Monday, January 17, 2011

Art Felts at Luckystone

This weekend's workshop really blew me away.  Again.  I can't articulate exactly what it is about teaching that moves me so, but even thinking about it makes me well up.   I guess it is a combination of the excitement I feel while sharing a common passion, facilitating the process that evolves, then just absorbing the creative process that unfolds in each person.   Sometimes people need help to unfold, but more often they just unfurl on their own.  I can take no credit for this weekend's talent.  The photographs don't do the work justice.

These photographs of my student's work shows their dry layouts, then the after felting shots. 

We talked a lot about surface design in terms of movement and cohesion, with input from all pairs of eyes.  We mused over why it is such a challenge to see our own work as clearly as we see others. 

We considered the question of when less is more, and when more is better.  The consensus was that there are different styles but it is all such a personal choice.   Those of us who have worked with Sachiko Kotaka reminded each other that she'd encourage filling up all empty spaces to make our felt healthy.  And we agreed that the serenity of simplicity is also worthy.  I thought of Elis Vermeulen's mantra "too much information".  Such fabulous feltmakers with such different perspectives, but I do not doubt that they would each value the other's aesthetic.

Perhaps this helps to explain why teaching moves me so.  And why it is such an honor.  I get to be with a group of individuals who are happy about where they are (making felt), and although our mouths may be ticklish with fiber, we are all engaged in learning the same language. 
Feltmaking is such alchemy.  Beyond mastering technique, the magic just flows.

blue moon nuno wrap

Here are  images of my finished indigo nuno wrap, as promised.  I felted this at the last minute on Friday afternoon to wear to the ATF Blue Moon fundraiser that night.

I had indigo dyed this piece of silk organza last year, with no specific project in mind.  Organza has such a firm hand that it doesn't lend itself to every nuno felt project, but I think it is perfect for wraps. 

I wasn't sure I could finish this in time to wear that night.  I had to set up the studio for my Art Felts workshop the next day, and by the time  that was done, I had just part of the day left.  I am notorious for a slowwww layout.  Doing this speedy thing isn't in my comfort zone.  I allowed myself one "frogging" of the layout.  I had some Tree Tops space dyed Merino roving set aside for the project, but after it was laid out, I didn't like the look of the purple areas with my indigo, so I pulled it all off.  That left me short on wool for my wrap, but I managed to find a bit of indigo dyed merino roving in my scrap bag.  I laid out a bold design to make it quick, and placed the indigo wool here and there, joining with the space dyed shades of blue from Tree Tops to make a cohesive look.  I wanted to be sure the wrap was long enough, so I had to cut and piece the fabric, which I joined with open areas of wool.

I was really dubious about my surface design, and almost convinced I was wasting my time and materials by rushing things, but I left it. I am a firm believer in NOT rushing the nuno felting process, especially with a trickier fabric like silk organza.  Wool fibers are quite happy to felt together on the surface, before they migrate through the fabric, if you don't finesse the nuno process gently. 

I finished fulling, and did my vinegar rinse.  After I'd spun the water out with my fabulous Laundry Alternative extractor, I was able to dry my wrap the rest of the way by ironing.  Harry was calling to remind me we had an hour to get ready for the event just as I finished.  For once, I was happier than I anticipated with the results.   Voila! 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Liz Clay Workshop and Blue Moon Wrap

Two days ago I received an exciting email from Liz Clay; an extraordinarily talented couture felt maker, author of a book "Nuno Felt" and chair of the International Feltmakers Association

Last year was so full on for me (with my sister Polly and Sachiko's workshops, the Creative Felt Gathering, a business starting and ending) that I didn't plan beyond 2010.  I've been feeling rather badly that I had no special events scheduled for this year... then Liz's email arrived, asking if I would be interested in sponsoring the TRANSLATING IMAGES - COMBINING NUNO FELTS workshop for her this August.  Would I ever!

I had seen the work that her students produced in her Elemental Rhythms workshop at the Felter's Fling in 2007.  They used detailed photographs, primarily close ups of ordinary surfaces from nature or every day life (tree fungus, rust, peeling paint), and using a variety of nuno felting techniques, duplicated the photographs in felt.  Finished pieces were window matted together: felt juxtaposed with photo.  In many instances I could not distinguish the felt from the photo without very close and careful scrutiny. I wanted to learn these techniques!

