Children’s felting workshops during Kilkenny Arts Festival

On the Wednesday before Sigrid returned home I was facilitating two children’s felting workshops for the Kilkenny Arts Festival and she was kind enough to give me a hand!  The organisation was supurb from the festival committee side of things and when we arrived in the morning Sigrid and I found every help available that we could possibly need to ensure the success of the day.

Participants and their great felt from the morning workshop!

Participants and their great felt from the morning workshop!

We were lucky enough to be working in the Parade Tower of Kilkenny Castle, a beautiful building that is actually the oldest part of the castle complex.  With some friendly help from the festival volunteers we set the tables up in a U formation and got the wool and bubble wrap all set up before the first children arrived for the 10.30 workshop.  The morning session was actually supposed to be 7 to 9 year olds and the afternoon 10 to 12 year olds but in actual fact ages got a bit mixed up along the way and we had a cluster from all the ages attending both sessions.

Inspired by a mobile phone

Inspired by a mobile phone

As the children arrived Sigrid manned the weighing scales and asked each of them to choose two colours, these would be the colours for the background of their piece of flat felt.  We had some gorgous colours of Icelandic wool and what was most interesting to observe was that many of the children in the first session choose green and teal.  None of them choose red in the morning whereas in the afternoon session several children choose a red and purple combination, quite an unusual observation we thought as we didn’t prompt anyone in any way!  I gave a quick demonstration of how to lay out the background explaining how the colours mixed and then the children were able to start experimenting themselves.  Once the background was laid out in several layers (we had weighed the wool to make sure that everyone would have a thick enough background and used batts as they are easier for children than tops) the children then had the fun choice of what they wanted to select to embellish their work.  I had various scraps of prefelt which we had cut into shapes, loads of different wool fibres in a range of colours, plastic onion sacks, wool yarn and some artificial hairy yarn which incorporates into felt amazingly well.

Mother and daughter

Mother and daughter

Initially I asked each child to choose three pieces of prefelt and two or three other embellishments, as only one of the participants had every felted before I didn’t want them to be too swamped with all the choice.  Once they started to add the extras if any child needed more of anything they were free to collect it from the materials table but in general limiting the embellishments proved a good idea!  Once everyone was happy with the lay out of their piece we started wetting out and rolling the work.  This proved to be an area where all the volunteers were excellent, little hands sometimes find the rolling difficult to begin with but everything really went along very smoothly indeed with a small bit of adult assistance.
Swirls and spirals

Swirls and spirals

As per usual the wetting out and soaping proved very popular with the children although nothing compared to the last process where I let them all throw and thump their felt onto towels laid out on the floor!  I explained simply how the rubbing, rolling and throwing all helped to felt and full the fibres and by the end of both workshops we had some outstanding work for all the children to show off to friends and family.  All in all Sigrid and I thought that the workshops were a great success and thanks to Sigrid for taking the photos, you can check images of every child’s felt by clicking through to Flickr.
Children with their brilliant work, volunteers and me at the afternoon session!

Children with their brilliant work, volunteers and me at the afternoon session!

At last ‘Cascade’ is installed and Clasheen Autumn Swap

Well at last ‘Cascade’ is installed in the Great Palm House at the National Botanic Gardens thanks to a lot of help from Alan!  Thanks also to everyone who sent me emails and comments with suggestions about the stringing and transportation of the felt flowers.  I eventually wound the strands around old election posters of Alan’s and secured both ends with packing tape, it worked a dream!  I must say that we nearly came to blows on Wednesday night and I was beginning to wonder if the project would ever come to fruition but come Thursday morning everything looked a lot more hopeful and all went extremely smoothly in the actual installation thank goodness.  We arrived at the Botanic Gardens a little after eleven in the morning and Ana Duncan, Beatrice and everyone concerned with the organisation of the exhibition was a great help as were the horticultural staff working in the Palm House area itself.  We had no problem accessing the gantry and Alan ended up lying way up overhead dropping down a piece of string through the gantry floor weighted with a small fishing weight!  I then attached individual strands of flowers by means of a swivel hook before Alan pulled the whole thing up from above.  Although he needed to be careful not to pull to quickly or else the strands would wrap around each other this only happened once during the whole process and we managed to sort the problem out without too much fuss.  By about half past two we had the bulk of the long strands installed and had a welcome break for a spot of lunch.  (If you do go to see the exhibition the restaurant/coffee shop is excellent, I actually had never had anything to eat there before and realised that I had been missing out on some really great home cooked food and cookies!)  Feeling refreshed we then went back to the Palm House and I started attaching shorter strands of flowers from some of the surrounding foliage.  The main body of the installation is approx 3.5m long and the lower strands just serve to continue the cascade down to a level where everyone will be able to view and enjoy the felt including the many children who have great fun running around in the garden.  We finished the work by about five o’clock when I positioned some loose felt flowers amongst the lowest plants to ground the whole installation.  Alan thought that the flowers could be a bit bigger but overall I am pretty happy with the result.  I think that the masses of small flowers do what I proposed in my submission but obviously I will need to let the public be the deciders of that!  I was so wrapped up in installing the work that I didn’t think to take any photos but Sculpture in Context opens on Wednesday night and providing I locate my camera (which I have mislaid since last weekend) I intend taking images which I will then post to the blog and Flickr.

