Good news, disappointing news and some beautiful felt too!

I’m sorry I didn’t get to blog yesterday. The morning just seemed to rush past and in the afternoon I started a new series of workshops with Borris Active Retirement, Leiko arrived back mid day too and what with one thing and another I never got to fire up the computer at all. I’m now waiting at Duckett’s Grove for one of my US blog readers to arrive (Hi Mary!) and after that I’ll try and pick up a winter jumper (sweater) in Carlow and see if I can find some more props for the studio.

The big news I’d like to share with you all today is that I received a call yesterday confirming that my submission for an exciting school arts projects has been selected subject to confirmation of the funding!!! This was the submission that I frantically worked on last week, it’s a fantastic opportunity to work with 480 pupils plus teachers creating 4 large textile panels, felt based but with plenty of other materials too I think! I don’t want to jinx anything at this stage but as soon as we get the financial go ahead I’ll let you know the full details.

On the opposite side of things I didn’t have my work selected for the Crafts Council’s upcoming ‘Beauty in Nature’ exhibition. This was a big disappointment but a good lesson not to count my chickens before they’ve hatched!

I’ll leave you today with two images, Joan, Mary and Mary with their beautiful first flat felt pictures and Dorothy modelling the amazing sleeveless jacket she felted during our last series of workshops and stitched during the summer. Congratulations ladies!




Another wonderful package and incredible news in the post!!!

I had intended blogging about the wonderful package I recieved yesterday from Gill aka tisserande for my second bite at the Clasheen Crafty Swap but as I have not been able to take photos today (totally tied up finishing pieces for the RDS National Craft Competition) I promise to post everything tomorrow and reveal the AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL woven silk scarf.  Thanks so much Gill, everything is fabulous and I really feel lucky to have some more gorgeous fibres to experiment with as well, just wait until I have some time next week to play, my head is full of ideas!

This morning I felted a sea shore inspired nuno neckpiece using some gorgeous hand dyed silk from Lyda Rump and combining it with short fibred merino and white bamboo tops.  I had intended on felting a white closure adding some fish skin, a piece of abalone and some mohair locks as embellishment but for some reason I just can’t seem to get it finished to my satisfication so I decided to leave it for the moment and take a quick break, walking up to the top of the lane with Rex to collect my post. 

I am SO excited as guess what was waiting in the post box to brighten up my day???  A letter saying that I had been awarded the 1000 Euro ArtL!nks bursary that I applied for recently, the news is still just sinking in!!!  Those of you who have been following my blog for a while now  will know that ArtL!nks is a 5 counties initiative that has been instrumental in helping me build my felting practice since taking up the craft almost 3 years ago.  I am really honoured that the independent panel assessing the applications thought my work was of sufficient merit to recieve a bursary and will blog about what the funds will be used for next week when I get my RDS submission out of the way!!!

Now, I have a message direct to you all from Cathy Fitzgerald, director of ArtL!nks and would really appreciate if those of you who the message is relevant to take the time to fill out the survey, I have already done it!

Attention all those involved in the Arts in the South East:

In the last few years ArtLinks have organised the first local arts training opportunities in the South East. ArtLinks is now 3 years old with close to 1500 members. ArtLinks is now currently reviewing its programme and is be conducting the online Survey from Mon 10 -26 May 2010, to all its members. We would invite all  who are passionate about the development of the Arts in the South East region to contribute to the future direction of this programme by taking 5 mins to complete this survey at (there is a 100 euro book voucher to be won too!)

Sneak preview, exciting news, new swap, an answer and an update ……

Quite a lot of exciting things to talk about this morning and not so much time to write everything down!  Starting with the sneak preview, here is a detailed image of the silk and corn fibres (turquoise and white respectively) that I combined with Icelandic wool for my latest felt bag. 

