Kentucky workshops now booking and some great CRAFTed felting!

Well, finally I have managed to upload new information, class descriptions etc. on the workshop page about the felting on offer in Kentucky this May but after almost two hours of trying I am almost at my wit’s end!!!  I had hoped to have all the info for both days in KY as well as the two days in Plainwell MI online for you this afternoon but forgive me at this stage, it will be the morning before I have another tangle with the formatting (what on earth was wrong, it just kept going MAD???!!!) so apologies to Dawn and everyone in Michigan, your time will come tomorrow!  Anyway, Kentucky is now open for booking and if you want to reserve your spot please email Jan as soon as possible.

For those of you who might be debating whether you would like to attend a workshop with me I am going to post tomorrow about the sort of experience you can expect!  I will also explain a little bit more about the workshop titles, they are not written in stone but rather indicative so don’t panic if the titles are not exactly what you are looking for, more on that as I say tomorrow.

Beautifully felted journal cover

Now I am just going to suggest a little visual journey over at Flickr, this morning I had my third session with the girls who are participating in our CRAFTed project and managed to take some great photos of the work they have all done to date.  I was blown away by their wonderful first pieces of flat felt, during the week their teacher Mairead helped them embellish these further (if they wanted to) and now each girl has a beautifully decorated journal in which to record our progress!  Please do leave them some comments if you like their work as much as me, photos of today’s session working on three dimensional pieces should be uploaded over the weekend!!!

American and Irish workshop updates, ArtL!nks plus FlyLady!

It’s official, Kentucky has now been added as the final stop for my American felting workshops on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th May, I am so thrilled to be visiting this beautiful state and am really looking forward to meeting Jan Durham for the first time and catching up with Lindy Huber again!!!  As soon as all the details are ironed out for the workshops I will post here with all the information about the techniques we will be covering as well as update the information on the workshop page

Bookings are now open for The Tin Thimble’s annual Mother’s Day Fiber Retreat in Downeville CA (see I can use American spellings sometimes) so if you are interested in joining us (hi Carole!) for what promises to be an action packed and fun time please hurry, spaces at this event are strictly limited!!!

The introduction to feltmaking for total beginners and improvers at Clasheen on Saturday 5th March is now fully booked but please email me if you would like to be added to my waiting list in case of a cancellation or to discuss the possibility of attending on another day. 

Total mess on my studio tables and beyond

I should in fact be playing in a golf competition this afternoon but needs must, my studio is totally messy once again and I really need to get it sorted and start on my large ArtL!nks vessel by this evening (or more realistically first thing tomorrow morning) at the latest!  The mess isn’t a dirty mess but rather an excceptionally untidy one, the tables mightn’t look too bad but it is everywhere else you aren’t seeing that is the big problem, where on earth will I shove all this stuff to free up my work space???  Note the bird seed, oatmeal and sultanas too, since the harsh weather I have a selection of robins and a blackbird that bombard me every time I leave through the back door so I keep these to hand as a simple way of keeping them happy!  This last part of my ArtL!nks work will be the vessels finished using the yoga balls for the shaping.  I am thinking of making two large vessels, the first one in white Icelandic wool and stiffened with PVA to check out my template measurements and make sure the ball is a good idea, the second in white merino with chocolate and orange shapes.  This merino vessel will require a lot more time and more expensive materials to felt so you can see why I want to try out the Icelandic wool and ball first, if it is a disaster I will need to rethink my plan.

My tidy dining room with felt and fibre accessories!

Lastly I am going to leave you with two pictures of my totally tidy dining room to show that it will be possible to tidy my studio, amazing picture as all my friends know (usually this room is TOTALLY COVERED in paperwork and other assorted ‘stuff’) but it is all down to hard work and a lot of help from FlyLady!!!  Those of you who have been following my blog for a long time may remember that I signed up to FlyLady in January 2009 but I fell by the wayside sometime later that year.  Enough is enough, 2011 is the year I am trying my best to sort out the house, studio and garden in tandem with organising my diary and keeping better track of my felting work.  Keeping a balance between all these things is important but earning a working living is vital and hopefully a bit more structure and a tidy space to live in will help with that!  This first picture shows the view looking over the dining table towards a little nook livened up with a favourite painting by Majid Kahhak, a felt throw on the back of a sofa bed and a light fitting with about 45 felt flower lampshades.  There is another splash of colour in this direction where a shocking pink sheepskin provides a comfy seating place on top of a trunk if necessary, by the way, Alan does NOT like this pink sheepskin at all! 

Simple venacular architecture with individual modern table and chairs!

