January 2010 Archives

Felt is one of  oldest non-woven textiles. It is incredibly durable. It can be light weight and gossamer or as thick as saddle leather. It is 20 degrees fahrenheit in Boston today and as I sit in the store Bead + Fiber and watch the people scurry to their next warm destination, I think, they would be so much more comfortable if they were bundled up in felt. Among my many jobs to survive as an artist, I am the curator for a very unique gallery in Boston, MA, Bead + Fiber.   Teddy_Bear_Skull_Ursulus_lenis.jpg
It is unique in that it sells the materials for bead and fiber artists, conducts classes and workshops in bead and fiber techniques and about every six weeks I change the windows and the gallery space  with a new show. Presently, the show I have up now, "Handle With Care' is a group show of artists who use the handbags as as a means of expression,

The owner of the gallery and a bead artist, Andrea Garr is off visiting her girls in Colorado and then off to Tuscon for the biggest, baddest bead show in the US. SO I am gallery sitting for her today, and since it is so bloody freezing here in Boston, no one is coming into the store, I have decided to spend the day surfing the web looking for felt artists.

This image on the left is not an anthropological find. It is the phenomenal art of Stephanie Metz. Her art is an example of what a humble craft, can become in the hands of an artist. Stephanie creates her sculptures, by needle felting, yes, just one poke at a time, this sculpture is from "The Teddy Natural History" series .  Her work is elegant, well executed and frightening. Her work makes me question the innocence of toys, evolutionary science, genetic engineering and parenthood. I love going back to her site repeatedly to see what has evolved out of her very fertile imagination. Super_Suckler_Pig_Extra_Teats_Angle.jpg

On the right is " Super Suckler" from the series "Overbred Animals"  . This series addresses genetic engineering for our betterment, bigger chicken breasts, more milk and the unintended consequences of these quests.

Her latest work is titled " Pelts "  in her statement, she talks about the overwhelming feelings of becoming a parent and the all encompassing  instinctual urges we all have to protect and care  for our young. She goes on to say that after you strip away all our fancy gadgets, abilities, we are just mammals and the thing that all mammals have is hair. This image is titled "Pink Checkered Dress" it is felted wool over a found childs' dress. Stephanie lives in San Francisco. I hope to somday meet her and see her work in person, to let her know how deeply her work has affected me.Pink_Checkered_Dress.jpg

 


What an an absolutely marvelous time I had yesterday.  I worked with Rachel Worrall, Carolyn Ross and her assistant Carmen at Wellesely College's greenhouse, producing photos of my seamless nuno felted creation, "Earth". I have always wanted to create something that evolved around the four elements, and though I paint and have made many paintings, which somtimes include one of the elements, as a series, I could never quite see my way to a complete narrative.

When I started imagining making seamless garments- envisioning the designs, colors and styles-that is when I found my narrative thread, (no pun intended). Fiber, wool, felt are all so elemental. I don't think it is a stretch to say that the four elements are involved in the creation of felt. There is the wool, from sheep who feed on and fertilize the earth. Water, a very necessary ingredient for creating firm solid felt. Air, well, anyone who has ever made felt, will tell you how much effort one exerts in the rolling and beating, stretching of the wool, all of which requires air. Lastly fire, in felt, hot water will speed the felting process along, and hot water, requires fire.

I am planning on creating four ensembles to represent the four elements. I started with "Earth" I used lots of different greens from my B. Felt palette, and some hot house flower colors. I think I was trying to escape, at least in my mind, the stark cold reality of winter in Boston.

 Next I will get to work on water. I just purchased some spectacular hand painted blue silk chiffon from Gorgeous Fabrics. I am imagining a little cocktail dress with lots of flirty ruffles. Oh well we will see,. I begin by drawing, but then something happens when I actually start manipulating the fabric, It talks to me, directs me to its form and colors. As artists we should always pay attention to those voices. I know that if I try to force an idea instead of just grabbing it by the tail and allowing it to pull me along, I am inevitably disappointed..

