Snowed under in more ways than one!

Whew, I have been totally snowed under since last weekend with workshops, classes, golf club duties, truck service, MOT, more teaching etc. over the last week and now this morning I am totally snowed under literally!  I am not going to give you a blow by blow account of all that went on because I would never have enough hours to write everything down but suffice to say that since last weekend’s workshops for the Cashel Arts Fest I have been incredibly busy although I did get time to do two full days felting with Carmen in the middle of the week, bliss! 

Catherine's amazing first piece of felt

This morning I was amazed to wake up to about 4″ snow and it is still blowing strong out there.  Luckily I had picked up some yummy veggies and other food items yesterday on my way back from the MOT so at least food won’t be a problem and I have oil and wood for the stove as well so unless the water freezes like last year all will be warm chez Clasheen!!!  I had been planning a massive ‘winter clean’ with Alan this weekend in preparation for a fund raising party here in the house on December 12th but he is stuck in Bagenalstown so now I am planning to ‘try’ and sort out my studio once more, wish me luck! 

Not the best picture but you get my drift!

Vanda’s bag making workshop concluded

It was very interesting to see everyones stitching starting to take shape and by the end of the second day I had my relief work finished and was ready to start assembling and stitching my bag first thing on Sunday morning. 

Vanda's red bag and Chris's blue/grey bag in progress

I really liked the way we learnt how to use a type of herringbone stitch to join the back edges of the seams together (remember the seams are very thick, ten layers of wool!) and then used a different stitch to join the front edges, this should have been almost invisible but I think that I need a little more practice if not a lot!  Surprisingly I enjoyed this part of the sewing quite a bit, probably because I could really see my bag coming together and I have to say I was liking the result!!!  Once all the pieces were stitched together it was time to sew a fancy border around the top edge before making/attaching a cord or in my case leather handles.  I found the stitch for the top edge really impossible to get even and it was not doing anything for the bag so Vanda suggested making a cord instead (twisting threads together and allowing them to wrap back on themselves) which I did in a silvery grey and black wool.  Once this was in place all that remained was to add my leather handles, these were a GREAT find in Rhinebeck, more about my favourite suppliers from there in the next post!  All that remains now is to say a big thank you to Carmen for organising such a wonderful workshop, I will be back!!!

The finished bag!

Vanda Robert’s fantastic felt bag workshop!

I always have a fantastic time when I participate in felting workshops with visiting international artists and my wonderful long weekend at Carmen’s studying with Hungarian felter Vanda Robert was definitely one of my highlights from 2010.  As per usual, when I am a bit apprehensive about the content of a class the reality is always better than the imagining and because Vanda’s bag workshop included a LOT of stitching you can imagine how nervous that made me before the event!  Carmen had almost tried to stop me attending because she knew I wanted to support her in bringing Vanda over but she also knew how stitching makes me break out in a cold sweat.  The fact that the three days included the day of the golf club Captain’s Dance didn’t help either but nothing would have stopped me attending and boy am I glad I did!

Ten layers of wool batt

To start the workshop everyone looked at some of Vanda’s gorgeous bags, oohed and aahed over her relief stitching (there were also a couple of books with photos to browse through) while she explained the basics and showed us how she likes to lay out her wool batts to create thick, even and firm felt.  We then choose our colours and started to lay out 10 to 12 light and even layers directly onto plastic or else onto bubble wrap.  I have always wanted to create a piece of felt using Rathgeeran Rock Art (a stunning local bronze age rock) as my inspiration and was delighted to see some black merino, silvery grey merino and grey gotland which I thought would be perfect for my bag.  The idea in general is to felt a thick but even piece of fabric, preferrably double sided and then cut to shape, reverse some pieces exposing the complimentary colour before stitching the design in relief (amazing stuff here!) and assembling to whole with tiny invisable stitches before adding a handle and possibly a cord edging or fancy stitching around the top.  

First off I created a grey prefelt using three layers of the gotland which I cut into rounds to echo the circles from the rock art.  These were then laid down directly onto my bubble wrap and filled in with three layers of black merino before surrounding the design with three layers of black merino also.  I then laid 4 more layers of black this time covering the whole rectangle, two layers of gotland and finished with a layer of the silvery grey merino.  If you look carefully at the picture above you can see my ten layers laid out and also see that Chris who was working beside me had started to wet out and soap her bundle, half of hers is really high and half is already wet.  Once we had the layers fully wet we just felted as per normal until the wool had shrunk by about a third and the resultant felt was thick, firm and flat.  Some people rubbed the surface of their felt to smooth out any imperfections and dimples but I had brought my ridged fridge liner with me and it proved excellent for rolling the felt on and getting a nice even texture.  At this stage the first day was finished and we all retired home to dry our felt, I had the dance to get to and evening wear to don!

