My piece combines ombre-dyed cotton scrim and felt, because my place – where I feel most at home – is by the indigo vat.
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!
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.
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.
Well, I’ve just about recovered from the hectic weekend. We had a few problems with the borrowed gazebo at the Abbeville Fete on Saturday – it didn’t have any of the connectors for the poles so we couldn’t put it up.
After some humming and hah-ing (the weather forecast was looking good), Kes got her other half to bring a slightly broken gazebo from home. And thank goodness she did, because halfway through the afternoon a massive hailstorm broke, lasting for around 10 minutes. We got a little damp, but nothing compared with the drenching we would have received without any shelter!
As a result of all the running around, I didn’t get many photos, but here are a few shots of happy felt flower makers at the Brixton Windmill Festival on Sunday.
Felt flowers and phone covers
Carol and I will be running more felt workshops as part of the Streatham Festival on 9 July. In the morning you can make felt flowers, in the afternoon a felt phone case. With the Tate exhibition on Georgia O’Keeffe about to open, large colourful flowers are going to be very fashionable! 🙂
Both sessions are aimed at beginners, and we provide all materials. To book one or both sessions, just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m also running a workshop on making felt seashells on 23 July at Carol’s studio in Streatham. This is aimed at people who have some experience at felting with resists, not complete beginners.
In the morning you will produce two shells using resists provided by me to practise the technique. In the afternoon you can experiment with your own resists to see what you can come up with! Space is limited so please book on Eventbrite.
Artrooms is an art fair held in a hotel, where selected artists are given a room each to display their work how they wish (within certain limitations, which include not trashing the room!).
I’ve submitted a proposal to turn the bathroom into a grotto covered in felt shells – and need your support to help it happen. Don’t worry – I’m not asking for money! 😉
All you have to do is go to my profile page here, click on the stars (preferably 5!) and click “Submit rating”. You don’t have to register, give your email or anything else – simples! Thank you for your support – much appreciated.
Please cross your fingers for good weather this coming weekend, as I’ve got two outdoor events coming up!
On Saturday I’m taking part in the Abbeville Fete, a great mix of street stalls, fancy dress parade, live music, dog show and other entertainment that also raises funds for charity. It will be your first chance to see my new range of upcycled indigo shibori tops, along with ecoprinted tops and my latest batch of scarves – some examples below.
I’ll be sharing a stall with Kes Young of Heart in Art Workshops, who makes wonderful mosaics, so it should be a great combination of colour and texture!
The Abbeville Fete is on Saturday 25 June, 12-6pm.
Then on Sunday I and my fellow felter Carol will be donning our Women of the Cloth hats and running free drop-in felting sessions at the Brixton Windmill Festival. The theme of the festival this year, the 200th anniversary of the windmill, is “trades and professions”, and as well as us felters there will be a furniture maker, blacksmith, bricklayer and of course millers and bakers.
Brixton Windmill Festival is on Sunday 26 June. It starts with a parade from Windrush Square at 1pm, marching up Brixton Hill to Brixton Windmill for the festival in Windmill Gardens, 2-4pm.
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!