I thought it was about time that I uploaded some images of the nuno mosaic skirt that I made during German felter Sigrid Bannier’s visit to Ireland during August.
Felt skirt and wrap outside Kilkenny Castle
The main body of the skirt is made from four cotton gauze nuno mosaic panels and the cummerbund section around the waist is also nuno felt, this time hand dyed merino felted into hand dyed silk chiffon. Thanks to Sigrid and her expert sewing skills the panels are stitched to just above knee level and then the bottom of the skirt swishes and swings out beautifully when worn giving a very comfortable and interesting fit!
Nuno felt wrap
The nuno neck wrap that I designed earlier in the year to match some of my linen clothes is made from the same silk and merino. Sigrid liked it thrown around the neck exposing both the silk and wool textures at the same time, I prefer it with just the silk side showing but it is nice to have the option!
My flu appears to have abated somewhat so I am taking this opportunity of posting about the very exciting top that I felted for myself this week while getting fed and minded like a baby at Carmen’s! I really hate sewing and for a long time have wanted to make some stylish felt wearables for myself but until Sigrid Bannier’s recent trip to Ireland have always resisted the mental thought process that needs to happen before confidently handling such large scale clothing projects. In tandem with this, for the last 5 months I have been desperately trying to think up my response to the international call for submissions for a juried travelling exhibition portraying the impact of human actions on the environment. ‘The Climate is Changing’ should be a challenge that I can rise to given the Green Party aspect of my background but until I finally crystallized my thoughts during a recent hike through Lassen Volcanic National Park my brain seemed absolutely dead as to how I could interpret my ideas into a piece of felt. Without giving too much away I have also been totally inspired by an interview with Thomas Horst (my absolute favourite American felter to date!) and his details of how to make a felted coat, I can’t recommend enough buying the Fall edition of ‘Living Crafts’ to check this out for yourselves. Thomas uses an electric sander a lot in his work and for the project detailed in the magazine the wool used shrinks by 25%. This got me to thinking that if I rubbed or sanded my work for a significantly longer period of time than I usually do and coupled this with cooler water and less rolling would I achieve a strong and finished felt garment with less shrinkage than I usually build in? The answer is YES! This means that now I have a felting method that achieves a gorgeous surface finish and doesn’t need the gigantic resists that I was always imagining would be required if I needed to allow 50% shrinkage for larger wearable articles. The unusually styled cropped top that I made for myself during the week is a generous size, has a gorgeous high neck and is made from just over 200g of the softest merino. I laid it out on a backing of cotton gauze for drape and stability and used some of the gorgeous silk hankies and twists that I got in Denmark as surface decoration, with a little manipulation (read more concentration cutting up the cotton gauze!) this would have made a wonderful reversible nuno top. Now I have a clear idea of how I am going to proceed to create my submission. Forgive me if I don’t give a total step by step description or an idea of the shape of my garment but I need to get the application sorted out first and one of the conditions is that no details or images of the work have been talked about or published prior to the juried stage of ‘The Climate is Changing’.
Whatever gave me the idea that stringing the felt flowers would be the last task of completing my piece for Sculpture in Context and however did I get the idea that this part of the project would be fun??? As posted previously I had decided to string the flowers on clear nylon thread but before too long it became obvious that this thread was not strong enough to deal with my rough handling. The felt flowers themselves are very light but there is no point putting together a piece if I am going to be worried about it’s durability for the whole time I am away in the States. One trip to an old fashioned hardware and I came home armed with strong fishing line and little lead weights which I am adding to the last flower on each strand. This time the nylon is plenty strong enough but the difficulty is dealing with approx 3.5m of line and attaching 14 to 20 flowers per strand without the whole caboodle getting totally twisted and knotted together. Patience is definitely NOT one of my strong points but as Sigrid pointed out time and time again during her workshops it is the repeated simple actions done well that create the best and most satisfying work. At this stage I now have 14 strands assembled and have decided to have a slice of melon to cool my nerves! Hopefully Alan will arrive towards the end of the afternoon because he will be helping me make the wire frame for the flowers to hang from, I will keep you posted!!