 

Felt Flowers Redoux

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Yes, another entry about felt flowers, I have two dozen made, but not quite finished yet. Last night, however I put three of them to use, creating a headpiece for Rachel to wear for today's photo shoot  with Carolyn Ross at Wellesley Colleges' greenhouses.
Hat making 1.jpgI was fooling around in my studio trying to attach the flowers to the felted green cording in the picture, (the cording was originally intended for the back of the Nuno felt dress) without much luck. Then inspiration struck, or maybe desperation since it was 5 PM and I knew I needed something by 8:30 AM today. Why not wrap the cord around an already existing headband? Of course, I didn't have one in my studio so it was off to CVS to buy my supplies and finish the felt headpiece at home. I also brought home, all my flowers, left over green cord from another project (has a little bit of glitz in it) pins, thread, sewing needles and glue.

I wrapped the felted cord tightly around the headband with  glue along the back. Than I took the odd piece of felt cord and attached it to the felt cord, already glued down on the headband. I attached it by stitching it down, in such a way, to make the cord undulate across the headband.

Then I went all out wrapping and stitching cord  and finallyHat making 2.jpg
I stitched the the felt flowers. I also had made some free, form felt leaves. the leaves were made from pre-felt. The felt leave were used judiciously on cords that hang from the headpiece and I also attached them on the end of the band.
 
I took this picture at 11:45 PM last night. I went to bed convinced that I had failed. I just couldn't tell if it was going to work. I tried it on and well, lets just say mother nature would be ban me from the garden.   
Hat finished.jpg Doubts, Doubts and more Doubts which are all part of the artists dilemma. I decided to ignore the left brain critic and brought the felted headpiece to the shoot anyway. What did I have to loose? It wouldn't be the first time something that I had made ended  up in the circular file.  BUT not this time, the shoot at the greenhouse went better than I could have hoped and I will post pictures and videos tomorrow. When I placed the felted headpiece on Rachel, it tied the whole Nuno felted jacket and Nuno felt dress together.  On Rachel, the headpiece comes alive and the scale is perfect. I love this picture of her. Thank you Rachel and Carolyn Ross for the beautiful photograph.

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      What a dreary day in Boston, rain, rain and more rain, but at least you don't have to shovel rain. It was  perfect day to be felting in my studio. I worked on finishing the felt flowers that my model Rachel will wear in her hair for the photo shoot on Wednesday. I am still uncertain as to whether I should bead the flowers. Here is my dilemma, on the left is the felt flower in all its glorious "feltedness"


 On the right, is the felt flower I beaded as a gift for my    flower with beads.jpg
ex-assistant Oa. I think the beads make it look spectacular, but it takes me two and half hours to bead!!! As beautiful as they are, I can't charge enough to make up for my time. What to do.? I retail my simple felted flowers for $30. I would have to charge at least $50 in order to make the embellishments worth my time. I suppose I can make a few and see what the market says.

I love the color of this felt flower. I blended three different colors of my merino wool roving. Rubrum Lily
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La Sunrise LA Sunrise.jpg




Black Raspberry   Black Rasberry.jpg Three very luscious hot colors. Just the medicine for a miserable winter day. All these colors and more are available in my boutique .

Sunday was the going away party for Oa and I gave her the felted flower broach. Doesn't she look beautiful wearing it?oa & Flower.jpg


I think a lot about felting and cooking, because they are alike in a great many ways. Let's say, I am going to make a salad.I start off with a basic recipe, and then along the way, some other ingredient catches my fancy and I decide to add it to the mix. When I make a scarf I go through the same thought process. Will the scarf, be solid wool felt, nuno felt or a combination of the two. In making the scarf below, I wanted something warm, but light, Nuno felt  (laminate felt) was the solution. A nuno scarf always starts with wool and a lightweight, transparent fabric ( I prefer silk). How I combine the two, how much wool I use, will I use other inclusions, will I place the design on both sides, how much I agitate.... these can all be impromptu, or well planned decisions, depending on my mood. It is just like making a salad.






