More shibori felt

Yes, I have another sale and exhibition starting next week with Women of the Cloth. Yes, I should be making work to sell and exhibit. So why am I spending time instead on experimental work?

Well, sometimes I get a creative itch I just have to scratch. With a personality that veers uncomfortably close sometimes to OCD (just ask ESP) I can’t help myself.

So this week I returned to shibori felt. After the vessel I made a couple of weeks ago, I tried making a flat piece – that is, a piece that started out as flat, rather than around a resist.

shibori felt 2

The next obvious step (for me!) was to make another piece in undyed wool, bind it, and then dip it in the indigo vat.

shibori felt 1

This second piece was smaller than the first (around 8cm across compared with 12cm), as I thought I might be able to do something practical with it, like make it into a brooch. However, I think the contrast of the blue and white isn’t really effective on this smaller scale – it needs to be larger to be seen properly.

I also love the effect on the reverse side of all these pieces.

shibori felt 3 shibori felt 4

Looks like I will have to make another vessel, this time dyed with indigo and turned inside out. But maybe after the exhibition is finished.

Or maybe I will display these pieces as work in progress – what do you think?

Back to the scarves…


Richard Deacon at Tate Britain

I haven’t made anything recently – too much work building websites and rolling out Makerhood. Besides, in the weather we’ve had it’s not really practical to hang dripping scarves and bubble wrap around the house.

Yesterday I escaped my cabin fever and went to the Richard Deacon exhibition at Tate Britain. As soon as I saw the publicity posters showing the sinuous loops of After, constructed from hoops and lengths of bent wood, I knew I had to see it. And I wasn’t disappointed.


Deacon describes himself as a fabricator (as opposed to a carver or modeller), and he’s interested in the physicality of materials. In this respect he reminds me of Thomas Heatherwick, exploring and pushing the boundaries of materials to create new and unexpected forms. On the Tate website, the artist is quoted as saying: ‘The way that I work, seems to be to start, if not from nothing, from minimal conditions. They’re not amorphous, pure mass like lumps of clay, neither do they have the phenomenal strength of rock or a piece of nature. They have a certain independence. Making them into shapes is an act of will on my part.’

Many of the pieces are made of thin strips of wood laminated together and steam bent into organic curves. More technically mindblowing is Out of Order, where wooden planks swoop exhilaratingly into rollercoaster coils, and solid three-inch wooden posts twist like a DNA helix. That must have taken quite a lot of will! (There’s an interview on the Tate website that explains how it was done.)

Photo: v1ctory_1s_m1ne under Creative Commons, Flickr
Photo: v1ctory_1s_m1ne under Creative Commons, Flickr

There’s also a very interesting short video on the Tate website showing Deacon in his studio (in Herne Hill, so he’s a Lambeth local!) with his collection of objects that have inspired him, from Marge Simpson’s hair to a bit of chain he found on the street.

Another of his pieces in the exhibition, Waiting for the Rain made from terracotta, reminded me of a flint hand axe.


It inspired me to go home and make a felt vessel!

Richard Deacon is on at Tate Britain until 27 April.

Green cellular pot

A hasty post before I head off to Italy for a skiing break.

I wasn’t expecting to be able to do any more felting before I went away, but someone who’d booked a felting session at the weekend cancelled, so as I’d set everything out anyway I thought I might as well take advantage!

I managed to create a vessel using a different methodology from the previous structure, involving less bulk and better felting. The outside is Norwegian wool, the rest is merino.

green cellular pot1 green cellular pot2 green cellular pot3

After felting I thought at first I should have included more ribs to add more texture, as the gaps between them seem quite large. But I like the pentagonal shape that you see when looking down on it from above, so maybe it’s OK.

Back in a couple of weeks, hopefully all limbs intact! 🙂

3D textured felt

So, what form to use as a textured sample? I decided to do a basic ribbed vessel, using the partial felt technique I learnt at Lisa Klakulak’s workshop last year.

First I had to revise the technique, as it’s been a while since I used it. The result was interesting for a couple of reasons.

ribbed vessel

I’d envisaged the vessel as being fairly spherical. However, when it was fulled, the partial felt ribs prevented full longitudinal shrinkage, so the final vessel is taller than it is wide – more of a pod shape. For the same reason, the felt is more flexible and less sturdy than previous samples I’ve made of the same size – so it can be gently compressed to produce a rounder vessel if wanted, though this is not as stable.

ribbed vessel flatter

I’d made the ribs slightly curved to try to get more of a spiral effect, but in the final tall vessel this is barely apparent. It’s more obvious in the slightly flattened version.

ribbed vessel spiral

So then I made another vessel, to test out different textures. It’s not very pretty, but it’s intended to be a reference sample.

ribbed vessel textures

Clockwise from the top, these are: silk chiffon, silk habotai, polyster organza, pencil roving, silk chiffon with wool nepps, silk habotai with wool nepps, polyester with wool nepps, silk chiffon with felt offcuts.

Polyester organza with wool nepps gave the “wartiest” texture (managed to get a bit of red fibre caught in there as well).

ribbed vessel nepps

I also liked the effect of the pencil roving (without chiffon) and the felt offcuts covered with chiffon.

ribbed vessel rovingribbed vessel felt offcutsThe extra layers of silk and nepps haven’t increased the robustness of the felt very much – if anything, it feels less rather than more robust. So for future vessels I need to make the felt wall thicker or the ribs smaller (or dispense with them altogether).

Still blue

The loss adjuster came yesterday and said that he would be sending a company round to install some heaters and dehumidifiers to help speed up the drying process (the walls of the hall are still sopping and the kitchen floor is still damp 10 days after the flood). The wall and ceiling paper in the dining room (aka my studio) have been the worst affected, so it looks as if there will be considerable disruption there over the next few weeks.

In the meantime I plough on – what else is there to do? Yesterday I ombre dyed my latest vessel. It’s not as even as I intended, but the unevenness adds extra texture, like a ceramic glaze, so I’m happy with it.

I’ve also made some smaller nuno pots, again dyed with indigo. The first used silk chiffon, the second crocheted yarn that had been ombre dyed.