This afternoon I'm spending a little time catching up with computer things and not rushing around quite so crazily as most days of late. Yesterday I had my first stint manning the 'Carlow Made' pop up shop with Ornat, the shopping centre was actually very quiet considering it's so near Christmas but our group collaboratively had a good day sales wise. I'm not trying to force my work on any of you but if you are considering buying a naturally printed scarf, wall hanging/rug/runner or cushion/pillow for a stylish Irish made Christmas present please don't leave it too late! I sold three naturally printed silk scarves at Borris Food & Craft Market this morning so the scarves that are currently in the pop up shop are the only ones now available until I finish another batch. I have about five waiting to be washed out and ironed, whether I get these finished before Christmas is anyone's guess at present, just saying, if you want one or two (complete with their tagged gift boxes) get them sooner rather than later!!!
I'm uploading this picture too just to let you know the position in the shop where my scarves are hanging. Friend and fellow 'Carlow Made' participant Catherine Sothern is also selling naturally printed work (FB fans may remember pics from a workshop at Casheen where I shared the technique!), Catherine's scarves are in front of her lovely cushions and vintage inspired hats while mine are opposite the shelves with the rest of my felt and printing. Do let me know if you're coming in and want a chat or a bit of personalised help, I'll be in Carlow most days in the run up to Christmas Eve but obviously I'll be working from home a lot too!
Over the next few days I am going to blog about the wonderful experience I had this weekend attending Jeanette Sendler’s ‘Felt and Nostalgia’ workshop in Dublin. Primarily I am going to be talking about the pieces I made myself and explain a little bit about the thoughts and emotions that went into selecting the shapes and inclusions that I worked with. To fully appreciate how thought provoking this experience was one would need to attend Jeanette’s workshop oneself and although I don’t want to give the impression that you will be learning here what I learnt over the last two days I do want to share with you how this experience will carry forward into my feltmaking in the future.
Suzanne displaying one of Jeanette's pieces
We started our first day by talking about and examining how Jeanette incorporates items from the past into her felt and reworks them for others to enjoy in the future. We oohed and aahed over some of her beautiful work before sitting in a circle and brainstorming about putting our working concepts together. The items I finally selected to bring with me as a starting point for my work all related to my father’s mother Isabella Whitecross-Urquhart, a Scottish lady who ultimately moved with my Irish grandfather to Jersey via Ireland. They included some beautiful silk scarves, a brooch she often wore, the little suede pouch she stored a bracelet in and some dyed and undyed flax fibres. These fibres were relevant to me because Ella’s (her pet name although ‘pet’ is a relative term!!!) father was a linen merchant and I wanted to include reference to the linen business in both Ireland and Scotland. Everyone who wanted to spoke about their chosen items and the memories that they invoked, listened to and sharing stories was very moving and not something to share outside the group without express permission from the individuals. It did become clear to me however how much of my past is present in my every day life here in Ireland and that this is not necessarily the case with everybody, I am lucky. Maybe this is one explanation for the fact that members of my immediate family are very unemotional. Possibly it is because we carry the past around with us wherever we go and we don’t feel it necessary to talk about it or discuss it ever, it just is.
Yesterday evening when I returned from the workshop (I had been intending to stay another night in Dublin but the Monday felting session I wanted to attend elsewhere had been cancelled) imagine my delight to discover on page 9 of the latest edition of ‘Felt Matters’ a beautiful picture and an article titled ‘Triton’s Horn’. This seemed to tie totally in to the idea of felt and nostalgia because Dawn had felted a wonderful conch (pronounced conk!) shaped hat inspired by memories of her uncle Tom and aunt Dot and actually felted initially around a conch shell which had belonged to her aunt! With Dawn’s permission I will post a picture of the beautiful creation here tomorrow but for those of you with access to the IFA’s magazine, check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
For part of the New Year Secret Scarf Swap that I am participating in on Ravelry I wanted to felt a gorgeous and soft scarf for my swap buddy Krysotfer. I had decided to work in an amazing soft 16 micron merino which I had bought late in the Autumn from one of my favourite suppliers Filzrausch in Germany and the idea was to felt a long scarf in charcoal wool with natural mohair locks to decorate the ends. The mohair was one of the gorgeous fibre related items that I bought on my October visit to northern California which is ironic in a way since Krystofer actually lives in San Fransisco, California and this is the city where Alan and both I started and ended our wonderful holidays from. I hadn’t been going to upload any images of the scarf here until I was sure that Krystofer had recieved the package but due to circumstances detailed below decided to put this teaser up anyway!