 
I mentioned making salad, because yesterday I went to a dinner party at my good friends' and studio mates' home, Lisa Houck.  She is a wonderful artist and a fabulous cook. My contribution to the meal of wheat berry soup, artichokes and salmon steaks was a humble salad. A winter salad came to mind, something with hearty greens and beets.  I love beets, especially their incredible purple, with ruby undertones color. The color reminds me of one of my new wools in my B.Felt boutiquePurple Rain.JPGan exquisite,violet, merino wool roving. Well, I digress, as in the making of my Orange Crush scarf, my salad started with two ingredients, hearty greens -a combination of spinach and arugula-and oven roasted beets. To this, I added shaved fennel, toasted walnuts, lemon flavored goat cheese, parsley, scallions and tossed with a pomegranate vinaigrette dressing, resulting in a delicious and well composed salad and like my scarf equally as beautiful.
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The temperature is dropping here in Boston and I miss my little garden in the city. I should call it what it really is a "yardette". But in the spring and summer right into the fall, I call it paradise. I love flowers in all their infinite variety. So today I decided to cure my craving by finishing the felt flowers my former assistant Oa had made for me. I usually finish the felt flowers with a lot of beading. I'm a big fan of the adage, "why do less when you can do more?" But this time, I'm not so sure. These felt flowers were created a little differently than my usual  wool felt flowers.                                                                                                                                                            This time, I decided to do some freestyle embroidery first to help the felt flowers lay flat. I learned the embroidery technique in a workshop I took last year with Lisa Klakulak . By embroidering in the center of the felt flower, over and over, the wool is compressed making the center of the flower pop up. I love this technique. But I am in a quandary. 
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Do I embellish with beads or not? I love the way the felt flowers look without the beads. However, it goes against my nature to not gild the lilly, no pun intended.  At least one of these felt flowers will be embellished and that is the flower I am giving to Oa at her going away party Sunday night. Maybe, when I see that flower finished I will know which way to go. 




If any you have tried freestyle embroidery on wool felt you probably have a stash of machine needles just like I have. I think, I have tried every needle on the market and no matter what I do they break. 
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Now, I believe I have finally found the perfect needle. Schmetz, Microtex 80/12. I tried it all day yesterday and the same needle is still in the machine! I used all kinds of threads, cotton, rayon, Sulky all with equally good results. It makes me want to try some more embroidery on wool felt.

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It is January in Boston. Cold, dark, and gray.  Everywhere I look the streets are devoid of color. I crave color, especially in the dark days of winter. I look forward to everyday going into my studio and visually devouring the luscious colors of my wool roving. There are greens, that remind me of the beginnings of spring and the hot humid days of summer. Blues that place me on my back gazing into the skies, to strolling along a mountain lake or the oceans edge. Then my gaze falls on the beguiling pinks, the first blush, the strawberry ice cream to the hot flamingo pink. I can't forget the purples, delicate shy lavenders, dusty mauves, the purple on the edge of a sunset. Soon the  yellows beckon me, warm curry, hot golden yellow and the cool lemon yellows lead me to the reds. They promise the heat I am craving, red of chili peppers, the sultry red of  a sunrise, oranges that send a golden glow over everything and deep reds that promise comfort.

This is what I see when I look at my wool roving, my wool color palette. I have been selling my wool on ebay, but I have decided to take a leap of faith and sell my beautiful hand picked wool roving colors, here in the B. Felt Boutique. I'll have over 70 colors available on my site www.bfelt.com. It is a daunting task to put all the wool on a site and I have my wonderful husband, Chip and my son Ian are helping me. I think we have 50 colors online now and we will be putting new colors up daily. My wool is beautiful, soft and 100% Merino Wool.  I have hand picked the colors for their very rich hues. We have all worked hard to accurately describe the colors and I think I came up with a novel way of doing so, Crayola crayons. So for every color of wool roving I am offering for sale I have attempted to find the corresponding crayon or crayons that come closest to the colors. 

So indulge, your color cravings. I am selling my wool by the ounce and SHIPPING is free.  

Nuno Seamless Felt Dress

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Today, I had my friend, and the wonderful model Rachel Worrall came to my studio. I had her try on the nuno felted dress and discovered a problem. Not one that is visible, nor even fatal. It seems that, even though I had produced the dress for her and had measured very carefully, when it dried it got smaller. (Lesson learned, be sure to place a form inside so as the garment dries it retains its' shape) So what your are looking at is a bit of a fudge.

