I never thought the day would arrive ……

Many of you know that any kind of sewing has always brought me out in a dreadful sweat and for donkeys years I have sworn NEVER to stitch for pleasure.  I did however break the habit of a lifetime this summer in order to participate in Lisa Klakulak’s wonderful workshop at ‘Felt in Focus’, it was time to stretch my mind!  I always admired Lisa’s beautifully detailed sculptural pieces and free machine embroidery on thick pieces of hand rolled felt just seemed to attract my attention this year, once I actually got to grips with it I actually found that I quite enjoyed the experience!

Selling 4 of the 5 stitched felt seascapes I had on exhibition during Kilkenny Arts Festival made me realise that there is definitely an appreciation for this type of textile art.  I never thought the day would arrive but I decided this week to invest (heavily as  it turned out!) in a specialist straight stitching machine which has the capabilitiy to stitch through amazingly thick layers of felt effortlessly.  This means that not only can I sew through multiple layers of wool but I can also stitch right up to and around thick sections of felt and in this way emphasise and enhance highly textured surface details.    John from Sewing Machines Ireland in Waterford provided expert assistance in my choice of machine.  He said that he wouldn’t dream of supplying me with a machine unless I subjected it to rigorous testing and see if it would be suitable for the type of work I was thinking of so off I went armed with felt on Wednesday afternoon, the intention was to try out a second hand industrial Pfaff complete with knee lift.

Felt prior to stitching

In the event the Pfaff was great but John suggested a new machine he had in stock might actually be even more specifically suited to what I had in mind, drum roll please for the Janome 1600P QC!!!  It is like sewing with a Rolls Royce, incredible, even I liked using it!!!!!  I’m not going to bore you with all the features which make this machine so special for me but suffice to say I can stitch over CRATERS and MOUNTAINS effortlessly and I suspect it would take a total blundering idiot to break it, it weighs a tonne.  For anyone intending in sewing anything other than a straight stitch this is not the machine for you.  Because I knew that the only other possible use I would put it to would be to stitch up the seams of some simple nuno felt clothing it appears as if it is a match made in Heaven!  Anyway, I bit the bullet and invested in the Janome, I am not regretting my descision and have already finished stitching one piece as per the posted pictures.  I will however have to get my finger out, making a return on such a big investment (big for me!) means a heavy work schedual over the coming months and getting my Big Cartel shop stocked but you might ask what’s new???  I love my work!

Felt with free machine embroidery

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Printing workshop update, post party news and the innocent big knit

There’s still so much information to share about what I was working on at both the second day of the Kirsten Lundberg printing workshop during Felt in Focus and at the book launch party with Chrissie last weekend but I’ve finally realised I am never going to have enough time to write everything down here on the blog!!!  It’s difficult to be brief but if I’m not I am never going to be able to update you all with the most important info and in turn I’m never going to be able to actually have my planned ‘staycation’, more about that next post!  So, here is a synopsis of the techniques I sampled during day 2 of Kirsten’s amazing workshop …..

  • The use of different binders on silk and cotton with the intention of creating a resist through which fibres would not migrate when working on nuno felt.  These binders could be white, transparent or opalescent and all could have pigments added to change the colour.  They could be applied in a variety of ways such as rollers, screen printing or painted directly on the fabric.
  • The use of a ‘glue’ to add text and images from magazines.
  • The use of a ‘glue’ to add metallic foil.
  • We discussed rust dying and had a look at various samples.

My main focus over the course of the 2 days was to print two similar but slightly different pieces of fabric basing my design on the dry stone walls surrounding me here at Clasheen.  I will be blogging about this further because in a couple of weeks I am going to be combining these with a variety of different coloured wool to see how best to replicate the texture and effect of the walls as I imagine them in my head, I’ll keep you posted.  Now, on to the party.  A big thanks to …..

  • Everybody who attended and helped make the day so special for Chrissie and me and added to the wonderful Irish style party atmosphere!
  • All who so generously brought gifts of salad, flowers, wine, soft drinks, yummy deserts and all thoses yummy extras that went to make the buffet table so tasty, you know who you are!!!
  • Nigel and Alan who carted tables, road signs and all the hardware kind of stuff around both before and after the party.
  • Those essentialtal washer upers including Elizabeth Cope, Suzanne, Shaz and Nigel.
  • Chrissie and Nigel for being such fun, isn’t the power of the internet amazing???
  • Good friend Martin Lyttle who introduced me and Chrissie for us to officially launch the book.
  • All those of you who bought the book and those of you who now have to order online because we sold out, thanks!

Chrissie and me revealing the front and the rear of our ewe!

After we both spoke a few words Chrissie presented me with the choice of two identically wrapped parcels, here is a picture of us as we revealed what each one contained, my parcel contained the front end of a sheep and Chrissie’s the rear!!!  Thanks Chrissie for such a well thought out gift, each picture means something by itself but together they make a whole.

