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!
I am really looking forward to my delivery of a special wool from German company Filzrausch . This is the short fibre merino that I saw for the first time with Sigrid and Ingrid Bannier at the workshops in November and what they use for almost all their jewellery making. It is amazingly quick to felt and soft making it very comfortable to wear against the skin. The cost is a bit more expensive that other merino but I am hoping that I will more than make up for this extra cost in the time saved and the scope of the projects that I intend to tackle. Carmen had bought any wool that the sisters had left after the workshops and I got a little bit from her. This afternoon I made some felt beads, a flower, a ball and a piece of flat felt, in all they took me probably a third of the time that I would take normally, amazing! Watch this space, the wool should arrive at the beginning of next week hopefully.
One thing that I didn’t mention yesterday is that when I make prefelts I don’t lay the fibres out anything like as thickly as usual. This is because the prefelt will be cut and laid on top of whatever piece I am working on and I don’t want the felt to end up too thick in those sections. If however, you wanted a very textured piece, a wallhanging for example, maybe you would want the prefelt to be thick and to stand out a little from the rest of the background. Anyway, it is nice to experiment a bit so you will find out what thickness suits your style of work yourselves!
Thanks a million to Sheila Ahern who mentioned me in her excellent article in last Sunday’s Independent Newpaper. Here is the link for any of you who might like a peek, the main thread of the piece is about felting becoming addictive and some of the prose made me laugh out loud!
Yesterday I mentioned the basic tools that I use when felting and today I am going to give a brief overview of using prefelts in your work to get defined outlines, also a little mention of the Osman technique prior to Mehmet Girgic’s workshops later in January.
Prefelt is basically what occurs when you start the felting process but stop working the fibres as soon as they have started to form a cohesive fabric and before they have started to shrink. By washing carefully and drying your piece at this stage you can then cut the prefelt into any shape you like and place it on top of freshly laid out wool fibres. The result of this is that the cut out shape retains its clean lines and you can have much more control of what your finished piece will look like than with the usual method. If you are a bit impatient like me, you can actually cut the piece when wet and use it immediately, if you do this it is best to have the main layers of fibre wetted out before placing the prefelt in position. You also don’t have to rinse out the prefelt if you will be using it within a few days of making it, only if you want to store it for a while. I like to spend a bit of time sometimes dreaming up interesting combinations for my prefelt, I often try and include metallic threads, silk, angelina, things that I might not want a huge amount of in a finished piece but enough to add some interest to the work.
The Osman technique as taught by Mehmet Girgic is another way in which to get clean outlines. This is the method that I used for my road sign, note how obvious the outlines of the oak leaves are. With this piece I laid out the oulilne of the words and the leaves on top of a prepared base, this base was quite thick and comprised of layers of natural fleece and a top layer of heavy duty muslin which had been worked to the prefelt stage. In this method you roll the dry roving into a thin thread, dip it into extremely soapy water, wet the section of base that you wish to work on and then ‘draw’ your outlines with the wet roving. Because you have already wet the base and dipped the wool into soapy water the roving sticks very well to the backing. Once you fill in all the areas that you want to have colour you then wet out and roll, stamp, roll and stamp your piece again. This method is great for rugs and large wallhangings so why not give it a try? Mehmet will be arriving on Thursday 15th January and facilitating two 3 day workshops in rug making, check out the workshop page for full details. A couple of people have had to drop out at the last minute so if anyone is interested in a place please contact me asap! This is an amazing opportunity to meet and work with a world reknowned tutor.
Thanks to all my friends and family who attended the opening of the Winter Exhibition at Kozo Gallery in Thomastown yesterday. Special thanks to my mother Lynette, my sisters Suzanne and Lizzy, my partner Alan and my friends Cathy, Martin, Eileen, Remmy, Duncan and Helena who all make the effort to attend, a great turnout! The exhibition continues until 31st January and as work is sold I can replace it with newer pieces. A second opening has also been organised for 6th December and another 5 artists are joining us then in the run up to Christmas. This was the first time that Kozo have invited artists to participate in an open selection and the work seemed to be very favourably received by both the public and the press.
With all the coming and going over the last few days I decided to felt something simple and quick this morning, prefelts seemed the obvious choice. I had promised my students that I would have some prepared for their next lesson and of course as soon as I started making them I have been having all sorts of wild ideas of what I myself would like to use them for. Now I want to spend all my time preparing some funky colour schemes and know that I will be in a frenzy over the next few days to prepare a wide selection of colours! For those of you not sure what I mean by prefelt it is a piece of felt in the making which you stop fulling and shrinking as soon as the fibres are holding together into an obvious piece of fabric. This lightly felted piece can then be cut into any shape and laid on top of loose wool roving or batts, wet out and felted fully as normal. The big advantage of using prefelt in a design is that because it has already started to mesh together into a fabric your design edges will be very clean cut and sometimes this is exactly what you require. Anyway, I am having fun making quite large pieces in solid colours (so far!) and embellishing part of each prefelt heavily with either tussah or mulberry silk. Tomorrow I will continue making some more pieces and on Tuesday or Wednesday start cutting some of them up to use in some vessels I have been brooding over!!
