Quick break and then back to sampling

I was meant to be at the golf club this afternoon but after a morning plotting and planning a new bag I am now in the middle of making samples and don’t want to stop while the juices are somewhat flowing!  Initially I was having difficulties deciding on the shape as I would like something with a similar handle to the bag I made with Lyda but I do want to make sure that it is recognisably my own work and not just a copy of one of her templates.  I found some great images of ray, plaice and other flat fish so think that I will use a shape that is fatter at the bottom third and slightly tapered at the bottom but with a round feel, does that make sense?  Initially I was going to work in orange, yellow and shades thereof with some gold mesh and ponge silk for surface decoration plus some ‘craters’ for depth.  After my first sample I am not sure that I like the colour combination and since I have been here at the computer my thoughts are turning to a design in natural black, white and charcoal inspired by some local rock art at Rathgeeran. 

Rock art at Rathgeeran New Year 2010

I am also playing with the idea of creating a piece of prefelt with a lot of interesting surface texture, cutting it into squares, rearranging the order of the squares and then felting it into the top layer of merino.  Anyway, off now to make some more samples and hopefully by the end of the afternoon my ideas will have chrystallised into something concrete and I will be able to start on the bag proper first thing tomorrow morning.

I am also following with great interest the comments at Clasheen Uncut in relation to pricing craft and hope to blog here tomorrow about handles for felt bags and continue to explore the pricing debate over at Clasheen Uncut.

Wow, brilliant felting workshop in Mullingar last Sunday!

Thanks to Anna for organising such an artistic and fun group of people for the beginner’s felting workshop in Mullingar on Sunday.  I am going to finish blogging about my large felt sculpture but until I get time to finish shaping and fulling the piece after Lyda Rumps’s vist and workshops this week the next stage of documenting the process will have to go on hold!  For the Mullingar workshop we were lucky enough to be able to use the facilities at the Educate Together primary school, in exchange I facilitated a felting morning for the sixth class pupils on Monday, more about that and a picture later. 

Atsuko's piece prior to wetting out

After I had explained the basic felting principles and shrinkage rates etc. participants decided what flat felt project they wanted to create.  We had several felt wallhangings, two pairs of stitched slippers, one folded and stitched bag to match a new coat, one experimental felt lampshade (which made a stunning but delicate light felt wrap!) and then one interesting felt pod which was designed to be a sun glasses case but could in fact be purly decorative or used to protect a variety of small treasures.

I wanted everyone to work at their own pace and in their own style, the finished work far exceeded my imagination and it was amazing to think that this was actually a beginner’s workshop and not an advanced class!  Anna had said that Sunday’s participants were all artistic, check out the full batch on photos on Flickr and I think we will have to ammend that to VERY artistic!!!

The following morning I was back at the school, the full compliment of 24 sixth class pupils were in attendance and felted an OUTSTANDING wallhanging, there must be something in the water in Mullingar!  This class will be the first to graduate since the school was opened six years ago so for them it was an exciting opportunity to create a lasting memento which will now be embellished and hung for posterity somewhere in the public area of the building.  Each pupil created a beautiful and individual piece of felt to signify something personal and of meaning to them.   They then decided how we would lay out the work and the mammoth task started of laying out a white wool background and felting the whole piece together.  Realistically this was a very ambitious project for anyone nevermind 11 to 13 year olds who had never handled raw wool in their lives before!  Interestingly one of the pupils was from Mongolia and as a younger child had seen her grandmother felting, brilliant to think that she can move to another part of the world and actually participate in the process as a united class activity. 

AMAZING large felt wallhanging!

Because of parental consent etc. I am not going to put up pictures of the pupils actually making the hanging (they will follow if all the parents are happy to give permission), here is the completed hanging however and I am so pleased looking back through the pictures at all we achieved on a cold and frosty Monday morning!  Triona (their class teacher) is now going to work with the pupils embellishing the hanging with stitches, beads and various found objects before adding a pole and hanging the work for all the other staff, pupils and parents to enjoy.  Although we didn’t measure the finished work at a rough estimate is measures 4′ X 6′, each individual pupils work is almost 1′ square!

Complex felt bag workshop continues

I know that you have already seen an image of my first sample but here is a close up so hopefully you will be able to follow what I am talking about! 

Close up of sample 1

Close up of sample 1Sample 2

Lyda had brought a great selection of glass nuggets with her for us to share (apparantly cheap and easy to get in Ikea, roll on July 27th when the first store opens in Ireland!) so I decided to felt in 4 different colours to see which would work best with my wool selection.  Just by matching the nuggets up beside the raw wool I thought the the green colour would be best but also incorporated black, clear and frosted green.  I also covered one of the nugets with green gauze before covering with more wool thinking that it could prove an interesting contrast in textures when the glass was exposed.  In the close up above you can see how much shinier and visable the green glass was compared to the frosted glass and indeed these were nothing like as good as the black, black was by far the best contrast with clear glass second!  The other thing of note in the close up is how the silk chiffon that I used on top of the merino was almost totally submerged into the top layer of wool, useless for the bag as you would not have had any idea it was there at all!  I also used gorgeous silk hankies and silk twists on the reverse of the piece but again these just blended into the background.  What did stand out brilliantly however were the strips of green gauze (bottom right of image), I had never incorporated gauze into my work before and it was a revelation so off I went back into the traders hall (had to ration myself here!!) to try and get some turquoise gauze.  Unfortunately they did not have it in this colour but luckily I found some gorgeous pongee silk in just the right shade of blue.  Although by this stage everyone else was well underway laying out the wool for their bags I made the decision to make a second sample in order to discover exactly how the pongee would look against the black, blue and green for my backpack. 

Sample 2

Sample 2

With this sample I laid out the wool a lot thinner than in my first piece (everyone else’s work was much thinner than mine in sample 1) so it felted quicker but Lyda said to stick with how I usually worked and to lay it as per my first sample.  I loved the effect of the pongee silk against the merino so with a happy heart started to lay out my backpack!  To be continued …..