Artist puts feelings into felt for a good cause

Artist puts feelings into felt for a good cause

Donna Mulhollan has decided that 2020 is for the birds — but in her case, that’s a good thing. Having already dedicated the year to her feathered friends, Mulhollan has now added an effort to help humans, too. The surprise might be that her “craftivism” has nothing to do with playing music.

Mulhollan and her husband, Kelly Mulhollan, are best known to regional audiences as the musical duo Still on the Hill. What some may not remember is that they also used to perform as Toucan Jam, presenting a show titled “Things With Wings” — “an imaginary trip around the globe with story-songs about birds from every continent.”

“We had puppets and costumes and exotic instruments,” Mulhollan remembers. “We just retired that part of our world after 20 years. So as you can see, birds are a big part of our life — and birds are having a hard time right now. Species are declining so rapidly. We have written a whole new show called ‘Words on Birds’ with ‘low-tech power point’ and the works. We were going to unveil it on April 1, but then this crisis hit, and all our gigs canceled.”

Mulhollan’s “low-tech power points” have been a fixture of Still on the Hill concerts for awhile now. She creates quilt blocks to illustrate songs, using her love for and talent in fiber arts instead of a computer. Sheltered at home, with no performances for the foreseeable future, all of these aspects of Mulhollan’s creativity came together with a longtime devotion to helping the less fortunate of Fayetteville through 7Hills Homeless Center.

“We were playing at the Bentonville library recently, and there were needle felted paintings on the wall by artist Sally Ball, and they were lovely,” she explains. “I’d not heard of needle felting, so I Googled it and was so interested that I got a few supplies and tried it and was hooked. I began doing a bird a day for fun and to stave off isolation. It’s like a meditation.

“I have been obsessed with felt and wool for years,” she adds. “I always say that when I retire I will raise sheep and spin and weave their wool. In the meantime I’ve been repurposing old wool sweaters into strange vests and things. I shrink the sweater, and it becomes felt.

“I kept feeling weird about making all these woolen birds without them having a purpose,” she reflects. “Then I was curled up in a chair listening to my favorite new Saami singer, and this idea came to me.”

Mulhollan says her friend Ginny Masullo had introduced her to the idea of “craftivism” several years ago — making crafts to change the world.

“I was intrigued but didn’t know how my stuff fit in that genre,” she says. “But when I thought about making these and selling them for 7Hills, I recalled the craftivism concept and knew that this really was that.

“Years ago Kelly and I were really involved with 7Hills Homeless shelter,” Mulhollan explains. “We played music there. We made a CD for a homeless man who wrote the most powerful songs and helped him get his guitar out of pawn and did a house concert for him. Then we did several concerts where I would make a large collage about a song I’d written and put it on an easel and sing the song then silent auction the piece off. We raised plenty for 7Hills back then.

“So, sitting in the chair, I realized that I love felted wool. I’ve been buying used wool sweaters at thrift stores [so I had plenty]. And we had decided to dedicate this year to the birds. So I thought maybe I could make these felted bird paintings and sell them and give all the money to 7Hills! I could even make custom birds for takers. So I posted an owl that I felted on Facebook and immediately someone bought it, and I now have 10 orders for custom birds!”

Every day on her Facebook page, Mulhollan reveals the “daily bird” — she’s calling the project “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bird” — and those who wish to adopt it can contact her and send their check to 7Hills Homeless Center, Attn: Donations, 828 S. Seven Hills Court, Fayetteville 72701. She’s hoping for a donation of $50 or whatever a donor can afford per bird.

“I have found that when I’m feeling down, the best thing I can do is reach out and do something out there — for an individual or our community,” she says. “I think there are a lot of craftivists out there, and they just need to dream up a way of using their craft for the higher good. It’s rewarding and will help make these hard times easier!”





Go Online!

• Watch Donna Mulhollan talk about “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bird” here:

• Find her “daily bird” on her Facebook page.

• Contact her at to claim your bird or order a special bird. Only local pickup is available right now.

• Send your donation to 7Hills Homeless Center, Attn: Donations, 828 S. Seven Hills Court, Fayetteville 72701.

Categories: Cover Story