Sunday, 20 February 2011

Felt Jewellery Workshop...

Felt Jewellery was my last workshop for a while, and in many ways it was the most relaxed! Although I must admit to a few sleepless nights during the planning stage I was so pleased with the outcome of the day and found it really inspiring, especially the different colour combinations - I'm learning new things all the time! There was some wonderful work produced, as these photos show...

I'd planned a day explaining simple felting techniques that can be used to make jewellery - flowers, beads, bangles & brooches - plus needle felting, which is a perfect way to decorate jewellery projects. Lots of ideas, working small, so everyone could sit, relax & gently mould the felt into shape just using their hands... Everyone loved making the flowers, and made several each, using a really simple method.This produces a lovely large bloom which can be shaped into neat regular petals or frayed for a more informal finish. All the flowers were very different and will look even more fantastic once they're embroidered and decorated with tiny beads. 

Hopefully I will get the finished decorated pieces of felt jewellery back to photograph, and I'll also put some more of the workshop photo on Flickr. Several people have recently emailed photos of their felt work - I kept saying I'm going to put together a students' gallery and I've finally go around to doing so - so check it out!

This was the last workshop for now, but I've already booked another six dates at Maderia House in May & June. I've just got to finalise the details and will be posting them soon. There are still places available on my Beginners Workshop at Dimbola, Freshwater Bay (Thursday March 31st 10-4). If you are interested please contact Shirley at 01983 756814. 

Monday, 14 February 2011

More Bags & Bowls...

Another really exciting workshop on Saturday - the second "Design & Make a Bag" - with everyone working very hard to achieve these bags. For some it was only their second felting session and I think the results are remarkable and speak for themselves. Some of the bags may need a bit more felting and finishing... And although the workshops should have really finished at 4pm our enthusiasm carried us through until 5pm, by which time I had to call it a day. KC was knocking on the door to help pack away!

Here are this week's bags, plus some of the bowls previously made in the "Soft Pots & Bowls" workshop.

With so much bag making going on around me I just had to try out a design I'd been planning for a while. Several years ago I knitted this samplar bag on the left, using up lots of small skeins of natural dyed wools I'd accumulated over many dyeing sessions. I just love the shape, the tassels & the plaits, and have always wondered if it would work in felt.

The shape is similar, but that's about it - the finished result is of course a completely different animal. The feel of the bag is totally different, the 4 layers make it thick, chunky & warm ( I want to keep my hands in it!) The bold pattern & colour is typically felty. It's interesting to see what does/does not successfully translate into different media and I was pleased enough with my felt version to make a second. Again, KC my master plaiter made all the plaits for me.

I don't actually 'wear' many of my bags - I tend to hang them up at home. These remind me of quivers (def: a case to hold arrows) and I'm keeping my knitting needles in them… for now!

I think I may have gained some allies from the workshops. Everyone comments that felt making is physically tough, results don't come quick! My quiver bags each represent 6-8 hours work, including finishing & plaiting time. What price can one put on such things? That's why I'm keeping these... for now, but I will be making more in the weeks to come for sale, trying out some different colour variations and will bring them along to the various events this Spring...

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Workshop News... Soft Pots & Bags

The last two workshops held in Freshwater were a great leap forward from the previous sessions, both for myself and for all the participants. Making 3-D shapes is quite a challenge! It does take much, much longer than perhaps one imagines and for those who have only just mastered the basic techniques of making flat felt there is the whole concept of working around a 'resist'… 

For me these 3-D workshops were also a first, planning them (do we have enough time and space to work, are there enough materials & equipment...?) then putting them into practise. So it's been an interesting couple of Saturdays with impressive results that have really delighted me, as you can see. Admittedly by the end of the day the light had gone and some of the photos were a bit shaky (you can click on them to enlarge) but I shall try to get everything back to photograph again. Some of bowls and bags need finishing & decorating - but look at those amazing shapes!  

