I’ve just returned from a week’s holiday in northern Spain, starting at the pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela and then driving along the coast and inland to Asturias. It was a great combination of fantastic seafood, wild landscape plus a smattering of culture.
Skip the gallery below if you hate looking at other people’s holiday snaps! 🙂
Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela
Cloud covering Galician coast
Sea foam at Cedeira
Local seafood delicacy – percebes, or goose foot barnacles
Lichen and stone
Accidental green roof, Vigo
Asturian grain stores
Lichen and wood
More lichen and wood
Beware of bears!
Playa de Silencio
Rock formations on Playa de Silencio
Rock formations on Playa de Silencio
Before I went away I had a great weekend in Stroud, with a stall at the first Collectives Fair at the SIT Select Festival. It was the chance to stay with some old friends whom I hadn’t seen for about 20 years, and meet some lovely new makers and customers.
It was also a fantastic surprise when Janet, a felter from Washington State I met at the International Shibori Syposium in Oaxaca last November, showed up. Janet was visiting the UK with her great aunt and found out I was going to be at Stroud so came along to say hello. It was lovely to see you Janet – and I hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip!
As well as selling at the Collectives Fair I managed to squeeze in a bark cloth workshop with Bobby Britnell – I’ll write a separate post about this later.
Then yesterday after I got back from holiday I ran a workshop on making felt flowers as part of the Chelsea Fringe at Nine Elms on the South Bank. This area is undergoing huge redevelopment – the US Embassy will be moving here in September – but the venue was pleasant and spacious and the participants were keen and did amazingly well given that none of them had ever felted before!
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