I had to take scissors to the back of the dress, GASP, a bold move. But one, that I believe will ultimately make for a better garment and me a better felter. Rachel suggested that I add laces to the back of the garment. I thought the idea was brilliant, and I actually believe it is more in keeping with my idea that this garment, the first in my new Elements Collection will be more earth like. The laces will be like vines trailing down her back.I can't wait to get started. I have to have it finished by next Wednesday for the official photo shoot with Carolyn Ross. We are planning on take the photos in the greenhouses of Wellesley College

Carolyn is beautiful photographer, and a good friend. I love her work and she has done some amazing work for me. Look at her website, http://www.carolynrossphoto.com  to see how talented she is. 


rachel shawl back.jpgHere Rachel is wearing the jacket ,which fit her perfectly. She and I both love the way you can toss the drape over our shoulders, and it flutters  as you walk. It is utterly feminine. Here is one more picture, this time from the front. You can really see the "wings". I want to make one to fit me!  Doesn't it look beautiful on Rachel?

I have some really exciting news about my new online boutique but it will have to wait for tomorrow. I don't want to miss Project Runway.


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My First Seamless Felt Garments.

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I have been wanting to make a seamless felt garment for sometime now, but with holiday orders and all my obligations, the project had to be put on hold. Now that the holidays are over, I am so excited to start! It was so much fun to create a full seamless garment and such a puzzle. I made the jacket/shawl/shrug first . I only had a vague idea on how it was going to come together.

The first problem I encountered, was that, although I wanted a seamless garment, there was no way I could lay it out in one piece on my table. SO , my assistant, Oa and I pondered the problem and came up with a work-around. 

First, we cut the pattern, a back, two sleeves and what looked like the wings on a pre-historic butterfly. The back is a nuno with green silk chiffon, and various shades of green wool and inclusions  of other green silk materials ( I'll take close ups tomorrow), The sleeves were done in in a lattice weave going from light green to dark forest green. The "wings" are nuno on iridescent green silk chiffon with various shades of green merino wool roving on both sides.

We pre-felted everything separately . Then I pulled out my babylock needle felter, (for the first time I might add) , and needled the seams together. We than made a plastic foam resist, placed it  
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between the back, the wings and inside the sleeves and continued to felt. When everything was holding together, we then fulled the jacket without the resists.  This is a detail of the jacket's sleeves. 


Below, you see what the wings do when crossed over the chest. Tomorrow, I will write about making the dress. AND. I will have a model trying it on, so I will have new pictures.
This is the most complicated garment I have made to date and I am tickled with how it came out.

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This has inspired me to start a little "collection" with this being the first based on the four elements.This jacket and dress represent earth, I think I will tackle air next: A WEDDING GOWN!!!





Oa's last felted flowers.

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I have had the pleasure of making felt with a wonderful young women for the last four months. Oa Sjoblom, is a recent graduate of Vassar, with a degree in Art History, along the way to her degree she discovered that she wanted to be an art conservationist, but  because she had majored in art history she had neglected to to take chemistry or studio classes. This is how she came to be my assistant for the last four months here in Boston. 



While she was completing her required courses to enable her to take her dream job in New DSC_6789-Edit.jpgOrleans, she worked for me on a part time basis, during my busy season. With absolutely no felting experience, but a genuine curiosity for the process, we worked side by side for four wonderful months. I will miss her greatly! 

The first thing I had her make in my studio was my Wooly Body Scrubbers, (soap wrapped in felted wool). Next, we learned to make flet flowers and finally, she helped me complete my first Nuno felted dress and jacket, (pictures are coming). DSC_6821-Edit.jpgIt is fitting that on her last day she made 12 flower corsages and she did it in under 2 hours whereas the first time she made these flowers it took four hours to complete 6 !!! I would say she has come a long way along that felted road. So off she goes next week to the big easy and now I am looking for another assistant. Good luck, Oa! 
I just found this video of Martha Stewart talking about the Cooper-Hewit National Museum Fashioning Felt Exhibit which was in New York during 2009.  I love the video about making felt, so here it is!
I have compiled a series of short videos from a recent nuno felting class. These videos cover laying out the wool, making an olive oil soap mixture, wrapping the scarves in bubble wrap to agitate the wool so it will laminate with the silk, how to roll wool correctly to get the wool to migrate through the silk weave, and how to remove the peel the netting off that has been holding the piece together.   Let me know if you like the series.

