1722 hits and counting

1722 sounds like a date but in actual fact these are the number of hits to date on this blog since I posted my first ramblings on 10th April ’08!  I am really delighted that numbers are multiplying month on month and have now added a counter at the bottom right hand side of the blog.

Because of my injured hand I have had plenty of time to think about my work and what I will be preparing for the Crafts Council.  To date I have made several pieces since I got selected to participate in ‘Breaking Out’, but as I really want to ‘wow’ them I still need to strive for that special piece to materialise.  I am intending on incorporating some found items into my work as well and hope that when I find those special items the piece will just come naturally, fingers crossed!  I have also been working on some designs for a couple of new bags and a vessel with some shibori elements, hopefully my hand will be healed enough next week to put them into action.  The Irish Green Gathering is also in the final 10 days of preparation so probably it is a good thing that I don’t have as much time to felt.

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Injured felter!!

Recycled metal and wet felt necklace

Recycled metal and wet felt necklace

I had a lucky escape on Thursday morning when I got a nasty cut at the edge of my little finger whilst trying to do the washing up!  Housework is not my strong point but I had decided to clear the decks in the kitchen before getting stuck in to a bit of felting and a couple of calls re. the Irish Green Gathering.  Unfortunately a recycled glass Mexican wine glass ‘exploded’ in the sink just as I was inserting the sponge held by my my right hand into the cup shape and voila, a nasty deep cut and a trip to the doctor ensued.  One finger glued together later, today I have decided just to post a couple of pictures of recent work and wait ’til the next post to finish talking about the Anita Larkin workshop.

Nuno felt and merino handbag

Nuno felt and merino handbag

Making cords the Australian way!

Before I discuss the new way that we learnt of making cords at the Anita Larkin workshop, I just want to say that all the techniques we tried over the weekend ultimately unite and allow you to create exciting scupltural 3 dimensional pieces of felt!  At first it seems that learning how to make cords is very basic at a workshop for people who have all felted before but you are never too late to learn new techniques.   Most of you are familiar with making cords and probably everyone has their favourite method.  How many can there be you might ask but I certainly learnt a totally different method from Anita than any I had seen used before.  Lay out a long layer of very fine fibres in a diagonal and then lay a second layer on top of these in the opposite direction, also diagonally.  If you want to make a thicker section lay some more layers in that place and then dry felt the fibres by lightly moving your hands over them as with wet felting.  Using your spray bottle VERY lighlty wet along only the edge of the fibres and then roll them gently into a log shape.  If you are going to be attaching this rope to another piece of felt leave the ends dry for the moment.  Using the minimum amount of warm water lightly wet the sausage shaped fibre log and with soapy hands roll it very lightly on your bubble wrap, blind or sushi mat.  As far as I can see the biggest difference is in the way the fibres are laid on the diaganol and the volume of (or lack of) water used.  This seems to make a very solid and strong cord.  Shapes that were started as in the previous post may be added on at any time once the cord starts to hold its shape or the cord itsef may be attached to another piece of felt that you are in the process of making.  Next post I will discuss inserting wire into felt and wrapping a solid object in felt.  I also want to post a few more images of work that I have completed recently to keep the blog a little bit visual!

Using a wire brush while felting! Silk paper workshop.

An amazing tip learnt during the Anita Larkin workshop concerns the use of a wire brush!  People had brought different sized brushes to try, but for fairly small pieces of work a suede shoe brush seemed perfect.  We used these when repairing a seam or depression caused by uneven rolling, attaching an object or closing the hole created when removing the plastic around a resist (explanation re resists Anita’s way to follow in another post).  I hope that I can explain what we did clearly but if it is not obvious enough please let me know.  The type of ridge/depression I am talking about is that created by uneven pressure when rolling a ball or a cord, often a problem for me and I am sure that most of you know what I am talking about.  Once you notice a ridge or depression forming at the pre felt stage use your wire brush gently to fluff up the fibres on either side of the problem area.  Holding the piece of felt lightly in your hands (or on the table if easier) smooth the fibres with your fingers and encourage them to move towards each other.  It is important that if the ridge goes in one direction you make the smoothing action in the opposite direction, ie. at a 90 degree angle to where the ridge is lying.  Keep smoothing very gently for quite a few minutes and you will notice that the ridge or depression magically seals over.  This method of fluffing up the fibres with a wire brush also allows you to attach a prefelted object to another piece of felt, just fluff up the side where you wish to make your join and work the seal very slowly and carefully.  Next time that I write a post I will discuss Anita’s method of making cords and inserting wire into felt. 

