It’s official, Dallas TX here I come!

I'm delighted to announce that Suzanne Morgan and I confirmed last night Saturday 26th of April will be the date for my first ever teaching experience in Dallas, Texas! Because of a prior engagement we're keeping this to a one day natural printing workshop, participants will be asked to bring their own materials to print onto, felt, silk, wool and paper. All the details (including the price!) will be posted shortly, Suzanne is just working the logistics out now but if you're interested in attending please email her ASAP and she'll be able to answer most of your questions. I may also be teaching a workshop in Houston, please email me if you'd like to be kept in the loop for that, more details here and on FB as I get them!

To whet your appetite here's a picture of a wall hanging I felted and printed at the beginning of this week, I love it and have decided to keep it to hang at Clasheen!!! The base is 19.5 micron merino with a generous helping of soy fibre and Firestar, the leaves were eucalyptus and the pot had a big mushy handful of pomegranate skins which had already been used for a couple of print sessions. I deliberately folded it so that I had three uneven panels of leaves, now I just need another 10 hours a day as I really want to make a another piece!

 

 

 

 

 

Wall hanging and felt vessel on days three and four of Dagmar’s workshop

Being inspired by Dagmar’s fine art wall hangings on exhibition in Odense, Denmark during ‘Felt in Focus’ 2009 I swore then that I’d take a workshop of hers when this was one of the projects that would be offered for participants to explore.

Working on the back of my natural white wall hanging with ‘The Modest’ felting roller from ‘niki & niki’

Thanks to US friend Susan (who didn’t manage to get into Dagmar’s 2 day Irish workshop!) who alerted me to the 6 day masterclass at Big Cat Textiles, I booked asap and in turn alerted our mutual US friend Merridee, the die was cast and the three of us all had a marvellous time!!! I knew before I headed to Scotland that I wanted to make my wall hanging in natural white with various undyed fibres for the surface decoration, this left me free to make decisions about what attachments to add and how I wanted the piece to appear structurally after I had time to mull over all the different options. The soya, silk, linen, milk protein and sea cell fibres that I used on the surface gave a nice tone on tone effect and opting for a simple style meant that I was free to try a complimentary vessel with a spiral attachment on day four.

The almost finished wall hanging, sorry about the poor quality photo

Working with an open rather than a closed resist for my vessel was a eureka moment for me!!! Strange isn’t it? Dawn uses this method almost always for her beautiful hats and it never once occurred to me to do so for a vessel. It’s a hang over from reading somewhere (a beginners felting book I think, early in the days) that it was always preferrable to totally cover the template, something to do with the pressure the edges are put under during the felting process. Well anyway, chatting to Dagmar and actually trying an open sided resist has totally changed my perspective on how I’ll felt vessels in the future, I loved the way I could manipulate the shape and the quality of the open edges was very uniform and smooth! I’m not saying that I’ll always use this method but I can now see my way clearly to felting some vessels that I’ve been itching to try but to date have only existed in my imagination, watch this space. Finishing my vessel by the time day four’s advertised time was up meant that I had several hours free that evening to measure myself (with help obviously!) and work out how large I needed my template to be for the sleeveless vest with attachments that were scheduled to be felted during the fifth and sixth days of this marvelous workshop. I’ll leave you with a picture of the finished vessel, note the subtle colour and texture from soya fibre inside the neck. Next time, the vest.

My large felt vessel with spiral

CRAFTed project underway and a couple of great magazines!

This morning I had the pleasure of meeting all the girls who are collaborating with me and their teacher Mairead for our CRAFTed project in Kilkenny, we had fun!  We started the session with a look at some of my work and then passed around different raw materials so the girls could both handle and smell raw and processed wool.  Mairead and the class had spoken previously about what we might be getting up to and everybody had questions they wanted to ask and journals ready to write the answers down in, along with video and photography these journals are a way for them to explore and document our project.  Three of the girls (at least I think it was three!) had brought in video cameras and we also had photographers amongst the pupils which is just as well, I was talking and demonstrating so much that I never remembered to take even one photo, definitely a first for me!  Once I explained the felting process I laid out a piece of flat felt and then everyone took turns rubbing and rolling so they would have a clearer idea of what they would be doing over the course of the next three sessions.  They then started to jot down ideas and sketches for their main pieces, our theme is ‘exploring transision’ and we are making one collaborative wall hanging and at least one individual piece each.  The wall hanging is going to have 32 pockets (one for each pupil) and each girl will both decorate the outside of their pocket and select an item (or items) to place inside this.  When completed the wall hanging will be displayed in the school and the items left there as a memory when they move forward to secondary school later this year.  As I am writing this I am wondering should there also be a pocket for Mairead as their teacher and me as the facilitator???  The individual projects will also have some way of holding a special item, maybe this will be a pocket in a piece of flat felt or a three dimensional object such as a vessel or a bag.  These pieces will be for the pupils to carry with them as they leave the school and the idea here is that the items they put inside these pieces will have meaning for them and be something that they want to bring with them into their future.  Anyway, I had a great time and hope that the girls did too!  Next Wednesday they will all make their first piece of flat felt (which will be stuck onto the journal covers) as well as designing the templates for their individual projects.  I hope too to have prefelted a base and pockets for the wall hanging prior to the session, if this is the case the girls can also start decorating the pockets and surround next week.

