CRAFTed, Zwartbles, KY, MI and Portugal felting workshop updates and Dawn’s wonderful visit comes to an end

So much news, yet again so little time! Dawn came with me last week to meet the pupils that I’m working with for my 2012 CRAFTed project, they just loved her hats and in turn she just loved them singing two songs in Irish for her!!!

Adding buttons and other bits and bobs to embellish the felt portraits

Tomorrow is my last session with the school and I can’t believe that I haven’t got my paperwork up to date for this. It has been so hectic here the last 6 weeks that for the first time ever I am behind at this stage of the project, the fact that I am working with 35 and not 26 pupils also has contributed to the delay, anyway, onwards and upwards. We’ll be hanging the finished felt portraits tomorrow and making friendship bracelets for all the pupils to share.

After the opening of Duckett’s Grove on Friday morning Dawn and I picked up my great Danish buddy Kirsten Elise Lund and we headed back to Clasheen for an action packed and fun weekend! On Saturday morning we headed over to Suzanna Crampton’s beautiful home and spent a wonderful few hours rambling around the garden and getting up close and personal with her gorgeous Zwartbles sheep!

Kirsten, Dawn and Suzanna, Zwartbles are such a gently breed and SO friendly it's amazing

I want to write a full blog post about this trip, the sheep and felting with their fleece before I leave for US but if I don’t get time please MAKE sure I do so later in the summer!!! After a blissful morning we all went for an early lunch to Nicholas Mosse Pottery, dropped Suzanna home then Dawn, Kirsten and I headed food shopping to Kilkenny followed by a brilliant trip to Cushendale Woolen Mill in Graiguenamanagh. Thanks so much Mary Cushen for opening up the mill especially for Dawn and Kirsten, we really appreciated the personal attention, this local mill is my ‘must see’ recommendation for any international textile visitor who comes to Clasheen!!!

Choices, choices at Cushendale Woolen Mill

In the evening Kate Ramsey arrived to stay and we were all joined by some of my closest friends for a plate of curry and a chat. On Sunday morning Niki Collier arrived and we spent the day felting, chatting, eating, laughing and basically having what we Irish call ‘the craic’, Kate and Niki also popped in to Carlow to see Eileen MacDonagh’s amazing exhibition LITHOSPHERE at Visual!!! In the evening our local guy won the final of ‘The Voice of Ireland‘, congratulations Pat Byrne, we voted, cheered and shouted with the best of them. Dawn, Kirsten and I had an early start on Monday morning, 4am to be precise! It was bitter sweet leaving the girls at the airport, our time together was really special and it was very sad to see it ending. I will be however heading to US myself in exactly one week and visiting with Dawn and the three of us have plans laid for a longer session together next spring, lots to reflect on and lots to look forward to!!!

Speaking of the US, I am SO EXCITED that I will be heading off my travels exactly one week from today, in fact by this time next week I’ll actually be airborn and heading over to stay with the wonderful Jan Durham in Lexington and the amazing Dawn Edwards in Plainwell! If you would like to join us in Lexington on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th May or Plainwell on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th May from 10am to 5pm please just contact Jan or Dawn asap, we have just a few slots left on each of these dates so hurry if you want to have some fabulous felting fun!!! There are also only a few places left for the amazing week long felting extravaganza at Dominio Vale do Mondego in Portugal, please follow the link to see what’s on offer and contact Karin asap if you wish to confirm your spot! I’ll leave you today with the full workshop descriptions for KY and MI, I’m also going to be in action for 3 days at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival from 18th, 19th and 20th of May in case you can’t make either Lexington or Plainwell!!!

‘Fantastic Felt Inspired by the Natural and Built Environment’ 

Skill Level: Basic felting skills an advantage but total beginners are very welcome too!

Class Description: Let the shapes, forms, colours, patterns, textures and structures of the natural and built environment fire your imagination! During this two-day workshop participants will design and create their own unique and beautiful wearable, functional or decorative pieces of felt using nature and the man-made landscape for inspiration. Some participants may choose to create a purely decorative art piece such as a complex vessel, sculpture or wall hanging while others may decide to design and felt some wearable art or interior accent, possibly a bag, some jewellery, some nuno felt or maybe a framed landscape or table runner.

There will be time to experiment and discover techniques or materials over the two days that you may have never considered using in your felting before. Nicola will be bringing some of her favourite mohair off cuts for everyone to try out and will share with participants how she is currently using free machine embroidery selectively to accentuate design elements in some of her new bags and framed landscapes. She’ll also demonstrate the use of an electric sander during some stages of the felting process and speak about the possibilities of fulling nuno felt using the tumble dryer, Nicola doesn’t use a sander all the time herself but sometimes it can really help with certain tasks and it is definitely useful to know when this might apply. The tumble dryer technique is wonderful for difficult to felt fabrics and to eliminate all the traditional rubbing and rolling, it’s not for everyone but it is fantastic to speed up the process especially if you have a bad back or other health issues so again, another technique it can be handy to know about!

