play.  True Style Lab / Facebook