I had written and programmed a post about my beautiful new felt ring to be published last week while I was away in Denmark but for some reason I have just discovered it never went live, strange. Click here or scroll down the page a little bit and prepare to be captivated!
By the time you read this I will be part way through my two day workshop with Charlotte Buch at the ‘Felt Naturally’ symposium in Denmark!
I had a very enjoyable time yesterday at the monthly get together of the South East Textile Group. We meet on the last Saturday of every month at the Demanse Yard in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny for inspiration, textile related tutorials and workshops, good food and a bit of fun! Stephanie was teaching members how to needle felt a doll so making my apologies (needle felting really aggravates my back and I am NOT a doll person!) I settled in for a relaxing session of wet felting. I felted a selection of glamorous flowers using some sparkly merino for the top layer and now just need to sew pins onto the backs and upload them to my Etsy shop. I also felted three new rings and showed everyone how you can also use them as a ‘clasp’ with a scarf, really multi functional and fun items. After a great lunch in the cafe I gathered a twisted stick and felted a flower onto the branch, part of my experimental work before I submit my proposal for ‘Sculpture in Context’ which is taking place at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin this September.
When I arrived home from Castlecomer I was faced with my previously beautiful cerise mohair and wool jumper after I had made a mistake with the controls of my washing machine. Previously I had washed this soft and beautiful jumper on a 30 degree wool wash but for some alsolutely crazy reason this time I had a rush of blood to my head and lumped it in at an active 40 degrees, disaster! Although it was not totally ‘fulled’ it was getting there so nothing ventured nothing gained, I decided to bung it in on a 90 degree wash and take my chances with the resultant fabric. Happily it worked a treat (obviously I would have preferred not to have shrunk it but once the process had started there was no going back) and this morning I cut up the jumper into various useful sections. The piece that I am most pleased about is the neck, it now makes a really beautiful and warm headband with the addition of a crochet and felt green and pink corsage! The sleeves are now fingerless mittens awaiting some embellishment and the body looks like it may be redesigned into a soft and comfortable cowl!
Yesterday afternoon I called over to Carmen’s house to see how her new studio is progressing. Her partner Peter has spent the last couple of weeks working almost full time on this shed conversion and I must say that the results look great! This was a modern barn with open sides and no concrete floor, now it is a beautiful cladded building with 4 huge windows, a wooden stable style door, shelving, electricity, water and plenty of wall and display space. Peter is now making metal topped tables and then Carmen is all set to go, the only thing that will be left to do is landscape the outside a little bit! Anyway, I toured the studio and then we had a great lunch of fish soup followed by fresh fish and veg. I had said to Carmen that I would help with some organising and tidying up in the studio but since Peter was working on the tables we decided to experiment a little with some more felted jewellery. I showed Carmen how I made the blue felt rings and then I tried making a ring by felting around a large glass mosaic bead. this actually worked out very well although you do need a big hand for the ring to look totally in proportion! When I got home I decided to use the same method of trapping the glass but this time surrounding a marble. This ring also worked well but again I would like to have a little less wool surrounding the glass and therefore end up with a slightly smaller ring. I am going to take some pictures later today and hope to get them online tomorrow or even this evening. Let me know if any of you have and ideas, maybe I just need to start with a smaller marble to get a finer end result.
My felting disaster is another thing altogether! Carmen got a new book for her birthday and one of the projects was felting around a ball. Now I know that many of you have done this before using Beth Beede’s method but I have always prefered starting any of my 3 dimensional work using a flat resist. Anyway, I decided to give the ball method a go and try to make the fruit bowl as demonstrated in the book. I didn’t have any elastic bandage to wrap around the wool wrapped ball so decided to go for Beth’s method of using cut off tights, a VERY difficult manouver if you are working by yourself. My colour scheme was a big success, shades of red and maroon with some orange highlights, red muslin (felted in beautifully) and some gorgeous silk in shades of maroon and wine. My bowl decided that it would like to become a hat and after I had shaped it on my hat block I realised (as this was actually the first time that I had used the block) that it would be HUGE on my head. Now I am back to the stage of having a fruit bowl or deciding whether to cut up the felt or punch into it and create some jewellery. Ah well, another day another hat, I really need a lesson in how to make a proper and comfortable but most importantly wearable hat!!
Here are the images as promised of the beautiful felt vessels that Margaret and Bridann made with me at the beginners felt workshop on Saturday. Because they had learned how to make a piece of flat felt in the morning it was a simple step forwards to try out three dimensional work in the afternoon. If you are new to felting and working by yourself or learning from a book I definitely would recommend practicing the flat felt for a couple more times but as I was there to help keep an eye on the edges of the vessels and any other likely trouble spots we just progressed naturally into this type of work. Margaret decided to work in natural coloured wool, a soft white for the inside and a gray on the outside. The outside was embellished with white mulberry silk and although this blended in very well with the grey wool it would show up much more clearly if the finished piece was shaved with an electric razor.
Bridann decided to use a round resist to creat a bowl shaped vessel. She worked in shades of blue and teal highlighting the outside layer with yellow merino and light blue mulberry silk. This was a very good colour composition and I am sure you will agree that both ladies created amazing work for their first day felting!
Also as promised here is an image of my new design felt ring, more images in my Flickr images. I am also going to be uploading these rings (and hopefully) a lot more pieces to my Etsy shop over the next day or so. I have a mountain of work just waiting to go up online but it seems to take forever to get it sorted out and I have to say that I have been procrastinating a bit! Now that I am felting full time I really need to get a regular income so have just decided that I REALLY need to my online sales sorted out as soon as possible.
Bridann and Margaret arrived this morning for our beginners felting day at Clasheen. Neither had wet felted before although Margaret had done a little needle felting and has bags of wool waiting at home for her to get cracking with the wet felting. We started the morning with a coffee and chat about the basics of felting and had a look at various types of wool and animal fibre before getting started on their first flat piece of felt. Experimenting was the order of the day to enable both ladies to get a feel for the fibres and they each decided to mix two colours for their base, Bridann chose grey and pink while Margaret chose orange and brown. I had a selection of prefelts, silks, various animal fibres and wool to select from and add as embellishment to the top layer. It was great seeing the pieces come together and Margaret who thought she had chosen ‘safe’ colours was amazed at how vibrant her finished piece of felt actually was! After a spot of lunch we started on their first 3-dimensional piece, Margaret chose to make a tall vessel and Bridann a round bowl. They really produced amazing work for their first 3-dimensional pieces and tomorrow I will upload the images. For some reason today they will not go in the position I want them to on the blog, the wonders of technology!
When we had lunch I demonstrated a simple 3-d felt flower and for some reason that inspired me to create a new style felt ring myself after the workshop was over. I used the gorgeous soft short fibre merino from Filzrausch and had great fun playing around with some simple colour combinations, blue, teal, a spot of yellow and a black centre. I made the ring piece from dark green wool and it looks as if the rings are flowers growing from the dark green stems!
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.