One more day to go!

Only one more day of canvassing and then the electorate vote in the local elections from 7am – 10pm tomorrow. Felting has really taken a back seat over the last couple of weeks but as soon as the weekend and the count are over I will be fully up to speed again, hurrah!! My biggest concern then will be preparing work for 2 upcoming exhibitions (one to be hung next Thursday!) and sorting out my wrap up presentation about my Craft in the Classroom project which takes place on Saturday 13th June. Although I ususally work pretty well to a deadline I definitely will need to prioritise over the next week and don’t want to feel rushed when creating the work for either show. My plan is to create some small and medium sized felt pods which I will suspend in a cluster and I also need to make a large rug/wall hanging expanding the concept of ridges and bumps as with the swirling water sample piece. Off now to get on the campaign trail again, I look forward to properly continuing with this blog next week!!

Site visit to the gorgeous botanic gardens

One of the beautiful Australian plants in the Curvilenear Range

One of the beautiful Australian plants in the Curvilenear Range

On Saturday I went for a site visit to the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin.  This beautiful space, free for the public to enjoy (safe parking 2 Euro) is going to be the venue for ‘Sculpture in Context’, a site specific exhibition that takes place throughout September and part of October this year.  Proposals need to be in by Friday of this week at the latest and at this stage I am really not sure if I will be finished in time.  I hate being late with anything but with Craft in the Classroom and a few other projects that I have been trying to put to bed I really could do with another week to get things together.  Yesterday I spent the day felting at Carmen’s again and this morning worked on another sample piece which I had wanted to take photos of today.  Just my luck, the wind was SO strong that I couldn’t photograph outside at all and the light inside was NOT what I needed. 

The aptly named 'Bird of Paradise'

The aptly named 'Bird of Paradise'

Tomorrow morning I am going to have another go at things but if I am not successful then I will have to re-evaluate as the submission really needs to be in the post by the afternoon.  Off now to do a bit of housework (Yeuck) in order to free my time up somewhat tomorrow!

Back in the felting saddle at last!

Horrah!  At last I had an uninterupted day’s  felting with Carmen and it was really great to get back in the saddle at last!!  I seem to have been on the road almost constantly over the last 5 or 6 weeks and now I need to get a couple of proposals together before the middle of next week, do the deadlines never finish?  Carmen was working on some punched felt necklaces and once I had made handles for a gorgeous silk and merino tote (destined for an American swap partner) I was able to try out the beautiful merino from Treetop Colour Harmonies that I got as a gift from friends and members of Feltmakers Ireland.  Thanks again Sheila, Holly, Elizabeth and Maureen for my fantastic pressie, I made a beautiful cobweb scarf and tried out an experimental piece in ‘blimey limey’, one of my new all time favourite colours!  Carmen had prepared some amazing sushi and we gorged ourselves at lunchtime before heading back to her new studio to continue felting for the afternoon.

Sparkly felt corsage

Sparkly felt corsage

This evening I have uploaded a few finished items to my Etsy shop including this unusual coloured corsage and over the next few weeks my goal is to have at least 50 items uploaded to the store.  What I would really like to do is offer a selection of interesting and funky gift ideas with a large percentage of items costing under $20 (approx 15 Euro).  I have also started posting about my last ‘Craft in the Classroom’ sessions on the Drumlea blog so check it out if you are interested in seeing how the wall hanging actually progressed.  The pupils love getting comments especially from far away places so if any of you feel the urge please leave them a message, it means a lot to them!

Busy preparing for last ‘Craft in the Classroom’ sessions

This morning I have had to cancel my proposed training with Failte Ireland in order to concentrate on preparing for my last sessions in the ‘Craft in the Classroom’ project and to finish designing the race card for our Green Party fundraiser this Thursday night.  Because I was so shattered the last time that I drove up to Drumlea early in the morning I have decided to travel up at my leisure this afternoon, spend some time with friends (thanks a million Nigel and Jackie for giving me a bed!) and be bright and bushy tailed tomorrow morning ready for our big session rolling the wall hanging.  My plan is to arrive a couple of hours before I am due to start working with the pupils, wet out the hanging myself and give it a good working over with my sander BEFORE letting the pupils loose rolling, felting and fulling.  The problem is that I always use an electric sander (carefully) not a cordless but obviously would not be able to let the kids use it as it could be constituted as an electrical hazard.  Knowing how much a design can shift if not worked carefully I really want to make sure that the text is fully secure before the pupils start to stamp and kick the rolled up package.  I also need to find some thin but strong cotton cord today that I can use to tie up the large plastic mat that we will be enclosing the wall hanging in, hopefully I can pick some up in a hardware along the way as I travel to Carrick-on-Shannon this afternoon.  I am off now to start packing the truck and hope I will have some great images on Wednesday to post here showing some of the completed projects from our last two sessions including the finished wall hanging.

