Playing with plaster

As well as sculpting with stone, ESP has experimented with plaster moulding. But rather than carving his own moulds, he has unconventionally used things like discarded packaging.

This piece, which looks like a fragment of a Greek column, was made using some air-filled plastic packaging that protected bottles.

Over Easter we experimented with filling balloons with plaster. Because the plaster takes around 20 minutes to dry and we got bored of moving them around before that, the plaster settled and was thicker in some areas than others. So when we cut off the balloon the tension caused the very thin areas to break. They look uncannily like real eggs!

Then I thought I would try combining plaster and felt. I’ve worked before with the idea of the contrasting hard and soft textures by combining felt and stone here and here.

I started by dipping some felt offcuts into plaster – some just one layer, others more than once.

You can see above that the hairy texture of the wool is quite evident beneath the plaster in places.

I then made and dipped two spherical felt vessels. This one was merino.

This one was made with coarser cheviot wool.

I dipped each vessel four times but there is still a clear difference in texture. This may be more noticeable with fewer dips but then the plaster may be too delicate to withstand much pressure.

More experiments needed! 🙂

 

 

Felt rooster swap

When I attended the Violette Amendola workshop in Belgium last year I met a lovely Dutch felter called Henny. We were working on adjacent tables so we got chatting and we had dinner together in the evenings.

Henny is a great lover of British culture – she’s an avid fan of Great British Bakeoff and Masterchef, and has been to felty events such as Wonderwool Wales. She also organises a twice yearly felt swap between a group of British felters and a group of Dutch/Belgian felters. Each person in the group makes something in felt that they send to someone in the other group – the pairings change for every swap.

So I was pleased to be asked to join at the end of last year. Each felt swap has a different theme, and I usually enjoy the challenge of trying to come up with something to fit the brief.

The theme of my first swap, in April, was “rooster”, the current year in the Chinese zodiac. This proved to be more of a challenge than I expected, as making cute felt animals is not really my thing. 🙂

But then at a vintage fair I saw a ceramic egg holder shaped like a chicken – my mother used to have one of these.

As the swap was scheduled for April, when Easter fell, I thought I would make one of these in felt and fill it with chocolate eggs.

Originally I thought I would make the base and the top in one piece, but then I remembered a previous experiment with Russian dolls, and decided to make the base separately, with more robust wool (a Steinschaf and merino blend). The main body of the rooster was all merino.

My swap partner, Françoise, who runs Vrouwolle (where I did the workshop with Violette) took a more abstract approach, which I love.

It also arrived beautifully packaged, in a suitably nest-like box.

Thank you Françoise!

Spiral and Twistie with Pam de Groot

I realised at the weekend that I hadn’t written up the rest of the Pam de Groot online workshop on texture and dimensions.

For obvious reasons I’m not going to give details of how the Spiral and the Twistie were made. But I will say that I found both methods extremely innovative, and Pam is to be applauded for her ambition in trying to teach them through an online workshop.

Unlike face to face workshops, the tutor can’t advise during the making process that, for example, you need to lay out the fibre more finely. She can only judge from the finished piece, and Pam was very good at doing that.

Here’s my first Spiral, made using one colour. The curvaceous bottom led to it being named a Beyoncé spiral!

Then I had a go at a double ended version, with a colour change.

The final piece was the Twistie, and I had few problems with the structural support for this. I also probably laid out the fibre too thickly. Like the Spiral, it relies on a lot of shrinkage, so I might have another go at this on a smaller scale.

 

Spring flowers

The online workshop with Pam de Groot continues – I’ll post an update on this later.

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!

felt-corsages

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.

net-flower-1

The next step is to make enough of these to create a ball! Two down, 10 to go. 🙂

net-flower-2

Felting workshop with Dagmar Binder

I’ve finally joined the International Feltmakers Association (IFA). I’ve been meaning to do it for a while – just never got round to it.

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.

dagmar samples dagmar samples dagmar samples

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.

dagmar sample

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.

felt work in progress felt 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.

felt dahlia felt dahlia

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.

felt dahlia samples

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.

dagmar teaching
Dagmar (right) advising students in class

Thanks to Cathy and Sue and other members of the IFA for organising the workshop.