I had a WONDERFUL time at Urban Fauna Studio on my last full day in the States! Blas and Jamie have a superb set up, wonderful fibres, yarns, books and notions etc. all neatly laid out in a small but practical space in a quiet part of the Mission district in San Fransisco. Alan and I arrived in the city during rush hour (I guess that should be rush hours!!) on Wednesday evening and I have to say it was only then that I discovered how far downtown San Fransisco actually was from the studio, although we had driven through the city at the beginning of the holiday I really didn’t realise that it was so big. Luckily Alan is someone who likes to study all the local maps from an area as soon as we arrive and boy was I happy when he found out that the Muni light rail system could practically drop me from our hotel on O’Farrell Street to Urban Fauna’s door, all for the cool price of only $2, a lot less stressful than driving!
I duly arrived on Thursday morning looking forward to meeting proprietor Blas and scoping out the facilities in advance of the participants arrival for our class at 10am. Unfortunately Blas’s wife Jamie was tied up so I will just have to wait until next summer and their trip to Ireland before meeting the other half of this great fibre duo. I was very impressed with the quality and selection of fibre and yarn available to purchase as well as interesting books, notions and other covetable items and more than impressed with how Blas manages to keep this relatively small space totally clean, tidy and organised, if only my own studio was half as tidy I would be in 7th heaven! While Blas headed off to the local shop to pick up some fresh fruit and teas I made myself at home, first selecting some yummy and unusual fibres to bring home with me and then setting up the tables and laying out a couple of samples of my felt that I had brought with me from Ireland. First to arrive was my online friend Nancy Schwab, the person actually responsible for putting me in touch with Blas and Jamie in the first place! Nancy is a great nuno felter and had brought some of her beautiful scarves for everyone to drool over and this was interesting for all the participants to see as neither Flo, Nancy W-B or Laura had actually wet felted before. We had a really fun group (two Nancys, Flo, Laura and Blas) and everyone was totally more experienced in dying fabric and fibre than I am and between them there was a gorgeous selection of hand dyed and bought silk to select from to create the nuno mosaic with. I explained how Sigrid Bannier pioneered the technique and suggested that for the total beginners a double ended scarf would be a good project to tackle, plenty of opportunity to experiment with colour but not as large a piece to lay out as experienced felters Blas and Nancy S were going to attempt.
Using a guideline of three different colours everyone started to chop up their silk and lay out their patterns, a bit like making an overlapping jigsaw! As you can see from the image of Nancy laying out her design everywhere the silk colours overlap another colour is created. In this way a complex design is created and additional depth is acquired from whatever colour wool is used on the reverse to felt everything together. As we started to work everyone began to appreciate that this method of working opens up the door to amazingly complex details, particularly as everyone seemed to be a dab hand at dying silk in the first place a whole new avenue of textile design is now on the horizon. Before lunch I showed everyone how I would lay out two fine layers of merino on top of the overlapping silk and everyone managed very well with varying degrees of thickness and different qualities of wool. Blas actually used a yak/merino mix that has to be one of the softest fibres I have ever touched, needless to say I bought some to bring home for myself and some as a present for Carmen as well! Anyway, we wet out the first end of the scarf and started rubbing and massaging to help the fibres migrate through the silk. After lunch around the corner in a super Japanese place (FANTASTIC food and amazingly cheap) everyone got stuck back into their work and continued to lay out more silk to complete their piece before rubbing and then rolling in bubble wrap around a short piece of pool noodle. Once we were totally sure that the wool was migrating through every layer of silk the felt could then be dipped into extremely hot water and then either thrown on a towel or rocked and rolled on the table to continue the felting process. Once I was happy that the work was fully felted each piece was given a final rinse and then proudly worn for a fun filled photo session! The nuno mosaic technique does use a lot more elbow grease than straight nuno felt and takes longer to create but I am sure you will agree from the photos here and on Flickr that the amazing results were more than worth the effort!
I promise that tomorrow I will put up the post ‘American wrap up – Yosemite, Castle Air Museum and fantastic killer whales!’ but for now I am off to create a nuno felt scarf all for myself!