Sunday, 14 April 2013

Baaaaad Sheep Benches

It's time to break out the champagne and celebrate some baaaaaaad sheep benches.

Miggy's niece Lettie grew up on a farm with sheep. By the age of nine Lettie herself had turned into a sheep. 

They say sheep follow each other and this must be true; the whole of Lettie's immediate family also turned into sheep. This is Lettie's mum, Nora. 

And here is Lettie's family portrait.

 Kelly Riley at

As Lettie has some experience of sheepness, I invited her to help me with this post. Although still very young, Lettie realises that we need to get on with showing some sheep benches rather than just sheep. 

Here is a lovely sheep seat from Elizabeth Cadd, the Greenwood Woman, in Shropshire. It's made from sweet chestnut and ash with a padded woven wool cushion.

Lettie likes this one. She's something of a eco warrior so she likes to see benches made from natural materials. The Greenwood Woman certainly knows how to use natural materials. 

The quintessential sheep bench is made by designer Rimgaile Samsonaite in Sweden, though her workshop is now in London. 'Sheep' is made from non-processed timber by-products and covered by sheepskin, without use of glue or screws.

Lettie is glad to see that this bench got an Honourable Mention in the 2010 Green Furniture Design Awards in Sweden. She's also happy to hear that there is a new Baby Sheep bench which looks the same, but is two-thirds size.

Remember Dolly, the cloned sheep? Here's the Hello Dolly Sheep Stool by Dutch designer Frank Willems.

Nice and fleecy. Lettie approves.

I also wanted to show you The Relation Sheep bench by Korean designer Shawn Soh. Unfortunately, I couldn't get that one for you.

But here are two by designer Bo-pEEp. The first one is called Don't B Sheepish 1.  

Lettie doesn't like this one. She can't see why the wool is all piled up without any pattern or pleasing randomness. 

The second one is called Don't B Sheepish 2.

Lettie isn't keen on this either. She thinks it looks like a bathmat on a piano bench. 

Come on, girl, this is Scandinavian design. For heaven's sake, this is ART.

Lettie says she's not sure how she feels about Scandinavian design. She is making the point that these last two are not actually sheep benches; they are merely fleecey-things on legs.  

Nora:  On the matter of these two Sheepish benches, Seashell, I have some creative issues.

OK, maybe we could discuss that later though?

Nora:  How would you describe Sheepish Bench 1? Would you say it was felted wool, or woven wool, or what?

Just wool. 

Nora: Would it involve my wool by any chance?

Yes, Nora. Sheepish Bench 1 is entirely your wool. I was going to note this in the credits. 

Nora: And who is this designer Bo-pEEp?  Would this be anybody I know?

Probably not, no. It's an obscure designer in a remote area of . . . somewhere.
I need to get on now, Nora, and show Lettie the rest of the sheep benches.

Here is a delicate pastel by Russian artist Annet Loginova. It's called Two Under the Moon and features two sheep-like creatures who seem to be having a lovely time on a bench.

Lettie admires the pretty pastel. Then she has a question; she wants to know what sheep count when they can't get to sleep.

I show her two more ovines having a nice time on a bench.

my photo, Ganderkessee, Germany

Then she says she would like to see an actual sheep bench that you can sit on. Is there such a thing?

There is. For example, this robust chainsaw sheep bench is called Ewe'an from Wood Actually.

Gorgeous! I'd love to have Ewe'an in my garden at La Casa Perfecta.

And here's Ewe'an's mate Baabara.

Lettie loves the sheep but she's worried about the proximity of chainsaw and sheep with Ewe'an and Baabara. She's a sensitive child. She wonders if the chainsawing hurt them. I try to explain it's only art but Lettie is in tears.  

There, there, now. What about this nice French sheep bench? The French word for sheep is mouton and the word for bench is banc.

Lettie is worried that the French banc might foreclose on these mouton. She weeps at the thought of them being homeless.  

Nora:   I'm still interested in where you got those Sheepish Benches. 

Locally. That's all I'm going to say. Very locally.