Still recovering from frenetic felting sessions!

Design laid out and ready to fill in on our wall hanging

Design laid out and ready to fill in on our wall hanging

Gosh, we had some action packed sessions in Drumlea this week!  I am still recovering and expect it is going to take a couple more days before I fully recharge!!  Our game plan had been to divide the pupils up into 3 different groups, one to start work on the collaborative wall hanging, the second to make vessels and the third to work on felt balls.  The idea behind this was that I would never cope with all 26 pupils working on their first 3-d project at the same time and obviously we needed to get working on the wall hanging or else we would never get it finished!  Well the vessels went very well, so did the balls but we nearly had a mutiny about the subject matter for the wall hanging.  At the beginning of the session we had taken the top 5 suggestions from everybody, I wrote them down on a sheet of paper and then every pupil voted for their favourite 3 items.  Problems, problems, problems.  I had already explained that in order for the design to stand out when felted in the landscape format that the pupils preferred (taking account of how much the base we were using would shrink) I only wanted to incorporate the top 4 items from the wish list.  In order of preference these were the name Drumlea, the school crest, a football and in joint fourth place either a sun or a rainbow.  Discussion ensued about how we would make our descision and it was agreed by the pupils that everyone’s name would go into a hat, one name would be drawn out and that this pupil could choose the final item to be depicted on the wall hanging.  The name was drawn, the pupil was choosen and he in turn choose the rainbow (or was it the sun), mayhem ensued!  The pupils who were actually meant to start laying out the design didn’t want the rainbow (or sun) and pretty much stuck in their heels.  Eventually after a lot of discussion I showed them how we could incorporate both items if we changed the layout of the hanging from landscape to portrait, agreement at last!  The school crest morphed into a leafless tree, the rainbow is huge and the whole thing looks great now that the colours have been filled in.  Clare should be emailing me some pictures of the next stage and I will post them here as soon as they arrive.  Next time I go to Drumlea we are going to add a date to the piece, wet it out and then roll for several hours wrapping it tightly in the large plastic woven mat that I got from Mehmet.  Happy hours!

Over the weekend I will write a little bit about our 3-d work and post images of some of the super vessels the pupils created, check out my Flickr account if you simply can’t wait!

Fun, fast and furious felting in the classroom!

Wow, Wednesday’s session at St. Mary’s School, Drumlea in Leitrim with 26 third, fourth, fifth and sixth class pupils was great fun and really full on, everyone made amazing pieces and Clare (the principal) and I felt as if we had run a marathon!  Dubbed a ‘taster’ session, the idea was that I would get to meet the students and they would get to see a little bit of what felting was all about and have the opportunity to try it out for themselves before we start on our main project for the residency.  My game plan went out the window to a large degree when I realised how enthuastic and raring to go all the students were, theory was kept to a minimum and really we just got stuck into things almost from the moment we had the room set up.  Clare had asked the children to bring any old buttons and beads that they could lay their hands on and everyone had the opportunity to make a piece of flat felt which next week they will embellish with the found objects.  Luckily I had brought the prepared prefelts because otherwise we never would have got as much done as we did, after a brief demo from me everyone selected the prefelt base that they wanted to lay their design onto.  One amazingly interesting thing was that most of the children chose the natural black base in preference to the bright orange, totally the opposite to what Clare and I anticipated.  I had brought a lot of scraps of wool and prefelt and they all dived into the pile of fibres, mayhem for the next hour and a half!  As with any group of people, young or not, imagination, concentration and abilities were varied.  I had to RUN around the room to keep up with the questions and lend a guiding hand if I thought that ideas needed a little bit of extra help in their execution.  Skipping to the end of the taster session (very short at 2 hours from start to finish) ALL the students had a beautiful piece of flat felt which they will now embellish before my next visit and we will stick to the front of their workbooks to document the residency.  I have set up a new blog to document the residency from both my perspective and the students perspective so if your are interested check it out over the weekend as I will be loading images of their work on the internet over the next couple of hours.  Clare and I had the opportunity to discuss our next step for the project later in the evening and we have decided to let the students really direct our process.  I would like to do some more individual work with the students to hone their technique and then a collaborative piece to hang in the school could be a nice idea, possibly incorporating felt, weaving, recycled materials and a bit of stitching.  Anyway, I will keep you updated about what is happening, now I need to tidy up my studio AGAIN in preparation for tomorrow’s full day beginners workshop here at Clasheen.

