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!

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Establishing a routine and felting to the max!

The last few weeks have been interesting and fruitful, I finally feel that I’ve established a sustainable routine and am starting to both felt a lot more and feel a bit more creative. It’s always difficult when you work both for yourself and from home, external demands can be difficult to ignore (others find it difficult to believe if you are at home you actually are working!) and it’s been a learning process adapting to a new studio space and creating work to display there. Working from Duckett’s Grove on Friday, Saturday and Sundays has meant that Clasheen isn’t as untidy as it would usually be (I’m not saying that it’s tidy because unfortunately it’ll never be that!!!) but it does mean that on Mondays it’s easier to continue with or start another project because there are not 101 things to clear away first!

Little three dimensional experiment from Friday

Another big advantage of being in a different setting for part of the week is that I have a lot more time to reflect and think. Up until now I’ve had so many ideas that I’d like to develop swirling around in my brain but never seemed to manage to get the head space and time to think them out properly. Attending Dagmar’s workshop in July allowed me discover different ways of achieving the results that I want and this weekend I had another eureka moment about how I could make a particular shaped vessel that I’ve been wanting to felt for ever so long! The Crafts Council have a call out at the moment for a textile exhibition titled ‘Beauty in Nature’ and I’ve decided to submit three pieces, a large vessel in this new shape (created using the open resist method), a sculpture loosly based on the same shape and some eco printed nuno felt, no pictures yet until I’ve finalised everything and heard back about the submission.

Louise and her mum with the beautiful flowers they felted yesterday!

I did upload pictures from yesterday’s ‘Fun Felt Flower’ workshop this morning to my personal page on FB, for some technical reason I can’t link to the album or share them between my actual FB pages at the moment but if you’d like to see more of Louise and her mum’s fun afternoon yesterday head over there and check out the relevant album!

Well, that’s all for now. I need to head downstairs, wrap and steam a scarf for another eco print experiment (a pale pink pashmina that mum gave me to be printed with a large bundle of eucalyptus leaves from her garden!), felt the sleeveless jacket that I laid out last week in preparation for a fitting tomorrow morning and then light the stove and relax for the evening!!! Wish me luck, I’ll try and post pics to FB as I go along but doubt that I’ll manage to get to emails until tomorrow.

Quick update and thanks

My neck is really tingling now (from an old injury) so I know it’s time to call it a day and stop felting and/or using the computer! Thankfully I’ve had a full day working, the market in the morning (very quiet today, no sales but definite workshop bookings), felted 2 nuno scarves this afternoon, a bit of catching up on the computer and a nice pot roast in the oven for later when Alan arrives. I promise some pics in the next post but for now I’m off to gather a few samples of my work and catch up on a bit of reading. I’ve been lucky enough to be selected as one of the artist/makers for the Crafts Council’s CRAFTed programme 2012 so I want to show a representative selection of my felt to the teacher of the class that I’ve been paired up with.
Thanks to everyone who has been suggesting names for the new felting tools and to everyone who has been ordering them, I’ll let you know the final descision next week!!!

Showcase snippets and back online at last!

It’s only been 29 hours since I stupidly headed for an overnighter to Dublin and mistakenly left my phone at home charging, it feels like YEARS!!! I’m back now and trying to catch up with blogging, comments, emails, Etsy orders and FB as well as trying to collate all the entries to the felt kit giveaway so that I can let the random number generator choose the winners! I’m guessing it’s going to be tomorrow morning before I finally have everything sorted (I also need to get food in the oven and do a bit of work in the kitchen and studio) so please bear with me if you are waiting for the giveaway results or expecting a response to a comment or an email.

