Felt and art, a universal language!

One of the brilliant knock on effects of nominating inspirational blogging friends for an award is that you get to check out all the blogs that they in turn recommend!  Although I have not had time yet to check out all these new recommendations a blog that I have visited and would love to mention is Magic Felt.  This is one of the blogs that Jane Bo passed the award on to and although it is written in Russian (not one of my best languages!) the images speak for themselves, fantastically inspirational.  They demonstrate clearly that felt and art are universal languages, you don’t need to understand a word of Russian to really appreciate the skill and artistry in Susan’s beautiful creations.  Thanks to my friend Cathywho helped me set up Google Reader, now I can monitor all the blogs that I follow every day from one simple home page.

On the felting side of things I started another rug yesterday morning using the Osman technique.  This time I used one of the rug bases that I had brought back from Germany, it was made with a coarser wool than the recent ones and as a result seems to felt up into a thicker end product.  I laid out a simple and colourful design perfectly suitable for a little girl’s room or even the boudoir of a not so little girl!  A stylised bird in the middle, a large heart in one corner and circles and dots of brightly coloured wool over the rest of the base.  I used a pinky red for the border and added gorgeous orange silk to highlight the bird, heart and the border.  The bird and heart are worked in bright orange, pink, purple and red which I have laid in such a way as to blend together, not clash!  I did have one major problem when I completed my first hours rolling; because of the way that I rolled the rug up in a bamboo blind the border which was closest to the centre of the package did not felt into the base, instead the wool felted to itself and formed a rope that was completly seperate to the rest of the rug.  With hindsight I should have used the large plastic mat that Mehmet gave me from Turkey but I just did not have the space here at my house, the studio is totally snowed under with messiness again, really I need to get a grip on it!  In fact Mehmet and I will be going into business importing these mats into Ireland and I am really looking forward to getting ones designed specifically for individual use, large enough for one person to lay out a decent sized rug on but easy enough to work by yourself.  Anyway, I had to cut off the ‘rope’, lay the border again and then use the electric sander to try and combine the new fibres with the already shrunk base, a bit of work involved but all in all it worked pretty well.  Another couple of hours rolling, 2 goes in the washing machine, more hours rolling last night and about 40 minutes rolling this morning, a gorgeous rug is now awaiting shaving and just begging for a little girl to love it!  As soon as my camera charges up I will take some images and post them here and on Flickr.


Pictures of finished rug and ‘Creative Blog Award’

The finished rug!

The finished rug!

This morning as promised I was able to take a photo of my completed rug!  I know that this type of angled shot distorts the shape somewhat but I think that it is quite obvious how the sky area has shrunk more from left to right than the bottom section demonstrating clearly that the way we lay down the fibres makes a huge difference.  You should also be able to see how textured the areas are that were left uncovered with the coloured wool, the inside of the leaping animal for example is really crinkly and textured.

Close up of leaping animal

Thanks Irene for honouring me with this ‘Creative Blog Award’ !

For those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo’s, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd.”

The rules are:

1. The winner must copy this Award to their own blog
2. Link to the blog from whence you received the Award
3. Nominate a minimum of 7 other bloggers
4. Link to the nominated on your blog
5. Leave comment about the award on the nominated blogs.

The blogs that I would like to nominate are Deb Seeger, The Wolly Way, Her Majesty Margo, I’m a Ginger Monkey, A Hole in the Basket Primatives, Pretty Ditty and Jane Bo.

Horrah, I finished felting and fulling my rug!

This evening I finished felting and fulling the rug I made at Mehmet Girgic’s workshop last week.  With all the excitement and action of organising the 2 workshops I didn’t get my rug worked and shrunk as much as I would have liked during the course.  Today I was at Woodbrook with Giles and Alexandra sorting out a couple of things and I was able to collect my rug and finish it here this evening.  First I gave it a quick wash in my washing machine to get it damp and ready to roll, then I started rolling and rubbing to continue the fulling process.  It was actually pretty good fun as I was able to feel the fibres contracting and thickening to quite a degree and I really wanted to achieve a good quality finish.  After about 30 minutes of action I threw it in the machine again for another cycle and then I worked it by hand again for about another 40 minutes.  One thing that has been very interesting is that the rug bases we used in Ireland are prepared from a different wool than those we worked with at the course I attended with Mehmet in Germany.  They definitely don’t felt down into such a thick rug unless you REALLY work and roll them for about 8 hours and it was also interesting seeing the shrinkage difference in the areas where I had laid wool roving and wool tops, morning I am going to take some pictures of the finished rug and you will see exactly what I mean.  The sky area where I lightly laid the Amerian merino roving  felted more that the mountainous landscape where I used some of the New Zealand batts giving a narrower top edge than bottom.  Even though I have paitently worked the bottom edge quite a bit more than the top the difference is still visable but since the rug is a naive scene in some ways this adds to the charm!  I also love the fact that the rugs are totally machine washable when felted, an amazing selling point if doing commissions for rugs or wallhangings.

