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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Felt Hats, Slippers and more...

It's been a very busy couple of weeks with the last workshops of the year and the start of the Christmas Fairs. I had some more 'Hats' and 'Slippers' days, plus a wonderful 'Painting with Fibres' workshop, which resulted in these stunning pictures...



































All the workshops produced amazing work, as the photos below show and there will be more workshop photos to follow ...



































 
The 'Slippers' workshops continue to be really popular, together with 'Hats'. They are both ambitious projects and take a lot of hard work to complete in the day...



































The 'Hats' workshops were new for this autumn. Not being a hat wearer myself I did have some reservations so I decided to keep things as simple as possible offering two basic shapes - a beret or cloche. Everyone had made either a bag or bowl previously with me, so the process of working around a resist was understood. It was just a question of sizing templates and thinking about the various design aspects of the hat, colour & shape. Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned that the hats can be reversible… that really did complicated things! 

During the felting process it does help to actually put the hat on to check for fit. The fact that the hats were very wet did not deter my determined feltmakers - plastic bags were worn, hats were massaged in situ and everyone went home with rather flat hair… 

I'm hoping to get some better shots of the finished (DRY) hats and will post them up as soon as I can…

At the moment I'm right in the middle of the Christmas events and I've just had a wonderful weekend at Dimbola's Art & Craft Fair. Thank you to everyone who came along and bought their felt work to show me. It was free entry to the Photographic Museum so lots of people took the opportunity to combine Christmas shopping with seeing the exhibits. I had my usual spot in the Dining Room and was able to display my felt bowls on Julia's mantle piece as last year (see "Connections with the Past...")

This week finds me back at Quarr Abbey and the weather promises to be mild & sunny, so it couldn't be better for some more Christmas shopping...  

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

"TWISTS & TURNS" One Year On...

This weekend saw a complete turn-around for me, participating in a workshop instead of holding one! Tim Johnson a basket maker & artist of international reputation, who is based here on the island, came to our S,W & D Guild meeting on Saturday. Tim began the day with an illustrated talk about his work, his influences & inspirations…


... and he bought along some wonderful examples from his own collection of basketry from around the world, lots of practical everyday objects, even a woven spoon! 
The parallels with felt were astonishing - the same functional items appear - 
slippers, bowls, bags - just made with different materials.


In the afternoon Tim showed us how to twist, roll and ply natural fibres into strings & rope using soft rush, iris & bullrush. It was an inspiring day, which set me thinking about ways of introducing twisted fibres into felt work as functional handles or pure decoration. Certainly some of the basket shapes from his collection lend themselves to felt, especially the beautiful round basket with the simple wood handle.

Today also marks two special anniversaries…  First, it's our dear friend Eric Geddes' birthday and, as recently we've been experimenting with some new ideas, we decided to put these into practise by making him a bowl…  KC felted it extremely well, making it firm & fuzzy with a wonderful organic feel. 
We hope he likes it!


It is also one year to the day since I began this blog. The original intention was purely practical - it seemed a good way to advertise forthcoming workshops & events and to display my work. Considering my intended audience was very specific and local to West Wight I can't believe how it's grown and generated so much interest world-wide! I've had over 11,000 viewings from well over 50 countries.

The felt making workshops continue on a very local level here in Freshwater & Newport, but also slightly further afield in Ventnor in a week's time. I could never have anticipated the 'international' interest in this very localised blog.  

Very many thanks to everyone who has logged on in this past year, whether intentionally seeking information about workshops in Freshwater, or by pure chance in some far away corner of the world…

Thank you for looking!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Introducing TRIXY FELTS...

I'd been thinking about making a felt doll for a while to use as a mascot for the blog and an image to promote the feltmaking workshops. Ideas kept growing and I put aside various oddments, scraps of fabric, felt & wool, buttons and bits & pieces, and slowly a character started to take shape...



































In the past I had designed wooden spoon puppets and pipe cleaner animals for children's craft books and I liked the idea of a simple wooden structure with a spoon face rather than a floppy felt fabric doll. I also wanted to incorporate more personal aspects into the doll - obviously the felting & knitting - but also clothes like a denim apron, hand-knitted socks, felt gloves (mini versions of a pair given to me when I was a child). I raided my Mum's collection of dress-making fabrics - thankfully she's never been one to throw anything away - and found small scraps left-over from clothes she'd made for us years ago.

















