Home, natural dyeing/printing, unexpected presentation taking up my time…..

I’m home safely after a wonderful time in California! It was great to be back at The Tin Thimble catching up with old friends both before, during and after the three days of workshops plus put faces to the friends I’ve previously been in touch with through the blog, FB and various other forms of social media, I’m not going to mention everyone by name but you all know who you are!!! My intention had been to write a long and proper post yesterday about the workshops and my trip with Merridee and Keith to Lake Tahoe, unfortunately I just don’t have the time so apologies in advance to those of you who were expecting all the low down about the exciting work that was created during my three days of teaching. An unexpected opportunity arose while I was away (thanks Paula for getting in touch to alert me!) so yesterday I had to make a presentation in relation to an exciting art project and this morning I got a call asking me to come back in tomorrow and discuss a few of the points raised during this session. Fingers crossed everything will work out, I’ll keep you posted once I know the outcome!

My own naturally printed chiffon with goodies I bought at The Tin Thimble, glass beads by Toni Lutman and beautiful hand dyed merino by Carin Engen and Laurie Simoni

As regards other work since I’ve been home I printed two lengths of silk chiffon on Monday evening then last night I filled two pots with silk and leaves in preparation for a natural printing and dyeing session today. One of the pots contained a tea solution, the other a vinegar and water mix. I’ve now bundled everything up and all the pieces are simmering on the Rayburn, most of the bundles contain a variety of eucalyptus leaves but two I wrapped using Cotinus leaves from my garden. I also sprinkled some of the fabric with tea leaves and wrapped one of the pieces in rusty metal, I LOVE opening these bundles, pictures next time, I promise. During my stay in CA I spent time with Merridee, Sharon and Nika Ivanoff experimenting more with this method of colouring fabric, thanks Nika for the wonderful leaves you brought last Saturday for us all to share not to mention the wine, chocolate and strawberries, we loved them all!!!

Emma and I are just sorting out dates for workshops in The Tin Thimble again next spring, keep an eye out over the next week or so as we hope to have everything sorted by then!

Quick little CA update!

My carry on bag is packed and I’m just waiting for Merridee and Keith to arrive and whisk me off to their cabin at Lake Tahoe. We’ll be hiking, felting, relaxing and possibly doing a little Eco printing/dyeing and kayaking too!!! On Thursday evening we’ll be back home then have a big day planned felting at The Tin Thimble with Sharon, Emma and Lisa on Saturday. More pics from
our three days of workshops now on my personal FB page!

Day one of our felting workshops starts tomorrow!

I’m having an early night tonight in order to be in top form for the first of three days teaching at The Tin Thimble in Loomis, CA tomorrow. This morning I woke up at 3.40am and just couldn’t get back to sleep, too many ideas sparked by the wonderful supplies from the studio and obviously a little bit of jet lag doesn’t help the cause either. Already I’ve been having a fantastic time catching up with old friends. In the morning I’ll be meeting some good online friends in person for the first time, that’s going to be exciting too!!! I’ll try and post some pics to FB as we go along during the workshops.

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International felting workshops, visitors to Clasheen, promoting your business through social media and another eco print experiment!

Gosh, I’ve had a busy morning on the computer so far, I’m almost not able to write quickly enough, respond to emails and upload pictures to FB and now it’s lunch time, I need to eat and then I have to prepare for another felt flower workshop tonight, happy days! As a result I think that I’m going to post most of my news today in bullet point format followed by some info and pics re another eco print experiment, of course Alan would probably say that none of my news is urgent, it’s certainly not life threatening but I would like to share it with you!!! Anyway, for those of you who are interested, here goes…..

  • My upcoming workshops at The Tin Thimble CA from 28th to 30th September are now all full! Please contact Emma if you would like to be put on a waiting list or are interested in attending on a future date.
  • Bookings are now open for next year’s felting extravaganza at stunning Dominio Vale do Mondego in Portugal, full details on the workshop page. The dates are from 15th to 21st June inclusive and places are booking up fast so please contact Karin immediately if you would like to join us!
  • This morning I ordered more felting supplies in anticipation of Rami’s arrival from Beiruit at the end of next week. Rami (a graphic designer) will be staying with me for 7 days intensive one on one felting tuition, currently there are no opportunities to learn in the Lebanon so we will really be working hard to cover the various techniques that he is interested in learning. Do I see another potential workshop venue for the future???
  • A lot of my workshop bookings are now coming as a direct result of this blog and FB. Often I meet other makers and artisan producers who are looking for advice about how to promote their small business with a zero budget, hence next Tuesday’s workshop at Clasheen titled ‘Social media skills to promote your artisan business‘! This is a full day event with a light lunch included, participants are asked to bring their own laptop and wireless enabled mobile devices with them so that they will go home at the end of the day armed with the knowledge of how to best promote themselves using a variety of free or inexpensive promotional techniques. Please check out the event on FB if you are interested in attending and email me asap if you would like to reserve a place.