I did want to mention today however that on Saturday I attended an excellent one day workshop about silk paper making facilitated by Tunde Toth.  This workshop was organised by the South East Textile Group and took place at our usual venue in the Demense Yard at Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny.  Tunde is an artist working from the Kozo Gallery in Thomastown and specialises in different types of paper making.  She brought a great range of fibres for us to work with, initially we made a basic silk paper and then got really stuck in using inclusions and dyes as we became more experimental.  I found the whole process really inspiring as depending on the thickness of the paper made I feel it will be possible to insert the silk paper into a piece of felt at the early part of the felting process.  Already I have made a couple of experiments with silk paper that I made on Saturday, more on this subject as soon as I have finished writing about the scupltural feltmaking weekend with Anita.

Australian versus European wet felting techniques

Thanks very much to all of you who are sending me emails and posting such nice comments on my blog, it is really nice to get feedback from my peers so please keep it up!

As promised I am going to write several posts over the next week or so about the various different aspects of sculptural feltmaking that I learnt at the Anita Larkin workshop last weekend.  I was a bit physically tired when I got to Dublin and probably that made certain things seem very difficult to master.  Day 1 was actually more successful for me than day 2 but obviously mistakes and disasters are also informative so hopefully I can learn something from them as well!

We started the first day by making felt balls, a TOTALLY different method than any I have ever used or heard of to date.  Using merino roving we laid out a square shape using several thin layers of wool (approx 5) on a bamboo blind and then ‘dry’ felted it for a few seconds.  This was done by placing the palm of our hand on the pile of fibres and slightly moving our hand in a circular motion.  Next we folded up the corner of two sides to form an angle and lifted the pile in our hands.  The rest of the wool was shaped into a ball by rotating the fibres around this angle, a bit like wrapping or rolling a wan ton.  Careful attention was paid to the last fibres completing the ball making sure that they did not form any ridges.  The resulting ball was then held VERY LIGHTLY in one hand and dunked into hot water for no more that a second.  When lifted out of the water we then used our other hand to very carefully stroke the ball with soapy fingers.  The idea was to form a skin on the ball but to have the inside fibres basically almost totally dry and unfelted.  At this pre pre felt stage the balls were amazingly light and spongy.  Anita explained to us that at this stage if we kept lightly wetting, soaping and rolling or working the ball by hand the fibres would always move to the centre and form a ball.  HOWEVER, because the outside skin was barely formed and the inside was not felted at all we now had the option of forming any shape we wanted, amazing!  By manipulating the ball in various ways an almost infinite number of shapes can be made.  I made a star fruit shape by placing the ball between my two index and middle fingers and squeezing and working it into shape.  If I cut it into a cross section it would look like an X, hope you can visualise this from my explanation.  As the shape is forming you can suspend work and decide to attach it to another piece of felt aided by a wire brush.  Why not try making a shape for yourself and we can learn more on the next post tomorrow!!

Felting update

I have just returned from an inspiring weekend workshop (organised by Feltmakers Ireland) with Australian sculptor and feltmaker Anita Larkin.  We were learning several different techniques, making balls, making cords, covering an item and creating pieces with multiple layers (via multiple resists).  If this sounds like work that you may already have done WAIT UNTIL MY NEXT POST!  Because of the need to conserve water in Australia Anita works in a slightly different manner, so obvious once you see it in action and I will explain a bit more tomorrow as soon as I have caught up with some urgent work on the Irish Green Gathering.

Exciting news re. ‘Breaking Out’!

I am really excited today as I have just recieved a letter from the Crafts Council informing me that I am one of the emerging makers that have been selected for inclusion in ‘Breaking Out’.  This means that I get the opportunity to work with the curator in creating a body of work that potentially will be included in the ‘Breaking Out’ exhibition, opening at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny in October 2008.  Thanks a million to everyone who supported and encouraged me when I was preparing my application especially Alan, Cathy and Bernie.  I would also like to mention again how helpful I found all the great Artlinkspersonal development courses I attended and really recommend that all creative practitioners in the South East join up immediately.