I’m just writing this short post from my phone as I relax in the bath! Today’s the day I catch my flights home to Ireland and I just wanted to say two things. Firstly a million thanks to Jan, Dawn and all my wonderful old and new fiber friends who I’ve been spending time with on this trip, it’s been a pleasure. Secondly, I’m not going to be using a computer until I’m back in my own office so please excuse any lack of communication, emails etc. until then. I’ll be keeping everyone up to date with my last hours here and the trip home via Facebook but for now I’m going to enjoy a final excursion with Dawn to the Plainwell Goodwill and Salvation Army stores in search of more patterned silk to nuno felt with!!!
I had such a blast at the two day felting workshop organized by the wonderful Dawn Edwards in Plainwell, Dawn’s been loading pictures to her Facebook page like crazy and I’ve been loading others to my public page as well as to my profile. Please check them out there because I’m just enjoying a little unwinding time with Dawn, Morry and Micah before heading back to Ireland on Wednesday and really don’t have the brain power to blog properly now!
We spent a wonderful day yesterday enjoying a fantastic trip on the Star of Saugatuck out on Lake Michigan, strolled around Saugatuck town itself, ate dinner serenaded by a brilliant band and then headed back to Art and Judy’s for more butter pecan ice cream at Plainwell Ice Cream!!! This morning Dawn and I were early risers, it was 5 for $5 day at the Salvation Army and boy did we have fun!!! Obviously I was constrained by weight/baggage limitations but all the same I snagged 17 beautifully coloured silk shirts or skirts to either wear or nuno felt, 1 totally new denim jacket, 2 cotton shirts and 3 vintage brooches. I also snapped up a Christian Dior silk top (again only costing $1!) but gave it to Dawn because I thought that she might find a home for it, she also snapped up 70 silk shirts and 2 pelmets!!!
I’m going to be heading out to Dawn’s studio any minute now but wanted to let everyone know that our ‘niki & niki’ felting tools are back in stock and available from the other Niki’s Etsy store. As soon as I’m home I’ll also be uploading them to my own store but since Niki Collier and I are both friends and business partners please order them from her now if you want to make sure you won’t miss out!!!
The first batch sold out almost immediately and although we do need to add another shipping option online please just message Niki with your order if you want to upgrade to registered post. I can’t work out from here exactly how much extra that will cost per item but Niki will be able to tell you depending on weight. It does mean you would be covered by insurance if any tools go missing in the post because although we have obviously covered the cost ourselves for a couple of ‘missing’ parcels from batch one we can’t continue to do that and still remain in business!
I had a marvelous time visiting Jan, Bruce and Kevin Durham in Lexington again and it was wonderful to catch up with old friends and make new ones both at the KY workshops and during the two weeks I spent traveling around the greater Lexington area. Thanks SO MUCH Jan for being the great friend and host that you are, wonderful!!!
Now I’ve settled back into life in Plainwell, Dawn and I are having a great time catching up and you’d never think that it was only a few short weeks ago she thrilled everyone in Ireland with her visit!!! Our workshops here take place this Friday and Saturday so I want to wish everyone safe traveling and say that we’ll see you all then!!!!!
Gosh, I see I’ve written a lot of exclamation marks into this post, much mean I’m having a great time here in the US.
Many months ago I had an invitation via facebook from Arturo Alonzo Sandoval to visit him at the College of Fine Arts in the University of Kentucky (UK as those in the know call it!) to see a large felt loom working. Last Wednesday Jan had an appointment as new president of the PTA so friend and fellow fibre addict Nancy Collins and her husband Paul collected me in the morning and we met Arturo at his department in UK. The whole experience was totally mind blowing, Arturo is the most amazing artist, his weaving and art quilts just have to be seen to be believed!!! Anyway, we started the morning by heading up to the large room where the felt loom and all the other big weaving looms are located. I had never actually heard of or seen a felt loom before so do have a look at the official website and check them out, particularly interesting if you are a breeder of wool or hair producing animals and are looking for a simple way to turn your fibre into product. Stupidly I didn’t take any pictures of the loom itself in action, basically you feed your wool batt (with or without a layer of silk or other fabric) through two rollers (like an old mangle) and a series of felting needles punch the fibre as it passes through to the other side. Arturo explained that usually students would pass the batt through the rollers a total or 6 or 7 times and by the end have created a totally stable fabric ready to be used as it is or cut and stitched into couture garments. At the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival there were several booths where it was possible to see the results of this work, for me there were both advantages to using the loom and disadvantages. I really liked the fact that it was possible to ‘punch’ fibres together that otherwise might be difficult to felt and think that investing in a loom could be a really good option for a collective of Irish farmers wanting to utilize their home produced wool. Irish wool is difficult to felt into a compact fabric but using the loom would make this a possibility for blankets and rugs I think, also it’s possible to combine any fabrics with fibre, not just the natural ones and more open weaves. On the down side of things, because the rows of needles are evenly spaced across the working face of the machine it is not possible to punch fabric and fibre together without the needles pushing the fabric through to the other side creating little needle marks in the surface and I also think that it would not be possible to run thicker batts (I sometimes use 10 layers of wool as taught by wonderful felted Vanda Roberts) through, it that might be possible if you can adjust the rollers but I’m not actually sure how much play there is in that direction. Personally, if I had access to a loom and the time to experiment I would try running my fibre and fabric through twice then wet felt the resultant piece and in this way think that I would have a better chance of achieving the smoother, softer and more flexible surfaces that I like for my wearables. All is all it was a really interesting piece of equipment and one that I am going to mention to some local farmers once I get home to Clasheen. I have a dream (only a dream at the moment unfortunately!) of having the time and inclination to set up a small co-operative where sample carders, wool picking and cleaning equipment etc. could be shared and used buy the whole community and I really think that the felt loom can now be added to that list for future consideration, watch this space, but not for a couple of years yet I think!
