CRAFTed, Zwartbles, KY, MI and Portugal felting workshop updates and Dawn’s wonderful visit comes to an end

So much news, yet again so little time! Dawn came with me last week to meet the pupils that I’m working with for my 2012 CRAFTed project, they just loved her hats and in turn she just loved them singing two songs in Irish for her!!!

Adding buttons and other bits and bobs to embellish the felt portraits

Tomorrow is my last session with the school and I can’t believe that I haven’t got my paperwork up to date for this. It has been so hectic here the last 6 weeks that for the first time ever I am behind at this stage of the project, the fact that I am working with 35 and not 26 pupils also has contributed to the delay, anyway, onwards and upwards. We’ll be hanging the finished felt portraits tomorrow and making friendship bracelets for all the pupils to share.

After the opening of Duckett’s Grove on Friday morning Dawn and I picked up my great Danish buddy Kirsten Elise Lund and we headed back to Clasheen for an action packed and fun weekend! On Saturday morning we headed over to Suzanna Crampton’s beautiful home and spent a wonderful few hours rambling around the garden and getting up close and personal with her gorgeous Zwartbles sheep!

Kirsten, Dawn and Suzanna, Zwartbles are such a gently breed and SO friendly it's amazing

I want to write a full blog post about this trip, the sheep and felting with their fleece before I leave for US but if I don’t get time please MAKE sure I do so later in the summer!!! After a blissful morning we all went for an early lunch to Nicholas Mosse Pottery, dropped Suzanna home then Dawn, Kirsten and I headed food shopping to Kilkenny followed by a brilliant trip to Cushendale Woolen Mill in Graiguenamanagh. Thanks so much Mary Cushen for opening up the mill especially for Dawn and Kirsten, we really appreciated the personal attention, this local mill is my ‘must see’ recommendation for any international textile visitor who comes to Clasheen!!!

Choices, choices at Cushendale Woolen Mill

In the evening Kate Ramsey arrived to stay and we were all joined by some of my closest friends for a plate of curry and a chat. On Sunday morning Niki Collier arrived and we spent the day felting, chatting, eating, laughing and basically having what we Irish call ‘the craic’, Kate and Niki also popped in to Carlow to see Eileen MacDonagh’s amazing exhibition LITHOSPHERE at Visual!!! In the evening our local guy won the final of ‘The Voice of Ireland‘, congratulations Pat Byrne, we voted, cheered and shouted with the best of them. Dawn, Kirsten and I had an early start on Monday morning, 4am to be precise! It was bitter sweet leaving the girls at the airport, our time together was really special and it was very sad to see it ending. I will be however heading to US myself in exactly one week and visiting with Dawn and the three of us have plans laid for a longer session together next spring, lots to reflect on and lots to look forward to!!!

Speaking of the US, I am SO EXCITED that I will be heading off my travels exactly one week from today, in fact by this time next week I’ll actually be airborn and heading over to stay with the wonderful Jan Durham in Lexington and the amazing Dawn Edwards in Plainwell! If you would like to join us in Lexington on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th May or Plainwell on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th May from 10am to 5pm please just contact Jan or Dawn asap, we have just a few slots left on each of these dates so hurry if you want to have some fabulous felting fun!!! There are also only a few places left for the amazing week long felting extravaganza at Dominio Vale do Mondego in Portugal, please follow the link to see what’s on offer and contact Karin asap if you wish to confirm your spot! I’ll leave you today with the full workshop descriptions for KY and MI, I’m also going to be in action for 3 days at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival from 18th, 19th and 20th of May in case you can’t make either Lexington or Plainwell!!!

‘Fantastic Felt Inspired by the Natural and Built Environment’ 

Skill Level: Basic felting skills an advantage but total beginners are very welcome too!

Class Description: Let the shapes, forms, colours, patterns, textures and structures of the natural and built environment fire your imagination! During this two-day workshop participants will design and create their own unique and beautiful wearable, functional or decorative pieces of felt using nature and the man-made landscape for inspiration. Some participants may choose to create a purely decorative art piece such as a complex vessel, sculpture or wall hanging while others may decide to design and felt some wearable art or interior accent, possibly a bag, some jewellery, some nuno felt or maybe a framed landscape or table runner.