As a result of hearing our story about meeting through the internet Sue Nunn kindly invited us both to join her for a slot on ‘The Sue Nunn Show’ before Chrissie and Nigel travelled home on Monday morning.  Thanks Sue for the invitation and allowing us the opportunity to chat and speak about our love of felting, we had a great time!!!  During the course of the programme we discovered that Sue and KCLR are participating in ‘the innocent big knit’, a movement to help keep older people warm in Ireland this winter.  We know that felting isn’t knitting but since crochet hats are accepted too Chrissie and I thought we would put the word out there that we are both felting hats to give to Sue, would anyone like to join us in supporting this worthwhile cause???  If you do decide to help out we need the hats to be with Sue before the end of the first week in October.  I am going to suggest that anyone who wishes to participate felt your hat/hats, post them to me (Nicola Brown, Clasheen, Ballybrack, Borris, Co. Carlow, IRELAND) to arrive no later than the last week in September, I will blog about them and take photos then deliver them in person to Sue before the final date.  Do please let me know if you are participating then I can keep an eye open in my post box!!!  Thanks!

Flying post ….. Chrissie and Nigel’s visit, book launch and a few more ramblings

This is just a really short post to say how much Alan and I enjoyed our time with Chrissie and Nigel Day, the time seems to have flown by!  I can’t believe that it is Monday afternoon now, where did the last 4 days go???  Tomorrow afternoon or sometime on Wednesday I will get a quiet hour or so to have a ramble about the book launch, the radio interview we recorded this morning (with Sue Nunn on KCLRfm), our plans for the next book (nuno felting!) and wrap up my posting about Kirsten Lundbergh’s wonderful printing workshop at Felt in Focus.  Until then I’m off to try and find my phone charger and USB lead so that I can upload some pics for you of the last few days!

Summer buffet and book launch invitation!

To officially launch our recently published book ‘From Felt to Friendship’ and celebrate meeting for the first time, UK author Chrissie Day and I would like to invite you to a summer buffet at Clasheen this Saturday 20th August!!!  Food and drink will be available from 1 o’clock until 3pm, the book launch will take place at approx 4 pm.

Please feel free to bring a friend, it would be great if you could RSVP however if you are definitely coming so I have an idea of numbers for the food!

DIRECTIONS – At Kyle Cross take the Ballybrack road for approx 1/4 to 1/2 mile, Clasheen is down the first small farmers lane on the right hand side.  As a marker Ballybrack House is on the left just before the turn for Clasheen, my house is the old farmhouse on the left 1/4 mile down the lane, hope to see you there!!!

 

Exhibition wrap up, preparation for Chrissie and Nigel’s arrival and please vote for Dawn!

Yesterday evening our 10 days exhibiting at Grennan Mill Craft School was over.  I had such fun over the last two weeks, spending time with Alex (director of the craft school), the other artists and everybody helping them set up and invigilate the show, I think we all had a ball!  Welcoming visitors to the ground floor space Clive Nunn had a wonderful exhibition exploring his journey through Irish furniture over the last 30 years.  It was fascinating to read his story boards and see examples of venacular furniture side by side with the stylish modern designs that he now makes to commission from his studio a stones throw down the road from Grennan.

Detail from my favourite of Trini's batics

Moving up the stairs to the mezzanine gallery, Trini Kenny’s amazing batics drew gasps of admiration from all our visitors and many people were tempted to put their hands in their pockets and bring one of these beautiful framed pieces home with them.  My work was on this level too in the first floor gallery and two flights of stairs higher saw wonderful leather work from Brendan Brennan and an amazing photography exhibition from Kirsty O’Keeffe.  Finally up a further two flights of stairs to the top floor gallery where Maire Gartland had a fabulous exhibition of paintings and beautiful hand made books.  This is the largest gallery in the mill and Maire’s work really showed off the space to the best advantage.  The public appreciated her work too and it was great to see people not afraid to invest in a bigger piece of art, some of the canvases were huge!

Turquoise, white and hot orange felt vessel

I was very happy to sell 4 of my vessels and 4 framed seascapes.  It was good too to get a comission for another framed piece and potentially 2 more comissions for small vessels, fingers crossed they both pan out.  Many visitors are interested in felting workshops so all in all it was a very successful experience for me sharing my work and meeting other like minded individuals!

Today I have been battling in my kitchen and other areas of the house in preparation for Chrissie and Nigel Day’s arrival on Thursday.  Most of you probably know by now that the wonderful Dawn Edwards and I both attended the same university of housework, unfortunately I was a dropout so there really is a LOT of work to get done before Chrissie and I have our launch party for ‘From Felt to Friendship’ next Saturday!!!  Speaking of Dawn, please, please, please head on over HERE, check out her amazing hat and vote for her if you would like to see a fellow felter win the design opportunity of a lifetime.  She needs 100s of you to click that vote button so don’t be shy, the leader at the moment has over 1000 votes so let’s see if the power of our textile network can really push Dawn up that list fast, there are only 2 days left!!!