I met Liz at that Felter's Fling.  I was familiar with her line of ethereal felted boas, but during the evening Fling instructor's presentations, I discovered that there is much more to her oeuvre.  She told the fascinating story of her felt commissions for designer Stella McCartney, and the house of Givenchy.  Liz's story continued to resonate with me last year, when my business was approached about doing a collaboration with Patricia Voto to create a series of her clothing designs.  Patricia was new to the potential of felt, I had never felted lined and layered garments, but I recalled Liz's attitude of  I can do that, even when the undertaking seems mammoth.  So, with my partner's persuasion, we did create a series of felted garments
that culminated in Patricia's Senior Thesis Exhibition at Parson's School of Design in NYC.

So I am busy planning this worshop for Liz, excited to make a connection with another international felting friend and to share her knowledge and experience with other feltmakers.

MEANWHILE, I am off to the studio to create a rush job to wear tonight.  I'm attending Adirondack Theater Festival's fundraiser, Blue Moon.  I have donated a tencel/merino blend felted wrap I made for their silent auction.  We are invited to dress in blue, so my plan is to felt into a piece of Indigo dyed organza with some lovely space dyed Merino wool from Tree Tops called "The Blues".    Will try to photo document the process....  and maybe run out to find something to wear under it!

Wish me luck, as I'm winging it!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Art Felt Techniques Workshop & NY's Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival

I'm moving forward in my blog catch up! 

I'm offering Art Felts workshop at my Luckystone Feltworks Studio in Glens Falls January 15 and 16, 2011.  Please check my web site for details. 

Here are images from the workshop when I first presented at Rhinebeck this year.  It was one of the most rewarding in terms of how the students took off with it. What they did seemed to so intuitively express their creativity.  Exactly the thing I'd hoped for.

As usual, it was cold and much windier than usual but we stayed warm!  Our workshop was placed in a tent between two others, so we were protected on two sides, and had flaps that kept undoing on the other two sides.  Luckily, I had a resourceful group with me who kept things retied, and the festival crew kept trying to keep things under wraps so to speak.  We'd hear crashing all about, us but not inside, and we managed to keep dry!  And June, one of our participants even brought home made soup (and amazing chocolate cake) for all!
June with soup!

The best things about Rhinebeck:
  • People all around you "get" fiber.   When you walk the grounds, they ask to take photos of you in your felt coat (instead of wondering what planet you're from).  It's like you're part of a club. 
  • There is an enthusiasm in the air that begins in cyber space through blogs and social networking sites like Ravelry.  Sort of like a rock concert but everyone's sober but pumped.
  • The shopping.  (There are wayyyy too many fiber shopping opportunities).
  • The location.  The bathrooms even have floral arrangements and are clean.  The trees are flush with fall color, there are pumpkins, children, horses pulling wagons and there's great food every where.
  • There are beautiful sheep.  The source of our obsession. .. what I used to long to find on every road trip, is there on display, all primped, primed and looking lovely.  (My favorite was a Shetland named "George Clooney"  See, they get us.)
I'm not the Shetland
sheep judging
The bad things about Rhinebeck:
  • The shopping.  When you take a weekend workshop, that is when the vendors sell, while you are rolling and throwing your felt.  I try to adjust to this by taking a class vote: who wants to shop at lunch and when, for how long?  I remind them they'd be crazy to vote no, but promise to be there to teach.  I also remind them how far behind they could get, or not...
Johanna's layout
detail of Johanna's piece
This year I had a very dedicated student from Columbia, SA.  She was a graduate of a design program.  She'd felted, but explained that she only had "wool" available where she lives.  No breed identified, no choices, very coarse stuff.  She arrived late in the heavy traffic and was wrongly admonished not to interrupt our workshop.  I noticed her peeking into the tent several times, but she did not enter until our lunch break.  We all felt awful for her, but she took it in stride and flew through the workshop.  I gave her a crash course in all techniques I could think of.  This is her work.
Johanna and her art felt
Johanna doing hand work