There will be time to experiment and discover techniques or materials over the two days that you may have never considered using in your felting before. Nicola will be bringing some of her favourite mohair off cuts for everyone to try out and will share with participants how she is currently using free machine embroidery selectively to accentuate design elements in some of her new bags and framed landscapes. She’ll also demonstrate the use of an electric sander during some stages of the felting process and speak about the possibilities of fulling nuno felt using the tumble dryer, Nicola doesn’t use a sander all the time herself but sometimes it can really help with certain tasks and it is definitely useful to know when this might apply. The tumble dryer technique is wonderful for difficult to felt fabrics and to eliminate all the traditional rubbing and rolling, it’s not for everyone but it is fantastic to speed up the process especially if you have a bad back or other health issues so again, another technique it can be handy to know about!

Participants are encouraged to bring along treasured bits and bobs from their stash, buttons, beads, scraps of vintage fabric, shells, stones, glass nuggets etc., these all make wonderful inclusions in felt and help to personalize and create a truly unique work of art! We will have access to a sewing machine during the workshop but if you have your own machine with a free machine embroidery foot please bring it along and some threads too if you have space in your car. We won’t have access to a tumble dryer at the venue but if participants would like to try this technique during the workshop they are free to lay out a large nuno wrap during day one and get it to the stage where they can bring it home with them and finish it using their own dryer that evening. Nicola will clearly explain the steps to take and it should be possible to full the pieces and have them finished to show off on day two!

NB Although participants will get the most from this workshop in either Kentucky or Plainwell if they are able to participate on both Friday and Saturday there may be a few places available for those unable to attend both days, please just contact Jan or Dawn asap to check.

Advertisements

We’re almost there with the book and check out these hats of Dawn’s!

Last night I finally finished as much of the book as was humanly possibly and pushed the button to start uploading the files to Chrissie, pity I didn’t realise that I had previously set the computer to switch off after 5 hours, hmm! Anyway, it’s back on now and hopefully by tonight the book will be ready to publish!!! I’m off for another session of CRAFTed today and then I’ll be shopping and organising in preparation for Dawn’s arrival tomorrow morning, I’m so excited!!! I can’t imagine how difficult her packing must be, check out this picture of the wonderful hats she’ll have at Borris Town Hall on Saturday and Sunday for our two ‘Fantastic Felt Hats’ workshops!!!!!

Dawn's amazing hats ready to pack for Ireland!

More CRAFTed pictures

I’m busy felting and writing today but I wanted to share some more pictures of our first CRAFTed session from Rathnure NS, thanks Taragh for forwarding these on to me.

Building up the design in layers

Teacher Taragh contacted me yesterday and said that the children were delighted with their first pieces of felt and are really looking forward to our next hands on session, I am too. In addition to the actual felting our intention was for the children to document our progress through words (in a journal), images (for themselves and the blog) and film (to be shown to the parents), because of the large numbers involved (35 six and seven year olds) the only people taking any pictures last week were Taragh and me!

Rubbing through the bubble wrap

Their first pieces of felt are now proudly displayed on the front of their new journals, I’m looking forward to seeing these books and reading about what the children enjoyed most (or didn’t!) handling wool and flat felting for the first time. We’re just waiting for the final permission slips to come back from the parents and when they do I’ll be able to show you some happy smiling faces, for the moment you can just imagine them!!!

Some of the first pieces of flat felt from senior infants and first class at Rathnure National School

U.S. flights booked, residential workshop in Portugal filling up nicely, felting tools posted, Dawn’s materials have arrived and CRAFTed is underway!

It’s very busy here this week and will be until Dawn Edwards and Chrissie Day arrive so I’m going to post briefly with bullet points today!

