Pictures from day two of our intensive felting workshop

Rami arrived safely to Ireland on Saturday night/Sunday morning, bed time 4.25am!

Rami adding some three dimensional elements to his second piece of felt

Yesterday was spent chatting about the basics of feltmaking, laying out and felting his first piece of flat felt, exploring a lot of different natural and manmade surface embellishments, checking out images of work he is inspired by and discussing the large fibre related project that Rami will be working on once he returns to the Lebanon.

Today we explored felt balls, cords, loops, working with raw wool, creating texture, basic needle felting and including resists within the lay out of a piece. This may sound like a lot of different techniques to cover in one day but during the course of our intensive week together Rami wants to learn how to create specific end results and is not concerned with heading home with a perfect, artistic ‘finished piece’. Rather he’s been creating samples and learning about the various ways of achieving the look he wants, it’s exciting seeing how things come together, intensive work but invigorating and creative!

Little sculptural experiment at large in the garden!

I really don’t have time to write much this week, instead I’ll just try and post pictures as the time progresses, enjoy them.

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SO EXCITED to announce American felting workshops in May, CRAFTed, upcoming book and process of first mohair vessel explained a little!!!!!

So much to share with you and really not enough time to get everything written down and documented, today I have just had to put felting aside and tie myself to the computer to try and get my diary under control for the next few months!

My biggest news of the day is that I will be paying a return visit to California and Michigan during the month of May and I am just so thrilled and excited to be planning another series of felting workshops with you on that side of the world, watch out, here I come!!!!!  Although provisional dates and venues just need to be finally confirmed and I don’t want to jinx anything it looks as if I will be teaching in San Fransisco on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th May, travelling to an exciting fibre retreat in Downieville for 13th – 16th May and with the wonderful Dawn in Plainwell, Michigan either the last weekend in April or the third weekend in May, I am so excited I can hardly speak, unusual for me as those of you who have already met me can readily attest!!!!!  I had such a ball the last time I was over and met so many lovely people, I am really looking forward to renewing acquaintances and meeting more of you, the internet is truly a wonderful place to make contact with fellow fibre addicts!  Although I haven’t actually contacted them yet there might be the possibility of putting something together with a fascinating artist and designer in Los Angeles and if any others of you would like to discuss the possibility of me teaching a workshop while I am over please email me to discuss options asap!

My next bit of news is that I start a short residency called CRAFTed this Friday, a learning skills for life project aiming to connect creativity and innovation through craft.  It is jointly organised through the Crafts Council of ireland and Kilkenny Education Centre and I have been paired with 6th class at Scoile Mhuire Presentation School in Kilkenny, 32 girls aged 11 and 12.  Last Wednesday I met their teached Mairead at a day long training for the project (we had fun!) and we have decided on the working title  ‘exploring transition’ to be the theme for our collaboration.  This residency follows on from my Craft in the Classroom residency but due to financial constraints and funding restrictions in Ireland at the moment we just have 10 contact hours and 6 hours preparation this time (in addition to the training day obviously).  On Friday I will be meeting the girls and showing them some of my work, answering questions, giving a short demonstration of the magic envolved in felting and then we will be discussing and planning how the course of our project will evolve.  This class will be leaving at the beginning of the summer and moving to ‘big school’, they will also be making their confirmation during the Spring so ‘exploring change’ seemed an appropriate theme, let’s hope it proves to be so and I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew! 

Fibre diva, author and good friend Chrissie Day and I plan on having our collaborative felting book published in time for my upcoming trip to USA!!!  This has been long in the planning and I hope worth the wait when we finally get it together and under one cover at last!  We both love to felt with similar and different raw materials and the book should be an interesting combination of different styles, techniques, tips and advice, watch this space!!!!! (How many exclamation marks can one blog post cope with?????)

Now on to a brief but fairly comprehensive explanation (at least I hope it will be brief and not bore you!) of the process I went through at the end of last week, as with the white, brown and orange ArtL!nks vessels I decided to work with the design inside for my first mohair vessel experiment.  This proved to require more concentration than I had expected; building up the layers of colour and texture in this way and turning the felt inside out near the end of the felting process allowed for the clearest end surface design and least difficulty combining different materials especially around the areas where the fibres met the edge of the resist. 