Once we had finished in the weaving room Arturo gave Nancy and I a full tour through the Fine Arts Department and then we headed off to his studio, mind blowing and inspiring!!! We saw some beautiful finished framed pieces which were woven and stitched from a variety of materials including the sort of material that hoarding is covered in to show you how a building project in progress is going to look while finished. I’m not sure if it’s vinyl or what it’s made of but you probably know what I mean from the description! There are plenty of subtle and not so subtle political messages in Arturo’s work and these were obvious when we watched a wonderful presentation on the computer showing us how his work has evolved and changed through the years. Initially expressing himself through weaving, Arturo gradually has incorporated more and more unusual, whacky and recycled materials into his pieces. Now simple lines of zip zag stitching adds another dimension to the surface especially when he weaves with things like old archival film, strips of shiny metallic fabric and other textured fabrics, beautiful! A large commission was in progress when we visited the studio, here’s a picture of Arturo holding up a strip of film against the beginning of the background, the strips for the warp are all pinned against the wall at this stage of the process.
After we were finished at UK Arturo spontaneously invited us to spend some more time with him, both at his house and at the University of Kentucky Hospital where he is one of the art trustees, hope that’s the correct term! This is a marvelous medical facility which has just almost doubled in size recently, we saw some stunning large scale sculptures, an interesting video projection, a whole series of folk art pieces by local Kentucky artists and ended up in the surgery waiting room where one of Arturo’s wonderful art quilt hangs.
Paul met us at Artutro’s house and we all spent a great time viewing the funky and eclectic collection of art that he has gathered over the years, this is wonderfully positioned both in his stunning garden and inside in his colorful and welcoming home! I loved the bottle trees glistening in the sunlight (MUST make some with all the bottles we go through at home!) and was amazed how springy and comfortable the large woven outside rug was. Arturo made this by weaving old battery cables, check out my Keen’s Tanya, I took this photo of them against the rug ‘specially for you!!!
Arturo truly has created an awe inspiring body of work through the years and I really wished that Cathy Fitzgerald, Sheila Ahern and Eileen MacDonagh from Ireland could have been with us to watch the video presentation, see his work up close, visit the wonderful sculpture and art in the garden and get to meet Arturo in person, you would have LOVED it girls!!!
I’m going to leave you today with a close up shot from the large art quilt at UK Hospital, check out the film Sheila!
I’ve been having great fun dyeing cotton gauze under Jan Durham’s expert eye. It’s my first time getting to grips with Procion MX dyes are really they’re not difficult to use, the biggest problem was having to wait overnight (it could have been longer) before opening the bundles and seeing what I’d achieved!!!
I like the idea of dyeing my own fabric to nuno felt into, I don’t think I’ll be doing this every week when I get home but I’ll definitely order some of the colours I like best and make an effort to experiment further. I’m not the tidiest person as regular followers of this blog know by now but I was able to keep myself totally dye free, luckily Jan’s husband Bruce was away yesterday though because if he had been around he mightn’t have been so happy about the dye I managed to spill all over the white counter top!
Once the bundles had time to absorb all the dye I rinsed them in cold then hot water before putting them through a wash cycle in Jan’s great big washing machine. The weather’s been a lot drier today (the rain this last few days has been just like Ireland!) so I was able to hang everything outside to dry. I ironed the smaller scarves but the larger piece in the second picture I decided not to bother ironing! I’m going to nuno felt it into a shift dress hopefully, I had planned to do it here but I actually think I may need to keep it until I get home and then I have my full selection of short fibred merino to work with.
It was another exciting but calm day in Lexington as larger projects from yesterday came together and new pieces were laid out too. Donna, Lindy and Karen all felted pieces in the tumble dryer last night and worked on new pieces today and until you have tried this out for yourself it is impossible to realise how much time and effort this can save you! Check out ‘Nuno Felting with Chrissie Day and Nicola Brown’ or the downloadable book if you are interested in learning more about how to go about this and to see the proof of the pudding here is a group picture from this evening; Donna is modelling her wonderful vest, Karen her highly textured scarf and Lindy’s large piece of yardage is photographed to the left of the group.
A lot of interesting techniques were incorporated into the various pieces, resists laid out inside three dimensional pieces to reveal hidden details later (Tonya in an wonderful large vessel and Jan in a gorgeous bag which also includes glass nuggets), Karen incorporated beads at the lay out stage of her first resist project, Nancy felted a wonderful large purse with integrated handles and Sandy felted an incredible large wall hanging using alpaca and a selection of fabulous locks from a variety of different sheep and other animals! Check out the album I’ve created on facebook to see more of the work, congratulations everyone, you are amazing!!! I’ll leave you with a picture of Sandy’s beautiful landscape, isn’t it an amazing piece for her second ever time felting?
Today is the second day of our felting workshops in Lexington, once more Jan Durham has done an amazing job putting everything together! Several Nuno pieces were completed yesterday and this morning it will be great to see the larger projects (vessel, bag, wall hanging etc) reaching fruition. It’s not easy to write a long blog post from my phone but I’ll use Jan’s computer tomorrow if possible and update you more thoroughly complete with pictures of the completed felt! I am posting pics to Facebook as I go along but I would like accesss to another 12 hours every day!!!