Nora:   I thought so. Would I be right in thinking that you are the designer of the Sheepish benches, Seashell? In other words you are Bo-pEEp?

Yes, kind of. You could say that. 

Look, Lettie, look! Here are two very nice whole sheep with a lovely red barn. They're not French and no one is going to foreclose on them; this barn is theirs for life.

Sniffles but no tears at least. 

This isn't going as well as I had hoped. 

Lettie, here is a herd of sheep from your farm. I hope that seeing something familiar makes you feel better. 

drawing by Kelly Riley 

Yes, quite right, these are all your relatives. 

What do you mean they look like mutton dressed as lamb?  

Nora:  I recognise some of my felted wool scarves in that picture of Sheepish Bench 1.  Would that be the wool scarf I gave Mungo for Christmas by any chance?

Yes. But I don't think that matters. The scarf looks beautiful as part of the aesthetic qualities of the wool, don't you think?

Nora: No. It is the most appalling bench I have ever seen. Apart from Sheepish Bench 2, which is even more appalling. 

I'm sorry you think that, Nora. I was just trying to replicate some of the sheep benches I saw online. I thought I can do that. So I put the bathmat down on the piano bench and one thing led to another.

Nora: So basically Sheepish Bench 1 is your piano bench with my wool scarves on it and Sheepish Bench 2 is your piano bench with a bathmat on it?

I guess that pretty much describes them, yes. 

Nora: You have denigrated the whole concept of art. 

Sorry, Nora.  

Here are some jolly traffic-calming sheep benches in Switzerland. 

Look, you can either sit on them or you can drive around them very slowly.

No, don't worry, Lettie. No one is going to run over them with a truck. I promise. 

Look! They glow in the dark.

If you stop crying, Lettie, I'll show you a really special sheep bench picture by children's book author and illustrator Victoria Jamieson. She writes books about Bea the sheep, who is ewe-nique.  Bea is the one with the handbag but this is an old image and Bea has changed quite a lot since that time. 

illustration by Victoria Jamieson at

Yes, I agree, they're wonderful illustrations. 

Victoria Jamieson's latest book is Bea Rocks the Flock. It's for ages four to eight, which Lettie says is slightly age-inappropriate for her.

So here is April, age six, on a sheep bench with her Parallel Selves, May and June. 

Yes, the sheep does have a zip, Lettie. That's because he's a CD holder. Clever huh?

You're being silly now. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a sheep being a CD holder. He's multi-purpose. There is nothing wrong with that. 

Alright then, look at this lovely little sheep couple on a bench together. They're decorative; they have no other purpose.

They're made by Iren Adler in the Ukraine.

You're right, Lettie. Some of these are sheep ON benches rather than being an actual sheep bench. But come on. So far for actual sheep benches we've had Baabara and Ewe'an and the lovely Greenwood Woman in Shropshire and the Swedish bench and the Swiss traffic benches. And of course the two Don't B Sheepish benches. What more do you want? 

No, the sheep did not die for nothing. They're martyrs to art. Their fleeces have created beauty and comfort. And probably the sheep got eaten as well.

Ohhhhh, sorry! Sorry!  Forget I said that. Of course, no one actually eats sheep.

I know you are a practical sort of kid, Lettie. Here is something more down to earth - a sheep shearing bench from the late nineteenth century.

Yes, they would have used shears for shearing the wool off. No, I don't think that's blood that you see on the bench. It's just bits of wool. Really. Don't worry.

Tell you what, Lettie, you need to lighten up.

Nora: I hate to say it but I think your readers have been fleeced.

I was in a hurry, Nora. I had to get this sheep post done. 

Look, Nora, this is you on a marble bench on top of Don't B Sheepish 2. A sheep on top of a bench on top of a bench: it's an interesting post-modern concept don't you think?

Nora: You have used this image without my permission. You have totally destroyed my identity and my public image. 

I know. Sorry. 

But speaking of benches, there are Ladies Baa Sheep Fleece jackets on ebay. They say Bench dot on them. Of course. That's what makes them a bench. Sort of.