Although I really could have done with my phone for taking pictures and jotting notes yesterday I did have a wonderful time attending Showcase at the RDS with Niki Collier and Leiko Uchiyama. Japanese felter Leiko and I have missed connecting with each other during her last two visits to Ireland so I was really lucky this time that she was stopping over for one one night on her way back to Japan from U.S., it was great to finally meet up in person!  I spent from lunchtime browsing the trade stands with the girls and getting ideas (or clarifying ideas!) about the direction in which my felting could potentially be moving in order to make my business more financially viable in the future. I particularly enjoyed the Crafts Council exhibits and the ‘Year of Craft’ wrap up reception as well as meeting up with friends and fellow textile artists/producers Kate Ramsey (Fabulous Felt), Philip and Mary Cushen (Cushendale Woollen Mill), Breda McNelis and Camelia Shanahan (Meli Bondre). Bernadette Fox also had some interesting new fibre and mixed media pieces while Astrid Tomrop-Hofmann of Bombyx Mori had some lovely felt hats, clothes and accessories.

My favourite of Kate's designs, a wonderful silk and merino wrap

Shells and sea slugs!

I returned home yesterday evening after being treated by my mother to 3 wonderful nights at Fort Royal Hotel in Donegal, thanks mum!!!

Shells glistening in the water

Here’s a picture of some shells at the edge of the shoreline, don’t they just glisten in the water as the light catches their colours?

This morning it was back to business: the first of 5 workshop sessions with Carlow Wheelchair Association (it went brilliantly!), a visit to a friend in hospital, yet more tidying and washing/drying clothes and now trying to catch up with a few things on the internet.

Tomorrow and Sunday I need to finish my latest nudibranch (sea slug) because it needs to be delivered to the Crafts Council on Monday morning.  Fingers crossed everything will work out over the weekend and the sculpture will make the final selcetion process and be exhibited at ‘Seascapes’ later in the winter, I’ll keep you posted!

Pretty snowed under …..

I promise a proper post tomorrow but for this evening I am pretty snowed under metaphorically speaking and with a change in temperature and colour outside (the colour over the mountains is always an indicator!) I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a fall of snow sometime this evening too.  Plenty of felting from Monday and Tuesday to document and report followed by a full day training with the Crafts Council yesterday (very exciting, more anon), golf club meeting yesterday evening and then a full day teaching today coupled with a TOTALLY bunged up sink downstairs (now unblocked thanks to Carmen’s turbo style plunger) mean all I am fit to do now is put some food in the oven and relax for a while!!!

Rug making workshops and submission

Yesterday I was down in Woodbrook House with Giles organising the layout of the room for Mehmet Girgic’s rug making workshops.  The bases that he is bringing over from Turkey are actually a lot larger that we used in Germany so while this has the advantage of a much bigger finished rug it meant a bit of a headache getting the room set up.  More tables, countless measuring sessions, moving things around and hopefully we are ready to roll.  I am really looking forward to his trip now but due to a couple of unavoidable cancellations need to get 3 or 4 more people booked in for the second workshop in order to cover my expenses bringing Mehmet to Ireland.  I will be under quite a bit of financial pressure unless these places are filled so if you think that you might know anyone interested at this late stage please ask them to contact me asap!

Submissions close this week for an exhibition called ‘Organic Geometry’ and I was hoping to finish mine this morning.  I know that I am putting myself under a lot of pressure this week (HSE child protection training on Tuesday and Wednesday) with Mehmet’s arrival on Thursday and all the work involved before he actually gets here but I really hope to get my submission completed and in on time.  Ann Mulrooney is curating the exhibition for the Crafts Council and it is to be held at the National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny, opening mid April.  Wish me luck!!

Craft fairs, felting, open house this weekend…….

Wow, how the time flies!  It seems that I have been continuously on the road over the last two weeks and coupled with that have been having internet connection problems, hence the lask of posts for which I would like to apologise.  Anyway, here goes with a bit of an update (including a caution!) and things should be back on track from now on.