Clasheen Autumn Swap  – sign up today!

Sorry about the really late notice for those of you not checking the Clasheen Crafty Swap group regularly on Flickr but sign ups for this swap close tonight as I want to get partners assigned before I leave home on Tuesday afternoon for our holidays.  This swap is all about spoiling your partner on a budget, a little bit like a Green meets New Year de-stash swap with a difference! We will create a thoughtful but inexpensive package using mainly items that we already have in our homes or can buy locally and add in a little hand made gift that we have created ourselves for our swap buddy. Using the list below for guidance select at least five items that you already have at home and then let your imagination do the rest ……..

Old craft magazines or book you no longer need
That gorgeous soap or body lotion that you have never opened
Buttons and beads
Fibre (the more the merrier!!)
Yarn
Hand made paper
Greeting cards
Notebook
Candles
Jewellery that you have never worn
Fabric
Ribbons and bows
Scrap leather
Coffee
Your favourite tea
Chocolate
Patterns
etc., etc., etc.

If you want to sign up for the swap please go to our sign up page on Flickr and make sure to also add your likes and dislikes to the relevant page.  Packages then need to be sent by Friday 16th October (any earlier is a bonus!) giving everyone plenty of time to make their hand made gift and put together their package.

Feeling frustrated and grumpy with the felt flowers!

Whatever gave me the idea that stringing the felt flowers would be the last task of completing my piece for Sculpture in Context and however did I get the idea that this part of the project would be fun???  As posted previously I had decided to string the flowers on clear nylon thread but before too long it became obvious that this thread was not strong enough to deal with my rough handling.  The felt flowers themselves are very light but there is no point putting together a piece if I am going to be worried about it’s durability for the whole time I am away in the States.  One trip to an old fashioned hardware and I came home armed with strong fishing line and little lead weights which I am adding to the last flower on each strand.  This time the nylon is plenty strong enough but the difficulty is dealing with approx 3.5m of line and attaching 14 to 20 flowers per strand without the whole caboodle getting totally twisted and knotted together.  Patience is definitely NOT one of my strong points but as Sigrid pointed out time and time again during her workshops it is the repeated simple actions done well that create the best and most satisfying work.  At this stage I now have 14 strands assembled and have decided to have a slice of melon to cool my nerves!  Hopefully Alan will arrive towards the end of the afternoon because he will be helping me make the wire frame for the flowers to hang from, I will keep you posted!!

Assembling the cascade of felt flowers

Tomorrow morning I am going to make yet more felt flowers and then all the fun will start with assembling my  ‘cascade’ for Sculpture in Context.  Alan and I made a trip to the National Botanic Gardens on Saturday to have another look at where I will be installing my piece and discovered that the Great Palm House gets heavily misted twice a day.  This leads me to think that I am going to slightly alter how I had planned securing the felt flowers so that if they do get very wet they will not droop and sag too much.  I now intend stringing them on to clear nylon thread as opposed to wire and I need to buy some fishing weights for the bottom flowers.  I hope that this will prevent the long strands from tangling together if there is a bit of a draft inside although I don’t think that there should be too much wind so fingers crossed it will  be all right.  Alan still can’t visualise what I have in mind and at this stage with the installation schedualed for Thursday I am beginning to get a bit nervous myself!  When I made the submission I was informed I needed to have hundreds of flowers, now I am not sure that hundreds will create enough impact!!