Experiment with plastic, awards, spiral neckpieces and production line of prefelt

 

Detail of plastic onion net in felt

Detail of plastic onion net in felt

Here is an image as promised of the experimental piece I felted using wool, silk, alpaca, scrim, mohair and an orange plastic onion net.  Using a typical Irish seascape for inspiration I created a wet felted piece suggesting rocky pools, frothy water, fishing nets and swirling sand.  It was great fun to do and now I am going to ask all my pupils in Leitrim to collect these nets as I really think that we can use them in some of our work for ‘Craft in the Classroom’.

I had a great evening at the Irish Blog Awards in Cork on Saturday.  It was a LONG drive up and down but well worth the effort, stylish hotel (amazingly the Cork International Airport Hotel!), the ladies tea party was a hoot and the ceremony itself great fun.  Congratulations to ‘Irish Blogger of the Year’ Suzy Byrne who’s blog Maman Poulet won the gong Best News/Current Affairs Blog as well as the top award.  You can check out all the winners in the various catagories and a big word of congratulations to Damien and all his crew who organised such a great fun event.

I was pretty tired yesterday after my 6 hours driving so decided to relax by making two more spiral neckpieces (pictures in Flickr), very relaxing!

Today it is back to the grindstone as I have a production in line up and running making prefelt to use for my first session in Leitrim this Wednesday.  I have decided that since we will be having a 2 hour ‘taster’ at the school the best way of ensuring all the pupils make a successful piece of felt in the allocated time is for them to lay out their design on a backing of prefelt, hence the production line!

Mad days, last chances and thanks!

Well, today was a mad day and I definitely think that yesterday must have set the target for a totally crazy week!  I completed my submission for ‘Organic Geometry’, an upcoming exhibition at the National Craft Gallery.  My new laptop wouldn’t send either documents or jpegs to the printer or to a cd, my old one took 25 mins to boot up and my Rayburn decided that it was time to have a seizure, possibly the result of letting my oil get to a dangerously low level recently.  Got the Rayburn serviced, (thanks a million Michael and Philip of Nolan Heating Services, super fast service) eventually got my proposal printed off, drove to Kilkenny and brought my memory stick to the chemist to get the necessary images printed and on disc.  Finally got sorted with the proposal and got stuck in dreadful traffic on the way home where the new Kilkenny bypass is under construction.  While stuck in traffic had a phone call from a logistics company based out the far side of Dublin saying that a package had arrived for me from Turkey but that Customs would not release it until the paperwork was personally signed by me, a fee paid and the correct documentation processed by them.  They emailed me the paperwork and naturally my internet connection decided to pack up before I had details of where I needed to send the thing.  Talked to my sister over the phone and got her to log into my email account, got the details and then had to take the decision to get up before 5am this morning in order to drive to the company (they seem to work 24/7) as I needed to be in Tallaght, Dublin for a 10am start, my first day of Child Protection Training in preparation for Craft in the Classroom!  Eventually got all that sorted out, hopefully Customs will release the parcel as I need it for this weekend’s rug making workshops!!  Another day of training in Dublin looms tomorrow and then I need to finish sorting the house out for Thursday evening, does this sound like a more relaxing day???

Tonight is the last chance to sign up for the Clasheen New Year Stash Swap and if you are enjoying following any Irish blogs from anywhere in the world please consider nominating them in the relevant catagory before 6pm Irish time tomorrow.

A big thank you to fellow fibre artist Nancy from Enee Fabric Design for her lovely post recommending my blog.  After the 2 days that I have had it was a fantastic boost!  Thanks also to all of you who have taken the time to either comment or send me an email wishing me fun and luck with Mehmet Girgic’s rug making workshops.  I am going to take oodles of pictures for you all to drool over so please forgive the lack of felting content today, I am about to drop into bed!!

Beautiful silk arrived for nuno felting!