Nubbly textures and surface detail incl. yellow plastic net, red linen fibres, lilac wool neps and rich reflective mohair

Areas where I trapped hard rectangles of previously felted wool under silk chiffon and fibre (to get both design elements and a raised surface texture) plus the places where I added some pieces of yellow plastic netting needed the most brain power but I kept my flat felt experiment to hand and this was a big help in determining how exactly I would lay out my design.  Once I had the fibres and fabric laid out against the plastic resist on side one I followed this with a thick layer of loose mohair fibres.  As I mentioned before this mohair is a waste product from the weaving industry and as such when Carmen and I get the bags of fluffy, lustrous fibre the colours are both clear and subtly blended, it obviously depends on what fabric the mill has been brushing and what has been previously brushed as to what colours we end up to work with.  I choose the pinkest and purpleist (are these words???) blends to lay against the design and once the first side was totally covered I wet it out using a lot of soap, gave it a brief rub and then turned the package over to the other side.  Next I continued laying the surface design (working with the laminate floor underlay for a resist allows me to see the shapes and colours from side one through the plastic) before folding over the edges from side one and laying out the mohair on the second side as well.  Once that is done (soaped and rubbed lightly) I turned the package over again before laying two even layers of gotland/merino blend on each side.  The important thing at this stage is to place a piece of yarn or contrasting fibre on your work wherever you decide you will be cutting into the felt once the felting has occured and the fulling is progressed enough for you to be cutting out your resist.  If I don’t do this at this stage I totally forget where the upper and lower surface of my vessels will be, live and learn!  I spent a lot of time rubbing lightly on both sides of the package and paid special attention to the edges around the resist, the fibres there need to be nice and snug otherwise you will end up with unwanted ridges when you start to shape the vessel. 

Silk and linen fibres on top of woven mohair squares

Once I was happy that the fibres were starting to felt together well I commenced rolling in different directions alternating with rubbing directly on top of the felt using more pressure and friction at this stage.  When it looked as if I needed to cut into the felt to relieve the internal pressure (the felt is shrinking and therefore the plastic resist is getting scrunched up inside) I knew where to make the insision because I was careful to keep an eye on that odd coloured bit of yarn which was my marker!  I sealed the edges and rubbed carefully around the edge of the resist before turning the package inside out and having a look at what the vessel would finally look like and how the design worked in the round.  Finishing the piece was exactly the same as any other sculptural felt, rinsing, rubbing, rolling, banging, shaping etc. until finally I was happy with the result.  Because I used a combination of mohair with the gotland/merino blend the vessel is nice and strong sculpturally and definitely should hold it’s shape over time.  I like the way the different fibres have blended and mingled although I have to say I pulled off some sequined ribbon (do you remember us buying that Sharon???) once I turned the vessel inside out, a bit blingy for me at the end so it had to go much to Carmen’s delight!

Exciting news re. felting wool, Clasheen Autumn Swap and last chance to view Sculpture in Context

There never seem to be enough hours in a day to fit in all the things that I really want to do.  Luckily my flu is now 90% over so I am starting to plough through all the paperwork and outstanding letters/emails etc. that built up over the 4 weeks while I was away from home.  My exciting news of the day however concerns the Icelandic wool that I will soon be selling from my Etsy store, I haven’t linked through this time because I need to wait until the wool arrives and get the images uploaded first!  The colours are fabulous and as well as offering different weights of the wool for sale I also intend putting some fun kits together with clear (hopefully!) instructions on how to make various different items.  The Icelandic wool is superb for structural work, bags, vessels, sculpture, light shades etc. and also could be used for warm scarves although would not be as soft as merino when worn directly against the skin.  Please let me know what you think about putting felting kits together, I was thinking along the lines of …..  beginners flat felt, simple felt vessel, felt purse, felt flower, felt necklace, felt brooch etc. and then a kit with instructions for a first nuno felt scarf using the fantastic short fibred merino I import from Filzrausch.  I would include all the raw materials including embellishments and any findings, clear but simple instructions and enough bubble wrap and resist where necessary to complete the project.  All comments gratefully received!