Participants are encouraged to bring along treasured bits and bobs from their stash, buttons, beads, scraps of vintage fabric, shells, stones, glass nuggets etc., these all make wonderful inclusions in felt and help to personalize and create a truly unique work of art! We will have access to a sewing machine during the workshop but if you have your own machine with a free machine embroidery foot please bring it along and some threads too if you have space in your car. We won’t have access to a tumble dryer at the venue but if participants would like to try this technique during the workshop they are free to lay out a large nuno wrap during day one and get it to the stage where they can bring it home with them and finish it using their own dryer that evening. Nicola will clearly explain the steps to take and it should be possible to full the pieces and have them finished to show off on day two!

NB Although participants will get the most from this workshop in either Kentucky or Plainwell if they are able to participate on both Friday and Saturday there may be a few places available for those unable to attend both days, please just contact Jan or Dawn asap to check.

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Personalised felting tools now available, HELP PLEASE and turmeric update!!!

I’ve been attached to my computer since 7am this morning but I’m happy to say that the  ‘niki & niki’ range of felting tools are finally available to buy online!!!

'The Prodder', 'The Minimalist', 'The Modest' and 'The Big One'

Niki Collier and I are also really excited to offer an optional personalisation service whereby customers may have their own name (or maybe that of a friend!) branded on any tool, this service will cost E6 per item and up to 10 digits (including spaces) may be inscribed. I always label my own tools with a marker when I head off on my travels so this strikes me as a perfect but much more stylish solution, now it will be easier to keep track of all my equipment on the go!!!

The final names that we have selected for the tools are ‘The Big One’, ‘The Modest’, The Minimalist’, the ‘Mini Minimalist’ (all various lengths of rollers) and ‘The Prodder’ (shaper), thanks to everyone who had suggestions about naming the prodder!!! Head over to my Etsy store to see what we currently have in stock, I’m trying to add an ordering option for ‘The Prodder’ and ‘The Mini Minimalist’ because they’re already sold out, I was sure I should be able to do this on Etsy but maybe my brain is just too tired now! I’ll have another go again tomorrow but for now if you are interested in either of these tools email me and I’ll add you to the waiting list. I promise not to lose your details, see the next paragraph below!

The Prodder

HELP PLEASE The internet connection has been horrendous today so it’s taken almost 12 hours to get there, in the meantime I’ve been getting messages via email and Facebook from interested felters and that’s where I’m calling out to you. Since I first blogged that the tools were almost ready to launch (just over a week ago) I wrote down pre-orders on a piece of paper, but where on earth has that bit of paper gone??? If I haven’t already emailed you a request for payment this afternoon via PayPal please email me immediately, followers of this blog will already know that I’m disasterous when it comes to paperwork, sorry but unfortunately that’s the truth so if you want your order posted on Monday I will need your details again please. I did think that all the ‘prodders’ were already ordered but now I can’t remember all the names so apologies, Kim you may be in luck yet! Anyway, thanks in advance to anyone who does contact me again, I’m really sorry about this but I can’t do anything other than ask.

Finally for today, I’m getting a lot of people asking me about the staying power of the turmeric dyeing I did, the answer is that I just don’t know yet! I did research things a bit on the internet first, most people seemed to have no problems and I’m hoping that the vinegar I added as a mordant will be sufficient to help the colour remain fast. If not however, I’ll just re-dip again to bring back that lovely rich yellow!

Our ‘niki & niki’ felting tools are branded now and ready to go out in the post on Monday!!!

I’m thrilled with the new brand logo that Niki Collier has been painstakingly marking on all our new felting tools, tomorrow I’m going to post properly about them and share our final names but for now here’s a pic!!!

Image

They’ll be ready to go out in the post on Monday to those of you who have placed your orders already, we’ll just invoice you via PayPal over the weekend and send them as soon as we have addresses and know that the payment has gone through. Have a great weekend everybody!

‘Niki & Niki’ felting tools are on the way plus plenty of other felting news!

Well, everything definitely seems to be happening at once here. The first batch of felting tools that designer Niki Collier and I are having made to our specifications has arrived now and will be available for sale sometime over the next few days! We just need to burn our name on them, measure and weigh everything properly and then work out the postage costs, all the pieces are hand made so measurements will be as accurate as possible. You might remember recently I used the large textured roller to full my sister’s rug (you can find a picture in this post), it is 56cm long with a rolling surface of 38cm and a diameter of 4.5cm, it will be retailing for €45 excluding P&P. We also have a shorter version with an approx rolling surface of 25cm at €35, a handleless version measuring 20cm at €30 (I like this on my hands!) and a kind of ‘poker’ or ‘prodder’ for using when fulling vessels and sculptural pieces retailing at €8.

