First photos from my ArtL!nks project

I am just taking a quick break from organising bedrooms (my two sisters and a friend are staying here tomorrow night in honour of the golf club dance!) to post the first pictures from the start of my ArtL!nks project.  After all the planning that went into my proposal it was actually quite hard to start the work  for some reason, sometimes I think that pondering, plotting, planning and worrying too much can have a very detrimental effect on my actual felting! 

Fitting and stitching some of Mehmet's rug base around a plastic resist with the intention of ending up with a freestanding tube

Anyway, I decided that instead of playing around with samples exploring surface detail as I had initially intended I would actually try and make a free standing column, measure the shrinkage rate, see how strongly I could felt it and assess how stable it would be without additional internal support.  This has been the aspect of the project that I have been having the most concerns about and I wanted to be sure that my ideas would work before studying images of nudibranches further prior to finalising the design and cutting out the first resists.  You may remember the piece I felted this summer during Charlotte Buch’s workshop in Silkeborg, the images we used for inspiration were the trigger for me to explore the wonderful and colourful world of nudibranches (aka sea slugs) and it would be safe to say I am thoroughly hooked by now!

I decided to stick with a tonal grey colour combination that I enjoy working with leaving me free to feel how the base of my piece was felting and determine how successfully the structural aspects of the column were working.  I stitched some of Mehmet’s rug base into a tube and inserted a plastic resist into the middle to make sure that the wool didn’t all just felt together into one big thick carpet!  Next I laid two colours of Icelandic wool (both grey) on the surface leaving a couple of areas free of wool and also adding a few splotches of apple green C1 for contrast. 

Working the soap and water downwards through all the layers of wool and fabric

A lot of rubbing and sanding later the surface wool was starting to migrate through the thick cotton well and everything was starting to felt together into one cohesive piece, now I was ready to start with rolling.  Because of all my recent work on Sylvia’s rug I knew that the cotton fabric Mehmet uses for his rug bases would add stability to the column but at this stage I wasn’t sure exactly how evenly I would be able to shape the final piece and whether the top and bottom would stretch a little as had happened with some tentative experiments earlier in the year.

Ready to start rolling

To be continued …..

One idea clarified and great news about an Arts Grant from Carlow Co Council

One of the ideas that I have been playing around in my mind with for Sculpture in Context is a really large felt cobweb sparkling with dew and catching the early morning sunlight.  To this end I have been thinking of ways to make the cobweb strong but not too thick, it needs to be strong enough to withstand the weather but fragile looking enough to suggest delicacy and light.  Tomorrow I am going for a site visit to the National Botanic Gardens and hope to find a likely spot to place the cobweb when designing my submission, stretched between some trees or draped over a suitable shrub in a slightly sheltered space would be ideal.  I would love to work on a much larger scale than I usually do so yesterday I decided to utilise one of Mehmet’s rug bases as a sample piece and see how it would felt into a finished form.  My reasoning was that the cotton backing would add strength to the strands of the web and I think that I have proved the point pretty successfully.  Check out this image of the sample piece hanging from one of the trees at the entrance to my front field.

Sample cobweb

Sample cobweb

The cotton backing from the rug base meant that the felt when fulled is strong and surprisingly flexible.  In the photo I have just draped the piece over some branches of the tree, for a bigger piece my intention would be to secure the edges of the cobweb with either wire or strong fishing gut allowing a little bit of leeway for swaying in the wind.  I also would like to string some clear glass beads and add them to the felt, these would add to the suggestion of sunlight falling on dewdrops. 

Detail of the centre of cobweb
Detail of the centre of cobweb

My other bit of news today is that yesterday I got confirmation from the Arts Office in Carlow Co Council that I was awarded a grant of E200 to go towards my trip in July to the international felting symposium ‘Felt in Focus’.  This takes place in Denmark and I am very excited as I have also been notified by the organisers that I have secured places on both the top two workshops from my wish list!  Will post more info during the next couple of weeks about the symposium.

Second rug making workshop over and Mehmet returns home

Yesterday our second rug making workshop with Mehmet Girgic ended and another happy bunch of novice and experienced feltmakers went home with completed projects.  Again it was really interesting to see how everybody’s style was totally individual, over the weekend I will upload more images and you will all see exactly what I mean.  At this workshop I had the opportunity, space and time to make a large rug myself and took the decision to work using a style totally alien to me!!  My inspiration came from a book about Mexican houses that I have with pictures of some beautiful pottery tiles  and my central motif is a large leaping animal, possibly a deer.  Other motifs from the tiles surround this central animal but the background is pure Clasheen, a mountainous scene executed using the colours that I see around me very day!  The result is a very naive scene that I am both very happy with and strangely undecided about, it is SO unlike anything that I have previously done that I am really not 100% sure what I think of it.  Anyway, I will get the images up over the weekend when I have time to take breath and you can all make up your own minds!  Mehmet and I had an uneventful trip to Dublin airport this morning and discussed our planned group trip (which I will organise) to his workshop in Konya which I hope will take place in the Autumn.  Watch this space!