The days have their high and low points! Some struggle with the concept, I hear cries of "Is this the inside or outside of my bowl/pot/bag? Which layer/fringe/side is this ?" It is difficult to grasp the idea of shaping a 3-D form around a flat 2-D resist and it is a complicated technique. After making countless bowls & bags I still need my notes by my side. 

But it has been a great learning experience for me too. Not being teacher trained I'm trying to put across my own knowledge, in ways that I would expect from a workshop. Am I getting the message across…? I can see puzzled faces, but then at the end of the day there's big smiles and a wonderful atmosphere of proud achievement. Watching the clock as time ticks by "Is there enough time…? Fortunately that's not a huge worry at Maderia House and we are able to stay on for some extra time to finish off.

And everyone wants to come back for more felt making... So there will be another series of workshops planned for May, with similar themes, such as the soft pots & bowls and felt jewellery, but I'd like to try making felt slippers and I think many of you are keen. Also more workshops for Beginners and I'm thinking about a FELT CLUB. Just an informal gathering held a couple of times a year - an opportuntity for everyone to get together, bring along what you've been doing and exchange ideas... So let me know what you think.

Finally, Pam made this piece of felt last week. It’s a cover for her piano stool (I understand the cat's not allowed anywhere near it)... Hasn't it really got the wow factor!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Felt Hearts & Valentines... seeing red!

Wherever you look at the moment you can't help but see RED! Hearts, roses, ribbons, balloons everywhere, frantically signalling the approach of Valentines Day, encouraging us all to buy red...

However, on a much more subtle note, there's a great opportunity to see some wonderful Valentine Day cards that look back to past times. Tucked away at Dimbola Museum, Valentine cards from the Shell Art Collection are on display.

 A sweeter song, my Valentine, 1954, Ronald Ferris.  Copyright Shell Brands International AG, courtesy Shell Art Collection.
       The lark’s a-wing, my Valentine, 1955, Asgeir Scott.  Copyright Shell Brands International AG, courtesy Shell Art Collection.

 This is the hour, my Valentine, 1951, Claudia Freedman.  Copyright Shell Brands International AG, courtesy Shell Art Collection.
 At last you know, my Valentine, 1953, Leo Huskinson.  Copyright Shell Brands International AG, courtesy Shell Art Collection

...And hardly a red heart in sight, just charming designs reflecting a much more gentile era. Lady motorists in the 1930's were a rare commodity and those with accounts at Shell garages were nurtured! The tradition of sending the Shell Valentine card began in 1938 and continued right up until 1975, with 65,000 female customers receiving cards in 1950. All the cards were sent anonymously, but the shell imagery, the motoring themes and the familiar Shell slogan rounding off the verse were all a bit of a give-away!

Putting my "illustrator's" hat on for a moment - I just love the designs, the visual humour, together with the clever play on words in the verses. These were fantastic commissions, beautifully executed by some of the best commercial artists of the day. The printed cards have been treasured and have rightly become collectable. Some of my particular favourites are shown above - click on them to enlarge and you can read the verses. 

The earliest Valentine cards in the exhibition date back to the beginning of the 19th century. All the cards wonderfully reflect the tastes & attitudes of their time. The Victorians loved incorporating natural elements into their cards, dried flowers, leaves, feathers, hair and there's even a tiny bird pressed into one of the cards... Quite a feat (how did it fit in the envelope?) - certainly not acceptable in today's world!

This is a fascinating exhibition and well worth a visit, and it's on until the 17th March.   

I started making my Felt Heart brooches a couple of years ago, photographing them with old love letters to make images for Valentine cards. Some of these love letters date back to the 1850's, beautifully handwritten, folded into tiny envelopes with Victorian Penny Red stamps. Again, legacies of past times... 

My Felt Heart brooches and Valentine cards are all available to buy through my Folksy shop.

Hope yours is a Happy Valentine's Day!
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