Nuno mosaic workshop confirmed for San Fransisco!

Thanks so much to fellow felter Nancy Schwab for helping me organise my first felting workshop in America.  Nancy contacted Jamie from Urban Fauna Studio and hey presto, we are up and running with a nuno mosaic day on Thursday 1st October at her gorgeous studio and fiber boutique!  I must say the images on Jamie’s website make me want to drool so I can only imagine what I will be like in reality when presented to all that gorgeous fiber and yarn.  Isn’t it amazing the virtual connections that the internet enables and how wonderful it will be to actually meet some online friends in the flesh at last!  Thanks also to Tobie, maybe we can get together anyway at Jamies and hopefully this will be my first felting experience of many in the States.  If any of you are interested in securing a spot in what promises to be a fun day please just click here to go directly to the booking page!

More flowers and images of two new nuno mosaic scarves

I am really putting my mind down to making these flowers for my piece at Sculpture in Context.  Since Sunday morning I have made over 400 of them so in search of light relief I also made two mosaic nuno scarves ‘a la Sigrid Bannier’ with a twist!  The nuno mosaic technique I learnt last November from Sigrid and have used a lot since then, the holes are my own take on the idea to add a quirky feel to these scarves.

Detail of mosaic nuno scarf
Detail of mosaic nuno scarf

On Sigrid’s last day in Ireland she helped me with 2 children’s felting workshops that I was delivering at the Kilkenny Arts Festival.  On our way home we stopped at a great Kilkenny shop called Threads of Green and discovered some amazing printed silks on special offer.  Apparantly it is really difficult to buy printed silk in Germany and in fact the last time that Sigrid picked up some it was in Brussles!  We both bought some of the silk chiffons on special offer and I fell in love with this amazing sequined silk (unfortunately not on offer!!), hence the experiment incorporating it into a piece of nuno mosaic.  I love the way that it felted and now am off to make a larger scarf, it looks amazingly glamorous with the sequins although I don’t think too cheap and glitzy!  You can check out some more images of this piece and the other new scarf that I have made on Flickr.

Catching up with news, felt lampshade workshops, any felters in California?

Well I have so much news to write about and only so much time to do it in!  Sigrid travelled back to Germany on Thursday after a wonderful 2 weeks together here at Clasheen and since then I am trying to catch up on household chores, complete my 450+ flowers for ‘Sculpture in Context’, submit a proposal for a craft exchange to Norway and make and submit my entry for an international felt exhibition ….. all these have to be completed before Thursday 27th, some by August 24th!  On September 2nd ‘Sculpture in Context’ opens and on the following morning Alan and I fly to San Fransisco for a 4 week road trip, woo hoo, I am really excited to be travelling to the States for another vacation!

OK, let’s take all these things in order and then I will follow up with some more detailed posts over the coming week to bring you all up to speed with events here in Ireland as well as posting about Anna Gunnarsdottir’s wonderful 2 day ‘felt sculpture’ workshop at ‘Felt in Focus’

Sigrid Bannier’s 2 day felt lampshade workshop went brilliantly, each participant made at least one completed piece with some creating several items over the course of the weekend.  The most useful knowledge gained from this workshop for me was realising how you could adapt basic light fittings and put them to many uses when deciding how to create your lampshades or light fittings. 

Anne with her finished felt lampshade

Anne with her finished felt lampshade

Some participants came armed with a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve and Sigrid was very good at enabling people see how their thoughts could be turned into reality.  Other people had no preconcieved ideas and let Sigrid’s photos and the basic lamp fittings dictate what their finished piece would be like.  The simplest ideas often work the best and by hanging a very fine piece of light coloured felt in front of a wall light beautiful effects can be achieved.  Gerd (who had only felted once before!) incorporated fresh rushes (a type of grass found in boggy ground) into her wall piece and initally had intended creating two lampshades using this method.  Half way through the process she decided to keep the felt as one piece to hang in front of her double height window allowing the natural light to shine through the felt and reveal the gorgeous pattern created by the vegetation.  More images of work in progress and finished pieces from this workshop may be found on  Flickr and when Carmen and Patricia have finished their flower covered shades I promise to take pictures and post them as well!