Green Craft
Haute Handbags

The latest issue of my all time favourite magazine has just been published by Stamptington.  I ADORE Green Craft!!!!!  Such fun, inspirational and new ways of looking at incorporating recycled, upcycled and found materials into ones work, I defy anybody not to like this publication!  The other Stamptington magazine that really grabs my fancy is Haute Handbags, this is the one I spoke about a couple of weeks ago that inspired me to add leather leaves and beads to the top of one of my felt vessels, picture of this vessel to come soon I promise! 

Happy Thanksgiving, completed pieces from last Saturday’s workshop, size of my new hearth rug

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  It is brilliant to have readers all around the world and really nice to discover whenever any of you have special days that you like to celebrate, to those of you Stateside I hope that you have a wonderful day. 

I promised you pictures of the completed work from last Saturday’s workshop at Clasheen as soon as I recieved them by email so here are Ann’s and Alisons, I think that Lindsay is still embellishing hers so you will just have to wait another while! 

Ann with her beautiful finished felt

If you look closely at Ann’s work some of the smaller leaves are actually three dimensional and stitched in place after the rest was felted.  This picture probably dosen’t do the colours full justice, the leaves really have loads of silk fibres and silk chiffon as surface decoration which gives a beautiful depth to the felt and the background is a warm creamy white.

Alison's amazing felt landscape

Alison’s landscape really came together as the day progressed.   There is a palpable feeling of motion about the wall hanging, I can just imagine the tree swaying in our local mountain breeze!  The colours really remind me of the Blackstairs mountains which surround my house, at the moment they are a beautiful heathery purple (from the heather!) and a rich golden brown from the dying heather.

In response to some queries about the size of my hearth rug, it  measures just over 1m by just under 1m.  This probably translates to about 4′ X 3′ but I don’t have an imperial tape measure that I can lay my hand on at the moment!

Wild weather and today’s workshop

I am still tidying the studio in preparation for today’s workshop, just taking a quick break (aka escaping from the clutter) to write this quick post.  Three ladies who attended one of the recent starter sessions have booked for the day to make large wall hangings or framed flat felt.  We will be calculating how much wool we need in relation to their finished size and experimenting with different types of fibre for embellishment.  One participant is bringing along her retrievers hair and I also have horse hair, more dogs hair, raw fleece and some raw alpaca in my stash. 

It is great to finally start to see some light around my long work table in the studio!  Following on from my mentoring sessions on Wednesday I am really making an effort to put my paperwork in order and start 2010 with a clean slate.  One piece of advice that has stuck in my mind from the Business mentor was to pay myself a wage every week without feeling guilty.  In this way he explained it is easier to set work related targets and stick to them, if I have a poor week financially I am still to take the payment and just organise a bit more work for the following week!  Let’s see how this goes, I like the sound of it and have decided to get someone in to help me clean the house and studio two or three times a month.  That will be a big incentive!!

One more day to go!

Only one more day of canvassing and then the electorate vote in the local elections from 7am – 10pm tomorrow. Felting has really taken a back seat over the last couple of weeks but as soon as the weekend and the count are over I will be fully up to speed again, hurrah!! My biggest concern then will be preparing work for 2 upcoming exhibitions (one to be hung next Thursday!) and sorting out my wrap up presentation about my Craft in the Classroom project which takes place on Saturday 13th June. Although I ususally work pretty well to a deadline I definitely will need to prioritise over the next week and don’t want to feel rushed when creating the work for either show. My plan is to create some small and medium sized felt pods which I will suspend in a cluster and I also need to make a large rug/wall hanging expanding the concept of ridges and bumps as with the swirling water sample piece. Off now to get on the campaign trail again, I look forward to properly continuing with this blog next week!!