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"Felting Over A Ball", Day 2

I taught a great felting workshop this weekend with two wonderful felting students. We learned a felting technique called "felting over a ball" to make 3-D sculptural wool vessels. On the first day of the workshop we laid out the wool on our Gertie balls, put the ball and the wool in the pantyhose to hold the wool on the ball, and began to wet the wool with warm soapy water.  On the second day , we  continued to agitate the wool by rolling the balls on bubble wrap, then we deflated the Gertie ball removed it from inside the vessel and started to shape wool vessel into a form we liked.  The vessel is rubbed vigorously on a wash board to harden all the edges and stretched into shape as the wool felts.

IMG_0575-ball-in-pantyhose.jpg Here is what our felting project looks like inside the pantyhose when we start the second day.
The vessel is removed from the pantyhose that held it together. It has begun to felt! Now the wool has enough integrity that we can begin to add hot water and soap to shape and harden up the wool. IMG_0580-removing-pantyhose-2.jpg
IMG_0604-working-the-fibers.jpg The vessel is rubbed on a washboard to agitate the wool,
pulled, IMG_0614-hardening-the-edges-2.jpg
IMG_0615-stretching-and-elongating-the-vessel.jpg and stretched into shape.
and voila!  

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Beautiful Felted Vessels!  Felting is magic when it happens!

TThis weekend I am teaching an exciting felt making workshop on making 3-D sculptural felt vessels using the "felting over a ball" technique developed by Beth Beede, a very creative Massachusetts felt maker.  There is a good description of the technique at: http://www.spinsterstreadle.com/norwegian_wool_vessel.pdf.  Also Carol Cypher describes the technique in her book" how we felt".  Pat Sparks has another good post on her site at "Experiments with Hat on a Ball".

With all this background, here are some pictures to inspire you. These photos were taken of
my class yesterday. We had very enthusiastic felt makers! (Thanks to Ann Marie and Sharon for letting me use their photos) I'll post some videos of the class, as well, so you can hear and see how  the steps are done when using the "felting over a ball" technique.  

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The first step is to lay the wool over a 9" deflatable Gertie brand ball. (You can click through the pictures to  enlarge the image)







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Then you carefully lay down the wool in layers.  We will be adding about eight layers of wool on the ball.








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You pat the wool down so it stays on the ball.









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As you are laying out the wool, you can add more colors.  Since the wool fibers will migrate as the wool is agitated, the colors will show through in the final vessel.  You can achieve wonderful blends of color and texture by doing this.



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Now, I have 8 layers of wool covering the Gertie ball.  You can see how big this ball of wool gets!  in this picture I am decorating my vessel  with silk fibers, acrylic yarns, and sparkling cellulose fibers so the outside of the vessel will look really interesting when I am finished.





IMG_0575-ball-in-pantyhose.jpgThen we push this gigantic ball into a pair of pantyhose to hold the vessel together as we agitate the wool.  Here is what it looks like when we have stuffed the wool ball into the pantyhose.





This was the first day of two 4 hour workshops.  In the next post, I will show you remove to the vessel from the pantyhose and continue the felting process.  More to come!

Life As An Itinerant Felt Maker

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New year, new felting classes. I teach felting at three different locations and I am forever packing and unpacking my car. I am always in fear of having forgotten something, and inevitably I do. Yesterday I taught at a felt hat class  Bead + Fiber,   to two delightful sisters. Maureen and Martha.  So what did I forget? My glass washboard. I love my glass washboard for making 3-d objects. After you have rolled and "fulled" the wool to a certain point, the washboard makes the "fulling" process go so quickly. Lucky for me, these two women were such good rollers and fullers that the washboard was unnecessary. What! You haven't tried a glass washboard? If you work on 3-d felt, it should be in your tool stash, you can buy one at Columbus washboard company. They are the last washboard manufacturing company in the USA http://www.columbuswashboard.com/martha hat class.jpg This is Martha laying out her hat and in the background you can see Maureen working on her hat.
maureen hat class.jpgHere is Maureen laying out her hat.