Corn fibre, silk and Icelandic wool

I am not going to post pictures of the completed bag yet (yay, got the handle finished and fitted this morning!!) in case my swap buddy is following here  but this will give you an idea of how I interperted her favourite ocean inspired colours.  Now that the bag is finished I am very happy with the sense of motion, almost wave like that the white corn fibres add to the surface.  These fibres were one of the goodies that I bought last October from Blas and Jamie at Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco and I can’t wait until October again this year when I am making a return visit and will be facilitating a workshop as well!  Blas and Jamie are making a visit to Ireland this Spring and as well as participating with me in a workshop at Clasheen I will be spending some time with them showing off some of my favourite spots here in South Eastern Ireland.

That sentence leads me nicely into my biggest news, I will definitely be in America during October 2010 and would love to do a series of workshops across the States and get to meet as many of my blog followers as possible!  Thanks so much to Dawn Edwards who will be organising an event in Michigan.  I can’t say how thrilled I am that we will be meeting up in person at last and I actually get to stay with her and wear her out with all my chatting, how cool is that!!  Over the next week I have to finish my submission for an ArtL!nks bursary, deadline for me is next Wednesday but as soon as that is done I want to chat with everyone who might be even vaugely interested in the possibility of a felting workshop so please email me if you would like to touch base and try and work something out.  My plan is to either start the trip in San Francisco and end in Chicago or visa versa and I am thinking of travelling early in October but need to clarify the dates and see if I could possibly include the last week in September as well.  Please email me directly if you might be interested, it would be great to hire a car and teach all the way from Chicago to San Fransisco!

The Clasheen Spring Swap is now posted to our group on Flickr and sign ups are underway as we speak.  For this seasonal swap we will make one special gift for our swap buddy using Spring as our inspiration. Let your imagination run wild sparked by all the freshness of the season, ideas to consider include light weight scarves, jewellery, hand painted cards, homemade floral scents or body products, fabric covered art journals, anything at all with a spring theme or colour.  We will also include a couple of inexpensive extras (possibly from our stash) and a receipe for a light and appealing main course dish which we enjoy cooking ourselves at this time of year.  If you want to sign up for the swap remember you need to do so through the group on Flickr, joining us is easy if you are not already a member!

For those of you wondering where I got the gorgeous hand made beads that I incorporated into Suzanne’s necklace I bought them from Lori aka Tabmade on Etsy.  Unfortunately Lori doesn’t have anything for sale at the moment but if you do a search for fimo or polymer clay beads on the internet maybe you will be lucky and source some unusual beads for yourself.

And finally, poor Suzanne is having problems with her wrist and now has to go back for more surgery next week.  Somehow the bones have shifted and her cast was removed yesterday.  Now she has a back slab fitted as a temporary support and it is extremely painful so hopefully next week will start some progress and her wrist will finally stop paining her at last.  Thanks for all your messages to her, I am passing them on and she appreciates the thought.

Submission, fingerless gloves and technical problems yet again

I am not going to bore you with details of all my technical problems at the moment but suffice to say I am off to try and buy a new laptop immediately I upload this post otherwise I am going to need serious counselling for computer rage and anger managment!  Yesterday I managed to finish my arts grant submission thanks in no small part to the fabulous printer (cheers for the simplicity of Epson ) I invested in on Wednesday afternoon.  You may well ask yourself how I am going to fund all these new technical products but the way I feel today if I have to spend another 50 minutes starting a computer, half an hour trying to access gmail, over an hour writing and uploading a blog post and if 20 images of my felt cost E98 in hard copies (I nearly passed out!!!) new equipment will save me both time and money so I have to find the money somehow.  I know that Carlow Co. Council may not have many funds to grant the arts this year but fingers crossed they will send a little my way and hopefully this will help fund my intended trip to the international felt symposium ‘Felt, Naturally’ in Silkeborg, Denmark from 28th July to 1st August 2010.  This symposium sounds fabulous and I really would like to attend to further my studies in various aspects of sculptural felting.  The Danish felting group Grima are organising the event to celebrate their twentieth anniversary and if you are interested in finding out more click the word Engelsk Brochure when you link through to their excellent website.

As promised here is  a photo from my felting students at last Sunday’s ‘Pick up your Needles’ workshop in the Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely. 