This is just an off chance but are any of you living in the upper part of California and if so would you be interested in me delivering a felt workshop during the month of September???  Alan and I will be travelling to San Fransisco on 3rd September for 4 weeks and participants from a local Irish stone symposium will be staying in my house for the duration.  This is a win win situation as my friend and well known sculptor Eileen MacDonagh has organised participants from the symposium to house sit during my trip, for these people they get a great location and free accomodation for the month while I get my house minded and my dog fed!  Alan and I are collecting a car in San Fransisco and our intended route extends northwards to encompass amongst others Napa, Mendocino, Redwood National Park, Lava Beds National Monument then travels south through Lassen Volcanis National Park, Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake and returns to San Fransisco via the Big Sur coastline.  If any of you are interested in the possibility of me teaching a felting workshop please email me asap and we can discuss the various options.  It would be absolutely amazing to meet some followers of the blog in person so do please contact me or leave comments if you live anywhere near where we are travelling and who knows we might get time for a coffee and a chat!

Some explainations and more images from day two of Sigrid Bannier’s felt workshops!

Day two of Sigrid’s workshops saw a variety of amazing projects being planned and seen through to completition!  The topic of the day was felting with inclusions and participants brought objects along with them to include and also had access to the brilliant seaweed, driftwood, stones and other items which Sigrid and I had collected on our expidition to the Wexford coast the previous Saturday.  Some people chose to go for a walk around the land beside Carmen’s studio (thanks a million Carmen for the great space to work in!) and came back armed with pieces of rusty metal and all kinds of vegetation to be felted into the various projects.

Anne contemplating her collection of found objects and getting a bit of refreshment before the work begins!

Anne contemplating her collection of found objects and getting a bit of refreshment before the work begins!

Everybody discussed with Sigrid their ideas and concepts before embarking on the main work of laying out their wool.  Very luckily I was able to collect my order of Icelandic wool from the post office that very morning as I had been panicking that it would not arrive on time!!!  This wool is a fibre that I had been introduced to by Anna Gunnarsdottir in Denmark at Felt in Focus and I had thought it would be excellent for the lampshades and any work using inclusions.  (What was an added bonus once I opened the box was how wonderful the colours were, in Denmark I only saw the natural white and a scrap of natural charcoal as well.  I now intend trying to become the Irish stockist for this specialised fibre so watch this space and hopefully I will be offering the wool for sale over the coming weeks.)  Ali, Shirley and Deirdre decided to create panels of almost see through felt with various inclusions including seaweed, rushes, seed heads and grass.  Anne worked on a three dimensional felt sculpture incorporating rusty metal and various stones within the felt structure.  Maria started by making a gorgeous necklace incorporating some of her stash of limpid shells with holes in the middle and then progressed to a double sided sample incorporating shell and found sea washed glass. 
Maria's sample using Icelandic wool with shell and glass inclusions

Maria's sample using Icelandic wool with shell and glass inclusions

Carmen decided to make an exceptionally thick layered piece of felt which she would then carve into to expost various colours so 42 layers later she was ready to roc and roll!!  Sharon travelled all the way from Donegal to do a condensed version of the felt lampshade workshop and after showing Sigrid some images that she had broght with her a design concept was achieved.  Sharon then set to laying out her wool and during the course of the day made a wonderful punched felt lampshade which looked marvellous when we experimented with adding the light fittings at the end of the workshop.  Unfortunately my camera choose this moment to have charging problems so you will just have to wait until Sigrid sends me a copy of all the great images she took before seeing Sharon’s final result.  By the end of the day everyone had completed successfully all the work that they had intended and left totally fired up about the possiblilty of experimenting with further inclusions at home in the future.  Shirley also make her first successful felt vessel in addition to her felt panel so congratulations to everyone on a great day of felting!

Shirley's beautiful felt vessel

Shirley's beautiful felt vessel

Some images from day two of Sigrid Bannier’s felt workshops (will follow up with explainations as soon as I get a minute!)

Deirdre and Sharon alying out their felt projects incorporating fresh and dried natural items

Deirdre and Sharon laying out their felt projects incorporating fresh and dried natural items

Sigrid and Maria with a stunning felt and shell (limpid) necklace

Sigrid and Maria with a stunning felt and shell (limpid) necklace

Anne and Sigrid with Anne's amazing felt, rusty iron and stone sculpture!

Anne and Sigrid with Anne's amazing felt, rusty iron and stone sculpture!