The second shot is looking in the other direction towards the main bedroom.  In this picture you can see the juxtaposition of the ultra modern dining table and chairs with the unchanged local venacular architecture.  Thanks to friend Duncan Russell whom I comissioned these beautiful pieces from several years ago, I had intended some traditional farmhouse furniture for this room but hadn’t managed to find what I was looking for and totally fell for Duncan’s work, cest la vie. 

When I bought Clasheen approx 5 years ago now it had not been lived in since 1928 and I really wanted to keep the structure and design as it was originally intended (with of course some modern inclusions such as water and an old looking extension to add a bit more space).  This has meant a simple and friendly home which I am totally in love with, there are some drawbacks however including lack of storage space (badly needed) and some draughty spots, even though I had external doors and windows individually made by traditional craftsmen they do not function as well as modern equivalents so I am plannning some improvements which will be put in place as finance and time dictates!

CRAFTed project underway and a couple of great magazines!

This morning I had the pleasure of meeting all the girls who are collaborating with me and their teacher Mairead for our CRAFTed project in Kilkenny, we had fun!  We started the session with a look at some of my work and then passed around different raw materials so the girls could both handle and smell raw and processed wool.  Mairead and the class had spoken previously about what we might be getting up to and everybody had questions they wanted to ask and journals ready to write the answers down in, along with video and photography these journals are a way for them to explore and document our project.  Three of the girls (at least I think it was three!) had brought in video cameras and we also had photographers amongst the pupils which is just as well, I was talking and demonstrating so much that I never remembered to take even one photo, definitely a first for me!  Once I explained the felting process I laid out a piece of flat felt and then everyone took turns rubbing and rolling so they would have a clearer idea of what they would be doing over the course of the next three sessions.  They then started to jot down ideas and sketches for their main pieces, our theme is ‘exploring transision’ and we are making one collaborative wall hanging and at least one individual piece each.  The wall hanging is going to have 32 pockets (one for each pupil) and each girl will both decorate the outside of their pocket and select an item (or items) to place inside this.  When completed the wall hanging will be displayed in the school and the items left there as a memory when they move forward to secondary school later this year.  As I am writing this I am wondering should there also be a pocket for Mairead as their teacher and me as the facilitator???  The individual projects will also have some way of holding a special item, maybe this will be a pocket in a piece of flat felt or a three dimensional object such as a vessel or a bag.  These pieces will be for the pupils to carry with them as they leave the school and the idea here is that the items they put inside these pieces will have meaning for them and be something that they want to bring with them into their future.  Anyway, I had a great time and hope that the girls did too!  Next Wednesday they will all make their first piece of flat felt (which will be stuck onto the journal covers) as well as designing the templates for their individual projects.  I hope too to have prefelted a base and pockets for the wall hanging prior to the session, if this is the case the girls can also start decorating the pockets and surround next week.

Green Craft
Haute Handbags

The latest issue of my all time favourite magazine has just been published by Stamptington.  I ADORE Green Craft!!!!!  Such fun, inspirational and new ways of looking at incorporating recycled, upcycled and found materials into ones work, I defy anybody not to like this publication!  The other Stamptington magazine that really grabs my fancy is Haute Handbags, this is the one I spoke about a couple of weeks ago that inspired me to add leather leaves and beads to the top of one of my felt vessels, picture of this vessel to come soon I promise! 

SO EXCITED to announce American felting workshops in May, CRAFTed, upcoming book and process of first mohair vessel explained a little!!!!!

So much to share with you and really not enough time to get everything written down and documented, today I have just had to put felting aside and tie myself to the computer to try and get my diary under control for the next few months!

My biggest news of the day is that I will be paying a return visit to California and Michigan during the month of May and I am just so thrilled and excited to be planning another series of felting workshops with you on that side of the world, watch out, here I come!!!!!  Although provisional dates and venues just need to be finally confirmed and I don’t want to jinx anything it looks as if I will be teaching in San Fransisco on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th May, travelling to an exciting fibre retreat in Downieville for 13th – 16th May and with the wonderful Dawn in Plainwell, Michigan either the last weekend in April or the third weekend in May, I am so excited I can hardly speak, unusual for me as those of you who have already met me can readily attest!!!!!  I had such a ball the last time I was over and met so many lovely people, I am really looking forward to renewing acquaintances and meeting more of you, the internet is truly a wonderful place to make contact with fellow fibre addicts!  Although I haven’t actually contacted them yet there might be the possibility of putting something together with a fascinating artist and designer in Los Angeles and if any others of you would like to discuss the possibility of me teaching a workshop while I am over please email me to discuss options asap!