If you live in the Worcester area, I will be teaching a 6 week felting course starting on February 24th at the Worcester Art Museum, www.worcesterart.org/Education/Tomorrow night they will having an adult ed open house. from 5:30 - 7:30 come by and say hello. I will be doing a felting demonstration and would love to see you there. There will be free eats and drinks. 

I also have a few classes coming up at the Boston Center for Adult Educationhttp://bcae.org/  On January 23rd I will be teaching a Nuno shawl class and then on Jan 31st I will be teaching Embellished felted, beads, baubles, lariats and flowers.

There is still room in all the classes and if you register and let me know by e-mail your name will be entered to win a fabulous scarf kit, a $60. value. 

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Here are some images of Judit Pócs Felt Hats that I really like.  I clipped them from the tutor gallery. I find all of her work inspiring!









How to Felt: Nuno Felting

One of my favorite felting techniques is Nuno felting.  I thought I'd take a little time to describe how Nuno felt is made, and the history of Nuno felting.

Nuno felting, also known as laminated felting, is the process of melding wool and another fabric, such as silk or cotton, together.  Nuno was popularized by Polly Stirling and Sachiko Kotaka, who wanted to create a lightweight summery version of felt.  The technique involves a lot less wool than regular felting.  During the process, the wool travels through the fabric and catches it, bunching up around where the wool is laid.  Here is a detailed photograph of a recently made nuno felted shawl:

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To nuno felt, you need to take silk or cotton and lay thin layers of wool on the fabric.  The fabric needs to be able to be breathed through.  The reason for this is that the wool will travel through almost any fabric, but, for it to be easily done, the fabric must be thin enough that the wool can pass through easily.

I'm working on creating a nuno felt kit as well as teaching classes on nuno felt.  My classes are available through Bead and Fiber, Worcester Art Museum and Boston Center for Adult Education.
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New Year, New Felt

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We all start out the New Year with high resolve. Maybe on your list is learning new  felting techniques or just becoming more aware of what others are doing in the medium. Right now, there are two artists who are inspiring me to greater experimentation in felting. The
first is Judit Pócs a Hungarian feltmaker extraordinaire; I purchased her DVD, On Gentle Threads, a film by Judit Pócs and  István Rittgasser, without many expectations. I had 
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seen one of her amazing hat sculptures and was just hoping to see more, and if I didn't like it, I was going to send it back. I have now watched it about a dozen times! Each time is a total inspiration! It is not a "how to video", though we do see her creating this fabulous rug, you cannot learn to felt by watching this video. What you do get is a glimpse into this astounding artist's creative mind. The film gives this wonderful overview of the felt process from sheep to finished product. On Gentle Threads is filled with the rich color and texture of wool. Judit Pócs tells a very compelling story with animation and digital special effects. If you have $45 burning in your pocket, or a birthday coming up, and you are a felt devotee, get a copy of this DVD. I purchased it through New England Felting Supply.

 I wish I could find a web site devoted to her work, but it doesn't seem to be that she has her own site. I know, I must be doing something wrong in my search. If anybody out there can direct me to her site, I would be be most grateful. 


Go to "Felting Fashion: Creative and Inspirational Techniques for Feltmakers" page

 
Another source for inspiration for me has been Lizzie Houghton, Felting Fashion:Creative and Inspirational Techniques for Feltmakers.  This book is billed as a "how-to-book", but only if you have quite a bit of experience will you be able to puzzle out the directions. That said, if you forgot about the exercises and projects, this is a book of colorful inspiration. If I am stuck about color a look through her book and I am newly inspired. She has a gift for combining, blending colors and textures that is both original, witty and modern. Her fearlessness allows me to take bigger challenges in my choices of color and fabric. You can purchase this book by going through my website on the books page. 

Lizzie is a British feltmaker and you can learn more about her, see her latest work and her schedule on her website, http://www.lizziehoughton.com/

I would love to hear who inspires you in your felt making? Comment and tell us who you look to when for inspiration, new techniques and challenges. Happy New year and Happy Felting.
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