Our beautiful felt rugs (and bag!)

A happy group of felters!

A happy group of felters!

At last my internet connection is working again and I can show you the beautiful results of our first rug making workshop with Mehmet Girgic.  We spent a fantastic weekend working and learning the Osman technique and I am sure you will agree from the accompanying photo that all our effort was time well spent.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the workshop was that you can give everyone the same raw materials, in this case a 2100mm X 1900mm rug base and different coloured carded wool, but no two people end up with remotely similar pieces.  Traditional rug making motifs did come through in several different people’s work but due to all the various colour permutations each of these rugs had a totally individual style.  Matthew, who had no previous experience made a fantastic rug and really everybody regardless of how long they had been felting left the weekend with a great sense of achievement. 

Because of the space constraints with 8 others working on such a large scale I decided to make a smaller piece at the weekend workshop and a bigger rug this week.  In actual fact this proved to be a great choice as Mehmet showed me how to convert my smaller piece of flat felt into a strong and attractive seamless carpet bag.  I will explain the process over the course of my next couple of posts, now I am off to upload a few more images to flickr and prepare myself for tomorrows felting and fulling of my bigger rug!!

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!!

Loads of felting news to report …

Yesterday was

Felted fingerless mittens
Felted fingerless mittens

 a day and a half!  Early in the morning my delivery of short fibred merino arrived from Filzrausch and boy was I excited.  I really wanted to get stuck in and felting straight away but I knew that I had other things that I just had to get sorted.  As soon as I logged on to the internet I had a message from Mehmet and thank goodness his visa and passport had finally been approved from the Irish Embassy in Ankara and he is available to travel!  This has been an absolute nightmare for me (wasn’t telling everyone) because I had never appreciated what it entailed getting your visa if you are travelling on a Turkish passport and I was afraid we might just have run out of time.  Anyway, all is well for the two workshops, Mehmet arrives next Thursday with the rug bases, the rolling mats are on their way and the wool is also on it’s way, from Wollknoll in Germany.  Margo made a rug with Mehmet last year and has some great images of the group’s work in progress and the finished rugs on her blog, they really take me back to the course Carmen and I did last September and I just want to get stuck in again! 

My second gorgeous event was opening my bartering package from Anna.  The scent was amazing as I opened the box and a fantastic selection of hand made cosmetics lay ensconced in tissue paper, bath bombs, lip balm, hand cream and after shave balm, I was blown away by how amazing they were!  We are now going to trade some more of these goodies in exchange for a felt scarf or necklace, what a nice way to do business.

Next on the adgenda was the tidy up I am trying to give the whole house, not just for my guests staying during Mehmet’s course but for my own sanity as well.  On January 1st I signed up to an amazing system at FlyLady designed to prompt me to organise my day and sort out my mess, I think that it could be working but we will just have to wait and see!  At the moment I am just doing the baby steps but check it out because if any of you are messy and a procrastinator like me you NEED to see this!  Do I sound like a crank??

Talking about procrastinating I finished the mobile that I had started the night before, check it out on my Flickr account, also two of the bags that I finished.  One of the other things that I really need to get a handle on is my Etsy shop.  I did make my first sale last week, horray, but I just need to really concentrate on uploading more items and getting a good shop front going.  The big problem is that you can’t upload images from Flickr and it seems to use a lot of battery power uploading from the camera, hopefully I will get it streamlined soon.

Eventually I got to try out the new wool, brilliant.  I tried a necklace first and then was inspired to make the fingerless mittens pictured.  The wool is so beautiful to work with, very soft and tactile and amazingly fast to felt.  These were the first mittens that I have made and had I thought about it better in the laying out stage I could have saved myself a lot of time by making them both at the same time.  This would have entailed laying out a much longer length of fibre wrapped resist and felting to the stage where I cut out the hole for my thumb.  At this stage I could have cut the hollow tube in two meaning that the mittens would only have to be finished seperately for a couple of minutes.  I would also have the advantage of both mittens having the exact same thickness, as it is one is a little thicker than the other because I was too lazy to weight the wool!  Ah well, will just have to make another pair!!