Archive for January, 2011

After receiving several inquiries and requests last fall about teaching felt-making I decided to give it a go.  I’ve taught felt-making before, but always returned to studio work with little desire to continue teaching.  However, after much thought I decided I would like to try again.  It sounded like fun.  And of course, who wouldn’t want to give others the opportunity to fall in love with one’s very own passion?

I have set up four workshops over the course of this winter.  The first one, learning to make a nuno felt scarf, took place this past Saturday. 10 women came and we spent the day making felt. Here are some pictures of the students hard at work.

Ooops…lunch break.  Hard work for some.  I actually found one of the biggest challenges of the day was to get people to stop working, sit down and eat lunch!

It was fun, at least for me.  From the feedback I’ve received, the students enjoyed it too. It was also exhausting.  However, each person left with a unique and beautiful scarf.

I’d like to show off this one particular scarf.  It was made by a woman who earnestly informed me at the outset that she is not at all creative.  But she had this dragon fly pin with her and she wanted to make a scarf she could wear with it. Here is the scarf layed out.  (Yes, it is nuno.  The silk is underneath).  I regret not getting a photo of it once it was felted.

Here is our group photo, everyone draped in their scarf.

As teachers always say, I learned some things from my students as well.  I realized that there are skills I have and small helpful tricks I know that I often think are common knowledge.  Or at least common knowledge amongst fiber people. You know, that ain’t necessarily so.  Something I was reminded of on Saturday.  It has helped me to appreciate that much more all I do know, and those who have shared their knowledge with me.

Out of the workshop came some interesting questions as well. There is a point in felt-making where beginning students get a bit impatient.  It is the rolling part of the process. It seems like it goes on forever.  In truth it’s about one hour of physical work. One is rolling, rolling, rolling — but nothing is happening.  Then BINGO ! and the wool has migrated into the silk and is ready for the next step. I am always afraid I’ll lose people during the rolling.

I was talking to my friend, George, about this.  George is a fine woodworker.  He mentioned he thought most crafts went through a stage that involves long periods of physical labor for the crafts person, but seems to result in no changes in the product. This is so different than say, painting, where every effort causes changes. An interesting insight.

Ah, back to the questions…..Have we as a culture become so out-of-touch with making things that we have expectations of instant creation?  Are we so used to going to the store and receiving instant gratification (if we can just get the thing unwrapped) that we no longer appreciate what it takes to make something?  One of my students said, in the middle of this day, “Now I understand why when I see these scarves for sale they are so expensive.”  It reminds me of a quote I read years ago, though I’ve altered it a bit.  “It takes a long time to make a beautiful piece of felt, just like it takes a long time to make a friend”.






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Today I get to share the Santa Fe inspired pieces with you.  All 3 of the pieces in this series are felted and hanging on my studio wall.

Work always seems so crude to me at this point.  Unpressed, without the adornment of stitching or beading, no frames.  None of the subtle details that enhance a piece of work. Rather like what I see in the mirror each morning when I arise. I’m sure you know what I mean: hair uncombed, no earrings, etc.

However, what is strong in these 3 pieces, even at this point, are the colors.  It is fascinating to me as I pay more attention to the sun at each end of it’s daily course the huge differences in palette and color placement that nature creates.  So much depends on exactly which moment one looks at.  Everything changes within seconds.  It is miraculous. My intent was to capture some of that in these pieces.

Before we look at each piece more carefully I’d like to share with you a few of the sunrise pictures I took when in Santa Fe. These serve as my inspiration and my starting point.  Then I move on from there, changing… tweaking….  In this series I also used some photographs I’d collected from magazines and calendars to guide me with color combinations and placements.  No piece is an exact replica of any photo.  Each is a synthesis of many.

Now let’s look at my pieces in a little more detail. I showed the background fabric and the start of the lilac layout in my last post (January 6), but I’ll repeat it here.

Yep, there’s a blue one and a pink one and a yellow one.

I started with the lilac palette on the blue background, and here it is with the wools layed out.

In the foreground I tried to capture that special yellow-beige color of the sand and grasses of New Mexico. It always evokes feelings of dry and thirsty for me.  And mystery. In contrast, the vibrancy of the colors of the sunrise seem even more resplendent.  See the sun peeking out as it rises?

More and more I find myself blending colors with my hand carders.  It lends a richer and more true feel, especially to landscapes.  After all, if you examine any color in nature carefully it’s very hard to find a pure hue.  What with natural variation and shadows….

And now silk to represent the mountains in the middle ground, and trees and shrubs in the foreground — felting finished.

Next I worked on the pink.  This time I managed to get a few more pictures during the laying out process.  Unlike the last one, there’s no picture of just the wool layout, but there are pictures of each stage of imagery on top of the wool.  First just the mountains.  Then the addition of trees and shrubs.

Some of the trees are silk, some pre-felts.  A pre-felt is a partially felted piece of wool.  Usually it is dry (or needle) felted, not wet felted.  I like to use pre-felts for the different texture it lends, and also the sharp edges of an image.