  • I’ve just confirmed my flights a few minutes ago for my U.S. trip in May. I can’t wait to be back facilitating workshops in Lexington KY with Jan Durham on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th May, at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival on Friday 18th, Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th May and in Plainwell MI with Dawn Edwards on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th May. Visit the workshop page for all the details.
  • Karin and I now have participants from the U.S., Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Iceland arriving to participate in the week long felting extravaganza in Portugal so there are only a few places left now! Here’s a link to the flyer with all the details. Flyer Felt workshop
  • Niki has personalised where requested and packed our first batch of felting tools and they are now en route to their new owners, thanks Rem (Niki’s husband) for bringing them to the post office yesterday. This first flush of orders came from Ireland, England, Austraila, right across the U.S. and Canada, wow!!!
  • While our ‘niki & niki’ tools went out in the post yesterday other felting materials came in by courier! I had placed an order with Wollknoll recently so the merino roving for Dawn’s two ‘Fantastic Felt Hats’ workshops in Borris on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd April has now arrived as has the short fibre merino I need to bring with me to U.S., wool that I ordered for my current CRAFTed project came too and lastly I got some more ponge silk in chocolate brown for myself. I need this to nuno felt some more scarves for the new retail outlet which is opening shortly at Duckett’s Grove.
  • My collaboration with students at Rathnure NS for CRAFTed for the Crafts Council has changed shape somewhat. I was meant to have 26 six and seven year olds to work with but the school principal didn’t want one class to be split up so now I’m working with 35 pupils!!! It’s a very big group of little bodies, I think that Taragh (their teacher), Mary (a wonderful helper) and I will have our work cut out for us but it’s definitely going to be fun in the process! I’ll leave you with a picture from our first session last Wednesday, the pupils had never felted or handled wool before so were amazed at how it came together to form a strong fabric. These first pieces were all laid out on needlefelt; the children choose a couple of colours of wool to lay on top of the needlefelt, then added shapes of mohair off cuts and/or metallic fabric, some added swirls of natural and artificial knitting yarn and then all but one child added a generous sprinkling of shiny firestar!

Some of the first pieces of flat felt from senior infants and first class at Rathnure NS

Quick update and thanks

My neck is really tingling now (from an old injury) so I know it’s time to call it a day and stop felting and/or using the computer! Thankfully I’ve had a full day working, the market in the morning (very quiet today, no sales but definite workshop bookings), felted 2 nuno scarves this afternoon, a bit of catching up on the computer and a nice pot roast in the oven for later when Alan arrives. I promise some pics in the next post but for now I’m off to gather a few samples of my work and catch up on a bit of reading. I’ve been lucky enough to be selected as one of the artist/makers for the Crafts Council’s CRAFTed programme 2012 so I want to show a representative selection of my felt to the teacher of the class that I’ve been paired up with.
Thanks to everyone who has been suggesting names for the new felting tools and to everyone who has been ordering them, I’ll let you know the final descision next week!!!

Nuno felting today!

I’ve been to the library, discovered I’ve won some gorgeous hand spun from my buddy Heather, run a wash, stocked up on brown soda bread and milk as well as 100 dressmakers pins this morning (more in a minute) and now I’m ready for a FULL DAY felting and possibly dying too, woo hoo!  I still need to catch up on emails, paperwork and many more other household tasks left over from the manic last weeks but for today that is it, no more procrastinating but rather creating and playing with fibre!!!

Nuno texture and merging colours

On Friday I shared with Gerda an experiment in nuno felting using a technique I hope to offer in workshops this Autumn.  Basically it involves using a tumble dryer for some of the steps therefore meaning that anyone with physical limitations or a tendency to get tired rubbing and rolling will have this stage of the process either eliminated altogether or cut down to no more than ten minutes in total!  Chrissie and I will be publishing a new book prior to Christmas (click here to check out a preview of our first book From Felt to Friendship if you are interested in what we have been up to so far) and this time concentrate on simple ideas for designing and felting your own clothing with a view to flattering your personal shape, not that ‘perfect’ shape we all aspire to but most of us never achieve!!!