Fun fingerless mittens


Our first project in the morning was a piece of flat felt so that participants could see how the felting process actually occurs (most participants had never felted before) and then in the afternoon everyone made themselves a gorgeous pair of warm and comfortable fingerless mittens.  Unfortunately I really was not feeling 100% on Sunday (cold was in full flow) and think that I needed to make the resists for the mittens a little bit wider.  We only discovered this when everyone got to the stage of putting the mittens on for the final felting and working to size.  Some of the mittens were extremely tight but luckily heating them up in the microwave helped stretch them a little and everyone was very understanding and delighted with their work so all in all a good day was had by everyone!

My super soft yak scarf and preparing submission for an Arts Act Grant

I seem to have picked up a bad cold over the last few days and it didn’t help that I had three individual meetings at the golf club today which were totally necessary to attend.  Following on from another excellent ‘Pick up your Needles’ at the Courthouse Art Centre in Tinahely yesterday (more details and photos to follow from my felting participants over the next day or two as soon as my cold abates) I decided to stay in my p-js this morning and not get dressed until just before my first meeting at 2pm this afternoon!  To wrap myself snugly I wore the yak and silk scarf that I felted with hand dyed fibres purchased from Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco and at the risk of boring everyone this fibre is an absolute dream to work with, beautifully soft, warm and flexible to wear.  If any of you have access to Blas and Jamie’s wonderful studio/shop do look out for this stunning yak fibre.  I know that it had only just arrived in stock for the first time when I visited last September but I guess that Blas should have it regularly now considering there must be a big demand for such a beautiful fibre.

Tomorrow I am going prepare my submission for an ‘Arts Act Grant’ from Carlow County Council.  Last year they awarded me E200 for professional development and this was extremely welcome funding which went towards my expenses for the international symposium Felt in Focus.  Finances are very tight here in Ireland and it is brilliant that the local authorities are still prepared to fund certain individual and group artistic indeavours to benefit our local community.

Cropped felt top, submission for ‘The climate is Changing’ and recommended magazine to buy

My flu appears to have abated somewhat so I am taking this opportunity of posting about the very exciting top that I felted for myself this week while getting fed and minded like a baby at Carmen’s!  I really hate sewing and for a long time have wanted to make some stylish felt wearables for myself but until Sigrid Bannier’s recent trip to Ireland have always resisted the mental thought process that needs to happen before confidently handling such large scale clothing projects.  In tandem with this, for the last 5 months I have been desperately trying to think up my response to the international call for submissions for a juried travelling exhibition portraying the impact of human actions on the environment.  ‘The Climate is Changing’ should be a challenge that I can rise to given the Green Party aspect of my background but until I finally crystallized my thoughts during a recent hike through Lassen Volcanic National Park my brain seemed absolutely dead as to how I could interpret my ideas into a piece of felt.  Without giving too much away I have also been totally inspired by an interview with Thomas Horst (my absolute favourite American felter to date!) and his details of how to make a felted coat, I can’t recommend enough buying the Fall edition of ‘Living Crafts’ to check this out for yourselves.  Thomas uses an electric sander a lot in his work and for the project detailed in the magazine the wool used shrinks by 25%.  This got me to thinking that if I rubbed or sanded my work for a significantly longer period of time than I usually do and coupled this with cooler water and less rolling would I achieve a strong and finished felt garment with less shrinkage than I usually build in?  The answer is YES!  This means that now I have a felting method that achieves a gorgeous surface finish and doesn’t need the gigantic resists that I was always imagining would be required if I needed to allow 50% shrinkage for larger wearable articles.  The unusually styled cropped top that I made for myself during the week is a generous size, has a gorgeous high neck and is made from just over 200g of the softest merino.  I laid it out on a backing of cotton gauze for drape and stability and used some of the gorgeous silk hankies and twists that I got in Denmark as surface decoration, with a little manipulation (read more concentration cutting up the cotton gauze!) this would have made a wonderful reversible nuno top.  Now I have a clear idea of how I am going to proceed to create my submission.  Forgive me if I don’t give a total step by step description or an idea of the shape of my garment but I need to get the application sorted out first and one of the conditions is that no details or images of the work have been talked about or published prior to the juried stage of ‘The Climate is Changing’.