Detail of the mohair locks
This merino was a dream to work with, very fine, evenly carded and lovely and quick to felt, I laid out two very fine layers so the finished scarf is extremely light, warm and soft. The only thing that I will do differently next time is give my hands a rub with olive oil approx 10 minutes before I start to felt and this will ensure that the fibres don’t snag at all on my skin. Felting does mean that I have clean hands most of the time but I forget to use handcream when things are hectic, I can safely say that hectic just about describes every day here at the moment!
Now the real question is why did I decide to uploaded this image after all? Because luckily I checked through the discussion board before mailing the scarf to discover that long for Krystofer is really looooong and this scarf definitely is a little challanged on the length side of things! What does a girl do??? Decide what the **** and really go all out to felt another scarf that is well over 10′ long, I’ve not actually measured it yet but at a rough guess it is approx 12′ and counting! No pictures of this one going up yet but hopefully Krystofer will email me a picture of himself wrapped in the scarf when he gets it, providing of course that he is not totally hidden by the felt, it is rather LOOOOOOONG!
Since I last posted here on Friday it seems that at least two weeks worth of work has actualy taken place so apologies for my lack of communication over the last few days.
On Saturday morning as I was preparing for the first of my two planned felting workshops I managed to shear the copper water pipe leading from my well in half with my bare hands (hands made stronger from felting???) leading to no water supply for the day! Luckliy I have the key to my neighbours farmhouse and was able to let myself in and carry enough water for the felting home in a basin, thanks to Alan the supply was reconnected in the evening and allowed me to have a bath and prepare for Sunday’s craft fair. I packaged my new felting kits, gathered my felt scarves, jewellery and a couple of vessels, loaded the truck with all these as well as my large folding table, bath bags and tonnes of books which I had assembled during a monsterous house tidying session!
Sunday dawned dry for a change (my 13,000 decidious trees had not arrived on Friday due to horrendous weather) and I got to Raheen Family Resource Centre with plenty of time to set up before the public was due to arrive. From a selling point of view the day was not a great success (although I did just about cover my costs) but as regards supporting a good cause, making contacts and promoting my workshops with International artists it definitely helped get the message across about what I am doing. I do think that Carmen did a great job organising the fair and decorating the hall, people just didn’t seem to have any money to play around with and possibly are holding on to what they have until our Irish Budget which takes place tomorrow! It was nice however to catch up again with sculptor Gilly Thomas, last December Gilly bought one of my silk and merino neck pieces at an exhibition and was actually photographed wearing it recently and in the paper during the opening of her exhibition for the Wexford Opera Festival!! I also had a good chat with Gayle Coleman from Palace Gems (our tables were side by side!), visual artist Mary Wallace, excellent holistic therapist Barbara McAteer and textile artist Blanka-Silviane Davare, a new member of the Enniscorthy Knitting Group. Blanka-Silviane has moved to the Enniscorthy area of Co. Wexford from Switzerland via Dublin and doesn’t have a website at present, if you are interested in viewing her hand knitted and fulled stylish headwear she may be contacted by email. As well as buying some Christmas presents Barbara and I did a fun swap, one of my cowls in exchange for a half hour head and back massage, a great deal for both of us!
Yesterday morning my trees arrived at last and in the afternoon Alan helped Chris (the forester), Dennis and Paul plant the first of the Ash. I had to prepare for the Golf Club Ladies AGM and in the evening I officially took over as the new Lady Captain, this is a position I will hold for my sins until the beginning of December 2010. Today I am trying to organise and collate all the paperwork needed by Chris in order to successfully get my grant cheque for the woodland, I am planting approx 8.5 acres so I need to make sure everything is in order as it does involve quite a lot of money!
Tomorrow morning I am getting my hair cut (newsworthy as it is only the second time this year I will have had time to make the journey!) and then I need to deliver some felt jewellery and scarves to Earthworks, a gallery and studio in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. After that I will make some lunch for the guys planting and then Carmen is arriving for an afternoon of feltmaking, roll on the time because I feel withdrawal symptoms in the air!
Today we have completed our first day of Sigrid’s workshops and everyone left extremely happy with the result of all their efforts! Three of the participants were total beginners and the other three visitors were experienced felters. The workshop today was ‘mosaic nuno’ and Sigrid had organisied a simple way of ensuring that the beginners also completed a mosaic nuno project but didn’t have such a difficult time laying out the work!
Anne's silk chiffon and merino ready to get creating!
