Linda Facci (aka “The Dog Felterer“) is a perfectionist — and it shows in her amazingly realistic felt dog replicas. A remark such as, “I love your work, but this is creepy!” is not unusual for the self-taught artist to hear.
Based in Manhattan, Facci keeps a busy schedule, with her 9-to-5 job as creative director at Magnolia Bakery and her increasingly popular side business crafting one-of-a-kind dog sculptures.
So, where did it all start? Back in 2012, Facci attended an in-store event highlighting a local felter’s work, and the end of the workshop included a segment on needle felting. “I couldn’t wait to go home and try it out for myself,” says Facci. She did her own research and honed her skills by purchasing kits and looking at other people’s work.
Facci started out crafting little wedding toppers — mostly mice, rabbits, squirrels, and other small creatures. Eventually, this evolved into astonishingly lifelike canine replicas. A video produced by INSIDER in February showing her process helped expand her client base. But she still does most of the work herself, although she recently added another person to her operation to craft dog head molds. “They’re just a basic shape with a snout, not even ears. It just really makes my job faster,” Facci explains.
She starts every project by requesting a variety of images from the client. Facci prides herself on nailing a dog’s details. “I want to get it as close to the actual dog as possible,” she says.
Once she has her photos, Facci typically begins by crafting the head, using a small piece of wool no larger than a dust bunny. By poking the wool with a needle, she compacts the material, and by repeatedly stabbing the wool, a shape begins to take place. The process is similar to painting a watercolor, according to Facci. You gradually add in colors from a uniform base and fill in the blanks.
There has been a lot of trial and error since she started six years ago — from learning what beads work best for eyes to what method makes noses look most realistic (presently, Facci felts the nose and paints it with wax to give it a lifelike sheen).
Each replica takes around three-to-eight hours to complete, depending on the breed. “I’ll come home at night and start on the face, then the next night I’ll finish it,” Facci shares. “Dogs with more spots are a little more time-consuming, but it sometimes makes it easier for me because then I can see distance and proportions. It really helps with sizing.”
The most difficult dogs for Facci to create are the black ones. “They have no markings, and there’s only so many shades of black you can work with,” she explains. But overall, the most challenging aspect is the eyes. “If I don’t get the eyes right, like the distance or the shine around them, then the dog just doesn’t look real,” says Facci.
The breeds she’s replicated the most often are Yorkshire Terriers, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Golden Retrievers, and Bichon Frise, but she recently made her very first Pharaoh Hound. “Each one is special,” Facci says of her creations. “It’s kinda hard to let them go.”
Her Etsy shop has been a hit with dog lovers looking for something to commemorate their furry friends, and she’s now staring down a backlog that will keep her busy through 2018. She recently completed a custom order for a woman whose beloved dog had passed away. Because she lived nearby, the woman picked up the sculpture in person and got teary eyed. “I’d heard of people [getting emotional], but I’d never seen it because I usually ship them,” says Facci. “It was such a special moment. It’s become one of the reasons I do this.”