Felting workshop with Violette Amendola

I came across Swiss felter Violette Amendola’s work in the book FeltPassion. I just sat staring at her Metamorphosis piece (the one on the left) for about 10 minutes, trying to work out how it was done.

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So when I saw that she was running a Vrou Wolle workshop in Belgium I enrolled immediately!

Turned out I was not alone – there were 13 other enthusiastic felters in the studio when I turned up the first day. Violette had brought her friend Dorothea with her as an assistant, who was just as charming and helpful, so nobody lacked attention.

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Violette (left) and Dorothea (right)

The studio is a lovely space, with lots of wonderful felt pieces on display along with bags of every type of fleece you can think of, silk, fabric and other materials.

Delicious lunches, largely vegetarian, were cooked by Hilde, and there were plenty of drinks, biscuits and fruit to keep us going when energies flagged.

Violette explained that all the pieces we were going to make were inspired by pauwlonia seed pods she found in Paris. Because creating complete pieces is very time consuming and requires a lot of patience, the workshop was more about learning the technique rather than having a finished work to take home.

We started with a husk. Violette had made samples in different types of wool, but we used Valais Blacknose wool.

Image: Marleen Prion
Image: Marleen Piron
Image: Marleen Prion
Image: Marleen Piron

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After we mastered the basic technique Violette showed us to use it in a slightly different way, to make “icicles”, necklaces and garlands.

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Image: Marleen Piron
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Image: Marleen Piron
Images: Marleen Prion
Images: Marleen Piron

Then we moved on to the technique she used to make the Metamorphosis piece. We started with the less complex version used to make these gorgeous bracelets and the elaborate neckpiece that Violette is wearing.

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Image: Marleen Piron

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Finally we learnt how the Metamorphosis piece itself was constructed, though given the time constraints there was no way we were going to make one of these in the remaining day!

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But here’s a pic of the small practice sample that I made.

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I loved this workshop. Yes, the techniques are time consuming, but so is a lot of what I do. The facilities were great, and the challenges of running a workshop in Dutch, French, German and English presented surprisingly few problems!

And although many of the participants seemed impressed that I had travelled all the way from London, the connections by train were very easy.

I also had the opportunity to use a new wool for me – Valais Blacknose. Look out for a future post about this!

The form is in the fulling

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At first glance, this latest piece looks as if it could be a development in the armadillo project. In fact, it was made using a completely different technique. It’s another AFOT EUWA.

I started out with the idea of making a ridged vessel, like a gourd, using a book resist. I first came across this type of resist at the workshop I did in France with Maria Friese, and I’ve used it a couple of times since to make felt boxes. There’s a brilliant tutorial by Teri Berry on the Felting and Fiber Studio for this technique.

Finished piece with resist
Finished piece with resist

With 12 “pages” in this book resist, it was a bit of a challenge to lay out and felt so many layers. But once the piece had felted and I removed the resist and started to full it, it transformed from a vessel into something else.

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Partly this was because I hadn’t laid enough wool over the two ends – with so many layers this was quite tricky to do. So there were holes at both ends, which is obviously no good for a vessel.:-)

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And partly it was because the process of fulling itself opens up so many different possibilities as you bend, fold, stretch and twist the felt to reach all the different parts.

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And maybe it was partly because subconsciously I’m still in armadillo mode, so still in love with the curling/unfurling effect.:-)

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TextielMuseum in Tilburg and Kubota in Antwerp

Last week I visited the Netherlands to see the splendid exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of the artist Hieronymous Bosch. The exhibition is in ’s-Hertogenbosch, the city after which the artist took his name, but we stayed in nearby Tilburg, which happens to have an excellent textiles museum.:-)

The TextielMuseum in Tilburg is housed in an old spinning mill, now a national monument, with modern extensions. The ground floor recreates the woollen blanket factory that occupied the premises from 1900 to 1940, with baskets of fleece and carding, spinning, spooling, and weaving machines, all powered by a steam engine.

Next door, by contrast, is the modern TextielLab, a specialist workshop with computer controlled machines offering students and designers the chance to collaborate and experiment with weaving, knitting, embroidery, tufting, passementerie and laser cutting. Visitors are free to wander and see the machines in action, samples of experimental work, and take part in workshops – it’s an engrossing experience.

