Internet connectivity is zero here in the cabin at Lake Tahoe so Merridee and I have sneaked in to Tahoe City to catch some wifi, read our emails and catch up with essential online stuff. I arrived here on Monday morning having spent a wonderful week with Barbara and Sam in Austin TX, thanks guys for a really fun visit!
Cyndi, Barbara and Carolyn modelling their gorgeous nuno scarves!
The nuno scarf/wrap and vessel workshops last weekend went very smoothly, I hadn't appreciated that many of the participants had no previous felting experience until I arrived at the venue so was doubly delighted with the beautiful felt everyone created.
Stunning felt vessels and purses
It's always amazing when a group of creative people with access to the same raw materials get together, no two pieces looked alike even though everyone was working with the same instructions and the same basic shapes.
The three day sculptural workshop that I attended with Pam MacGregor over the weekend was fantastic, really well worth participating in. Thanks Pam and thanks Feltmakers Ireland for making it happen, thanks Maureen and Terry for the great accommodation! I'm just working on felting a different stopper for my vessel this afternoon, I'm not 100% happy with the quality and dimensions of the one shown here so as soon as I have the new one finished I'll post a picture. For now here are a couple of pictures Pam took, I love the shadow in the first image!
I'm having a busy but productive time of it lately, many things are coming together at the one time so please forgive me if I just post a couple of pictures today. As soon as I have a minute I'll write a longer blog post, I'll also have time then to full and shrink this beaded felt vessel a little further.
Thanks a million Jan for the gorgeous beaded silk chiffon and thanks Dianne and Mike for transporting it to Ireland!
Some of you may remember I had tried and failed to shape a large felt vessel to compliment three smaller ones made for the inaugural FORM exhibition in June. The depth of the vessel coupled with the thickness of the wool (many fine layers in the layout) and lack of time did not agree with my current tennis elbow, finally I put it aside and decided to revisit it later.
Later arrived the other day, pretty quickly actually as it turned out! Merridee, Keith and I gathered some windfallen eucalyptus leaves from an unidentified tree while out walking, I flattened the vessel as best as I could, soaked it I vinegar then bundled it and boiled for several hours in a eucalyptus and onion skin dye bath.
Interesting prints where an insect has eaten into the. Edge of the eucalyptus leaf! Felting and printing by Nicola Brown - Clasheen
I'm thrilled with the printing result although I still couldn't reshape it quite the way I'd like to, never mind, this one's a keeper and after the Kilkenny Arts Festival is over I'll add a leather shoulder strap!
Large felt bag naturally printed with eucalyptus leaves by Nicola Brown
Following on from my first vessel of 2014 I've felted two more since the beginning of the week, this time they've been naturally printed. I had some lovely pomegranate skins and pith left after I cooked a big lamb, date and pomegranate tagine, what better use than to add them to a pot and let their colour influence a couple of bundles?
Here's a picture of the first vessel prior to printing, it's a combination of Portugese merino, mohair locks and a silk/linen blend for surface embellishment. On FB earlier in the week I mentioned that the fibre was bamboo, not so as I discovered once I printed it, I thought it felt a little different laying it out! Anyway, the giveaway was the fact that it appeared to take colour from the pot well. Bamboo, being a cellulose fibre, usually remains white after printing adding an interesting look to the felt (which I like), silk on the other hand is a protein fibre and takes the colour well so even thought this was a silk/linen blend it didn't really achieve the effect I had intended. Not to worry, here's the finished vessel.
I like the reverse
and side views better.
The second vessel is more of a bowl shape, I used the same Portugese merino with loads of Firestar on the outside (for sheen) plus the same silk/linen blend embellishing the inside.
I used a combination of different eucalyptus and blackberry leaves for this one, you can see a blackberry leaf in the inside centre with this birds eye view.
I particularly like the strong contrast of the reddish eucalyptus against the golden tones of the pomegranate on the base. Next time I'll bundle differently but use the same materials, I'd like to get those colours on the top of a bowl!
Yesterday I ordered the raw materials to fulfill the trade orders from Showcase and got some dreaded paperwork out of the way early in the morning. This left me free to felt my first vessel of 2014!
Every day when I walk up the lane and through the fields at Clasheen with Rex, my eyes are drawn time and time again to the beautiful lichen, moss and fern strewn dry stone walls which are a constant source of inspiration for me. It was interesting to see the night before that I was very attracted to an unusual polymer clay necklace online friend Jaroslava Zikmundova posted to FB and Etsy, I then discovered when I left a comment that it too was inspired by mosses and lichen!