 
KC modified the wooden spoon body with some wood blocks so it could stand up without collapsing at the hips. She has bendy pipe cleaner arms and stiff dowel legs covered with French knitting. I started to work on the clothes, features and accessories...

The name Trixy came much later. It took a while to find a name without too many wider connections. I did have an Auntie Trixy - not a 'real' aunt - but my grandmother's best friend. A very kind lady who was always there with my Gran when we were growing up. It was a perfect name.

Trixy Felts personifies elements of the felting workshops, wearing a felt hat decorated with a felt flower, felt slippers & gloves and a felt bag, with an advert for "Felting Matters" embroidered on her pocket. She has a basket for her knitting AND a cat!


I'm sure as a character she will develop and grow. She already has a new wardrobe of clothes planned... a knitted waistcoat, scarf & beret for the winter. And I think she needs some friends!

In the meantime I will be bringing her along to the Christmas Fairs, and her picture will feature on my new Gift Vouchers and cards available nearer Christmas.

I will be posting more information about Christmas Fairs and events later on this month... 

But the weather's far too good to be thinking about Christmas just yet...

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Painting with Fibres...

When I was first planning this workshop I wanted it to suit all abilities - those who had already made felt and also beginners starting out. Sometimes examples of flat felt just give the impression of random flashes of primary colour, loosely placed on an equally bright background. I wanted to show how pictures and patterns can be planned and executed in a more controlled way to produce a specific design or landscape.


I decided to try and copy a painting myself, and chose these Van Gogh examples as they are so painterly, instantly recognisable and really lend themselves to the 'fibre interpretation'.


'Wheatfield with Crows' 1890 was my first effort followed by 'Starry Night'. I kept the interpretation quite free as I knew I would be able to tighten up some of the shapes and outlines with machine stitching and hand embroidery. I started out by colour matching my fibres as closely as possible to the original artwork, laying out two thick layers as a background and then had fun copying the details with smaller wisps of fibre.

After wet felting I machine stitched into the picture, following the brushstroke textures in the painting. The resulting quilted effect helped to emphasize the contours and the movement. 


This is the felted 'Starry Night' after stitching - I simplified the composition keeping the main interest in the sky, leaving out the village... 


...and had fun with the details of the moon and the stars...




It's great once you get going with the machine stitching, it's knowing when to stop...!

When people first discover felt, especially when they see me demonstrating at craft events, they handle the fibres for the first time and are drawn to the tactile softness and the colours... Then they ask "can I do this?"

Those who would never dream of boldly mixing paint onto a canvas seem to have less inhibitions when it comes to using fibres. They discover the joys of using colour! It's not threatening, it's a very gentle process! Bright colours merge - orange/cerise/purples/magenta - and you use your hands to blend them together...  

This workshop demonstrates that you can create pictures in felt, using fibres and textures as if you were painting a landscape and 'Painting with Fibres' describes the process perfectly.

You can check out some of the 'Painting with Fibres' workshop photos here...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Following Rupert (Part 2)...

A couple of weeks before the Followers of Rupert Annual we continued with the production of all the printed items that help to make the event so unique (and you can check out 'Part 1' of this process by following this link...)


By now Tony Griffin, the Annual Organiser & Membership Secretary has most of the bookings confirmed and can give us an idea of numbers. It's quite an undertaking…  How many for lunch, how many have ordered a signed Rupert Annual and who are attending the Gala Dinner?


We design all the printouts, adapting the artwork to suit the purpose. A4 place mats, price tags for the Followers stand, A6 vouchers & tickets (some have to be numbered) and the committee & guest badges, dealer signs & dinner place cards all have hand-written names. We also produce the button badges, an edition of 300 this year, all hand-numbered. And we've made a little Rupert scarf stand to support the laminated name cards...