Niki & Niki's new little felting 'prodder'

Last night I was felting a little nuno inspired vessel with a lot of textured detail and the prodder was great for stretching and shaping whilst in the final stages of the fulling process. Obviously we need to come up with a better name for it so have a look at the first image and if anyone has any suggestions please pass them along!!! P&P costs will be kept to a minimum for all the tools, basically just what it costs up to wrap them up securely and get them sent to the various destinations, if you want to make an advance order please just email me asap, numbers are limited for this our first delivery! I should also mention that Niki is in the process of setting up her new design website and I’m honoured to be the first invited guest that she has interviewed, thanks Niki. If you want to read a little bit of Irish banter head on over to have a look at the interview!

This morning I ordered all the materials for Dawn’s ‘Fantastic Felt Hatsworkshops, please remember if you are one of the participants and have not already done so that the deadline for the balance of the workshop fee is on or before this Friday 23rd March.

Today I’ve felted a small nuno flap which I will be attaching (or hopefully attaching knowing my sewing skills!) to a leather pouch, this will be the prototype for a new design intended to be a phone, iPod or camera case and I’m hoping that all will work out well. The leather is from a large batch I bought the first time that I visited Dawn in Plainwell, we spent a great day visiting Saugatauk and Lake Michigan stopping en route at an office depot outlet where I picked the leather up for a song compared to what it would cost in Ireland. I love the combination of leather and felt but to date I’ve been too chicken to actually cut the pieces up and decide definitively what I’m going to do with them, wish me luck!

Speaking of luck, I’m thrilled to have received a letter confirming that Carlow County Council through the Arts Office have awarded me €550 to go towards the cost of attending Dagmar Binder’s masterclass in Scotland this summer, to say I’m delighted in an understatement!!!

Finally I’ll leave you with a better picture of my latest vessel, I’m not 100% happy with it as I wanted a more all over nuno effect but at least it’s a starting point so all is not lost. I laid it out using the design inside method and possibly needed to rub for a bit longer prior to rolling as some of the fabric needed to be snipped once I opened up the package. I also needed to pay more attention to the fact that the fabric would be reversed, obviously I needed to work from the outside in (or inside out) but even knowing what I should have been doing I laid some of the fabric back to front, ah well, I’ve lived and learnt!

Little textured nuno style vessel

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

Niki’s stunning wrap photographed in the urban landscape

I spent a wonderful time with friend Niki Collier, her husband Rem and their beautiful children Coral and Tanya in Dublin yesterday.  Niki and I had a felt filled day planned, inspiration, discussion, chat and action, it certainly lived up to and surpassed all my anticipation!

Striding out in the urban landscape

During the day we walked to collect the children from their respective pre-schools and this was an opportunity for me to wear and Niki to photograph the stunning piece she felted at the recent Dublin Pam de Groot workshop organised by Feltmakers Ireland.  Initially this softly draping nuno piece was designed to be worn as a long shift, once I tried it on and looked at myself in the mirror I asked Niki would she mind if I tried it on with the intended neck opening as an armhole, voila, this incredible wrap was born!!!  We had great fun chatting and pausing as we walked along and it was totally fitting that the wrap was photographed in the urban landscape that was its inspiration.  Congratulations Niki on a very special piece!!!

Out and about in Dublin

During the afternoon Rem took the children out for a while and Niki and I settled down to our felting.  I’m thrilled with the two new bracelets I made and promise photos tomorrow, they are the first in a new series of work I’m creating inspired by Irish dry stone walls.  In the evening our felting friend Sheila Ahern joined us right on time to watch this weeks episode of Craft Master, a current Irish television series focusing on craft in Ireland.  Sheila is involved in the production of the series and her official title is ‘Craft Advisor’, Niki and I thought the programme was excellent!!!  Alan travelled up from Bagenalstown to join us for dinner and we had a wonderful meal, the highlights included a yummy salad accompanied by a Bulgarian speciality drink (unfortunately I can’t remember the name, maybe I drank too much!), stuffed aubergines, seasonal vegetable stir fry, roasted tomatoes with garlic and a fantastic tasting fillet steak for the meat eaters, it was a meal fit for a king!

Little Tanya is making me smile!

Today I headed back to Niki’s in the morning to collect my truck and have a good cup of coffee (I stayed in Alan’s Dublin pad for the night), after that I drove to Ikea to make some final choices for my utility room/back kitchen.  This part of the house has just not been working in its current layour so over the next week I am going to dismantle all the units, drag them out to the garage and reinstall, then I get to have fun putting together and finally fitting what I hope will be the work space from heaven, I’ll update you as it progresses!  Unfortunately this does mean that I won’t be going away for a short holiday with Alan as we had planned, he just can’t get next week off but luckily we hadn’t booked to take account of this eventuality occuring.  Ah well, he did suggest he MIGHT wrangle two weeks off at the beginning of November so I’m not totally ruling out a holiday yet, for the moment I’ll live in hope!