Gorgeous Goodies

I haven’t had much spare time for felting this week but I did receive this gorgeous bundle of fibre from my blogland friend and fellow Artybird student, Jane Mercer of Takingaturn.

We did a fibre swap after she read my post about sculpting with different breeds and this lovely bundle arrived last weekend. So far I have only been able to make one piece. The purple bag at the bottom of the picture contains Cap Merino, a breed that I have read lots about but as yet not had a chance to play with. I was so excited to be able to try it out. From what I have read I was led to believe it would felt very quickly and form a very firm felt with a smooth (not at all hairy) surface.

Armed with this information I thought I was holding the Holy Grail of wools for sculptural felt so HAD to try making a 3D piece with it.

It didn’t quite felt as I expected, in fact it took a lot longer than most of the wools I had previously tried just to get to the prefelt stage. I was so surprised by this I made the same piece from BFL to see if I was just having an off day, but the Cap Merino took twice as long to felt as the BFL piece below.

Felting time aside, it does have some very nice qualities though, it does form quite a firm felt when compared with conventional merino (it’s not as firm as the coarser wools such as Finnish), and the surface is very smooth and soft. It also forms really nice sharp folds and does hold 3D shapes well.

This is what it looks like before felting, it’s a fine, very short staple fibre with some crimp:

Here is the piece I made (using the same resist template I used for the other sculpture tests).

And the BFL piece (I blended red and blue with a little white silk):

As promised in my last post, I have been playing with crayons and other mark making implements as part of my C&G course, doing this has been a real trip down memory lane, it’s just like being back in art class at primary school ;).  I expect to be using these as design inspiration for felt pieces. They all started out from images of bone cross sections like this.

Where has the time gone?

Gosh, I can’t believe it has been 3 weeks since I last posted. It has been a hectic few weeks of working on my City and Guilds assignments and chasing my own tail.

Here are some of the C&G things I have been up to as part of my Artybird course.

Do you recall the “Alien Signpost” piece I started a couple of months back? After much debate (no two people had the same idea about how I should cut it or hang it) I settled on the portrait version with the “torn paper” edge along the bottom.

It is a large piece (173 x 92cm / 5’8″ x 3′) that I think would look fantastic in a stairwell (shame I live in a bungalow).

I’m really pleased with how this piece turned out even though the integral hanging sleeve is in the wrong orientation! Note to self: don’t bother with integral hanging sleeves on abstract pieces, you’re always going to want to hang it on a different edge to the one you have planned! 😉

More recently I have been working on an assignment based on John Constable’s Cloud Studies. I confess I hadn’t appreciated just how prolific a painter he was, many of them are described as sketches but still stunning in their own right. Our assignment was to prepare some pastel drawings on different coloured backgrounds and then use those colours to make felt samples.

These are my pastel sketches.

 Dark blue paper

Light blue paper

Brown paper

All these sketches were derived from the same Constable painting but each has a very different feel, I think the middle one feels like the skies are clearing after a storm and has a freshness about it, while the other 2 feel like the storm is still building.

I was also very drawn to a painting of cirrus clouds, I just love the sense of movement and direction the white lines give this sketch.

And these are the pieces interpreted into felt, firstly with Norwegian wool:

And merino:

Next time – I revert back to my childhood and use wax crayons…

Planning for The Beach

It’s alright, I haven’t lost my few remaining marbles, sunbathing on British beaches in November really isn’t my cup of tea. I will leave that sort of activity to much hardier souls. The Beach, is a new felt picture I have been mulling over for several months, it is a piece that is quite emotional for me so I want to get it right. About 18 months ago Mr TB lost his mother (Bev) after a long battle with cancer, it was tough for everyone, but especially him being on the other side of the world (he is a Kiwi and most of his family still live there). One of my abiding memories of Bev is that she loved walking and would take their dog, Josie, to the local beach in Otaki almost every day, Josie loved it, always finding the most enormous branch to proudly carry along the beach and into the surf. Ever since I started working with felt, I have had this idea that I would like to depict this idyllic seaside scene in a painting for my father in law as a reminder of those happy times. We are flying back to NZ in Dec so I had better get a move on!

Finally, after much ruminating I have started sketching out some ideas in water colour, what do you think? Do you have a favourite?

Mr TB has already suggested that I choose another silhouette for the dog, although this is a typical Josie pose, head down, tail wagging in that “play with me” posture dog’s have (she always wants you to throw these enormous tree trunks that I can barely lift) I can see his point, it isn’t immediately recognisable as a dog.

Painting With Fibre Workshop

In the first week of October I spent a wonderful week in the the southern end of the Lake District with Kate and June. It was so lovely just to spend a whole week dedicated to making felt and the creative processes behind it. I didn’t have any fixed ideas about what I wanted to achieve during the week but I knew I wanted to explore adding more texture to my work, so far I have been adding layers of prefelt and using yarns and silk fabrics to create surface texture but still felt most of my wall hangings were distinctly two-dimensional. I have great admiration for painters and illustrators but I have always been drawn to three-dimensional arts, initially paper crafts, then ceramics and more recently willow sculpture. I think it is a combination of the tactile nature of these crafts and the challenge of thinking from multiple angles and view points that attracts me.

Kate provided a beautiful flower arrangement for us to work from, I was immediately drawn to the spiky blue sea hollies. Even now I am uncertain of the Gerbera, although it does help to balance the final composition.

We spent a few hours carding merino top to blend the colours that we could see in the flower arrangement and an afternoon sketching with paints and pencils, thinking about colours and composition. As you can see it has been a few years since I last tried to paint / draw. I think I should stick to textiles and sculpture!

We took photos as the pieces were developing. Here I was rearranging pieces of prefelt to find a pleasing combination for the background. At this stage I was far from convinced that I would like the finished piece.

This is what my piece looked like at the end of the week, just needs a few final tweaks…

I have since added some pink wire to support the Gerbera petals and some needle felting and now just need to figure out how to hang / mount it. I am thinking of using an artist’s canvas but should it be larger or smaller than the felt? I like the idea of the piece appearing to float away from the wall.

I love the way the finished piece looks so different as you move around the room, unlike a conventional painting, the shapes and colours change as you view it from different angles.

Kate also introduced us to the clover needle felting tool, I had seen these before but couldn’t see any advantage over the wooden needle handle I already had. Then I tried it, and my needle-felting world changed forever! It is amazing, I can’t explain how, but it makes needle felting larger areas a breeze, somehow the sprung needle-guard makes you bounce up and down vertically on the felt. It is now my favourite felting tool! If you are thinking of venturing into needle-felting I highly recommend it.