Istvan and Trees arrive in Ireland, a special 4 days of felt related activity is underway!

It’s official, felt masters Istvan Vidak and Trees Coussement have arrived in Ireland!  Carmen and I returned from collecting them at the airport last night at 11pm and then I spent until 2.40am cooking at Clasheen, whew, I will sleep well tonight.  This morning I drove back to Carmen’s to collect Istvan and Trees and we went together to meet up with Jeremy Hill at the wonderful Norman Gallery where an exhibition of their work will open later tonight.

The Norman Gallery is the perfect setting to show off these beautiful felt bags

I helped Vidak and Trees organise the felt and I have to confess to buying one of Istvan’s stunning decorative bags too!  After meeting the workshop participants and grabbing a quick lunch it was back home for me to finish fitting the units in the back kitchen.  Now I just need to tidy the bedrooms where 3 of my friends will be staying then it’s off to the train station for me and flying to Birmingham at 6.30am with Alan for the weekend!  Tomorrow while Alan is at a meeting I am going to head to a textile market I discovered on a search for saris and the like to nuno felt with!  On Monday I will meet up with Carmen, Istvan and Trees again and get the chance to see some of the beautiful work felted over the next 4 days.

While I am away Rex will be in seventh heaven with all the house guests and loads of walking.  Possibly I won’t get to do much over the internet until Monday evening but I do promise to upload a few pics via Facebook if I get a chance to catch my breath and find some yummy fabric!

Istvan and Trees joking in front of the beautiful bag I bought

Vanda Robert’s fantastic felt bag workshop!

I always have a fantastic time when I participate in felting workshops with visiting international artists and my wonderful long weekend at Carmen’s studying with Hungarian felter Vanda Robert was definitely one of my highlights from 2010.  As per usual, when I am a bit apprehensive about the content of a class the reality is always better than the imagining and because Vanda’s bag workshop included a LOT of stitching you can imagine how nervous that made me before the event!  Carmen had almost tried to stop me attending because she knew I wanted to support her in bringing Vanda over but she also knew how stitching makes me break out in a cold sweat.  The fact that the three days included the day of the golf club Captain’s Dance didn’t help either but nothing would have stopped me attending and boy am I glad I did!

Ten layers of wool batt

To start the workshop everyone looked at some of Vanda’s gorgeous bags, oohed and aahed over her relief stitching (there were also a couple of books with photos to browse through) while she explained the basics and showed us how she likes to lay out her wool batts to create thick, even and firm felt.  We then choose our colours and started to lay out 10 to 12 light and even layers directly onto plastic or else onto bubble wrap.  I have always wanted to create a piece of felt using Rathgeeran Rock Art (a stunning local bronze age rock) as my inspiration and was delighted to see some black merino, silvery grey merino and grey gotland which I thought would be perfect for my bag.  The idea in general is to felt a thick but even piece of fabric, preferrably double sided and then cut to shape, reverse some pieces exposing the complimentary colour before stitching the design in relief (amazing stuff here!) and assembling to whole with tiny invisable stitches before adding a handle and possibly a cord edging or fancy stitching around the top.  

First off I created a grey prefelt using three layers of the gotland which I cut into rounds to echo the circles from the rock art.  These were then laid down directly onto my bubble wrap and filled in with three layers of black merino before surrounding the design with three layers of black merino also.  I then laid 4 more layers of black this time covering the whole rectangle, two layers of gotland and finished with a layer of the silvery grey merino.  If you look carefully at the picture above you can see my ten layers laid out and also see that Chris who was working beside me had started to wet out and soap her bundle, half of hers is really high and half is already wet.  Once we had the layers fully wet we just felted as per normal until the wool had shrunk by about a third and the resultant felt was thick, firm and flat.  Some people rubbed the surface of their felt to smooth out any imperfections and dimples but I had brought my ridged fridge liner with me and it proved excellent for rolling the felt on and getting a nice even texture.  At this stage the first day was finished and we all retired home to dry our felt, I had the dance to get to and evening wear to don!

My felt cut into pieces with a picture of the rock which inspired me

Day two saw us cutting out the picecs for our bags and then Vanda gave us a demonstration of the stitches used and we all had a go with some samples.  I can’t stress enough how I would urge you to attend one of her workshops because it is in the stitching that the relief is achieved and obviously that is not something I will be trying to explain here.  Suffice to say you can use wool, cotton or linen thread and depending on where you insert and remove your needle through the felt and at what angle you do so the stitches may be straight or when pulled cause depressions or elevations in the felt, just INCREDIBLE!!!  Initially I had wanted to elevate all my silvery grey ovals but that proved a step too far for me (surprise, surprise!) as in order to do so I would have needed more space between the discs so with Vanda’s help I re-thought and decided to elevate some of the black spaces instead.

To be cont ….. 

Starting to create ridges in the felt through stitching

Fun afternoon Felting!

I have just finished a fun afternoon felting and chatting with Carmen!  I needed to complete some pieces to show the curator how I am progressing towards my work for ‘Breaking Out’, an exhibition with the Crafts Council and really had to get stuck into things this weekend.  Because of being totally tied up with the organisation of the Irish Green Gathering recently and having had that accident with the glass I have really not been actively creating as much as usual.  It was great to get stuck in and work towards a couple of pieces that I have had in mind for some time.  When I was up in Enniscrone recently I collected shells, stones, seaweed and driftwood from the beach.  I also managed to find a great piece of polished horn which takes pride of place in a chunky necklace that I finished this afternoon.  Hopefully tomorrow I will get a couple of pictures of the work up on the blog, fingers crossed that my photography will be passable after the beautiful images that Bernie McCoy took not so long ago!

Felt making at the Irish Green Gathering

A big thank you to Joan Casey, Mary Scott and Nicola Henley, the inspiring felt makers who helped make last weekends Irish Green Gathering such a big success.  We had a great long weekend and for once the weather Gods seemed to smile on us for most of the time.  Joan demonstrated felt making in the walled garden as part of the CELT group, these are a wonderful collection of people who demonstrate traditional crafts and teach people how to develop skills in  self sufficiency.  Mary showed examples of her work and gave felt making demos in the Lower Barn and Nicola hosted a very successful felt making workshop on Sunday in the childrens area.  Nicola is actually participating in an exhibition at Grennan Craft Mill which is currently running in association with the Kilkenny Arts Festival, why not pop along and check it out.

This afternoon I am going to be helped by my friend Joan FitzGerald to try and do a major ‘Spring Clean’ on my studio and ground floor at Clasheen, not an easy task!!  I hope to really get to grips with sorting things out now that the Gathering is over and this will enable me to get my felting classes up and running before the end of the month.  Main tasks that need to be done (excluding the actual cleaning!) include tidying up the outside of the house, painting the studio, clearing the utility room to enable more fibre storage and weighing and repackaging some of the beautiful merino and other fibres that I have here from Wollknoll.  My intention is to offer participants at my workshops the oppportunity to purchase these products at a very realistic price before they head home.  I was bitten by the felting bug the first time that I tried it and was delighted to be able to buy wool and silk from Carmen to practice and experiment with so I am sure that others will appreciate the same service.  Wish me luck as I head off to clean and tidy!