Bundles, eucalyptus leaves, bark and rusty metal in the pot

Yesterday I received some lovely BIG eucalyptus leaves from Luarena. Thanks so much for the present Luarena and thanks a million to sister Jacqui for delivering them to me at Duckett’s Grove, much appreciated! I couldn’t wait until my next batch of silk arrived to try experimenting with them so last night I grabbed what I could from my studio at Clasheen, scraps of white needle punch, an old outdated yellow silk top (one of our ‘5 for $5’ haul from the Salvation Army in Plainwell Dawn!) and a piece of pongee silk that I’d previously achieved only minimal colour change with when printing. I bundled the cut up yellow top with Luarena’s large leaves and some small leaves of a different eucalyptus variety and wrapped it around a rusty pin (thanks mum for the gift of some young sprigs from your garden!), the needle punch I bundled with more of the large leaves and the ponge silk I just scrunched up and included in the pot. This time I added some of my mother’s small leaves, eucalyptus bark (collected from the ground under a dead tree at the HSE head office in Kilkenny!) and some scraps of rusty metal I picked up down in Tom’s yard to the cooking water, the water I might add is from my own well and free from any artificial additives. After approx an hour simmering on the stove I was amazed to discover the water was incredibly dark, obviously this was something to do with the loose leaves, bark and metal. I had been expecting colour of course, just not this depth after such a short length of time before unwrapping. I couldn’t wait until today to open up the bundles so right before I headed to bed I unwrapped everything and was delighted with the results. I’m especially pleased with the rich colour achieved on the needle punch and now want to see how it felts, I’ve a project in mind for another large wearable and once my latest order arrives from Wollknoll I’ll be begging for more leaves and getting out the dye pot once again!

From left to right – the ponge silk, deconstructed yellow silk top and the needle punch after unwrapping

Felting, reflecting, unwinding and preparing…..

It’s back to a full working week here at Clasheen after all the fun and excitment of my super trip to the US. I’ve a lot of large nuno wraps to get felted and delivered before Thursday, I’m reflecting on the fantastic time I had staying with Jan and Dawn meeting so many old fibre friends and making new ones, I’m trying to spend time unwinding with Alan and I’m also trying to get sorted and prepared for my Friday departure to teach in Portugal!!! The weather here in Ireland has been WET ever since I’ve arrived home, aparantly it was glorious and hot during my absence but now it’s so wet I can’t even get outside to take a picture of the first wrap that I’ve finished. Instead here’s a picture from Plainwell, not everyone is here in this shot (a few people had to leave early) and not everyone is holding their work, you will get an idea of the scale of some of the projects however! Until tomorrow…..

Happy faces near the end of our two day felting workshop in Plainwell!

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!!!

The two day Plainwell felting workshop is over, what a brilliant and fun experience!!!

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!!!

Fantastic visit to Arturo Alonzo Sandoval and watching a felt loom in action!

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!

Arturo with one of his art quilts in progress

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.

One of Arturo’s stunning art quilts in the surgery waiting room at UK Hospital

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!!!

Outdoor rug woven from battery cables!

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!

Check out the woven film Sheila!

 

Photos from the Lexington workshops!

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.

Lindy’s yardage, Tonya, Donna, Jan, Nancy, Karen and Sandy (left to right)

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?

Sandy’s felt landscape using all cleaned but uncarded alpaca and other fibres

Weekend fun and felting news, I’m off on my travels!!!

Although I still have a mountain of things to get finished before I head off on my US travels later this evening I have been having a wonderful action packed art and felting weekend! On Saturday night Alan and I joined Eileen MacDonagh and close friends old and new at a really great wrap up party to celebrate the success of her fabulous exhibition LITHOSPHERE at the Visual Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow. It was a wonderful evening spent among the towering trees of ‘Cathedral’, yummy food and wine (which I couldn’t drink as I was the designated driver!), great craic and the best music I’ve heard in a very long time!!!

Music amongst the trees!

Local musician Joe Cleere has just been signed to a record deal in the US and although he had never played with them before he came along to join a trio of Eileen’s friends and their playing just seemed to compliment each other perfectly, we had an eclectic mix of traditional and alternative rock tracks, brilliant, thanks Eileen!!!!!

Yesterday I had a very busy day at Duckett’s Grove, I had intended taking loads of pictures of the new studio but to be honest I was so busy demonstrating and talking to visitors that there was almost no time to snap anything. Thanks to everyone who came in especially to see me, I really appreciated it and hope you enjoyed the day! My plan now is to bring my big studio tables from Clasheen to Duckett’s Grove, move the shelving and plints around in the space and set up one half as a display area and the other as a zone for felting and teaching from. The response to the demos was fabulous.

Visitors to the new studio

I now have a long list of contact details from people interested in trying felting for themselves, I’ve actually put Sunday 4th June in my diary for a beginners and improvers felting day and have only space for one more participant if anyone is interested, E75 including materials working from 10am until approx 4.30pm! Please email me asap if you would like the last slot!

Plenty of people came for the music, food and craft!

This evening I’ll be handing over everything at Claseheen to good friend George and hope everything goes well in my absence. It’s lovely here at the moment, foals in the fields, birds singing and wild flowers everywhere in the hedges and down the lane so I think that George will manage to have a restful and fun time with Rex! Don’t expect a lot of blogging over the next few days but I will be posting up to date pictures and notes to facebook as I progress along my way to Kentucky, take care and I’ll be back blogging about the Lexington workshops which take place on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th May from 10am – 5pm at the Beaumont Presbyterian Church, 1070 Lane Allen Road!!!