This year's Annual event is the 28th in the Followers' history. Many years ago I remember going to the 5th Annual, held in an upstairs hotel room somewhere along Brighton sea front, in the days when the Followers were a very small band of enthusiasts. Almost 25 years later this event has changed beyond recognition thanks mainly to the efforts and imagination of one individual - Tony Griffin (and his very supportive family) - who's passion for Rupert and attention to every small detail in organising this event has taken it to such heights of excellence and originality…


It really is a marvellous occasion, celebrating Rupert the nation's favourite Bear! There's live entertainment, theatre, and sales area, making it a haven for collectors and an opportunity to meet like-minded friends. The event culminates in the Saturday night Gala dinner.


KC & I are delighted to play a small part in it's overall success and we hope everyone has a marvellous weekend - especially Tony as Saturday the 27th August also happens to be his birthday!  


Monday, 1 August 2011

Lavender Harvest...

I try to leave cutting the lavender for as long as I dare! It always seems a shame to cut it when the flowers still look wonderful, but it needs to be done before they 'go over' so they retain the oils & fragrance. I have a late flowering variety 'Imperial Gem' which can be left until late July, but it also depends on the weather and how busy we are with other things.  Fortunately we've just had some dry days so the time was right..


We have about 30 bushes, which produce plenty of lavender. It's cut in the evening after a warm dry day, tied into bunches with elastic bands and hung up to dry. As I work along the rows I'm battling with the bees who get quite cross as their flowers slowly disappear...

KC assembles temporary bamboo cane racks in the garage, which are perfect for hanging the bunches and well spaced to allow for the air to circulate.  Old sheets are suspended underneath to catch the dried flowers. The drying process may take a couple of weeks depending on the weather conditions.


Our sloping garden, with it's chalky soil, is perfect for growing lavender and 'Imperial Gem' is a great variety, producing lots of deep purple flowers. The dried lavender has a very strong long-lasting fragrance and natural insect-repellent qualities.

I use lavender around the house to help keep moths & bugs away from my precious wools and felt fabrics. I fill bags, pincushions and felt lavender birds, and I've even been known to make lavender scones! It's a wonderful versatile plant with so many applications and it's a great pleasure to grow & harvest it and to be able to use it in so many ways... 

I shall be bringing along some of this year's harvest to 'Art at Turf Walk' on Saturday 27th August, plus plenty of bags of dried lavender and many of my felt products.

Let's hope the weather stays dry...


Thursday, 28 July 2011

After the Events...

Just winding down now after Open Studios…  It's been a fantastic hectic two weeks. We had 620 people visit us at the Freshwater Parish Hall over a very wet weekend, which may have played in our favour as people lingered in the dry, browsing and enjoying Penny's homemade cakes.



Then we had some lovely sunny days at Quarr where a further 1,001 visitors came through the gallery doors. The Abbey looked very summery & peaceful in the July sunshine, with the gardens full of flowers & fruit trees, swallows roosting in the gallery eaves and I found some wonderful places to photograph the new pots…


Open Studios at Freshwater was where it all started for me last year and it's hard to believe that it's just one year ago that I came away with my visitor's book full of lovely comments and requests for workshops, not really knowing then what to do! 

This year, one year on, I'm looking through a visitor's book full of similar requests so the workshops continue with lots of new people keen to learn to make felt. But there's another aspect to it all - my 'students' came back to show me what they've been working on, still wanting to learn more. So from this feedback I'm putting together a programme for this autumn, with workshops for beginners plus some new ideas for those who wish to continue trying something different.

A very big THANK YOU to everyone who came along to Open Studios and helped to make it such an enjoyable success. It's lovely to have the opportunity to talk to so many enthusiastic people who all seem to share such an interest in felt...  Including the lady who came over from the mainland specifically to find out more about my workshops, the woodturner who wants to incorporate felt into his work and the gentleman who has asked me to repair his favourite Bavarian felt coat, bought over 30 years ago and although badly ripped he hadn't the heart to throw away...  I'm looking forward to the challenge!