Our Visitors Nicola Brown, (Robin), Heather Stump Karlheim
Nicola photographs Diane's work
detail of Diane's piece
I encourage special friends to drop in on us at Rhinebeck, those I know won't disrupt things and might add a spark.  We had a visit from my friend Heather (also a blogger- woollove) whom I met in MI at The Creative Felt Gathering.  She brought along visiting feltmaker Nicola Brown, from Ireland. I was familiar with Nicola from cyber space- her blog Clasheen, and Facebook.  It was like we'd all known each other forever.  We shared dinner in a group and fitted in about a weeks worth of fiber talk in a couple of hours.  They visited our workshop through out the weekend to watch the progression of work.  I hope it was fun for all of us.
Diane's art felt
June stitching
June's art felt
Detail of Donna's piece
Donna embellishing from her stash
Sherry working on her piece

Donna, Sherry, Diane, June
The Rhinebeck Scene
Robin Blakney-Carlson, art felt no.4
Robin Blakney-Carlson, art felt no.1
Robin Blakney-Carlson, art felt no.2
Robin Blakney-Carlson, art felt no.3

Monday, January 3, 2011

Delayed August Report: Facebook & The Creative Felt Gathering

I know lots of people are down on Facebook.  And not "down" in in the Urban Dictionary sense (although I do know lots of people who are that kind of down on Facebook too).  I LIKE Facebook for all the connections it creates with feltmakers around the world (and for updates on my family).

I came to know Dutch felt artist Elis Vermeuelen initially through Pat Spark's Felter's List.  Elis made Felt United Day a reality, with the help of Cynthia Reynolds.  These two women took an idea that sprung from conversations on the list, and  put forth heroic efforts, using the internet as a tool to link felters in an annual day of celebration- October 2.  The Felt United web site explains: "Our goal is to connect feltmakers around the globe to raise awareness of FELT as both a craft and an artform".

This past August, I attended Elis's workshops at The Creative Felt Gathering, organized by Jone Rikowski at camp Dainava in Manchester, Michigan. I had spotted this event somewhere on Facebook, probably on Elis page.   I was so excited to find a chance to meet her in person, not to mention work with her.  Elis has a very elegant blog:  I encourage you to visit.  She has a wonderful capacity for expressing her struggles as an artist in a way that encourages you to join her in deep thought.  One of the things I most admire about Elis is that she takes the time to share her thoughts in word.  I sense that the process of expressing herself is a benefit to both reader and writer.  She also posts delightful potographs, tiny personal glimpses into her life in Holland.  I treasure these opportunities for connection.  These words and images transport me to new places and challenge me to new thoughts.

Elis fitting my version of an Elis Hat on the beautiful Rachel (her daughter)

Every morning at the Gathering was led by this awesome group: Chad, Jone & Elis

This is how Elis rolls: with power

Elis & Robin

Jone Rakoski was the spark that ignited the Gathering.  Knowing her is a real treat, she is unmatched in energy, spirit and FUN!  She has more up her sleeve for 2011 and even 2012.  So not only do you get to work with Elis, but Jone is also a very creative felt maker and fused glass artist.  Plus Chad Alice Hagen, one of my all time favorite felting heroes.  I love everything Chad teaches.  She has a way with color, design and intricately thought out instruction that is pretty bullet proof.  Combine those skills with her razor wit... well, I feel like I'm reviewing a restaurant after a fabulous meal.  Everyone who has ever felted with me knows how I feel about my felting heroes.

Theresa's 1st week felting!
my gift from Theresa: Freya of Bandicoon
The entire, colorful Creative Felt Gathering on closing day
Another highlight of the summer for me was talking my dear friend Theresa Loomis into attending the Creative Felt Gathering with me.  Theresa wasn't actually a felter, but she is a very talented jeweler (take a look here at her Etsy site), the sort of person who does everything A+.  (She's the only person I knew when we were teenagers who actually understood all the lyrics to the songs.  She knew it wasn't there's a bathroom on the right.)   I bugged her until I convinced her she'd do fine.  She had made felt beads in the '70s... and I know that people who have an aesthetic and technical leaning make wonderful feltmakers.  She gave in, and I was right, she did make wonderful felt.  She lives in Ohio so I flew there and she drove us.  It was very special.  Theresa raised my cat Freya, and was a breeder and exhibitor of black Maine Coon Cats for many years.  I was jealous of her felt work at the gathering, but shhhh....
I'm waiting for Theresa to draw around me for my pattern

With the amazing line up Jone's put together, there's bound to be more landmark events at Dainava.