Anyway, yesterday I wanted to work on an idea that I had had for a while, a felt vessel with plenty of texture and some craters. I'm planning a series of vessels incorporating some natural printing but for yesterday I just wanted to break my duck and get back to felting three dimensionally. I also wanted to use some of the lovely Portugese merino I bought at the wool factory in Guarda on a trip we made last year at the wonderful residential felting holiday at Dominio Vale do Mondego. Just as an aside, if anyone is interested in joining us for this years extravaganza don't forget to check it out and contact Karin ASAP, spaces are filling very quickly!
Here's a picture of the vessel during the early laying out stage…..
and one after I've laid out all the surface embellishments and started to felt, thanks Sue (GlitterGirl Feltworks) for the funky yarn!
Here's a picture of the almost finished vessel sitting on top of the wall, I still need to do a little work to firm up the shape. Overall I'm happy with the result, the craters would have been much better if I'd used a different method for creating them, the Portugese merino batt gives a lovely pebbly texture when felted but was a little uneven to lay out, all in all it was a pleasant way to start felting vessels for the new year.
I've been having great fun with Jan this week, scouring the local Goodwill stores for printed silk (she's still in training but a quick learner Dawn!), exchanging skills, brainstorming ideas, felting and preparing for two days of workshops in Lexington this coming weekend!
My first task was to finish felting the nuno scarf I laid out last Saturday at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival, it's really interesting to see the contrast between the scarf that Jan felted and the one I've just finished. We both chose a western inspired colour scheme of chocolate ponge silk with brown and teal shades of alpaca plus loads of Roo and Elizabeth's beautiful hand dyed bamboo for surface embellishment. Jan also added some of her own dyed cotton gauze on top of the alpaca and I used quite a lot of Firestar for added glamour and shimmer, I love them both!
At this point I have to say that I LOVED every minute of the KSFF!!! Teaching for the full day on Saturday but only half a day on Sunday was a perfect combination. I was able to have a good chat with Roo and Elizabeth on Friday evening plus check out my workshop space, having Sunday afternoon free gave me plenty of time to do the rounds of all the stands, see the animals plus pick up a tonne of yummy fibre to bring home to Ireland, not ALL for me mind you, some for Anita who's looking after my studio while I'm gone. The organisation of everything was SPOT ON, thanks so much to all the committee and helpers who were friendly, helpful and put on a wonderful event!
Yesterday I shared the open resist method of making vessels with Jan, in turn, I was inspired by a wonderful teapot she felted at a Pam MacGregor workshop to try including a handle in one of my own vessels. I love this exchange of ideas and brain storming, I've now an idea in my head for some new bags with long shoulder straps (purses!), I doubt that I'll get to felt them though until some time after I return from teaching in Portugal! This week long residential workshop is now fully booked but if you live within shouting distance of Lexington why not come and join us for our workshop here next Saturday 25th May!!! If you're interested in more information or reserving a place please email me ASAP, if you don't have any idea what to make don't panic (because I'll help you) and if you need materials in a hurry Jan will bring extra on the day if you let her know which colours you prefer.
I'll leave you today with this picture of my new vessel drying, I call it 'Ode to Pam'.
I should have started a commission yesterday but after a long morning trying to sort something out on the phone (getting passed from pillar to post then just when I was getting somewhere being cut off accidentally!) I decided to call it a day and shelve the start of the project until today.
Gathering my materials, goodies from Merridee!
Instead, I decided to felt a little open topped bowl using some grey and rust coloured needle felt which was a gift from Merridee and combine this with some light chocolate coloured French landsheep wool and an unusual shiny metallic woven net knitting tape (at least I think that’s what it is), also a gift from Merridee! It was quite interesting working in colours that I wouldn’t usually put together, initially I decided to felt a wide topped bowl using the open resist method and I wanted to include a piece of my eco printed silk as detail on the silvery grey inside. I’m guessing that I need a lot more practice with this method determining the size and shape of my template because the finished bowl is not as wide at the top as I expeced and I also think that I should have used fewer layers of wool but started out with a much bigger resist. In addition to these issues, the eco printed silk didn’t combine well with the prefelt so I pulled it off mid way through the fulling process and the metallic mesh didn’t gleam as much as I expected once the bowl was fully felted.
The outside is now the inside
I think that this is primarily because the French wool is 28 micron and therefore quite hairy, I do like the texture of it however and as I was working and shaping the bowl I decided to turn it inside out and have the design on the inside and the simple brown edged grey on the outside. The French wool felted really easily and was gorgeous to lay out, I think it would be wonderful for large totes or weekend bags so if you’re interested in ordering any it’s code numbet 1464 from Wollknoll!
Anyway, enough for now as I really have to get the sleeveless jacket started, here’s a picture of the finished bowl, it’s much better this way out even if it does look a lot like a flower pot.