No, Lettie, that's not Aunt Miggy's fleece jacket. Aunt Miggy is much too large to fit in any Bench dot clothing. Besides, she's not urban cool. She's . . . rural chic. Or something. Anyway, this white fleece Bench dot jacket would be totally impractical for life in Fribble-under-Par. 

You might remember you and Aunt Miggy out walking with my dog Sit?

A llama bench? Here's a splendid one. 

So you're saying a llama is not a dog. And it isn't sitting. Fair enough.

But my point is that the clothes you were wearing on the walk are not 'fashionable urban guise.'  In other words, they are not Bench dot.

Gosh, Lettie, you are such a sensitive child. I'm trying to find some sheep benches that won't upset you. 

Here's a nice little sheep on a red bench dressed in his fleecy finest. You can't object to this, surely? 

This is a notecard made by Margot Curran who, rather like myself, likes to photograph toys. As Margot says, they're such patient subjects in the studio and they'll wear anything.

No, Lettie, it's not exploitation. The toys are models. They like to work.

Of course they don't get paid. They're toys

I have one last sheep bench I think you'll like. I found it on   It rocks. Seriously. It's bright pink and you can sit on it and rock.

Feel better now? You don't?  

Because pink is a gender stereotype and not something that should be attributed to non-gender specific animals. Who knew? 

Doing this post with Lettie has made me realise that nine year olds aren't what they used to be. When I was nine I don't think we had gender.  

Anyway, I'm going to give up now. If you want to see any more sheep you'll need to look at

But Lettie has something to show me. 

Yes, it's a sheep bench I made and I took a picture with some German friends of mine on the bench. It wasn't something I was going to put on this post though.

No, honestly, Lettie, I don't think it's good enough. We've had some really nice sheep benches here and . . .

I wish you hadn't done that, Lettie.

No, it is not so bad that it's good. It's just bad.

Stop laughing at me, Lettie. 

I mean it. 



Following my difficulties in finding sheep benches for this post I spoke to Hood-D, who studies at the Paradise Island School of Art. I asked if he could possibly come up with a simple sheep-themed bench for the community to enjoy and which I could post on the blog.  

He calls it the B/ovine Bench Concept.

image by designer Hood-D

The rest of us just call it the Cow/Sheep Bench. Everyone likes it and they all turned out for the launch. It's only the cow who isn't happy. Nora is always prepared to suffer for art.  

Nora and the sheep family are needle-felted sculptures made by Kelly Riley at Coyote Rim Studios at You can buy a felted sheep like Nora readymade. Here is Inkle:

 or you can buy a felt kit and make one yourself

Kelly also drew the family flock in 1999 so that Lettie would have something to show her lambs grandkids. Kelly is an artist and musician whose website is at

Elizabeth Cadd, the Greenwood Woman, is from Shropshire in England. She makes all kinds of beautiful things from natural materials. She runs environmental arts workshops for making furniture and all kinds of things out of greenwood. She does drawing and painting, felting, printmaking, furniture making - you name it, she does it.  I love the sheep seat and the riven oak vases she makes and shows on her blog at  Her website is at  

The Hello Dolly Sheep Stool is by Dutch designer Frank Willems, who has a whole range of interesting stools, benches, and other furniture. His website is at and you can see his fabulous Madame Rubens bench in the Alphabet of Dutch Benches

Rimgaile Samsonite specialises in interior furniture and product design. Originally from Lithuania, she graduated from Ingvar Kamprad Design Center at Lund University in Sweden. Her sheep bench won an Honorable Mention in the 2010 Green Furniture Design Awards in Sweden  She now runs her own design company in London at where Sheep is available at £710 and Baby Sheep at £420. 

Annet Loginova is an artist in Moscow in Russia (not in Moscow, Idaho, which is a sheepy type of place).  Annet's shop is at  The pastel Two Under the Moon is from a series called Snow Fairy Tales.

