Further exploration for my ArtL!nks project. Is more surface detail ever less???

You know the saying ‘less is more’ but do you think that the opposite holds and would it be possible to say that ‘more is less’ at times as well???  If ever this were the case the experiments I have been felting this week incorporating mohair might hold true to that principle, I am inclined to have a sneaking liking for them while Carmen is quite unreserved in her horror!  

Before I start to talk about these pieces let me say that I have also felted a white Icelandic wool and silk vessel (great as a lampshade!) which I have stiffened on the inside with lightly diluted PVA glue.  Success!!! 

Thin felt vessel stiffened on the inside with PVA

I used the same template as the medium sized white, brown and orange vessel from earlier in the course of this ArtL!nks project but only laid out two fine layers of wool and a large silk cap covering nearly both sides of the template.  Because I wanted to see how the glue would work I just rubbed and rolled the vessel until it was felting together without obvious seams at the edge of the resist and then turned it inside out, inflated a balloon inside and sponged on the diluted PVA to the surface.  My idea in trying this method was that while the PVA would strengthen the vessel it would not be totally absorbed by the felt and therefore once I turned the piece right side out to dry I should still have a ‘felterly’ texture to the surface of the felt, in addition to this it would obviously be larger than the firmly felted pieces using the same sized template.  Once the glue was sponged on I turned the felt right side out again and inflated another balloon inside before hanging the lot from my ceiling to air dry.  Yesterday afternoon I burst the balloon and even though the outside appeared totally dry the inside was still damp at the bottom.  By this afternoon however the whole vessel is quite dry and in fact it is incredibly light and almost got blown away in the light breeze when I was trying to photograph it.  The silk cap was a waste of time, possibly because the Icelandic wool is coarser than the merino but I was expecting some nice white on white texture and to be honest it almost looks like a glob of glue on the surface!  Other than that the felt feels pretty good on the surface and when I hold the vessel up to the light is looks wonderful as a lightshade, more possibilities with this one, maybe using the yoga ball as my template.  On Monday the LARGE vessel will start, procrastination ends here as I have now invested in a more expensive yoga ball complete with stronger pump, no excuses now to get the damn thing inflated!!!

Now, on to my ‘more is less’ experimenting.  Carmen is always great at sharing any unusual materials she gets with me and recently we were lucky enough to get some large bags of  ‘what I am now calling mohair waste which came as big clouds of fibre kind of like an  unstructured batt, probably there is a proper name for it but hopefully you can follow my drift!  This waste is the fibre removed in the process at woolen mills when woven and washed mohair is brushed to raise the surface creating not surprisingly ‘brushed mohair’ fabric.  Part of my ArtL!nks work involves expetimenting with surface detail and although these pieces are totally off the wall as far as my other work is concerned I did have great fun playing around with these.  I need a window of a couple days solid felting to complete my LARGE vessels and that is not going to occur until next week starts because I just haven’t had the space/time balance right this one! 

Plenty of colour and texture going on here!

Neither of us has ever felted with 100% mohair before so my first piece was a glorious riot of colour and texture which until I started to felt I had no idea if it would be successful or not.  Inspired by Robin Blakney Carson from Luckystone Feltworks I wanted to see what the result would be of adding oodles of various embellishments to the surface of the lustrous fibre, this mohair has an amazing sheen.  Now I am not for one minute suggesting that my experiments reach anything like the standard of Robin’s students work (they bead, slash, embellish and stitch into their felt as I had the pleasure of seeing at Robin’s workshops in Rhinebeck) but it was fun to just throw caution to the wind and play around with oodles of different materials and fibres and see how they would all combine with the mohair!  Unfortunately I have run out of time now but you can check my Flickr photos for more details (some notes about the materials on this picture) and to see the vessel I felted from mohair with a gotland/merino lining, info to follow next post!

Two upcoming exhibitions and experimenting with resists to get surface design and texture

As I have already mentioned I seem to be so snowed under that I can’t think straight, must be why I had a different date in mind to deliver work for two upcoming exhibitions!  I was pretty horrified to discover I need work delivered to Carlow next Tuesday as part of the Blueprint show but slightly more relieved when I found out that work for the South East Textile Group show (info to follow next post) may also be delivered on Tuesday, three days later than I had originally thought.  Firstly some info re the Blueprint show and then some images of a sample piece using resists within the felt which when cut out and removed create design and texture on the surface.

