ArtL!nks profile updated

I’ve just updated my profile on ArtL!nks this afternoon but why oh why can’t I upload my new avatar or profile picture?????  It’s SOOOOO frustrating to spend hours constantly editing and resending info only to have NOTHING make a difference at the end of the day, ugh!  Anyway, enough moaning.

Alan is tied up until late tonight and my weekend workshop had to be postponed unfortunately (broken wrists and other similar last minute problems!) so I’ve taken the opportunity to tidy the kitchen and get some internet essentials out of the way.  A large tray of seasonal vegtables are roasting in the oven and I’ve already made a yummy smoked bacon, tomato and garlic topping to use as a base for a puff pastry tart later.  Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll get a good walk up the mountain and spend the rest of the day felting, nuno felting anyone???

Colours and textures in a recent nuno felt scarf

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Largest ArtL!nks vessel felted at last!!!!!

Whew, I was beginning to think that I would NEVER get my largest ArtL!nks vessel felted and fulled!!!!!  Over the last week or so I have been giving it a rub and a roll every time I had a spare minute and yesterday afternoon I finally decided enough was enough and decided to declare it finished!

Working any uneven spots on the mohair layer with my felting mouse

I don’t have a lot of time this morning to blog about yesterday (preparing for my session this afternoon with Borris Active Retirement) but thought you might enjoy a couple of photos showing what I was up to at this final stage of shaping the vessel.

You may recall that I laid out this vessel with the intention to have the mohair layer for the outside, as things progressed, I far preferred the inner layer of white merino as I like the subtle colour variations where the mohair fibres have felted through the white.  Because of the soft and less structural nature of mohair (as opposed to a vessel felted purely from merino or another fibre) I decided to stiffen the mohair then turn the vessel inside out exposing my favourite side.  I think that I will need to leave the vessel dry on the exercise ball for at least a week but hopefully by then the PVA will have dried sufficiently for me to remove the exercise ball and see if this last experiment stiffen has been a success or not!

Sponging on diluted PVA to stiffen prior to turning right side out

US workshop details getting fine tuned, Downeville info and large vessel is HEAVY!

My upcoming workshops at Urban Fauna Studio SF, Plainwell MI and Lexington KY are in the last stages of finalising, I hope to have all the details about the various workshops ready by the end of this week!!!  I keep forgetting how difficult it is to write workshop descriptions accurately and provide enough information without overloading anyone.  I try to be flexible when I am teaching so one title often doesn’t quite do justice to the various techniques that will be shared during the workshop so if anyone has questions once the info is uploaded please shout and I will do my best to answer!

The Mother’s Day Fiber Retreat at Downeville is booking up nicely, Emma (joint owner of The Tin thimble with her mother Sharon) has written a blog post with some links to photos of previous retreats so if you are interested in more information check this out.

As I write this post my current large ArtL!nks vessel is spinning in the washing machine.  Today I have been rubbing, rolling and throwing it on top of my kitchen table, it is uncomfortably heavy to handle when wet hence the quick spin to remove some of the excess water!  Hopefully it will have shrunk some more by the end of the afternoon, I am really wanting enough shrinkage to make inserting the exercise ball necessary to stretch it into shape before a lot more fulling and finishing.  Wish me luck!

Productive weekend playing with surface embellishment on felt vessels, stiffening experiment number one underway too

Continuing with the theme of sculptural felt for my ArtL!nks work, this weekend I played around with surface embellishment.  Between Friday afternoon and Sunday night I felted one small vessel incorporating a plastic net (the net that my clemintines came in) at the lay out stage and another medium sized one with leather and seed bead embellishments, these I stitched to the vessel prior to the final drying and shaping.  An email from Connie in relation to beading felt prompted me to create the stitched piece, I need to collect another roll of laminate floor underlay and 50m bubble wrap in Kilkenny on Wednesday so until then I can’t start on my largest vessel, playing around with surface design and starting to experiment with stiffeners and fabric paint seemed like a good way of continuing the project while having fun at the same time! 

Little leather leaves, seed beads, white vessel and sewing tools

The idea for adding the leather leaves and seed beads was inspired by a purse I saw in one of the Stampington magazines, I will explore my untidy studio and upload the name as soon as I get my hands on the magazine!  Because I made the vessel in pure white without any prefelt cutouts it was nice just to concentrate on the form and enjoy feeling the wool felting under my hands.  Once the vessel was felted and shaped I started to stitch the little leather shapes around the brim.  Felt is a wonderful medium to stitch into (if the felt is thick enough and not paper thin) because for most sewing projects it is possible to hide any thread ends and loose ends within the fabric thus leaving a totally clean reverse to the stitched side. 

Stitching on the first leaf

It didn’t actually take as long as I anticipated to stitch on the leaves and now the vessel has a balloon inside it once more to keep it in shape until it is 100% dry, I will post a photo as soon as this is last stage is completed.