Seamless felt bags and New Year swap update

Mari's seamless felt bag

Mari's seamless felt bag

The South East Textile Group held our first meeting of the year last Saturday and it was my turn to share some skills and facilitate the workshop.  We met at the Demanse Yard in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny and as usual started the morning with a coffee and chat in the beautiful light filled restaurant/coffee shop.  Our theme for the day was ‘felt bags’ and luckily I got my newsletter from the secretary during the end of last week or they would have been without a tutor as with all the excitement of the rug making I had totally forgotton to make a note of the date in my diary!   We had a great turnout of members and as many of them had only felted once or twice before I really wanted to make sure that they all had a good experience and went home with their own beautiful completed bag. 

Anne's seamless felt bag

Anne's seamless felt bag

We started the workshop by passing around some seamless bags that I had previously made and I explained that I wanted everyone to work using an oval resist, the different shapes of the finished bags would be achieved by cutting the opening in different positions.  I prefer using laminate floor underlay as my resist and we had a brief discussion about how this layer of plastic is like a letter in an envelope and prevents the fibres from both sides sticking together when starting the felting process.  Because I had a lot of wool ordered for Mehmet’s rug making workshops I had a nice selection of colours for anyone to choose from if they didn’t have their own wool to work with and once everyone had selected and weighed their wool (mainly long fibred American merino but also a few colours in New Zealand merino batts) I showed them how to lay out the fibres in even layers on top of their oval shaped resist.  When using this method it is really important to take care when turning your package over and keeping the fibres tight around the outside as you flip the loose strands from one side to the other.  Because some of the members had only felted once before we did have a few laughs trying to get to grips with the concept of seamless felting; which layers of wool would become the inside of the bag, which the front, which the back, where would the design end up etc.  but once everyone understood what we were aiming to achieve some beautiful bags started to take shape.  Interestingly enough one of the completed bags actually looked even better when turned inside out, something that quite often happens when felting, one of the reasons that I love the process!  Wonderful bags made by novice felters!We wet the layers of wool out (all the bags were worked between 2 layers of bubble wrap) with warm water and olive oil soap, massaged the fibres, flipped the whole thing over and then laid out the other side.  In order for everyone to have a well finished bag I kept a close eye on how the members were laying to wool out, some used 3 layers before laying out any final decoration, some 4 layers.  I had brought a goodie bag with a selection of different coloured wool for the final layer and also some great mulberry silk which some people choose to incorporate into their design.  We broke for lunch at this stage and returned in the afternoon to roll, throw and complete the fulling process.  Once the packages had shrunk enough and the members could feel the resist culing inside the felt it was time to cut open the package and decide where to place the handles.  Some members cut out a semi-circle of felt as I had done in my demo bags, Mari and Mary actually didn’t cut a whole piece of felt out but created clever little flaps to use as closures in the finished bags.  Once the bags were felted fully I showed everyone how to make a simple cord handle and a couple of people went on to decorate their bags with great felt flowers as well!

The Clasheen New Year destash swap is now underway and swap partners have been assigned! 

Annabie swaps with Clear2glass
edwardsdawn41 swaps with Shelivesacharmedlife
Clasheen swaps with ABarrett
Girly Girl Bags swaps with weepereas

Check out our Flickr group to see exactly what we are up to and why not join in the fun next time around!

More images of felt rugs in progress

For some reason I am having problems today uploading images to my blog so if you are looking forward to images from the second rug making workshop check out my Flickr photos.  I have also uploaded a short video there showing Carmen, Mehmet and Maeve rolling and kicking the rugs!  Hopefully tomorrow my internet connection will be behaving properly and I promise to write a much longer post complete with more images.  Yesterday I was facilitating a bag making workshop in the Demanse Yard at Castlecomer and today I am zonked!

Second rug making workshop over and Mehmet returns home

Yesterday our second rug making workshop with Mehmet Girgic ended and another happy bunch of novice and experienced feltmakers went home with completed projects.  Again it was really interesting to see how everybody’s style was totally individual, over the weekend I will upload more images and you will all see exactly what I mean.  At this workshop I had the opportunity, space and time to make a large rug myself and took the decision to work using a style totally alien to me!!  My inspiration came from a book about Mexican houses that I have with pictures of some beautiful pottery tiles  and my central motif is a large leaping animal, possibly a deer.  Other motifs from the tiles surround this central animal but the background is pure Clasheen, a mountainous scene executed using the colours that I see around me very day!  The result is a very naive scene that I am both very happy with and strangely undecided about, it is SO unlike anything that I have previously done that I am really not 100% sure what I think of it.  Anyway, I will get the images up over the weekend when I have time to take breath and you can all make up your own minds!  Mehmet and I had an uneventful trip to Dublin airport this morning and discussed our planned group trip (which I will organise) to his workshop in Konya which I hope will take place in the Autumn.  Watch this space!