My next bit of news is that I start a short residency called CRAFTed this Friday, a learning skills for life project aiming to connect creativity and innovation through craft.  It is jointly organised through the Crafts Council of ireland and Kilkenny Education Centre and I have been paired with 6th class at Scoile Mhuire Presentation School in Kilkenny, 32 girls aged 11 and 12.  Last Wednesday I met their teached Mairead at a day long training for the project (we had fun!) and we have decided on the working title  ‘exploring transition’ to be the theme for our collaboration.  This residency follows on from my Craft in the Classroom residency but due to financial constraints and funding restrictions in Ireland at the moment we just have 10 contact hours and 6 hours preparation this time (in addition to the training day obviously).  On Friday I will be meeting the girls and showing them some of my work, answering questions, giving a short demonstration of the magic envolved in felting and then we will be discussing and planning how the course of our project will evolve.  This class will be leaving at the beginning of the summer and moving to ‘big school’, they will also be making their confirmation during the Spring so ‘exploring change’ seemed an appropriate theme, let’s hope it proves to be so and I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew! 

Fibre diva, author and good friend Chrissie Day and I plan on having our collaborative felting book published in time for my upcoming trip to USA!!!  This has been long in the planning and I hope worth the wait when we finally get it together and under one cover at last!  We both love to felt with similar and different raw materials and the book should be an interesting combination of different styles, techniques, tips and advice, watch this space!!!!! (How many exclamation marks can one blog post cope with?????)

Now on to a brief but fairly comprehensive explanation (at least I hope it will be brief and not bore you!) of the process I went through at the end of last week, as with the white, brown and orange ArtL!nks vessels I decided to work with the design inside for my first mohair vessel experiment.  This proved to require more concentration than I had expected; building up the layers of colour and texture in this way and turning the felt inside out near the end of the felting process allowed for the clearest end surface design and least difficulty combining different materials especially around the areas where the fibres met the edge of the resist. 

Nubbly textures and surface detail incl. yellow plastic net, red linen fibres, lilac wool neps and rich reflective mohair

Areas where I trapped hard rectangles of previously felted wool under silk chiffon and fibre (to get both design elements and a raised surface texture) plus the places where I added some pieces of yellow plastic netting needed the most brain power but I kept my flat felt experiment to hand and this was a big help in determining how exactly I would lay out my design.  Once I had the fibres and fabric laid out against the plastic resist on side one I followed this with a thick layer of loose mohair fibres.  As I mentioned before this mohair is a waste product from the weaving industry and as such when Carmen and I get the bags of fluffy, lustrous fibre the colours are both clear and subtly blended, it obviously depends on what fabric the mill has been brushing and what has been previously brushed as to what colours we end up to work with.  I choose the pinkest and purpleist (are these words???) blends to lay against the design and once the first side was totally covered I wet it out using a lot of soap, gave it a brief rub and then turned the package over to the other side.  Next I continued laying the surface design (working with the laminate floor underlay for a resist allows me to see the shapes and colours from side one through the plastic) before folding over the edges from side one and laying out the mohair on the second side as well.  Once that is done (soaped and rubbed lightly) I turned the package over again before laying two even layers of gotland/merino blend on each side.  The important thing at this stage is to place a piece of yarn or contrasting fibre on your work wherever you decide you will be cutting into the felt once the felting has occured and the fulling is progressed enough for you to be cutting out your resist.  If I don’t do this at this stage I totally forget where the upper and lower surface of my vessels will be, live and learn!  I spent a lot of time rubbing lightly on both sides of the package and paid special attention to the edges around the resist, the fibres there need to be nice and snug otherwise you will end up with unwanted ridges when you start to shape the vessel. 

Silk and linen fibres on top of woven mohair squares

Once I was happy that the fibres were starting to felt together well I commenced rolling in different directions alternating with rubbing directly on top of the felt using more pressure and friction at this stage.  When it looked as if I needed to cut into the felt to relieve the internal pressure (the felt is shrinking and therefore the plastic resist is getting scrunched up inside) I knew where to make the insision because I was careful to keep an eye on that odd coloured bit of yarn which was my marker!  I sealed the edges and rubbed carefully around the edge of the resist before turning the package inside out and having a look at what the vessel would finally look like and how the design worked in the round.  Finishing the piece was exactly the same as any other sculptural felt, rinsing, rubbing, rolling, banging, shaping etc. until finally I was happy with the result.  Because I used a combination of mohair with the gotland/merino blend the vessel is nice and strong sculpturally and definitely should hold it’s shape over time.  I like the way the different fibres have blended and mingled although I have to say I pulled off some sequined ribbon (do you remember us buying that Sharon???) once I turned the vessel inside out, a bit blingy for me at the end so it had to go much to Carmen’s delight!