Last weekend I had a stand at a small rural craft fair which Carmen organised, this was to raise funds locally for the community development project in Raheen, Co. Wexford that she is involved with.  Stands cost only E20 (luckily!!) and some bright wit from another Christmas event kindly removed all Carmen’s road signs.  The roads were absolutely treacherous when I set out, my intention was to reach the venue a couple of hours in advance but unfortunately, signs lacking, I actually arrived to the parish centre about 15 minutes after the proposed opening time of 10am.  Carmen will never know how close I was to turning around and just going home when I couldn’t find the venue, she had left her phone in the car and I was trying to contact her continuously once I had got lost but eventually I found a man who gave me directions and all was well again.  Some of the teenage members of the Youth Club that Carmen works with were on hand to help everything run smoothly and to man the tea and coffee stand.  Attendance was dreadful, 37 people work in the centre, Carmen herself was the ONLY worker who actually attended and she was running the show!  Anyway, the public were definitely conspicuous in their absence and by about 3pm I had only sold one scarf.  I wanted to stick things out for Carmen’s sake (other exhibitors had gone home) and thankfully a couple of people arrived who really related to the felt and I sold several items in quick succession.  I definitely picked up a few new people to teach, covered my costs and went home with a couple of extra Euro in my pocket so the day turned out to be a much more positive experience that I had at first expected.  Not so the 2 day house event that I attended on Monday and Tuesday.  This took place at Ballyhealy House, a comfortable old guest house a couple of miles outside Kilmore Quay in Wexford.  My friend Betty owns the house and for the last 4 or 5 years has been running a Christmas Gift Fair at home so we were expecting a big croud.  I felt sorry for Betty because she had put a lot of effort into inviting people, advertising and promotion on the radio.  All I can say after 2 disasterous days is that it is definitely apparant to me people are affected badly by the current economic situation.  On the Monday afternoon/evening a friend and I counted only 23 actual customers (none of whom bought any of my items!) and the following day not 1 person came when they had dropped their children to school (this was a busy time previous years) but about 38 customers did come sporadically during the day.  I met a few  nice people who were very much into hand crafted products and by the end of the day had made sales to customers who really appreciated the felt.  Again I made contacts interested in lessons after the New Year so from that point of view it was worthwhile but in this instance the stand cost E150 and I definitely didn’t cover my costs when you put travel expenses etc.  into the equation.  LESSON LEARNT  I will not participate at craft fairs ever again unless the space costs E20 – E50 and it is really to support a cause that I believe in and/or the current economic climate takes a turn for the better.  It is really soul destroying to sit hour after hour when no customers are even in the building!  Felt is a very definite niche market and I had no problems selling my work whenever interested customers came to my stand, the problem was a lack of customers through the door and this is something that I had no control over.  I hope that this summation does not sound too depressing but I really want anyone else thinking of going down this route to plan their participation carefully and learn from my experience.

On to happier days, or should I say difficult but happier days!!  I returned home from Ballyhealy House late on Tuesday evening and was due to set out for a Feltmakers Ireland get together and Crafts Council training in Dublin at 7am the next morning.  The weather was so cold that night and the roads so covered by ice that I took the decision to leave a bit later than planned.  My vehicle is a long wheel base pick up truck and it is not the best in icy conditions being only 2 wheel drive and very light unless fully loaded.  Anyway, it took me an hour and 25 minutes to drive a distance that usually takes less than half an hour so I did not arrive to Dublin until after 11am, a total travel time of over 3 hours.  What a nerve wracking journey but it was great to finally arrive, grab a Starbucks coffee and head into Blanchardstown Library to meet the other feltmakers.  There was a big pile of work on display and instead of actually making Christmas Ornaments as I thought we were going to do everyone discussed the items that they had made recently and on the recent Sigrid Bannier workshops.  I was wearing the necklace that Sigrid gave me as a present and the ring which I made with Ingrid to match it, these got many admiring glances!  We all went next door to the Driocht cafe for a light lunch (very tasty!) and then were joined by some other crafts people for an afternoon session with a Crafts Council sponsored mentor.  This session was dealing with sales and I must say following on from the previous 3 days was quite an interesting experience.  It reinforced my belief that unless you get the foot fall past your stand you will not have a good show but if you were in any way unsure how to get a sale with a LIVE customer this was the afternoon for you!  When we had networked and said our goodbyes it was almost 6 o’clock but I wanted to take a quick run into Inspiring Ideas, a craft shop in the Blanchard Centre before setting out for Clasheen once more.  A heavy fog was blanketing everywhere so I tried not to delay, some beads and cord later I have to confess that I then grabbed a large Big Mac meal to set me up for the journey ahead!  Lucky I did this, my trip home took 2 hours and 45 minutes, usually I can do it in approx 2 but the fog was just like pea soup.