The finished bowl, not quite what I expected so plenty to work on
Being inspired by Dagmar’s fine art wall hangings on exhibition in Odense, Denmark during ‘Felt in Focus’ 2009 I swore then that I’d take a workshop of hers when this was one of the projects that would be offered for participants to explore.
Working on the back of my natural white wall hanging with ‘The Modest’ felting roller from ‘niki & niki’
Thanks to US friend Susan (who didn’t manage to get into Dagmar’s 2 day Irish workshop!) who alerted me to the 6 day masterclass at Big Cat Textiles, I booked asap and in turn alerted our mutual US friend Merridee, the die was cast and the three of us all had a marvellous time!!! I knew before I headed to Scotland that I wanted to make my wall hanging in natural white with various undyed fibres for the surface decoration, this left me free to make decisions about what attachments to add and how I wanted the piece to appear structurally after I had time to mull over all the different options. The soya, silk, linen, milk protein and sea cell fibres that I used on the surface gave a nice tone on tone effect and opting for a simple style meant that I was free to try a complimentary vessel with a spiral attachment on day four.
The almost finished wall hanging, sorry about the poor quality photo
Working with an open rather than a closed resist for my vessel was a eureka moment for me!!! Strange isn’t it? Dawn uses this method almost always for her beautiful hats and it never once occurred to me to do so for a vessel. It’s a hang over from reading somewhere (a beginners felting book I think, early in the days) that it was always preferrable to totally cover the template, something to do with the pressure the edges are put under during the felting process. Well anyway, chatting to Dagmar and actually trying an open sided resist has totally changed my perspective on how I’ll felt vessels in the future, I loved the way I could manipulate the shape and the quality of the open edges was very uniform and smooth! I’m not saying that I’ll always use this method but I can now see my way clearly to felting some vessels that I’ve been itching to try but to date have only existed in my imagination, watch this space. Finishing my vessel by the time day four’s advertised time was up meant that I had several hours free that evening to measure myself (with help obviously!) and work out how large I needed my template to be for the sleeveless vest with attachments that were scheduled to be felted during the fifth and sixth days of this marvelous workshop. I’ll leave you with a picture of the finished vessel, note the subtle colour and texture from soya fibre inside the neck. Next time, the vest.
At the beginning of our first session felting I asked all the participants what was the most important technique for them to learn over the course of our week together. Working with the Bordeleira wool was going to be a new experience for all of us although I had had the opportunity myself to felt 3 small samples and one little vessel prior to arriving at Dominio Vale do Mondego. From the teaching point of view I wanted every participant to be able to leave having absorbed new skills or ways of working and most importantly having had plenty of fun!
Samples and materials laid out at the start of the workshop, picture mosaic thanks to Terriea
For the first two days we felted using washed and carded wool, flat felt pieces first then three dimensional vessels and bags of many different shapes and styles. The wool roving that we used was either a natural white or chocolate brown, it felted beautifully and it’s amazing to me it is not more widely known or appriecated elsewhere. I found that it felted every bit as quickly as mernio with an approximate rate of 25% shrinkage on pieces that I would normally achieve a rate of 33%. We incorporated a selection of other fibres with the Bordeleiera wool for added surface decoration or texture. I’d brought a lot of undyed fibres with me for everyone to share including linen, silk, milk protein, soy, banana silk, wool neps etc. and I’d also got some of my favourite mohair off cuts from Cushendale Woollen Mill, mohair waste (from the brushing process after weaving), angelina, firestar and various natural and artificial yarns to dip into as well as a few different colours of merino roving in case anyone wanted to use these too. These were displayed inside with the samples and examples of other work I’d made at the beginning of the week, from Terrie’s picture mosaic it looks as if everything was very organised, obviously knowing me you’ll appreciate that it never looked as neat and tidy again!
Sandy working on her large felt vessel
Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of our flat felt from day one or two, I think that I was concentrating so much on answering questions and making sure that the new felters had a successful first piece I forgot to take any pictures. Here’s a picture of Sandy though from day two starting to shape her piece, she’s working here on a stunning large vessel felted from the chocolate wool with a design in natural white with gold linen strands. As the week progressed we found that the Bordeleira wool was perfectly soft enough for wearables and nuno felting yet strong and easy to work with for bags and vessels.
On Wednesday morning we all visited a wonderful museum dedicated to wool and started working with the raw fleece in the afternoon. I’ll post about that next time and for now leave you with a great picture of Heather modelling one of her bags as a hat, watch out Dawn, you’ve got some competition!!!
Heather modelling her very flexible bag! Doesn’t she look great???