The two sheep on a bench together are in a front garden in the town of Ganderkesee in Germany. We spent quite a lot of time in Ganderkesee one summer on the basis that what's good for the goose is good for the ganderkesee.

Iren Adler in the Ukraine makes gemstone jewelry and felted toys, including beautiful bird brooches. The sheep in love on a bench cost $100 and are available from

The chainsaw sheep benches Ewe'an and Baabara are for sale at £95.99 each at I'd love to have both of them at La Casa Perfecta. Many thanks to Simon at Wood Actually for use of the images. 

The traffic calming sheep in Switzerland are by designer Christophe Machet at  I was really excited when I saw these and thought how much more interesting they are than bollards or sleeping policemen. Apparently people put flowerpots on them sometimes. Many thanks to Christophe for use of the two images. 

The French bancpublic bench was seen on the website  It has an amazing number of bench images.

The two sheep with a red barn on the bench is called the 'Prim Sheep Bench' ( and comes from an extraordinary collection of 6,000 sheep objects and images which Niki gathered over a life time. If ever there was a woman who loved sheep, Niki was it. Niki died in 2006 and her site is a tribute to her from her husband Thomas. They lived at Hound Heaven Farm in Fairville, Ohio. I would love to use some of her wonderful images but copyright issues for vintage artworks are just too complicated. 

Bea Rocks the Flock (Bloomsbury US) is by the brilliant author-illustrator Victoria Jamieson, whose books appeal to both adults and children. Bea is not one of those sheep who follows sheepishly; she's ewe-nique, which is why she rocks the flock. Bea was inspired by a sheep fashion parade which the author saw in Australia way back in 2003. Since then Bea has changed quite a lot and the author has moved on to other creations, such as Olympig. Her website is at and she also has a fascinating blog full of pictures and stories at  If I could illustrate like this Benchsite would look a whole lot better! 

The Welsh sheep shearing bench is at Y Casgliad Amgueddfa, otherwise known as the Ceredigion museum in Aberystwth. The museum has a wide range of material from Welsh life, past and present. Of course Welsh mountain sheep feature strongly. Their website is at  

The Bench. fleece jacket was for sale on ebay recently. I'm sure it's gone by now but there are plenty more in every colour. 

The llama bench - Lammaskaluste - was seen in the kids' department of a shop in Malmo in 2008. It was photographed by Mace Ojala, who is a librarian in Turku in Finland. His photostream suggests a love of travel and cycling. 

Margot Curran's Dressed Sheep notecard is from her ShopMargot at The Sheep notecards are $3 each or $16 for a set of six. Dressed Sheep is from a series of oil paintings inspired by toys. Margot writes: "For long hours in the studio, sitting patiently, without blinking, they pose under the lights. It's inhumane really. Don't tell them: they do it without complaint." Oh dear, maybe Lettie was right about our exploitation of toys. I'll have to ask all my Fribble characters how they feel about being models for me on this blog. I already know what Meredith and Eddie, my animal editors, think. 

The Turkish website has a great selection of sheeps in design

How important are sheep benches, anyway? Maybe you prefer goat benches? If Noah were rounding up animal benches for the ark, would the sheep benches be saved? And is 2015 the Year of the Sheep or the Year of the Goat? 

The whole subject about sheep as art is not new to me. For more about sheep in art, my poem The Year of the Sheep is in Rewriting The Map by the Vane Shore Women Writers, published by Vane Women Press in 2003. 

Don't B Sheepish 2, subtitled Bathmat on a Piano Bench is available for $4,500. Contact Bo-pEEp via this blogspot. 

And finally, working with Lettie on this post has taught me a lesson. They were certainly right when they said you should never work with dogs or children. 

Lettie's family on the farm


  1. Great! Very interesting article :) thank you very much!

  2. Many thanks, Irene. It's good to have your lovely sheep couple here. I hope all is well with you in the Ukraine today. I meant to tell you that I visited once. We had a lovely drive from Simferopol down to Yalta and then a week on the beach at Yalta. Very nice memories!

    All the best,