Craft in the Classroom project almost over

Our wall hanging after the first rolling We had an excellent two sessions to wind up my contact hours at Drumlea for  the Craft in the Classroom project.  The first of the images are up on Flickr and over the next few days I will blog about things properly and get some more images online.  Just as a taster here is a picture of our wall hanging after 3 hours of stamping, kicking and rolling in the large plastic mat but priorto going through the washing machine and more hand rolling by me!  At this stage it had not shrunk much but all the fibres were holding together well and it was ready for some more ‘serious’ fulling!!

Busy preparing for last ‘Craft in the Classroom’ sessions

This morning I have had to cancel my proposed training with Failte Ireland in order to concentrate on preparing for my last sessions in the ‘Craft in the Classroom’ project and to finish designing the race card for our Green Party fundraiser this Thursday night.  Because I was so shattered the last time that I drove up to Drumlea early in the morning I have decided to travel up at my leisure this afternoon, spend some time with friends (thanks a million Nigel and Jackie for giving me a bed!) and be bright and bushy tailed tomorrow morning ready for our big session rolling the wall hanging.  My plan is to arrive a couple of hours before I am due to start working with the pupils, wet out the hanging myself and give it a good working over with my sander BEFORE letting the pupils loose rolling, felting and fulling.  The problem is that I always use an electric sander (carefully) not a cordless but obviously would not be able to let the kids use it as it could be constituted as an electrical hazard.  Knowing how much a design can shift if not worked carefully I really want to make sure that the text is fully secure before the pupils start to stamp and kick the rolled up package.  I also need to find some thin but strong cotton cord today that I can use to tie up the large plastic mat that we will be enclosing the wall hanging in, hopefully I can pick some up in a hardware along the way as I travel to Carrick-on-Shannon this afternoon.  I am off now to start packing the truck and hope I will have some great images on Wednesday to post here showing some of the completed projects from our last two sessions including the finished wall hanging.

Still recovering from frenetic felting sessions!

Design laid out and ready to fill in on our wall hanging

Design laid out and ready to fill in on our wall hanging

Gosh, we had some action packed sessions in Drumlea this week!  I am still recovering and expect it is going to take a couple more days before I fully recharge!!  Our game plan had been to divide the pupils up into 3 different groups, one to start work on the collaborative wall hanging, the second to make vessels and the third to work on felt balls.  The idea behind this was that I would never cope with all 26 pupils working on their first 3-d project at the same time and obviously we needed to get working on the wall hanging or else we would never get it finished!  Well the vessels went very well, so did the balls but we nearly had a mutiny about the subject matter for the wall hanging.  At the beginning of the session we had taken the top 5 suggestions from everybody, I wrote them down on a sheet of paper and then every pupil voted for their favourite 3 items.  Problems, problems, problems.  I had already explained that in order for the design to stand out when felted in the landscape format that the pupils preferred (taking account of how much the base we were using would shrink) I only wanted to incorporate the top 4 items from the wish list.  In order of preference these were the name Drumlea, the school crest, a football and in joint fourth place either a sun or a rainbow.  Discussion ensued about how we would make our descision and it was agreed by the pupils that everyone’s name would go into a hat, one name would be drawn out and that this pupil could choose the final item to be depicted on the wall hanging.  The name was drawn, the pupil was choosen and he in turn choose the rainbow (or was it the sun), mayhem ensued!  The pupils who were actually meant to start laying out the design didn’t want the rainbow (or sun) and pretty much stuck in their heels.  Eventually after a lot of discussion I showed them how we could incorporate both items if we changed the layout of the hanging from landscape to portrait, agreement at last!  The school crest morphed into a leafless tree, the rainbow is huge and the whole thing looks great now that the colours have been filled in.  Clare should be emailing me some pictures of the next stage and I will post them here as soon as they arrive.  Next time I go to Drumlea we are going to add a date to the piece, wet it out and then roll for several hours wrapping it tightly in the large plastic woven mat that I got from Mehmet.  Happy hours!

Over the weekend I will write a little bit about our 3-d work and post images of some of the super vessels the pupils created, check out my Flickr account if you simply can’t wait!