PRESS RELEASE…’The Blueprint’ Presents…PRESS RELEASE

 
The Blueprint Artists Network presents an exhibition of artworks by artists from the South-East from 12th – 20th June 2010 in Castle Gate, Kennedy St, Carlow. 
 
Opening reception starts 6pm Friday 11th June 2010
 
This show promises to be one of the must-see events of the Eigse Fringe 2010, featuring over 60 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and mixed media works by established and emerging artists from Carlow, Wexford, Kilkenny and Wicklow.
 
The venue on Kennedy Street has quickly established itself as an integral part of the Eigse route.  First opened during Eigse ’08 with an exhibition featuring just three visual artists, last year saw the venue expand dramatically and this year 14 artists will transform the space with a colourful display to suit all tastes.  Nicola Brown, a textile artist from Borris, Co. Carlow, will display her colourful wall hangings and fantastic felt pots; Anthony Walsh is an animator from Carlow whose work features on the Eigse website this year and Saidhbhin Gibson will be exhibiting her subtle mixed media work which incorporates natural and found objects.  Also on display will be photography, painting, drawing, print and mixed media work by Stephen Mynhart, Mary Cullen, Rachel O’Hara, Brandon McLane, Mairead Holohan, Shane Gannon, Paul Heary, Jackie Edwards, Deirdre Burke and Brian Bastick.
 
All exhibitors are part of the Artlinks network www.artlinks.ie and information on each artist and on The Blueprint can be found in the Artlinks online directory.
Open daily from 12th June 2010 – 20th June.
Castle Gate, Kennedy Street, Carlow.
 
For further information, email Mary Cullen at  mary.create@gmail.com or Brandon McLane at mclaneart@gmail.com

Now for those pictures …….

Playing with resists

The finished sample

The first snow of 2009 and a brilliant felt vessel!

My view this morning!

It’s really unusual to have snow this early in the year on the ridge opposite the front of my farmhouse.  Sometimes, the larger peak Mount Leinster does have a dusting in mid November but normally we only have it on the whole range in the thick of winter (if at all) so I was delighted to wake up to this pretty picture first thing this morning!

Hilary joined me just before half past ten to felt for the first time, our project was a simple felt vessel.  We had a chat about the basics of felting over a warming freshly ground coffee (part of a Going Green swap package from Chaimama via Ravelry) and then got stuck in selecting and weighing fibre.  The Icelandic wool batts (available from my Etsy store) are excellent for sculptural felt and it is important to have roughly the same amount of fibre on each side of your resist hence the weighing!  Hilary decided to make a round vessel with the main colours being my favourite apple green in combination with a gorgeous turquoise.  We sub-divided the wool into four equal piles giving us two layers to lay out for each side prior to any surface embellishment.  Once the two layers were laid and wet out lightly Hilary then added some turquoise mulberry silk and some swirls of wool in another complimentary turquoise/greeny shade.  As I have mentioned before using more soap than usually advised coupled with a lot less water seems to work really well with the Icelandic wool. 

Hilary sealing the edges

Once Hilary’s vessel passed the pinch test I cut out a very small hole to release the resist.  As you seal and work the cut edges the opening will always widen so a good tip is never to make the initial cut too big!  When sealing the edges use a lot of soap on your hands, this helps you to make a nice clean edge.   Now the vessel was worked by hand both on the bamboo blind (we had started with bubble wrap and progressed to the blind as the fibres started felting together) and in very hot  soapy water in the sink.  Hilary also threw the felt onto the table to help shock and full it, then kept stretching it to form the final shape and help the wool form the memory.  Finally all the soap was rinsed totally out of the felt, the vessel was reshaped, the texture and form admired and all that was needed were a few images to mark a great mornings felting!

Hilary with her stunning first piece of felt!

 

 

For some reason the image uploader is playing up this evening so check out my Flickr images for a larger shot of the finished vessel, the texture is beautiful!

Tactile felt hearth rug!

I forgot to mention yesterday that I did weigh the Icelandic wool and divided it into two piles.  There was just over 400g per layer and interestingly enough not much shrinkage overall by the time the rug was complete, possibly even less than 20%. 

Starting to lay out the Jacobs fleece

Cotton fabric between the layers of wool

I should also have said that I used green silk hankies both within the fleece and at several points near the edge of the rug but that the white silk tops around the outside might not be silk at all but is more likely to be tencel.   It felt quite different in the hand but as I don’t know where I got it from so this is just an uneducated guess!