The other sculpture/vessel entailed stretching a plastic orange net around my resist, laying three layers of brown merino on top of this followed by one layer of yellow fibre.  I didn’t trap the netting at all and hoped that the torn edges in some spots would add the the surface interest, the plastic incorporated well but I am not totally sure if I am happy with the colour combination and design now it is drying, possible less plastic would have been more in this little sample! 
Little plastic orange net and merino sculpture/vessel

This morning I have created and stiffened a medium sized vessel using Icelandic wool, loads of soap and cold water a la Anna Gunnarsdottier.  More about this vessel next post, stiffeners again and tools we all use for fulling our felt.  Thanks for all your comments to date re stiffeners, much appreciated!

Order of process continued …..

Following on from yesterday’s post the shaping and fulling of the vessel takes a lot of time once the opening is cut and sealed.  The steps that I go through are as follows …..

  1. Insert one hand inside the ‘package’ and pressing around the outside where the resist meets the seam work the felt from both sides to even out any potential ridges
  2. Once this is done I then turn the vessel right side out and check the design for loose pieces
  3. For the smaller vessels I had no problems with the design not integrating into the white merino but for the larger ones it seems to be necessary to check each prefelt design and then using a Clover needle felting tool (5 needles in a spring loaded holder) go over each design element to ensure everything is felting together well

    Securing loose edges of the design with a Clover needle felting tool

  4. Once I am happy that all the elements are cominging together it is time to apply some pressure and start to rub, roll and felt strongly using whatever method I fancy as I work on different parts of the vessel.  At this stage I might roll or rub on bubble wrap, the table or an excellent ridged mat I brought home from America (fridge shelf liner I think!), a great present from one of my students.  You could also use a car floor mat although I do find that sometimes they turn pure white merino a nasty grey colour!
  5. I still have soap in the felt at this stage and soon I will blow up a balloon inside the vessel to try and work it into as round a shape as possible.  Pouring HOT water from the kettle over the vessel I work it with soapy hands over my washing up bowl in the sink
  6. After a while I take it out of the sink and upend it over a large glass salad bowl.  Now I start to stiffen the felt by banging repeatedly all over the surface with a long handled wooden spoon
  7. Periodically I roll the whole balloon encased package on top of the ridged mat and spot full with a felting mouse before plunging it into HOT water again and doing some more rubbing in the sink
  8. Next I rinse it thoroughly in HOT water before turning the vessel inside out, inserting another balloon and repeating the rolling, banging  and rubbing process on the other side

    Inside out vessel starting to get stiffer and take shape

  9. I keep alternating between banging the vessel into shape now, stretching it with my mouse from the inside and rewetting with extremely HOT water.  When I am happy that the vessel is almost shrunk to size I turn it right side out for a last rinse before putting it in my washing machine and turning on the drain and spin cycle.  Now I don’t have any balloon inside the vessel as I want to spin out as much water as possible using the machine
  10. Once the vessel comes out of the machine I inflate another balloon inside it before the final session of banging and stiffening
  11. When I am finally happy with the strength of the felt and the final shape I leave the vessel on the balloon to dry fully sitting once more inside my large glass salad bowl

Today I have spent about 4 hours banging and rolling this latest vessel and at last it is resting around its balloon to dry.  As soon as I am happy that the felt is totally dry (probably a few days because it is a big piece) I will burst the balloon and take some pictures.  I don’t like my surface decoration as much as the last vessel I felted but I was concentrating more on the size and shape of the piece and wanted to use up the prefelt I had from a previous one last week.  Tomorrow is my sister’s birthday so I am having a felt free day but on Wednesday morning I will start my largest vessel hopefully using Cathy’s yoga ball for the shaping and shrinking, watch this space! 

As you can read from the process above I am stiffening these vessels by shrinking and fulling the felt to the degree that they are strong and hold their shape without the use of any additional stiffeners.  My next post will examine some of the ways in which to add different solutions (PVA, artists medium etc.) to aid the stiffening process and it would be great to stimulate debate about this process, thanks to all of you who have already commented on the topic here and on Facebook!

Another ArtL!nks vessel underway

This morning I started my largest ArtL!nks vessel to date, the template I am using is a couple of inches bigger all round than my dustbin lid or trash can lid as those of you would say in the USA!  I know that part of my original proposal was to set up a seperate blog to write exclusively about the project but to be honest I have decided that it makes a lot more sense to document my progress here, it is felting after all and this is the place all my friends come to when they want to discover what I have been up to during the day!!! 

One side laid out with prefelt and two layers of white merino, two more layers to go

Anyway, I need to buy more laminate floor underlay and a fresh roll of bubble wrap later in the week because while this vessel will be large it is still not going to be as large as my final work and I need more resist material to draft out the biggest template.  I want this largest vessel to have a finished diameter of approx 1m (just over 3′) and when I am in town I think it would be fantastic if I could find some huge balloons over which to shape and dry the piece, it would be so much easier to finish if there was already a shape inside to felt towards.  Thanks to everybody who is leaving comments here and on Flickr about the vessels I have felted to date, it is interesting as well to have a debate about the merits of stiffening felt versus shrinking and working without stiffener and hardening the piece by hand.  We might talk about how I am shrinking and firming up the vessels in the next post, for now I am going to get a quick cup of 3 ginger tea and then off to do some more rubbing and felting!