And finally I must mention Paulette, who came along to one of my first workshops with her sister Jacqui and has now started to teach felt making to a group of ladies with learning difficulties. Some of these ladies have never been given the opportunity to do anything like felt making before, or to handle the fibres and craft materials that we take for granted in our creative lives. The colours and softness of the wool together with the gentle simplicity of the technique has produced some amazing results and they have really responded to her teaching...

It's such a wonderful story...  and it's just the beginning! 


Sunday, 12 June 2011

Felt Slippers Workshop News...

The first two Felt Slippers workshops have been a great success! All credit to the sheer determination and hard work of everyone involved - especially during the first Saturday when I'm sure the temperatures in the conservatory at Madeira House must have peaked to well over 100° F…! It was like a furnace, even with three fans going BUT hardly a complaint and everyone went home with a smile, a PAIR of slippers and a great sense of achievement...



When I first thought about this workshop I wasn't sure how best to organise things? We don't have a great deal of working space in the conservatory, using the traditional 'two boot' shaped resist would have been difficult, so I decided to use a simple 'slip-on' mule shape which everyone could easily size to their own foot and flip over for the pair.

We started by measuring our feet (always a good laugh!) allowing a 3cm allowance for shrinkage, then cut out the resists.  Most had made bags & bowls before, although a couple were new to working in 3-D. Having laminated instructions handy for everyone while they work is invaluable. Even I find it difficult to remember what layer and side I'm at. No comment ! I blame the heat!! And it did get very, very hot...


I got everyone to complete their first slipper to the point where the resist was removed, then to start on the second, bringing it to this same stage. It is easier to duplicate the cutting lines before they get too stretched, then both slippers can be rolled and worked on together in the final felting & shaping stages - this cuts down on time & energy physically rolling and helps to better ensure a matching pair. Lots more workshop photos here.

I did briefly explain how to make soles for the slippers, but I've recently discovered a new latex product called Sock-stop which can be painted onto felt slippers & knitted socks, and comes in a variety of colours. It improves grip, stops slipping on shiny floors and protects your slipper soles.  I've just ordered some so let me know if you would like more details.

At the end of the day the slippers did need some final felting but I suggested that when everyone got home they filled a bowl with warm soapy water, put on their slippers and soaked & rubbed them on their feet. Nice relaxing way to end a very warm day of felting!  Pat, Michaela & Karen even said they were going to wear theirs to the music Festival this weekend. Now that would be worth a photo ladies…!
  

I must also mention my 'real' Mongolian slippers, they must be at least a size 15 - but aren't they fantastic! Jane bought them back from her recent travels there. They inspired me to try making a pair of 'fairy' slippers with pointy toes...


These colours are not really very fairy-like - I actually think they are rather wicked so I've re-named them the 'Goblin boots' with thoughts of Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market...

Now I think they need some needle felted spots to match my jacket...?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Following Rupert (Part 1)...

A small diversion from felting, and it's back to the day job...

Around this time of year I make a start on the artwork for the Followers of Rupert Annual get-together that takes place each summer. My pieces of artwork are used for all the printed matter for this weekend event - from T-shirts and badges, to programmes, menu cards, committee badges & lunch tickets. Here are some from previous years, click on the photos to enlarge…


I've already discussed ideas with Tony Griffin, the Annual organiser, and this year we're using one of Tony's favourite Alfred Bestall illustrations  "Rupert photographing The Chums" from the 1964 Annual. I've used it for the button badge design and now I'm drawing it up for the programme cover. I'm also using the 1964 cover as a starting point for the second piece of artwork.

 
I only draw Rupert once a year, and then just copy and re-work Alfred Bestall's existing illustrations. I start by working out a rough sketch for the new design and try and capture the style as best I can. It's not an exact copy as I have to alter and move various elements to fit the new A4 formats, plus leave space for headings & text. As you can see it's just pencil and rubber at this stage.


When I'm happy with this sketch I then trace it down, onto a smooth Fabriano watercolour paper, refine the pencil line and then ink in with Rotring pen line. The drawing is then coloured in using Dr Martins watercolour inks.  My colours are much brighter than the original, after all I'm copying an old printed book cover that is faded and discoloured with age. 