Yesterday morning Carmen called over and we got stuck in for a very enjoyable morning’s felting.  I made some more punched beads ‘a la’ Sigrid and then strung them in the evening with some nice lime green beads that I have, Carmen made a beautiful felt and linen necklace.  I then had the pleasure of watching Carmen prepare the most devine paella (anyone who knows me knows that I just LOVE good home prepared food) complete with fresh squid, monkfish and huge prawns.  We had a glass of sherry, very refined and then got stuck into the paella, not so refined!  It was fantastic, a great combination of tastes and textures.

This Sunday I am opening my house between 2 and 5pm sharp for a display and sale of my felt and hand made Christmas ornaments.  Quite a few friends were asking me about buying felt as presents so this seemed an ideal opportunity to gather everyone together at the one time and have a bit of a social event at the same time.  We are going to enjoy a glass of spiced apple punch and some canapes and I would love for any of you within striking distance to come along if you would like to attend and please tell your friends!  If anyone needs directions please just email me and I will forward them on.

Felting, embellishing, ‘Craft in the Classroom’

FELTING AND EMBELLISHING COURSES Check out my new workshops page for all the information and to book your place at the upcoming Sigrid Bannnier, Mahmet Girgic and Sheila Smith workshops.  Both Sigrid’s and Sheila’s dates are confirmed and places are limited so please move quickly if you want to reserve a spot!

Over the last few days I have made a couple of new style scarves using some pencil roving that I bought from Wollknoll.  The merino actually costs quite a bit more per kg when bought this way but more than makes up for this extra expense by the time saved when laying out the wool.  I am really looking forward to getting stuck into things this week, it will actually be the first week in my new found career that I can devote totally to felting.

Yesterday I attended an information day in Tallaght organised and run by the Crafts Council explaining an initiative they organise titled ‘Craft in the Classroom’.  This is an excellent scheme offering to partner artists and craftspeople with schools and teachers in primary schools.  The selected schools offer residencies to the selected artists/crafts people and then they work together with the children to explore and create some amazing art work across the various disciplines.  I am definitly going to apply to the scheme and try to obtain a residency, it would be a  great way to expand my practice and I would really enjoy working with young children and see what ideas develop from there.  This year the residencies will take place in either the West Dublin area or in Co. Leitrim, watch this space to see how I progress!

Exciting news re felt and ‘Breaking Out’!

I am so excited today as my felt is definitely going to be on display at ‘Breaking Out’, the Crafts Council Exhibition to be held in Kilkenny from October 19th until mid January 2009.  The curator Ann Mulrooney and I met this afternoon so that she could have a look at the current work I have been making.  I have to say that I was very unsure how the meeting would go as it is always difficult to be critically assesive about your own work, especially if like me you have no formal art college training.  Anyway, Ann was really nice and supportive, one of my pieces has been selected for photographing on Sept 18th (merino wool neckpiece with loads of spikes!) and the rest of the work needs to be delivered by the beginning of October.  I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know that my work was up to scratch and I really am looking forward to inviting all my friends who have supported me develop my practice to the opening!  Another knock on effect of being selected has been the fact that I am now registered as a maker with the Crafts Council and have a profile page complete with images on their website.