I am really putting my mind down to making these flowers for my piece at Sculpture in Context. Since Sunday morning I have made over 400 of them so in search of light relief I also made two mosaic nuno scarves ‘a la Sigrid Bannier’ with a twist! The nuno mosaic technique I learnt last November from Sigrid and have used a lot since then, the holes are my own take on the idea to add a quirky feel to these scarves.
Detail of mosaic nuno scarf
On Sigrid’s last day in Ireland she helped me with 2 children’s felting workshops that I was delivering at the Kilkenny Arts Festival. On our way home we stopped at a great Kilkenny shop called Threads of Green and discovered some amazing printed silks on special offer. Apparantly it is really difficult to buy printed silk in Germany and in fact the last time that Sigrid picked up some it was in Brussles! We both bought some of the silk chiffons on special offer and I fell in love with this amazing sequined silk (unfortunately not on offer!!), hence the experiment incorporating it into a piece of nuno mosaic. I love the way that it felted and now am off to make a larger scarf, it looks amazingly glamorous with the sequins although I don’t think too cheap and glitzy! You can check out some more images of this piece and the other new scarf that I have made on Flickr.
Well I have so much news to write about and only so much time to do it in! Sigrid travelled back to Germany on Thursday after a wonderful 2 weeks together here at Clasheen and since then I am trying to catch up on household chores, complete my 450+ flowers for ‘Sculpture in Context’, submit a proposal for a craft exchange to Norway and make and submit my entry for an international felt exhibition ….. all these have to be completed before Thursday 27th, some by August 24th! On September 2nd ‘Sculpture in Context’ opens and on the following morning Alan and I fly to San Fransisco for a 4 week road trip, woo hoo, I am really excited to be travelling to the States for another vacation!
OK, let’s take all these things in order and then I will follow up with some more detailed posts over the coming week to bring you all up to speed with events here in Ireland as well as posting about Anna Gunnarsdottir’s wonderful 2 day ‘felt sculpture’ workshop at ‘Felt in Focus’.
Sigrid Bannier’s 2 day felt lampshade workshop went brilliantly, each participant made at least one completed piece with some creating several items over the course of the weekend. The most useful knowledge gained from this workshop for me was realising how you could adapt basic light fittings and put them to many uses when deciding how to create your lampshades or light fittings.
Anne with her finished felt lampshade
Some participants came armed with a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve and Sigrid was very good at enabling people see how their thoughts could be turned into reality. Other people had no preconcieved ideas and let Sigrid’s photos and the basic lamp fittings dictate what their finished piece would be like. The simplest ideas often work the best and by hanging a very fine piece of light coloured felt in front of a wall light beautiful effects can be achieved. Gerd (who had only felted once before!) incorporated fresh rushes (a type of grass found in boggy ground) into her wall piece and initally had intended creating two lampshades using this method. Half way through the process she decided to keep the felt as one piece to hang in front of her double height window allowing the natural light to shine through the felt and reveal the gorgeous pattern created by the vegetation. More images of work in progress and finished pieces from this workshop may be found on Flickr and when Carmen and Patricia have finished their flower covered shades I promise to take pictures and post them as well!
This is just an off chance but are any of you living in the upper part of California and if so would you be interested in me delivering a felt workshop during the month of September??? Alan and I will be travelling to San Fransisco on 3rd September for 4 weeks and participants from a local Irish stone symposium will be staying in my house for the duration. This is a win win situation as my friend and well known sculptor Eileen MacDonagh has organised participants from the symposium to house sit during my trip, for these people they get a great location and free accomodation for the month while I get my house minded and my dog fed! Alan and I are collecting a car in San Fransisco and our intended route extends northwards to encompass amongst others Napa, Mendocino, Redwood National Park, Lava Beds National Monument then travels south through Lassen Volcanis National Park, Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake and returns to San Fransisco via the Big Sur coastline. If any of you are interested in the possibility of me teaching a felting workshop please email me asap and we can discuss the various options. It would be absolutely amazing to meet some followers of the blog in person so do please contact me or leave comments if you live anywhere near where we are travelling and who knows we might get time for a coffee and a chat!