Initially I worked the rug hard (several hours) by hand and sander on the reverse and eventually was brave enough to turn it over and work directly on the top.  It took ages for the fibres to start coming together, possibly if I had laid two layers of wool on top of the fleece and then the fabric as the last layer it would actually have been a lot quicker.  Whatever, another couple of hours later and things were beginning to hang together nicely.  When I was absolutely sure that the fleece was not going to come apart I chanced wrapping the rug inside a piece of cotton and putting it through a wool wash in my washing machine!  With the exception of rinsing Osman technique rugs or making beads from waste felt I never use my machine for felting, I prefer to do everything by hand.  This time however since I was in an experimental mood and the Jacobs is extremely slow to felt I decided nothing ventured, nothing gained.  After it came successfully out of the machine I worked it by hand again without any soap.  Another while later I put it through a 40 degree wash and again worked directly on the surface by hand for approx another 45 minutes. 

My finished hearth rug!

The finished rug is extremely tactile and will make a great fireside rug or else something to keep my toes warm during those cold Irish mornings!  More detailed images of the final result are available in my Flickr photos.

Another felt hat, answers to questions

I had great fun yesterday finishing the raspberry ripple felt hat and then was inspired to adjust the template slightly and make another, this time with a fresh green and white colour scheme.  I also wanted to try incorporating silk chiffon and silk hankies into the Icelandic wool to see how they would felt together, I was very happy with the result!  I have now posted pictures of the second hat to Flickr and if you click here you can see some notes which I have added to the close up shot.  Move your mouse over the image and the notes highlight areas that clearly define the chiffon, the hankies and how the wool migrates through both.

Now to answer some questions ….. the wool doesn’t seem at all scratchy to me although it does have a very tactile texture, the raspberry/red highlights on the green and white hat are from the printed silk chiffon, scrim is a natural open weave fabric softer than jute but coarser than muslin, my Etsy shop is called Clasheen like the blog and the actual url for those of you who are technologically minded is http://www.clasheen.etsy.com and no, I am not going to shave either of the hats!

Today’s workshop using brilliant colour and texture

Embellishing the surface

Embellishing the surface

One of my favourite things about felting is the variety of textures achievable, both by the addition of surface materials and the way we lay out the wool either evenly or randomly. At the fun flat felt workshop today I showed the participants how to lay out the wool batts evenly and then everyone had fun selecting contrasting and complimentary muslin, silk chiffon, gauze, roving and silk to decorate the surface. The resulting pieces were absolutely gorgeous, I did mean to take final photos but we were chatting so much and booking our next session that everyone had gone home before I realised they never got taken!

Tomorrow I do need to prepare my final presentation for the Failte Ireland course that I am doing (need to deliver it first thing on Monday morning!) but already I am planning a structural piece using this gorgeous raspberry and cream combination!

Raspberry ripple!

Raspberry ripple!

I might try a hat as I am interested to see exactly how comfortable the Icelandic wool would be worn on the head, watch this space!

Ready to prepare the felting kits at last!

I was supposed to be going to a finance workshop (associated with the tourism course) tomorrow but as my fever is definitely back with a vengeance I have decided to stay at home.  Initially I was thinking of laying out and starting a larger garment flu permitting, but since the postman has just arrived with my large order of Icelandic wool guess what I’ll be doing in the morning???  Realistically I need to have a total overhaul of the studio as since I have returned from our holiday it is actually impossible to move around inside it at all, I kid you not.  While Alan and I were swanning around all those gorgeous National Parks and Monuments in Northern California my house guests were tidying the house and putting stuff away in ….. you’ve guessed it, the studio!  It was brilliant to come home to such a tidy and friendly house everywhere else but now that the time has come I am dreading ploughing through all the junk (aka washing, recycling, boxes, fabric, fibre, you know the sort of stuff) that has been accumulating in my workspace for ages.  The light at the end of the tunnel is that hopefully by the end of the weekend my studio will be tidy, my felting kits will be prepared, everything will be uploaded to the internet and all will be calm and organised chez Nicola.  I have also realised that of course I need to upload rug bases and plastic felting mats on Etsy as well as the new wool, why on earth I have been hoarding them here is beyond me especially as I imported them from Mehmet with the express intention of using some and selling the surplus!

The light was not so good today but here is a close up shot of the scarf that I made yesterday.  You can see how nicely the ponge silk has ruched during the felting process and the mulberry silk gives a gorgeous sheen to the surface of the felt.Surface texture and sheen