Using a wire brush while felting! Silk paper workshop.

An amazing tip learnt during the Anita Larkin workshop concerns the use of a wire brush!  People had brought different sized brushes to try, but for fairly small pieces of work a suede shoe brush seemed perfect.  We used these when repairing a seam or depression caused by uneven rolling, attaching an object or closing the hole created when removing the plastic around a resist (explanation re resists Anita’s way to follow in another post).  I hope that I can explain what we did clearly but if it is not obvious enough please let me know.  The type of ridge/depression I am talking about is that created by uneven pressure when rolling a ball or a cord, often a problem for me and I am sure that most of you know what I am talking about.  Once you notice a ridge or depression forming at the pre felt stage use your wire brush gently to fluff up the fibres on either side of the problem area.  Holding the piece of felt lightly in your hands (or on the table if easier) smooth the fibres with your fingers and encourage them to move towards each other.  It is important that if the ridge goes in one direction you make the smoothing action in the opposite direction, ie. at a 90 degree angle to where the ridge is lying.  Keep smoothing very gently for quite a few minutes and you will notice that the ridge or depression magically seals over.  This method of fluffing up the fibres with a wire brush also allows you to attach a prefelted object to another piece of felt, just fluff up the side where you wish to make your join and work the seal very slowly and carefully.  Next time that I write a post I will discuss Anita’s method of making cords and inserting wire into felt. 

I did want to mention today however that on Saturday I attended an excellent one day workshop about silk paper making facilitated by Tunde Toth.  This workshop was organised by the South East Textile Group and took place at our usual venue in the Demense Yard at Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny.  Tunde is an artist working from the Kozo Gallery in Thomastown and specialises in different types of paper making.  She brought a great range of fibres for us to work with, initially we made a basic silk paper and then got really stuck in using inclusions and dyes as we became more experimental.  I found the whole process really inspiring as depending on the thickness of the paper made I feel it will be possible to insert the silk paper into a piece of felt at the early part of the felting process.  Already I have made a couple of experiments with silk paper that I made on Saturday, more on this subject as soon as I have finished writing about the scupltural feltmaking weekend with Anita.

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!!