Musings from the exhibition to date and new nuno felt wrap today

It’s been very interesting and revealing invigilating at Grennan Mill Craft School, each of the 6 artists needs to either man the show for 3 full days or 6 half ones, I have chosen to do 3 full days.  If I wanted I could nominate someone else to do my stints but for me a lot of the pleasure at this stage of the process is to meet the public and see how people engage with all the work on display.  It has become increasingly obvious as the days go by that people either love the felt or hate it (maybe hate is too strong a word!), there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground at all.  I love watching everyone’s expressions when they first enter my space, many people are totally surprised when they discover the vessels and sculptures are wool, they know that they appear tactile but they often think that they are ceramic none the less!

Stitched seascape

It has also been interesting to discover that even if people do like these non functional pieces they may not have a place in their homes to display them.  After I sold my only stitched seascape on the first day several people said that they were interested in hanging this type of work in their home, in fact I actually got a commission for a framed piece during the course of the opening evening.  As a result of this I decided to spend Monday and Tuesday working and finishing some more wall pieces, I framed them yesterday morning at Grennan and two of the four sold during the day, actions speak louder than words sometimes!

Today I spent a lovely time at Carmen’s with her and an Argentinian fibre friend Patricia, we started with a big breakfast, felted all morning, had a delicious stew for lunch and then stuffed ourselves on pancakes before more fibre related fun in the afternoon!!!  Getting totally away from vessels and seascapes for the day I planned and felted a large wrap using some of the beautiful silk my Auburn friend Merridee dyed for me at The Tin Thimble in Loomis, CA recently.  This was an experiment using the tumble dryer method, a technique I want to work on further before offering it as an option for workshops but this might be a good time to say that it entails NO rubbing or rolling making it perfect for larger projects and anyone who might find the methodology of traditional nuno a little time-consuming or dare I say it even boring!  I would like to stress though that I don’t find rubbing and rolling boring, relaxing and therapeutic would be my personal take on this process but I suppose it’s horses for courses isn’t it and who doesn’t want to make a larger piece but with a lot of the effort removed and in a fraction of the time???  I’m not going to blog further about this method until I have fine tuned my timing but I will definitely include a couple of projects in the next book Chrissie and I are publishing (nuno clothing, out before Christmas!), for now here is a picture of todays finished wrap.

Nuno felt wrap

Sea Shapes, the first pictures and reflections from setting up the exhibition

Looking back over the pictures I have taken over the last few days during the set up and start of the exhibition it is obvious that I need to take some more because my phone/camera is having some difficulty adjusting to the whiteness and the light in the space.  I am however, just going to post a few here today to give you a little idea of what I have been up to and share what the atmosphere is now like in the room.

Walls and radiator prior to filling and painting, no lights fitted yet

Each of the 6 artists exhibiting in Grennan Craft Mill were allocated their space approx 2 years ago (there  is now a 4 year waiting list to exhibit here for the festival!) and for me the room I am in is the perfect size for my felt, not too big and not too small, it serves as the students dining room during the teaching year.  All the levels of the mill were painted prior to the students show in June at the end of their  two year course which meant that the paint on the walls was fresh.  I did need to remove nails and screws etc. from where paintings had been hung and as well as filling and painting the resultant holes etc. I decided to paint the radiator as it definitely looked grubby and took away from the freshness of the white walls.  Usually I mix up my own filler when doing any repair jobs but for ease of convienience and in an effort to get everything done in time for the weekend I bought a ready made tube of a propriatory brand only to discover once I was using it the paste was grey and not white.  Hmmm, it did dry in 5 minutes as it promised but unfortunately needed several coats of paint in order to hide the underlying colour therefore meaning more time after all, you live and learn but it definitely didn’t say on the outside that the paste was not white, I checked!

Radiator painted, walls and plinths finished, lights installed

Once I was happy with the walls and the radiator I painted another couple of coats onto Eileen’s plinths and then was ready for Alan’s help setting up the spotlights.  Really he did a great job, SO many people have been asking about the lighting, we used little spotlights on a simple industrial looking silver track, the lights can be positioned anywhere on the track but our difficulty was that we were restricted to the length that actually came in the box!  A lot of thought later, positioning the black transformer and wiring in the kitchen, running new white flex around the roof etc. we got everything sorted to our satisfication, it was 11.40 at night before we left that night but definitely this work has made a big difference to the overall feel of the room and how the felt may be viewed.

To complete the set up I added a lightweight white and blue curtain to cover the kitchen door and Kilkenny Arts Festival provided very nice posters for us to use as part of our publicity materials.  I added one to the door of my room beside where I have my name, interestingly the door is painted orange and the colours in the poster are mainly turquoise, two of the highlight colours from my felt vessels!  A simple jug of miscanthus and teasels on the radiator, business cards, festival brochures, book for comments, price list and my artist statement finished the room.

Entrance to Sea Shapes

Reflections on the opening weekend and more pictures to follow next post.