A Northumberland artist is using her work to support endangered Scottish wildlife.

Lauren Smith (25) has been commissioned by Aigas Field Centre in Inverness-shire to needle felt versions of its endangered Scottish wildcats, which will be used in the charity’s adoption packs. Lauren, who is studying a Masters in Design at the University of Sunderland, uses locally sourced wool for her creations of British woodland animals. As well as the specially commissioned wildcats, she has made hedgehogs, foxes, and badgers which she promotes through Instagram.

Lauren said: “I watched a documentary called the Tigers of Scotland in January 2019. At that point, I didn’t even know we had wildcats in the UK. I saw one of the keepers worked for Aigas so I looked them up on Google and suddenly I had an idea to make wildcat brooches. I’d always wanted to do something with animals but my passion for art was always stronger. This way I could combine the two.

“I feel like I’ve been needle felting for all my life, but it’s actually only been since 2018. I saw a needle felted dog with a party hat on when I worked at Newcastle Arts Centre and it became my life purpose to make something similar. My mum shared my work on Facebook and I started getting commissions straight away!”

Lauren hopes that once lockdown is over, she can visit the wildcats she’s been needle felting.

She said: “I had hoped to go up there last summer with my partner but that wasn’t possible. It would be great to meet the keepers who commissioned me!”

Aigas Field Centre has had a wildcat breeding programme since 2011, focusing on breeding animals in captivity with a plan to release them into the Highlands from 2022.