At last ‘Cascade’ is installed and Clasheen Autumn Swap

Well at last ‘Cascade’ is installed in the Great Palm House at the National Botanic Gardens thanks to a lot of help from Alan!  Thanks also to everyone who sent me emails and comments with suggestions about the stringing and transportation of the felt flowers.  I eventually wound the strands around old election posters of Alan’s and secured both ends with packing tape, it worked a dream!  I must say that we nearly came to blows on Wednesday night and I was beginning to wonder if the project would ever come to fruition but come Thursday morning everything looked a lot more hopeful and all went extremely smoothly in the actual installation thank goodness.  We arrived at the Botanic Gardens a little after eleven in the morning and Ana Duncan, Beatrice and everyone concerned with the organisation of the exhibition was a great help as were the horticultural staff working in the Palm House area itself.  We had no problem accessing the gantry and Alan ended up lying way up overhead dropping down a piece of string through the gantry floor weighted with a small fishing weight!  I then attached individual strands of flowers by means of a swivel hook before Alan pulled the whole thing up from above.  Although he needed to be careful not to pull to quickly or else the strands would wrap around each other this only happened once during the whole process and we managed to sort the problem out without too much fuss.  By about half past two we had the bulk of the long strands installed and had a welcome break for a spot of lunch.  (If you do go to see the exhibition the restaurant/coffee shop is excellent, I actually had never had anything to eat there before and realised that I had been missing out on some really great home cooked food and cookies!)  Feeling refreshed we then went back to the Palm House and I started attaching shorter strands of flowers from some of the surrounding foliage.  The main body of the installation is approx 3.5m long and the lower strands just serve to continue the cascade down to a level where everyone will be able to view and enjoy the felt including the many children who have great fun running around in the garden.  We finished the work by about five o’clock when I positioned some loose felt flowers amongst the lowest plants to ground the whole installation.  Alan thought that the flowers could be a bit bigger but overall I am pretty happy with the result.  I think that the masses of small flowers do what I proposed in my submission but obviously I will need to let the public be the deciders of that!  I was so wrapped up in installing the work that I didn’t think to take any photos but Sculpture in Context opens on Wednesday night and providing I locate my camera (which I have mislaid since last weekend) I intend taking images which I will then post to the blog and Flickr.

Clasheen Autumn Swap  – sign up today!

Sorry about the really late notice for those of you not checking the Clasheen Crafty Swap group regularly on Flickr but sign ups for this swap close tonight as I want to get partners assigned before I leave home on Tuesday afternoon for our holidays.  This swap is all about spoiling your partner on a budget, a little bit like a Green meets New Year de-stash swap with a difference! We will create a thoughtful but inexpensive package using mainly items that we already have in our homes or can buy locally and add in a little hand made gift that we have created ourselves for our swap buddy. Using the list below for guidance select at least five items that you already have at home and then let your imagination do the rest ……..

Old craft magazines or book you no longer need
That gorgeous soap or body lotion that you have never opened
Buttons and beads
Fibre (the more the merrier!!)
Hand made paper
Greeting cards
Jewellery that you have never worn
Ribbons and bows
Scrap leather
Your favourite tea
etc., etc., etc.

If you want to sign up for the swap please go to our sign up page on Flickr and make sure to also add your likes and dislikes to the relevant page.  Packages then need to be sent by Friday 16th October (any earlier is a bonus!) giving everyone plenty of time to make their hand made gift and put together their package.

Catching up with news, felt lampshade workshops, any felters in California?

Well I have so much news to write about and only so much time to do it in!  Sigrid travelled back to Germany on Thursday after a wonderful 2 weeks together here at Clasheen and since then I am trying to catch up on household chores, complete my 450+ flowers for ‘Sculpture in Context’, submit a proposal for a craft exchange to Norway and make and submit my entry for an international felt exhibition ….. all these have to be completed before Thursday 27th, some by August 24th!  On September 2nd ‘Sculpture in Context’ opens and on the following morning Alan and I fly to San Fransisco for a 4 week road trip, woo hoo, I am really excited to be travelling to the States for another vacation!