We used silk chiffon and merino tops, the beginners were aiming to have the nuno felt block at either end of their scarves and the experienced felters would have the nuno throughout the whole length. Each participant selected 3 pre-cut lengths of silk chiffon and then cut, overlapped and arranged the silk into a pleasing pattern or random design. Two very light layers of merino tops were overlaid before the long process of wetting out, rolling and fulling began, longer than usual because the silk was cut into small pieces and sometimes overlapped several times in the one spot.
Liz, Dee, Linda, Sigrid, Anne and Linda with their great scarves! (from the left)
Check out this great picture of some of our participants, beginners Liz, Dee and Linda together with Sigrid and Anne (to the right of Sigrid) wearing the fabulous scarves they created today! Tomorrow we are felting with found objects, hopefully I will get to post some more pictures in the evening and give you a flavour of all that we are learning.
Just as an aside, if you link through to my Flickr images you will see the trellis felt shopping basket (or string bag!) both as a piece of flat felt with precise cuts and felted further and formed into the finished basket.
This evening I am planning on making a felted sign to hang at the top of my lane. I have been debating for some time what to put on it, Clasheen, Felting Studio, Studio, Nicola Brown, Felt, any ideas??? I would like to hang it up whenever I have an open house or a workshop happening, just something personal that would be a marker for people trying to find my rural retreat! The technique that I am going to use is the Osman technique, basically what Mehmet Girgic teaches at his workshops but I will not full the felt to the degree necessary for a rug, just enough to have a large piece suitable to hang outside in all that the Irish weather can throw at us.
Happy Holidays to everyone, whether you celebrate Christmas as we do or just take a few days break to recharge the batteries! Thanks to my sister Lizzy, husband Paul and my nephews and niece for a great couple of days spent celebrating the occasion at their comfy house in Co. Wicklow. My mother and I travelled up together and we all met at my other sister Suzanne’s house for Christmas day. Lizzy and Suzanne live aout 5 minutes apart so the few days were spent travelling between the two houses, catching up on all the news, giving out our Christmas presents and of course eating some great food! Lizzy and Paul’s children are now old enough to really enjoy the buzz around Christmas but not too old to be cynical about all the hype so it was nice to see them all so excited about the whole experience.
I really tried to make most of my own presents this year, felted scarves, home made cranberry relish, chicken curry, covered notebooks etc. and bought other craftspeople’s work if I felt the recipient might already have an overdose of my felt! The response that I got to the hand crafted presents was great, it definitely is nice to make something personal for someone and I think that most people also appreciate the effort that you go to when selecting the gifts. From the other perspective I was really happy with the presents that I recieved myself, thanks to everyone for the great things that you gave me, I am actually writting this post on the new (secondhand but very fast!) laptop that I got from my mother.
Yesterday afternoon was a great success. Following on from the dreadful experiences of craft fairs over the last weeks it was very refreshing to have an enjoyable and profitable event! Alan and I had a massive tidy up and clean of the house which only barely got sorted in time for me to create a display of my felted items. I decided to use my upstairs dining room to lay everything out in as the space is quite generous for an old farmhouse and the light is good. For those of you who have never been to my house it is a very old simple farmhouse which I bought about 4 years ago now. It had not been lived in since 1928 and had never had any services installed like water, sewage or electricity. I stripped it out myself with a hammer and chisel back to the stone and then I employed some conservationist builders and craftsmen to make good any timbers, install timber sash windows, insulate throughout, re-lay stone floors and lime plaster inside and out. I also built a modern extension to look exactly like the older houses in my region and everyone who has visited to date can’t tell the old from the new. My dining room is the largest of the original rooms and the ceiling goes right up to the roof and has an exposed crossbeam. I laid out all my finished felt (needless to say I have a pile of things just awaiting the perfect handle or closure sitting in the studio!) and initally was afraid that I had not enough variety of items. It appeared that I had quite a few scarves, vessels and neck wraps but not enough wall hangings or jewellery. Anyway, everything went well because after a slow start several groups of friends arrived almost at the same time. For anyone wanting a really nice warming drink to serve at something like this I definitely recommend my warm apple punch! Just bring pure apple juice, sliced oranges and lemons, cinnamon stick and cloves to a simmer and serve, how simple is that? For those of us wanting an acholic drink you just add a shot of spirits to the glass before pouring in the hot apple, I especially like brandy, calvados or whiskey but really any spirit along those lines would do. Sometimes people are not quite sure if they are going to like the punch but as soon as they taste it they are hooked! The apple juice has enough natural sugar not to need any extra and it is a great winter party drink for those people who are the desiginated driver or just don’t like drinking alcohol . Sales were good and I picked up a couple of commissions so all in all I was delighted with the afternoon. An added bonus is that my house (or at least several of the rooms) are beautifully clean and somewhat tidy just in time for the festive season!