In the meantime, partly inspired by the Josef Frank exhibition, I’ve become a bit obsessed with making felt flowers. As you may know if you’ve followed me for a while, my colour palette is normally quite subdued (and usually involves a lot of blue 🙂 ) but the flowers have really allowed me to take advantage of all the brightly coloured fleece in my stash!
I’m hoping to have a good selection of these corsages to brighten my stand at the Contemporary Textiles Fair in Teddington later this month.
I’ve also been continuing my work with dress net, exploring other forms. Coincidentally, one of these also happens to be a flower.
The next step is to make enough of these to create a ball! Two down, 10 to go. 🙂
One of the main advantages for me is that public and product liability is included in the membership fee, which is handy. 🙂
Another is the chance to meet other local felters (the IFA is organised by region) and to attend workshops with well-known tutors without having to travel to the Netherlands or Belgium (though I will probably still pop over there occasionally).
And so I found myself last weekend in a lovely room in north London with Dagmar Binder and 10 other enthusiastic feltmakers. I’ve long admired Dagmar’s work, especially her surface structure and subtle painterly colour blends. Dagmar had brought along plenty of samples to inspire us.
We started the first day by making a sample, experimenting with different fibre layouts and combinations with needle felt to produce different results. This was very illuminating and will be a useful reminder for future experiments.
The workshop was for two days but the sample took quite a long time – I took mine home to finish in the evening on the first day. So our time for making a bigger project was a bit limited.
But as you know I am never short of ambition 🙂 so decided to try a multi-pocketed circular layout inspired by a dahlia. Here are a couple of shots of the work in progress.
I did scale my ambition back during the day – the original plan was to have some central spikes – as I needed to get it to the stage where it was felted sufficiently to be able to take it home to finish without it falling apart.
This is the final piece after finishing at home.
I’m pleased with the result but as ever see room for improvement. If I did it again, in less of a hurry, I would lay out the petals more evenly. And I’m not happy with the central section, which is too large.
Also because I tried to avoid having too many layers of fibre in the centre I truncated the resists for the lower pockets. However, I think that extending all the resists to the centre would make the centre less flat and would give the piece more volume overall.
It reminded me of an earlier dahlia-inspired experiment (on a much smaller scale), based on the same principles but slightly different technique – here are the two samples together.
This was a very useful workshop. I learned a lot about stabilising felt, combining needlefelt and fibre, and different layouts of fibre to produce different effects.
Dagmar is a patient tutor who encourages students work out answers for themselves by close observation of what happens throughout the felting process.
Thanks to Cathy and Sue and other members of the IFA for organising the workshop.
The most complex piece demonstrated in Violette Amendola‘s workshop was called Metamorphosis. Nobody had time in the three days to get very far with this – some of us didn’t even start! 🙂 But I’ve now made the piece at home.
As someone who does quite a lot of fiddly felt, I have to say this was one of the fiddliest pieces I’ve done. It’s a tricky balance of getting the different components to the stage where they will not felt to themselves but will still felt each other.
It’s certainly not perfect. Violette’s sample was made entirely in merino – I used two different wools. The turquoise is short fibre merino, while the green is a mix of 50% merino and 50% Steinschaf.
Like the Valais Blacknose, Steinschaf was another wool that was new to me. It’s a bit denser than Valais Blacknose so again is very good for structural pieces such as vessels. It’s quite hairy but less so than, say, Norwegian or Icelandic. And the hairiness hides a multitude of sins that would be more apparent in merino. 🙂
Naturally it’s a dark grey colour, but the merino mix colours sold at Vrou Volle are lovely and subtle.
I love how this piece rotates through itself, like the kaleidocycle, creating different forms. I learnt a lot when making it, and have ideas for how to adapt the shape when I make it again. But it might be a while! 🙂
When I received the materials list for the workshop with Violette Amendola, it included “200g of Walliser Schwarznasenschaf”. So first I had to translate it – and Google came up with “Valais Blacknose sheep”.
Well, this has to be a strong contender for cutest sheep on the planet! 🙂 I’d never heard of the breed and my usual wool suppliers didn’t stock any.
Vrou Wolle said that they we could buy the wool at the workshop, but I decided to see if it was available in the UK. The Valais Blacknose Sheep Society UK had links to breeders in the UK, few of which seemed to have websites or fleece (as opposed to sheep) for sale.
Whitehall then put some up on their website so I was able to buy some. Renee in Oxfordshire very kindly sent me a sample with a request that I send her a photo of what I made. She makes beautiful rugs with the fleece – you can see some photos on her Facebook page – but had not felted with it otherwise.
Both sets of fleece arrived in the raw state, unwashed, but surprisingly clean compared with other raw fleece I’ve worked with. It had a lovely long crimp.
So I scoured it and carded it with my dog brushes and used it to make the husks in Violette’s class.
It’s fantastic for the type of structural felting I enjoy – it felts quickly and requires only a couple of layers to create a firm yet airy felt, perfect for these seed husks.
Since coming home I’ve experimented a bit more with making small vessels, in this case combined with merino.
With the weather warming up, I’ve also revitalised the indigo vat and done some ombre dyeing on these pieces.
Talking of ombre dyeing, I’m really excited that some of my work is to appear in a new book coming out next month.
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.
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.
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.
After we mastered the basic technique Violette showed us to use it in a slightly different way, to make “icicles”, necklaces and garlands.
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.
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!
But here’s a pic of the small practice sample that I made.
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!