As a child I was bought up on Rupert annuals and they are very much a part of my visual memories. I have a sizeable collections of the old annuals going back to the 1930's and this particular 1964 annual was mine as a child. All the Magic Paintings have been done I'm afraid - and not very neatly - first steps towards a career in book illustration! Years later I studied AB's drawings & pen work with a different eye, marvelling at his imagination, skill and continuity in drawing Rupert for almost 40 years. I even wrote to him to tell him of my admiration, and received a very shaky reply, written on Boxing Day 1985 two weeks before he died. It's one of my most treasured possessions.  


With this particular cover the more you look into it, the more bizarre it seems, even for the 1960's!  Rupert rock climbing with The Chums, most unsuitably dressed in formal jackets & bowties, although Rupert is looking remarkably casual in his red 'sweatshirt' . Poor Edward Trunk just hasn't got the paws for climbing, nor has the Fish! But I love the colour and the elements of design - the elegant Japanese style trees, the blossom and the rock formations.


You might notice that my Rupert has a white head as opposed to the brown headed version on the 1964 cover. Why? Well Rupert and The Chums are traditionally drawn with white faces, hands and boots in all the story strips and incidental drawings throughout the annuals, and only appear completely coloured in on the covers & endsheets - so I've decided to keep them white in keeping with these drawings.  


These pieces of A/W will now be scanned before I send off the originals to the Followers. (They have been used as Raffle prizes in past years!) We will use the scanned images to create the designs for all the printed material, which will be put together in a couple of months time. With items like the committee & guest badges and the table place cards I will be handwriting all the names…  so I'll be practising my calligraphy! 

And you can catch up with the next stage of the production here

in the meantime there's more info' on the Followers of Rupert website and if you want to join the Followers there's a fantastic offer at the moment for new members - in the price of a year's membership you will get over £30 of extra Rupert goodies for FREE…

For more details contact the Membership Secretary : agriffog@btinternet.com           

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Happy Birthday! Weavers, Spinners & Dyers...

The Isle of Wight Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers was founded in the 1980s by a group of like-minded people, who shared a common interest in these traditional crafts. This year the Island Guild is celebrating it's 30th Anniversary and has organised an exhibition of members' work at Ventnor Botanic Gardens taking place this week. "Twined Threads" is a marvellous display of hand-spun yarns, knitted & woven textiles, dyed fibres and felted designs as you can see here... 


































Not being a spinner or weaver I felt a bit of an interloper when I first joined the Guild about 6 years ago, really as a way of keeping in touch with other feltmakers on the island - but I was made so welcome. It is a wonderful, friendly group and I really enjoy being amongst enthusiastic like-minded ladies, all sharing their amazing knowledge & skills. Monthly meetings are held at Rookley Village Hall and members enjoy a varied & interesting programme of events and workshops, covering all aspects of weaving, spinning & dyeing, plus related textile crafts such as feltmaking. 
  
Practical workshops are held regularly throughout the year and the Dyeing Days are a particular favourite. We all get-together, usually on a very hot summer's day and boil up pots of natural dyes over open fires. Brilliant coloured skeins are left hanging to dry in the trees and bushes, and ladies sit spinning in the shade waiting for the dyes to brew - it really is a magical day!  Not having hand-spun wool I take along small skeins of Jamieson's unbleached Shetland 2-ply to add to the dye pots and I now have a wonderful collection of natural dyed wools.

































One of the highlights of the last couple of years was taking part in the Medina yurt project, which involved a number of schools and community groups island-wide. The Guild was invited to produce a 6ft square felt panel for the yurt and my design was chosen. We all worked together on this huge panel, making prefelts, cutting out and positioning the felt shapes onto layers of Blue Face Leicester fleece and finally rolling and felting it all together. A high percentage of Island fleece was used, all hand dyed by Chris Lines, the co-ordinator of the project and Guild member. It was great fun to be involved, hard work and an amazing achievement. Here are some photos and there's more if you follow this link …
The "Twined Threads" exhibition at Ventnor Botanic Gardens is on for this week, 1st - 6th May, in the Echium Room and if you are interested in textiles it's well worth a visit. Admission is free and it's open from 10 - 4pm each day. There will be Guild members on hand to give you more information... 

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