Anyway, back to Friday and the nuno top I made.  Working in white ponge silk and undyed 26 micron I laid out a front and back side of my top basing the design on a scaled up version of a favourite wardrobe staple.  By using only white raw materials for the main layout area I was able to lay out the fibres really quickly, get on to the felting, piece my top together (thanks Gerda, you kept me sane, bought more much needed pins this morning!) and then have great fun dying using Horst’s wonderfully simple method of achieving graduating colours with no stress at all.  Having the correct equipment now for my studio and working with Horst again over the course of our large felt garment workshop as well as observing friends Jan Durham, Dawn Edwards and Sharon Costello from The Tin Thimble in action during my US trip has given me the confidence to set up my dying station in the kitchen and just ‘get on with it’ myself.

My plan for the next few days is to felt and dye at least two pieces to be used for the fashion show at Felt in Focus next week, I leave for Copenhagen on Friday so I’m off now to get started!!!  Thanks Cristina for house sitting while I will be away, Rex will be thrilled.

Our CRAFTed project is going on tour and US, Irish and Horst workshop updates!!!

On Wednesday evening we had a fantastic open night at Presentation PS in Kilkenny.  The girls displayed all their amazing work from our CRAFTed project and screened the video footage of exactly what was achieved during our time together and with their teacher Mairead in the classroom following our last felting session.  I was blown away by the sheer scope of what we had achieved, it was incredible to think that the body of work produced arose from a project with in effect 8 hours of actual hands on felting time.  The video footage (which the girls and their teacher Mairead had all taken turns filming and editing) was broken up into 4 short films, our initial meeting and introductory session, the first hands on session where everybody made a piece of flat felt for their journal covers, the start of the individual projects and the finishing of these pieces coupled with the embellishment of our group wall hanging, awesome!!!    I spoke a little about what the project had entailed, how we acquired the funding etc. (thanks to Kilkenny Education Centre and the Crafts Council!) and then we had a great time answering questions and showing the parents, relations, teachers, pupils and other guests present the beautiful and tactile results of all the hard work.  It was fascinating to delve into the journals and realise how much the girls seemed to enjoy felting, everyone mentioned how much hard work it was but all agreeed it was well worth the effort!  The positive energy in the school hall was infectious and I am delighted to say that I have been speaking to Marie from the Irish and International Sheep Shearing Championships this morning and we will be displaying our work to a wider audience when the 2011 Sheep and Wool Festival comes to Kilkenny on the June Bank Holiday weekend, congratulations girls, we are going on tour!!! 

If I didn’t have my phone I actually think that I would have thrown in the computer towel yesterday.  My computer is now in Dublin for some serious doctoring, thanks for all the messages of suport, yes, I definitely wish I had invested in a MacBook last year and Paul, what I have been working is actually my new laptop, not a PC!  Thank goodness I can upload images directly to Flickr from my phone and then steal the code to insert them here in the blog, Alan’s computer is about 4 years old and amazing I don’t seem able to upload them directly there or download Blurb because of some scripting problem, at least I think that’s what the problem is!  Update ….. I have just discovered that I can’t actually steal the link code and upload the images here for some reason so please head on over to the CRAFTed set on Flickr to see more images from Wednesday,  I will be drip feeding uploads from my phone all day today so bear with me, it may take some time!  A lot of the pupils had their cameras too so I am hoping we will have a great variety of fun pictures to share over the course of the next few days.

US, Irish and Horst workshop updates – I know I promised to get the materials list together for my US workshops and also contact Horst workshop participants with B&B info, please be patient, it is in the works but this computer stuff really has my head addled!  Last night I called in to The Yarn Room in Ashford, Co. Wicklow, don’t think I was skiving I was delivering the laptop to my sister.  We put two dates in our diaries for July, these will be for a kind of felting orientation day followed by a wonderful nuno felting workshop, more about these when I get the specs written up but if you live within striking distance and would like to learn or improve your felting skills July 16th and July 23rd are the dates for you! I also have a workshop booked here at Clasheen for Saturday 23rd April, the last time I will be teaching here before heading off across the water!  If you have already got some felting experience and would like to join me for the day to explore some interesting ways of adding detail to the surface of your felt (I will write up this class spec too and add it to the workshop page) please email me asap, I have a couple of spaces left.