Here is the last piece, the yellow one. Layed out and ready to go.

Now, felted and hanging on the wall.

I will admit, I am partial to this one.  It is the brightness of the sun — how it just seems to reach out and grab me — that seems so special.

I currently have no less than 15 pieces hanging on the walls of my studio, waiting to be stitched, beaded and framed.  I have made a commitment to myself to spend these last weeks of January at the sewing machine, or with an embroidery hoop, or at my framing table in order to finish everything up before adding new works.  BUT….this past week I went snow shoeing at a nearby park where the stones and snow in the river called out to me.  I’ve got this piece in my head which I’ve been carrying around since then. How am I going to contain it for 2 or more weeks?

As I sit at my desk, typing away, I can see that all my bird feeders are empty.  With two and a half feet of snow on the ground my birds need some easy access food. I wonder if they consider my feeders “fast food” like MacDonalds or Pizza Hut?  Time to go.

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My goodness, where does the time go? Here I am wishing everyone a Happy New Year and we’re already a week into this year!  I have the feeling that 2011 will be a wonderful year for all of us.  I can feel creative juices churning, excitement mounting, and expression imminent. What more can an artist ask for? This month will celebrate a full year that I have been blogging.  It’s been fun for me, as well as worthwhile.  Writing this blog makes me pause, look, think and then try and verbalize what my work is about for me.  I hope it has been fun and worthwhile for you as well. One of my New Years Goals (I make a list of art – related goals each Dec. to be worked on during the next year) to be be more regular with my blog postings.  I’d like to post weekly as I did when starting out.

Are you wondering why I haven’t posted in so many weeks? I was off on an adventure, traveling in the southwestern U.S.  It was a marvelous time and I am totally inspired by the beauty of this land. Brimming over with ideas and inspiration.

I spent quite a bit of time at the Grand Canyon.  It was my first visit there.  I must agree with Teddy Roosevelt, who said “The Grand Canyon is something every American should see.” So if you haven’t, you must!  What a marvel!  I didn’t take many pictures.  I figured that plenty of professional photographers have taken (and published ) splendid pictures that are so much better than anything I could take.  Instead I tried to soak up the sights (and sites), the feelings, the colors, and the textures.  It is that which I wanted to bring home and incorporate into my work.  Having said that, here are couple of pictures I did take.  The first is one of those amazing long vistas with some special close-up interest.  Just the kind of thing I like to use as a starting point for a piece of felt.

I had a fantastic time riding a mule down to the bottom of the canyon.  Here’s a picture of me and Milo the mule.

And one last shot, down at the bottom, looking back up and out.

After a wonderful time at Grand Canyon I drove down to Tucson to see dear friends and then on to Santa Fe, also to visit with friends.  While in Santa Fe I visited with my friend Martha Kennedy, painter extraordinaire (www.marthakennedy.com).  The pressure was on as Martha has 2 solo exhibits opening during January.  So we worked.  She painted and I made a few scarves that I wanted as samples for an upcoming workshop I’m teaching.  It was fun to go back to basics and make simple (but hopefully beautiful) scarves that show different ways to make a nuno felt scarf.

This first scarf started out with a black piece of silk that has large pink flowers on it.  I chose to line the whole “back” side with bright pink wool.  It came through the black beautifully creating a most scrumptious purple color. And since I used a very, very fine silk chiffon the ruching is oh so very delicate.

This second scarf used the same silk fabric.  However, this time I laid the wool just around the perimeter and then in horizontal stripes along its length.  The ruching is quite different as you can see and more of the silk shows.  Not my most favorite composition, but a good example of how the wool and silk can interact for a different effect.

I was away for three weeks.  Coming home and back into the studio was difficult.  I felt rather disconnected.  I had all kinds of interesting ideas from my travels, but just couldn’t quite access them.  So I decided I needed something simple and known to work on and reconnect me to my studio space and my work.  Scarves were the answer!  I wanted more examples to show my upcoming class. Here are 3 layed out on my table.  3 different looks all using the same fabric.

My mother was kind enough to model two of the scarves once they were done. Neither picture does justice to the ruching of the felt.  Sorry. But they do show Mom’s spark and joie de vivre.

My last “reconnecting” project was to start hemming placemats I’ve been making for myself.  See the post of Oct. 1st to catch a glimpse.  They’re still not quite done, but I should be posting them soon.  So Stay tuned!

Each morning I was at Martha’s in Santa Fe I would get up early, make a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise out of her living room windows.  Everyday it was different — and gorgeous.  I did some sketching in order to remember and now I have started a 3 piece series, “Sunrise Over Santa Fe”.  Lots more  about them next time. But here’s a sneak preview of the back cloths and the start of laying out some wool. Your eyes are not fooling you.  There really is a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one.

In addition, I have been spending a lot of time on advertising the upcoming felt-making workshops I will be teaching this winter.  Sending out flyers, press releases, and talking with interested people.  All the administrative tasks take so much time.  I’m really forward to teaching and I know all the leg work (and time) will pay off .

Time to go to the studio.  More again soon.

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