More felting with old sweaters

Now I realise that those of you who live in parts of the world where you have to live underground for six months of the year because it gets so cold may regard the recent UK weather incident as a bit of a non-event, but we’ve been able to talk about nothing else for the past week.

Living in London, it’s rare that I get to witness the meteorological messes that get dumped on other parts of these islands. But even in the city we had six inches of snow, and now a burst water main in our street has led to our cellar (and that of our neighbour) being flooded. ESP spent the weekend lugging buckets of water out into the street, and we wait in vain to hear from Thames Water about when they might send an engineer out.

But life goes on. I’ve been doing some more felting experiments with old sweaters (though frankly I needed every layer I could get my hands on last week!).

Here’s a flat piece mounted on a small canvas.

Here’s a felt cushion.

And here’s a felt vase (with a jar of water inside). I forgot to take a photo of this before felting.

I’m planning to display these on my stand at the Contemporary Textiles Fair in Teddington in a couple of weeks. The theme of the fair this year is ecotextiles, so hopefully this will encourage people to upcycle their old sweaters (and maybe I will get some commissions 😉 ). Come and say hello if you’re planning to visit!

 

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My work at Tate Modern

It’s not a solo exhibition – yet. 😉 But you may remember a couple of years ago that I took part in an exhibition organised by South London Women Artists (SLWA), entitled Pillow Talk. It was a collaboration with the Women’s Art Library (WAL) and took the form of a pop-up reading lounge in a geodesic dome furnished with a selection of readings, cuttings and ephemera from the WAL collection and art pillows by SLWA artists as seating.

My contribution, a felt snail pillow, was inspired by the idea of a nomadic library, carrying information about the ambitions, stories and histories of women artists around the country.

Felt snail pillow
Photo: Cygnus Imaging

Now the exhibition (and snail) has reached Tate Modern. As part of a homage to the centenary of women getting the vote in February 1918, Pillow Talk will form part of the Uniqlo Tate Late event on Friday 23 February, 6-10pm.

For this event, the pillows will be laid out on the floor in the shape of the female symbol where visitors will be invited to sit, read and have conversations. At its heart will be a mobile library full of publications, catalogues, magazines and ephemera about women artists.

Pillow photos: Yoke Matze

We’ll be on Level 2 in the Blavatnik Building – hope to see you there!

Galapagos-inspired tablet cover

When we were on holiday in the Galapagos, S, one of the other passengers on the boat admired the felt tablet cover I had made for Ever Supportive Partner (ESP). So I agreed to make her one when I got back.

I was delayed working on this because of all the Christmas markets and other activities on my return, but while ESP went back to work between Christmas and new year I finally had the time and headspace to think about it.

S hadn’t expressed any preference about colours, leaving it up to me, so I thought it would be good to make a piece inspired by the Galapagos. Looking back through the hundreds(!) of photos of the trip prompted various ideas, but I finally went for the landscape around Lake Darwin, on the largest island of Isabela.

Lake Darwin is a seawater lake in the caldera of an old volcano. The surrounding lava folds and ridges are covered in incense (palo santa) trees, with ghostly silver bark (in the wet season, a few weeks after we visited, they would burst into leaf, transforming the landscape).

Other trees were covered with beautiful lichens of grey, bright orange and pale mint green.

And here is the tablet cover inspired by this scenery.

I started with two layers of orange merino (to represent the volcanic interior). Then came two layers of grey Norwegian wool, to provide robustness, then two layers of Finnish wool (blue at the bottom for water and brown at the top for the lava). I laid pieces of darker brown yarn on top of this to represent the lava folds. There is also a faint strip of yellow between the brown and the blue.

The tree is made up of two layers of prefelt (white on top of grey), plus prefelt lichen in orange and very pale green. Using prefelt also gives a more textured effect more like bark. Let’s hope S likes it!

Felting get together

Every few months my partner Woman of the Cloth, Carol, organises a felting day with a few friends where we all bring a pot luck dish for lunch and catch up with news and gossip (and occasionally manage to make a bit of felt in between!).

I used the opportunity to make myself a new phone case, as my last one was wearing through. You can see it here in the centre, along with a nuno felt case made by Carol (above).

felt phone case

Happy new year to everyone!

RHS London Autumn Garden Show

RHS Autumn Garden show

Next week I’m taking part in my first RHS show in London. A lot of my customers are keen gardeners, so I thought this would be a good event to try.

As well as my ecoprinted and indigo upcycled scarves and garments, I’m going to try selling some felt pots. I really like making felt pots, and when I first had a market stall I tried selling them. Although people liked them, the most common question I was asked was “But what would I do with it?”.

Then recently I ran a felt pot making workshop at Brixton Windmill harvest festival. After the workshop, I sent one of the sample pots I made to my friend and festival organiser Magdalen. She promptly posted a photo on Instagram of two pots I had made for her, containing some succulents.

Felt pots
Image: Magdalen Rubalcava

This prompted a lightbulb moment – show, don’t tell! So I’m hoping that by showing people how they can be used, this will inspire them to think more creatively.

felt pot and succulent felt pot and succulent

I will also have a couple of the abstract seedpods to see if they attract any interest.

felt seedpods

Wish me luck!

SLWA My Place exhibition

I’m very excited to be taking part in the My Place exhibition organised by the South London Women Artists. The work of 30 artists will be on show, each exploring their sense of place and belonging.

My piece combines ombre-dyed cotton scrim and felt, because my place – where I feel most at home – is by the indigo vat.

ombre dyed felt

The colour indigo is traditionally thought to stimulate right brain or creative activity, but for me it is more of a meditative experience, disrupting the coppery sheen of the surface as I dip the fabric, and watching the magical alchemy as it turns from green to blue before my eyes. The white clouds in the sky above are mirrored by the clumps of foam, or indigo “flower”, floating on the surface of the vat.

My Place runs from 7 to 12 July at Brixton East 1871, 100 Barrington Road, London SW9 7JF, 11am-6pm daily.

The private view is on Friday 7 July, 6-9pm – everyone welcome!

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! 🙂

 

 

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.