Our beautiful felt rugs (and bag!)

A happy group of felters!

A happy group of felters!

At last my internet connection is working again and I can show you the beautiful results of our first rug making workshop with Mehmet Girgic.  We spent a fantastic weekend working and learning the Osman technique and I am sure you will agree from the accompanying photo that all our effort was time well spent.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the workshop was that you can give everyone the same raw materials, in this case a 2100mm X 1900mm rug base and different coloured carded wool, but no two people end up with remotely similar pieces.  Traditional rug making motifs did come through in several different people’s work but due to all the various colour permutations each of these rugs had a totally individual style.  Matthew, who had no previous experience made a fantastic rug and really everybody regardless of how long they had been felting left the weekend with a great sense of achievement. 

Because of the space constraints with 8 others working on such a large scale I decided to make a smaller piece at the weekend workshop and a bigger rug this week.  In actual fact this proved to be a great choice as Mehmet showed me how to convert my smaller piece of flat felt into a strong and attractive seamless carpet bag.  I will explain the process over the course of my next couple of posts, now I am off to upload a few more images to flickr and prepare myself for tomorrows felting and fulling of my bigger rug!!

Ravishing rugs!

Day one of the first Mehmet Girgic workshop has now officially ended!  Nine rugs are lying in state in preparation for tomorrow morning and it is fascinating and exciting seeing how everyone’s work is progressing. Obviously I will get time on our day of rest (Monday) to update you properly but thankfully everything is going according to plan and I am trying to take lots of pictures to put up on the blog next week.

Mad days, last chances and thanks!

Well, today was a mad day and I definitely think that yesterday must have set the target for a totally crazy week!  I completed my submission for ‘Organic Geometry’, an upcoming exhibition at the National Craft Gallery.  My new laptop wouldn’t send either documents or jpegs to the printer or to a cd, my old one took 25 mins to boot up and my Rayburn decided that it was time to have a seizure, possibly the result of letting my oil get to a dangerously low level recently.  Got the Rayburn serviced, (thanks a million Michael and Philip of Nolan Heating Services, super fast service) eventually got my proposal printed off, drove to Kilkenny and brought my memory stick to the chemist to get the necessary images printed and on disc.  Finally got sorted with the proposal and got stuck in dreadful traffic on the way home where the new Kilkenny bypass is under construction.  While stuck in traffic had a phone call from a logistics company based out the far side of Dublin saying that a package had arrived for me from Turkey but that Customs would not release it until the paperwork was personally signed by me, a fee paid and the correct documentation processed by them.  They emailed me the paperwork and naturally my internet connection decided to pack up before I had details of where I needed to send the thing.  Talked to my sister over the phone and got her to log into my email account, got the details and then had to take the decision to get up before 5am this morning in order to drive to the company (they seem to work 24/7) as I needed to be in Tallaght, Dublin for a 10am start, my first day of Child Protection Training in preparation for Craft in the Classroom!  Eventually got all that sorted out, hopefully Customs will release the parcel as I need it for this weekend’s rug making workshops!!  Another day of training in Dublin looms tomorrow and then I need to finish sorting the house out for Thursday evening, does this sound like a more relaxing day???

Tonight is the last chance to sign up for the Clasheen New Year Stash Swap and if you are enjoying following any Irish blogs from anywhere in the world please consider nominating them in the relevant catagory before 6pm Irish time tomorrow.

A big thank you to fellow fibre artist Nancy from Enee Fabric Design for her lovely post recommending my blog.  After the 2 days that I have had it was a fantastic boost!  Thanks also to all of you who have taken the time to either comment or send me an email wishing me fun and luck with Mehmet Girgic’s rug making workshops.  I am going to take oodles of pictures for you all to drool over so please forgive the lack of felting content today, I am about to drop into bed!!

Rug making workshops and submission

Yesterday I was down in Woodbrook House with Giles organising the layout of the room for Mehmet Girgic’s rug making workshops.  The bases that he is bringing over from Turkey are actually a lot larger that we used in Germany so while this has the advantage of a much bigger finished rug it meant a bit of a headache getting the room set up.  More tables, countless measuring sessions, moving things around and hopefully we are ready to roll.  I am really looking forward to his trip now but due to a couple of unavoidable cancellations need to get 3 or 4 more people booked in for the second workshop in order to cover my expenses bringing Mehmet to Ireland.  I will be under quite a bit of financial pressure unless these places are filled so if you think that you might know anyone interested at this late stage please ask them to contact me asap!

Submissions close this week for an exhibition called ‘Organic Geometry’ and I was hoping to finish mine this morning.  I know that I am putting myself under a lot of pressure this week (HSE child protection training on Tuesday and Wednesday) with Mehmet’s arrival on Thursday and all the work involved before he actually gets here but I really hope to get my submission completed and in on time.  Ann Mulrooney is curating the exhibition for the Crafts Council and it is to be held at the National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny, opening mid April.  Wish me luck!!