This collage of images is a taster for Sylvia, my swap buddy from Bag Lady Swaps to show some of the raw materials and the colour scheme that I used to create the felt for the bag I made her. If you look closely at the various images you can see pale pink and blue merino, a small section of green and pink silk fibres, pink prefelt and some of the finished water coloured blue felt. The movement and watery colour in the felt was achieved from a couple of base layers of dark blue wool, a mixture of lighter blue merino laid on top and then quite a bit of light blue silk to finish off with. I got the parcel posted today and included a couple of little extras one of which was a matching key ring. The key ring I was especially happy with because I added a little fish cut out from dyed fish skin and I thought that it looked great!! Because Sylvia has obviously got a few days to wait until the parcel arrives I am not going to post an image of the finished bag until I know she has received it.
An amazing tip learnt during the Anita Larkin workshop concerns the use of a wire brush! People had brought different sized brushes to try, but for fairly small pieces of work a suede shoe brush seemed perfect. We used these when repairing a seam or depression caused by uneven rolling, attaching an object or closing the hole created when removing the plastic around a resist (explanation re resists Anita’s way to follow in another post). I hope that I can explain what we did clearly but if it is not obvious enough please let me know. The type of ridge/depression I am talking about is that created by uneven pressure when rolling a ball or a cord, often a problem for me and I am sure that most of you know what I am talking about. Once you notice a ridge or depression forming at the pre felt stage use your wire brush gently to fluff up the fibres on either side of the problem area. Holding the piece of felt lightly in your hands (or on the table if easier) smooth the fibres with your fingers and encourage them to move towards each other. It is important that if the ridge goes in one direction you make the smoothing action in the opposite direction, ie. at a 90 degree angle to where the ridge is lying. Keep smoothing very gently for quite a few minutes and you will notice that the ridge or depression magically seals over. This method of fluffing up the fibres with a wire brush also allows you to attach a prefelted object to another piece of felt, just fluff up the side where you wish to make your join and work the seal very slowly and carefully. Next time that I write a post I will discuss Anita’s method of making cords and inserting wire into felt.
I did want to mention today however that on Saturday I attended an excellent one day workshop about silk paper making facilitated by Tunde Toth. This workshop was organised by the South East Textile Group and took place at our usual venue in the Demense Yard at Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny. Tunde is an artist working from the Kozo Gallery in Thomastown and specialises in different types of paper making. She brought a great range of fibres for us to work with, initially we made a basic silk paper and then got really stuck in using inclusions and dyes as we became more experimental. I found the whole process really inspiring as depending on the thickness of the paper made I feel it will be possible to insert the silk paper into a piece of felt at the early part of the felting process. Already I have made a couple of experiments with silk paper that I made on Saturday, more on this subject as soon as I have finished writing about the scupltural feltmaking weekend with Anita.
I had a great time today at the Demense Yard, Castlecomer with the ‘South East Textile Group’. We meet one Saturday a month and either one of the members or an invited guest hosts a workshop. Today Jean (one of our founder members) showed us all how to create and use a lino print and in the afternoon we were using a printer to transfer images to a special medium and then iron them on to various fabrics.
As my drawing is dreadful I decided to use the lino cutting as an opportunity to explore the possibilities of creating a tag or logo for my work. I created a simple logo using my initials and some lines. Once I had gouged out the lines a bit deeper than my first attempt I was very happy with the end result, thanks Jean for a great tutorial.
The printer here at Clasheen has just run out of ink so I jumped at the opportunity to use the group’s new printer and transfer some images on to the special paper that Jean had brought. Deciding not to draw anything myself, I used some fantastic images of African women from a recent issiue of a fashion magazine that I had. Armed with these as I was going home, I spent the hour driving home planning how I would incorporate them into a piece of nuno felt. My biggest concerns were should they be colour fast once I started to wet felt and would the image shrink too much and become unrecognisable once shrunk and fulled. FANTASTIC success!!! I wanted to experiment with a wallhanging so I ironed one of the images onto a piece of white muslin and then laid it on a large piece of apple green commercial needle felt. This needlefelt is new to me and came from Wollknoll in Germany, usually I would create any prefelt from scratch but have been wanting to experiment with larger pieces in a limited time frame. I then laid out apple green, navy and marine blue merino on top of all but the actual image. These colours were chosen as they picked out the main colours in the clothes the African ladies were wearing. A little white and red wool to highlight and away I went and wet the wool. No problems with the dye from my printed muslin running and because I had positioned the fabric on top of the needlefelt it did not actually distort too much when fulled. I am so pleased with the result and hope to take a photo tomorrow once I decide whether to embellish the piece further or just leave it as it is. I would welcome feedback if anyone feels like making a comment as soon as I post the image of the finished piece!