This Thursday is the deadline for all Clasheen Autumn Swap packages to be on their way across the globe!  If you have been one of our gang participating this time please remember to get your goddies out and then to leave a message of thanks and pictures to the Clasheen Crafty Swaps pool on Flickr as soon as you receive your own package.  If for any reason you are going to be a day or two late getting to the post PLEASE just leave a message on our message board.  Everyone understands if a delay occurs (so long as it is not every time!) and it just relieves the pressure on both ends of the swap.

Next Monday I will be taking down my felt ‘Cascade’ from Sculpture in Context so if you have not yet visited the Irish National Botanic Gardens in Dublin to view the exhibition now is your last chance.  Check out this article from the Irish Times.

Article in the Irish Times

Article in the Irish Times

Making cords the Australian way!

Before I discuss the new way that we learnt of making cords at the Anita Larkin workshop, I just want to say that all the techniques we tried over the weekend ultimately unite and allow you to create exciting scupltural 3 dimensional pieces of felt!  At first it seems that learning how to make cords is very basic at a workshop for people who have all felted before but you are never too late to learn new techniques.   Most of you are familiar with making cords and probably everyone has their favourite method.  How many can there be you might ask but I certainly learnt a totally different method from Anita than any I had seen used before.  Lay out a long layer of very fine fibres in a diagonal and then lay a second layer on top of these in the opposite direction, also diagonally.  If you want to make a thicker section lay some more layers in that place and then dry felt the fibres by lightly moving your hands over them as with wet felting.  Using your spray bottle VERY lighlty wet along only the edge of the fibres and then roll them gently into a log shape.  If you are going to be attaching this rope to another piece of felt leave the ends dry for the moment.  Using the minimum amount of warm water lightly wet the sausage shaped fibre log and with soapy hands roll it very lightly on your bubble wrap, blind or sushi mat.  As far as I can see the biggest difference is in the way the fibres are laid on the diaganol and the volume of (or lack of) water used.  This seems to make a very solid and strong cord.  Shapes that were started as in the previous post may be added on at any time once the cord starts to hold its shape or the cord itsef may be attached to another piece of felt that you are in the process of making.  Next post I will discuss inserting wire into felt and wrapping a solid object in felt.  I also want to post a few more images of work that I have completed recently to keep the blog a little bit visual!

Australian versus European wet felting techniques

Thanks very much to all of you who are sending me emails and posting such nice comments on my blog, it is really nice to get feedback from my peers so please keep it up!

As promised I am going to write several posts over the next week or so about the various different aspects of sculptural feltmaking that I learnt at the Anita Larkin workshop last weekend.  I was a bit physically tired when I got to Dublin and probably that made certain things seem very difficult to master.  Day 1 was actually more successful for me than day 2 but obviously mistakes and disasters are also informative so hopefully I can learn something from them as well!

We started the first day by making felt balls, a TOTALLY different method than any I have ever used or heard of to date.  Using merino roving we laid out a square shape using several thin layers of wool (approx 5) on a bamboo blind and then ‘dry’ felted it for a few seconds.  This was done by placing the palm of our hand on the pile of fibres and slightly moving our hand in a circular motion.  Next we folded up the corner of two sides to form an angle and lifted the pile in our hands.  The rest of the wool was shaped into a ball by rotating the fibres around this angle, a bit like wrapping or rolling a wan ton.  Careful attention was paid to the last fibres completing the ball making sure that they did not form any ridges.  The resulting ball was then held VERY LIGHTLY in one hand and dunked into hot water for no more that a second.  When lifted out of the water we then used our other hand to very carefully stroke the ball with soapy fingers.  The idea was to form a skin on the ball but to have the inside fibres basically almost totally dry and unfelted.  At this pre pre felt stage the balls were amazingly light and spongy.  Anita explained to us that at this stage if we kept lightly wetting, soaping and rolling or working the ball by hand the fibres would always move to the centre and form a ball.  HOWEVER, because the outside skin was barely formed and the inside was not felted at all we now had the option of forming any shape we wanted, amazing!  By manipulating the ball in various ways an almost infinite number of shapes can be made.  I made a star fruit shape by placing the ball between my two index and middle fingers and squeezing and working it into shape.  If I cut it into a cross section it would look like an X, hope you can visualise this from my explanation.  As the shape is forming you can suspend work and decide to attach it to another piece of felt aided by a wire brush.  Why not try making a shape for yourself and we can learn more on the next post tomorrow!!