My felt cut into pieces with a picture of the rock which inspired me

Day two saw us cutting out the picecs for our bags and then Vanda gave us a demonstration of the stitches used and we all had a go with some samples.  I can’t stress enough how I would urge you to attend one of her workshops because it is in the stitching that the relief is achieved and obviously that is not something I will be trying to explain here.  Suffice to say you can use wool, cotton or linen thread and depending on where you insert and remove your needle through the felt and at what angle you do so the stitches may be straight or when pulled cause depressions or elevations in the felt, just INCREDIBLE!!!  Initially I had wanted to elevate all my silvery grey ovals but that proved a step too far for me (surprise, surprise!) as in order to do so I would have needed more space between the discs so with Vanda’s help I re-thought and decided to elevate some of the black spaces instead.

To be cont ….. 

Starting to create ridges in the felt through stitching

And so …..

And so I thought that Tuesday would be my last golf club duties for the year, little did I know I woule be totally tied up until Saturday afternoon at the least.  To keep your felt interest alive I have now got quite a few of my photos from Vanda Robert’s marvellous felt bag workshop up on Flickr (link to the right) and tomorrow (I promise!!!) to blog about it and then the following post will be about my favourite vendors from Rhinebeck, next week will be devoted to the continuation of my ArtL!nks project.

Light at the end of the tunnel …..

At last I can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.  I am now officially the ex-Lady Captain and only have a managment meeting to get through tonight and later in the year the joint club AGM before all my duties are totally over!  The felt bag making workshop I participated in at Carmen’s with Vanda Robert this weekend was FABULOUS!!!  We were learning such an interesting and individual technique and I am dying to show you some photos tomorrow or Thursday when I have a little more time to post.  For now adieu, apologies to anyone who is trying to contact me by email, there are not enough hours in the day at the moment but I promise to get in touch a little later in the week!

First photos from my ArtL!nks project

I am just taking a quick break from organising bedrooms (my two sisters and a friend are staying here tomorrow night in honour of the golf club dance!) to post the first pictures from the start of my ArtL!nks project.  After all the planning that went into my proposal it was actually quite hard to start the work  for some reason, sometimes I think that pondering, plotting, planning and worrying too much can have a very detrimental effect on my actual felting! 

Fitting and stitching some of Mehmet's rug base around a plastic resist with the intention of ending up with a freestanding tube

Anyway, I decided that instead of playing around with samples exploring surface detail as I had initially intended I would actually try and make a free standing column, measure the shrinkage rate, see how strongly I could felt it and assess how stable it would be without additional internal support.  This has been the aspect of the project that I have been having the most concerns about and I wanted to be sure that my ideas would work before studying images of nudibranches further prior to finalising the design and cutting out the first resists.  You may remember the piece I felted this summer during Charlotte Buch’s workshop in Silkeborg, the images we used for inspiration were the trigger for me to explore the wonderful and colourful world of nudibranches (aka sea slugs) and it would be safe to say I am thoroughly hooked by now!

I decided to stick with a tonal grey colour combination that I enjoy working with leaving me free to feel how the base of my piece was felting and determine how successfully the structural aspects of the column were working.  I stitched some of Mehmet’s rug base into a tube and inserted a plastic resist into the middle to make sure that the wool didn’t all just felt together into one big thick carpet!  Next I laid two colours of Icelandic wool (both grey) on the surface leaving a couple of areas free of wool and also adding a few splotches of apple green C1 for contrast. 

Working the soap and water downwards through all the layers of wool and fabric

A lot of rubbing and sanding later the surface wool was starting to migrate through the thick cotton well and everything was starting to felt together into one cohesive piece, now I was ready to start with rolling.  Because of all my recent work on Sylvia’s rug I knew that the cotton fabric Mehmet uses for his rug bases would add stability to the column but at this stage I wasn’t sure exactly how evenly I would be able to shape the final piece and whether the top and bottom would stretch a little as had happened with some tentative experiments earlier in the year.

Ready to start rolling

To be continued …..

ArtL!nks project started and pretty hectic week ahead once more!

You may remember that I was lucky enough to recieve a E1000 ArtL!nks bursary earlier in the year and yesterday morning I started the project which should result in two large felt sculptures, one columnar and about my own height, one pod shaped.  I have 4 weeks (broken down into 28 days as I do have some other committments to fit in as well) in which to complete the pieces and will be documenting everything on a seperate blog which still has to be set up, I hope to have that live by the middle of next week!  For the moment I am just keeping my head above water until next Monday is out of the way, in brief I have the project to work on, am attending a three day workshop with Hungarian felter Vanda Roberts at Carmen’s studio from Thursday to Sunday, will be co-hosting the Captain’s Dinner Dance for the Golf Club on Friday night, starting another felting project with Borris Active Retirement on Monday afternoon and then chairing the Ladies Club AGM at the Golf Club on Monday night, whew, I am tired even thinking about all of this! 

Fun felt bag, possible shape for one of my first felting kits!

Once this is over however and I hand over the Lady Captain’s position I should have a little more head space in which to finalise my new felting kits, blog properly, enjoy my felting and enter proper discussions with US friends about some exciting workshops which may be happening in the Californian area during Spring 2011!!!  I knew that I couldn’t keep away from US for very long, exciting times ahead!

Next post will contain pictures of the initial days of my ArtL!nks project, until then adieu.