Laser cutting in TextielLab
Laser cutting in TextielLab
Weaving in TextielLab
Weaving in TextielLab
Weaving workshop in TextielLab
Weaving workshop in TextielLab
Tufting sample in TextielLab
Tufting sample in TextielLab
Tufting sample in TextielLab
Tufting sample in TextielLab

Upstairs, the temporary exhibition Co-creation explores in more detail three collaborations between the TextielLab and prominent design agencies. Studio Samira Boon’s work on textile structures inspired by origami interested me greatly. By combining suitable yarns and weave, Samira produced complex self-folding textiles known as “Super Folds”, which create a 3D structure.

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Also on the first floor, another temporary exhibition called Switch examines 25 years of Dutch design. It includes some wonderful felted hangings by Claudy Jongstra.

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There were some interesting rugs too, including the “accidental carpet” by Tejo Remy and Tanja Smeets, made from used woollen blankets.

Accidental Carpet

The “Kiki Carpet” by Kiki van Eijk resembles a large embroidery and was inspired by the decor of 19th-century dolls’ houses.

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The “Algae Growth” carpet by Studio Maarten Kolk and Guus Kusters looked at the issue of sustainability. The designers digitally printed the backing and treated it with the remnants of ink from the ink cartridges. After tufting, the carpet was then moistened so that the ink flowed from the backing to the pile.

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Last but certainly not least, the final temporary exhibition on the ground floor is a retrospective of Sheila Hicks. Spanning seven decades of her work, the show includes some wonderful examples of her remarkably varied work, reflected in the show’s title “Why Not?”

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More information about all these exhibitions on the TextielMuseum website.

Before coming home, we stopped off in Antwerp for a couple of nights, where the Fashion Museum (MoMu) currently has eight kimono by Itchiku Kubota on display. I’ve blogged previously about a lecture I attended on this master craftsman, but this is the first time I’ve seen any of his kimono in real life.

Unfortunately, they are displayed about six feet behind glass panels, so it’s not easy to see the detail. This, anyway, is my excuse for the not-so-great images below.

Six kimono are from The Universe section of his Symphony of Light series, ablaze with flames and swirls of colour, rich with embroidery and gold leaf highlights.

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The two kimono from the Mount Fuji series are more subtle, with the textures created by shibori clouds delicately rippling across the pale surfaces.

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Traditions and Dreams – Kimono from the Kubota Collection runs at the MoMu Gallery until 19 June 2016.

Dyeing with daffodils

It’s spring and daffodils are everywhere. But as the flowers fade they need to be deadheaded, so I thought I’d see if how well they act as a dye.

According to Jenny Dean’s Wild Colour, fresh flowers give a stronger colour than dried, but I had to collect the flowers over a few weeks, so I dried them until I had enough. Then I soaked them in water for a couple of days.

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The colour was already a deep yellow after this, but I simmered them for an hour anyway before straining out the flowers.

I added a silk top that I’d mordanted with alum and simmered for another hour, then left it overnight to soak. After washing and rinsing, the top was quite a dark mustard colour.

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But this lightened to a more greenish yellow when dry.

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Contact printing with geranium (cranesbill) leaves toned the brightness down a bit.

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What would Wordsworth think?:-)

Chinese embroidered collar

Last night I went to the private view of the London Antique Rug and Textile Art Fair. We usually attend every year, but this is the first time I’ve bought anything!

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I was very tempted by a stunning indigo stitched and bound resist piece shown by Joss Graham. Joss said it was made in Indonesia using the tritik technique – aka nui shibori stitch resist. The stitch resist border surrounded an area of white dots on blue created by binding, with a white central elliptical area, presumably created by capping (some of the threads from the stitching were still present).

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Detail of border
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Detail of central area showing remaining threads from stitching

The piece was about 12 feet long, and it was the practicality of how and where we would display it (along with the price!) that made us reluctantly leave it.

However, I couldn’t resist an Chinese embroidered collar from Molly Hogg Textiles. Made for a child, the collar consists of five lobes of exquisitely precise stitching.

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Some of the patterns bring to mind Japanese sashiko stitching; others are more like elaborate geometric samplers.

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Molly wasn’t able to tell me much about the collar, and I’ve not been able to find any similar examples of collars with this type of embroidery on the internet.

But generally it seems that in China collars were made separately from the garment, allowing them to be worn almost like necklaces with different outfits. If anyone has any idea about how old this is or which part of China it might come from, do get in touch!

The London Antique Rug and Textile Fair runs until Sunday 17 April. Admission is free.