This morning my order arrived from Wollknoll containing a wide range of beautiful coloured silks that I am going to be using in some mosaic nuno wallhangings and hopefully some clothes!  This is the technique that Sigrid Bannier taught recently to Feltmakers Ireland members and friends, one workshop in Dublin the other in Kiltealy.  We laid out chopped up pieces of silk chiffon in random or organised designs on top of  light see through plastic, covered it with 2 layers of very fine merino, more light plastic, wet it down and felted.  We overlapped the silk pieces slightly where they met so that there were no gaps in the coverage and this made the resultant fabric beautifully tactile and supple.  The colours were wonderful all over but in some cases especially interesting where the neighbouring silks overlapped.  Sigrid explained to us how to create a long skirt in a tube form and then use a large button or brooch as a closure.  I think that I might try this as an exciting Christmas/New year project (it would be a talking point at openings!!) and commission a nice button from Hillary Jenkinson at the Demanse Yard, Castlecomer for the fastening.

The other thing that I am excited about today is that I met some very nice people today in Borris, they were planning to contact me at some stage as they are interested in some felting workshops.  It was quite by chance that the topic came up as I was actually representing my partner Alan (he is a Green Party County Councillor) at the opening and blessing of a new playground which serves children from all the neighbouring communities.  The young children staged a Nativity play, there were a few short speeches, we all went outside to the play area and then the longest serving member in the group cut the ribbon.  At that stage everyone was invited back inside for a warm spiced punch (non-alcoholic!) and a bit of networking and chat.  It turned out that the committee members had seen one of the recent newspaper articles profiling my change of career and had discussed contacting me re. demonstrating to the younger children, teaching some workshops at their summer school and also doing some workshops with the leaders and teachers in the play school.  It was great to hear this as one of my intentions in the New Year had been to put some proposals together to present to local community groups so here I am already on my way!

Craft in the Classroom is  going to be stepping up a gear after Christmas as well, my HSE Child Protection Training takes place on 13th and 14th January and at the beginning of February I get to meet my teacher in Leitrim and learn all about the class that I will be working with.  Mehmet Girgic is arriving on 15th January and staying until 23rd so all in all January will be a very busy month.  Don’t forget for those of you living in the vicinity of Wicklow that I am also teaching felting workshops on 31st January in the Old Courthouse, Tinahely, we actually have a day lined up with tasters in felting, knitting, spinning and crochet, book your space by clicking here!

‘Craft in the Classroom’, battle with sewing machine …

Great news, I got a phone call today and learnt that I have been accepted for ‘Craft in the Classroom’.   I am going to be teamed up with a National School in Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim (a very rural area for those of you not familar with the Irish countryside) which is brilliant, Alan’s father is actually from the area and his uncle still lives on the edge of town overlooking the canal.  Alan owns a small derelict cottage a couple of miles from Ballinamore and we have been stripping it out in preparation for a major restoration job on a budget, is there such a thing??  Anyway, as soon as I know some more details I will contact Alan’s aunt and uncle and book my bed, they run an excellent farmhouse B&B specialising in providing accomodation for keen fishermen and women.

Last night I staged a MAJOR battle with my sewing machine, I might even go so far as to say that I HATE the thing!  Two pieces of beautiful nuno felt later and I vowed that it would never see the light of day again.  I ruined the felt; my intention initially had been to sew some simple lined diary covers (for the 10 2009 diaries waiting in my studio) but after I wrecked the first piece I ammended my plan to some nuno wrist cuffs I had seen a pattern for in a great American quilting magazine.  No go.  More felt ruined.  I am now going to forget about sewing totally except for some easy beading, instead I am going to ask my friend Remmy to line a couple of bags if necessary and concentrate on making things that need NO stitches!

I have put some more images up on Flickr this morning but the battery on my camera is on charge again, I have nearly worn the poor thing out.  As soon as it is charged fully I will be able to load the images to my Etsy shop, for some reason they need to go directly from the camera and not from the web and that seems to be using a huge lot of battery power.    If you want to check out some of the items on Flickr I can say that the nuno scarfs will range in price from E30 (frothy neckpiece) to E60 (bronze nuno felted scarf) and the brooches and necklaces from E12 (pink and orange brooch) to E40 (reversible necklace).  To order any of these pieces before I put them up on my Etsy shop please email me directly, I would be happy just to charge you whatever it costs to post them instead of the Etsy charges but you would need to let me know asap!