OK, let’s take all these things in order and then I will follow up with some more detailed posts over the coming week to bring you all up to speed with events here in Ireland as well as posting about Anna Gunnarsdottir’s wonderful 2 day ‘felt sculpture’ workshop at ‘Felt in Focus’

Sigrid Bannier’s 2 day felt lampshade workshop went brilliantly, each participant made at least one completed piece with some creating several items over the course of the weekend.  The most useful knowledge gained from this workshop for me was realising how you could adapt basic light fittings and put them to many uses when deciding how to create your lampshades or light fittings. 

Anne with her finished felt lampshade

Anne with her finished felt lampshade

Some participants came armed with a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve and Sigrid was very good at enabling people see how their thoughts could be turned into reality.  Other people had no preconcieved ideas and let Sigrid’s photos and the basic lamp fittings dictate what their finished piece would be like.  The simplest ideas often work the best and by hanging a very fine piece of light coloured felt in front of a wall light beautiful effects can be achieved.  Gerd (who had only felted once before!) incorporated fresh rushes (a type of grass found in boggy ground) into her wall piece and initally had intended creating two lampshades using this method.  Half way through the process she decided to keep the felt as one piece to hang in front of her double height window allowing the natural light to shine through the felt and reveal the gorgeous pattern created by the vegetation.  More images of work in progress and finished pieces from this workshop may be found on  Flickr and when Carmen and Patricia have finished their flower covered shades I promise to take pictures and post them as well!

This is just an off chance but are any of you living in the upper part of California and if so would you be interested in me delivering a felt workshop during the month of September???  Alan and I will be travelling to San Fransisco on 3rd September for 4 weeks and participants from a local Irish stone symposium will be staying in my house for the duration.  This is a win win situation as my friend and well known sculptor Eileen MacDonagh has organised participants from the symposium to house sit during my trip, for these people they get a great location and free accomodation for the month while I get my house minded and my dog fed!  Alan and I are collecting a car in San Fransisco and our intended route extends northwards to encompass amongst others Napa, Mendocino, Redwood National Park, Lava Beds National Monument then travels south through Lassen Volcanis National Park, Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake and returns to San Fransisco via the Big Sur coastline.  If any of you are interested in the possibility of me teaching a felting workshop please email me asap and we can discuss the various options.  It would be absolutely amazing to meet some followers of the blog in person so do please contact me or leave comments if you live anywhere near where we are travelling and who knows we might get time for a coffee and a chat!

Finishing the nuno felt tunic and Art@work

Thanks so much to all my inspirational ‘fibre friends’ who left comments on the blog and Flickr, as well as those of you who emailed me directly with advice and inspiration about finishing the sides of my nuno felted tunic. It is truly amazing to think how small the world is when you ask a question one day and within a couple of minutes of asking replies start to come in from the other side of the world! I wish that I could have some of you right here in my studio, I guess if that were the case I wouldn’t have to keep asking the questions!!  Hopefully I will get a bit of time next weekend between canvassing (for Alan’s campaign of course) and actually put needle to fabric, this is the bit I dread the most but needs must and I am determined to finish the tunic and get it to the wearable stage.

Alan is off to a meeting shortly and I am going to take the opportunity while he is out to sit down and prepare my submission for Art@work. To quote Philip Delamere (Arts Officer at Roscommon County Council) “the Art@work residency programme has continued as a significiant outlet for contemporary arts practise to be integrated into the fabric of the community throughout County Roscommon.” You may remember recently that I paid a site visit to the participating businesses for 2009, now I need to put my thoughts to paper and decide which images to send and support my submission. The collaborative project from 2008 has just won the ‘Best Sponsorship by Small to Medium Enterprises’ section in the Allianz Business to Arts Awards so congratulations to the Arts Office of Roscommon County Council and participating businesses Arigna Fuels, Bank of Ireland, FDK Engineering, Feelystone, Gleeson’s Guesthouse and Molloy’s Bakery. The artists involved in 2008 were Michelle Browne, David McCarthy, Catherine Donnelly, Carl Giffney, Cathal Roche and Rebecca Walter, well done to everyone.