Day two of Sigrid’s workshops saw a variety of amazing projects being planned and seen through to completition! The topic of the day was felting with inclusions and participants brought objects along with them to include and also had access to the brilliant seaweed, driftwood, stones and other items which Sigrid and I had collected on our expidition to the Wexford coast the previous Saturday. Some people chose to go for a walk around the land beside Carmen’s studio (thanks a million Carmen for the great space to work in!) and came back armed with pieces of rusty metal and all kinds of vegetation to be felted into the various projects.
Anne contemplating her collection of found objects and getting a bit of refreshment before the work begins!
Everybody discussed with Sigrid their ideas and concepts before embarking on the main work of laying out their wool. Very luckily I was able to collect my order of Icelandic wool from the post office that very morning as I had been panicking that it would not arrive on time!!! This wool is a fibre that I had been introduced to by Anna Gunnarsdottir in Denmark at Felt in Focus and I had thought it would be excellent for the lampshades and any work using inclusions. (What was an added bonus once I opened the box was how wonderful the colours were, in Denmark I only saw the natural white and a scrap of natural charcoal as well. I now intend trying to become the Irish stockist for this specialised fibre so watch this space and hopefully I will be offering the wool for sale over the coming weeks.) Ali, Shirley and Deirdre decided to create panels of almost see through felt with various inclusions including seaweed, rushes, seed heads and grass. Anne worked on a three dimensional felt sculpture incorporating rusty metal and various stones within the felt structure. Maria started by making a gorgeous necklace incorporating some of her stash of limpid shells with holes in the middle and then progressed to a double sided sample incorporating shell and found sea washed glass.
Maria's sample using Icelandic wool with shell and glass inclusions
Carmen decided to make an exceptionally thick layered piece of felt which she would then carve into to expost various colours so 42 layers later she was ready to roc and roll!! Sharon travelled all the way from Donegal to do a condensed version of the felt lampshade workshop and after showing Sigrid some images that she had broght with her a design concept was achieved. Sharon then set to laying out her wool and during the course of the day made a wonderful punched felt lampshade which looked marvellous when we experimented with adding the light fittings at the end of the workshop. Unfortunately my camera choose this moment to have charging problems so you will just have to wait until Sigrid sends me a copy of all the great images she took before seeing Sharon’s final result. By the end of the day everyone had completed successfully all the work that they had intended and left totally fired up about the possiblilty of experimenting with further inclusions at home in the future. Shirley also make her first successful felt vessel in addition to her felt panel so congratulations to everyone on a great day of felting!
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.
Yesterday morning I collected Sigrid Bannier from the airport and we spent a couple of happy hours in Ikea! For those of you from other continents Ikea is an excellent Scandinavian company, simple design and good prices who just opened their first Irish store in Dublin this Monday, perfect for our felting workshops next week as they have a fantastic selection of lights and components. We got a great selection of different designs all ready to deconstruct, these will form the basis of the working components of our lightshades, now all we need is the know how from Sigrid and the inspitation from ourselves!!
Before I left Denmark to travel home to Ireland I borrowed Holly’s computer and set up a Flickr group for ‘Felt in Focus’. The idea for this is that the participants and organisers can share photos and continue friendships by participating in the discussion board through the group. Why not have a look at the photos for yourself to get a flavour of what the various workshops had to offer? I emailed the organisers today and hopefully they will be forwarding the info about the new group on to everyone who attended and over the next few weeks we should see a lot more images of work in progress and the finished items!
Sigrid arrives on Thursday and I am looking forward to catching up and learning from her again! There are still a couple of places available for the nuno mosaic workshop on 5th, incorporating found objects into your felt on 6th and the lampshade 2-day workshop on 7th and 8th August. Please contact me if you are interested in attending, all materials are provided and fun is guaranteed!