Felting Extravaganza!

Are you exhausted from reading these posts yet?  I think yesterday’s post, which clocked in at 1700+ words, was my longest yet!  It has been a busy week month, and I am so glad September is here.  I’m looking for a tiny bit of a break!

On Wednesday, Liz woke up and opted to not go back into NYC, the original plan was to head to the Brooklyn museum to see the permanent installation of the Judy Chicago “Dinner Party”.  Liz and I are the same age, and remember well the impact on the art world when the Dinner Party first debuted in San Francisco in 1979.  It was permanently installed in 2007 at the Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in a space that is befitting, and reverential to this iconic piece of women’s history.  But we opted not to do that on Wednesday.

samples1So, Liz showed me her vast stash of teaching samples, and I was instantly inspired.  Liz wrote the book on Nuno Felting, available through Amazon (she promised to send me an autographed copy of the book from the UK), and her sample collection was huge!  I could have spent the whole day just taking notes.  The upshot is I started to look at my fabric stash in a different way.  “Could this be felted, could that be felted, what can I do with this fabric?”mess

Poor Liz, I must have asked her 20 times, while she was puttering in her room, “How about this?”  Well, the only way to really know is to try, even I know that!  So we decided to spend the day just playing with felt.  The weather was glorious, so we dug through everything in my studio that could possibly be felted, all the bins of wool fibers, and the fabrics that were thin enough for the wool fibers to penetrate, and we made a total mess.  No matter, I could clean that up after Liz flew back to the UK.

Some of the wool I had purchased when I was in the Pendleton outlet store last May in Portland, when I flew to Seattle to hang with my fiber buddy Robyn Spady.  Some of the fabrics I pulled out had been purchased at one of the stores we hit as well, Nancy’s Sewing Basket, in Seattle.  I feel like this is one big circle of fiber…

I had actually pulled out some of the wool I had been dyeing in the crock pot all spring, and on Monday while Liz was playing in the garment district in Manhattan, I did a small sample of felt, just to see how well I could do, I am really a novice felter.  The one thing I’ve learned (well I learned a lot of things actually,) but the one thing I learned that was most appropriate to what I actually do, which is make clothing, is that the felt should be thin and pliable, but very well felted.  So I used only two layers of wool, but felted them more than 50%.  I got a sample that was beautiful and flexible and well suited to cloth for clothing.


So we hauled everything outside…

making_feltlunchWe set up our space, under one of the covered gazebos in my yard, brought hot water, olive oil soap, leftover from my felting experience last year with Loretta Phipps who flew to my studio to work with me on the Challenge piece for Convergence.  Am I prepared or what?!  I had a couple of large plastic trays, which did well to contain the soapy water during the felting process.  Liz worked on floral brooches, starting with a cone of wool and a resist, and stupid me forgot to take pictures of what she was actually doing.  When my husband wandered down to offer to make us burgers for lunch, we took the opportunity to grab him for a couple of photos, since we were all wet!  My daughter wandered down as well, and soon grabbed a pan and started to play herself.

We took a quick break for lunch, and dove right back into the felting.  I made a number of samples, trying all different things in my studio, including the dyed silk from the hankies I bought in Michigan at the conference there last month (was it only last month?)  We arranged things on the deck railing to dry, Liz put her things on the lawn to dry in the sun, since she didn’t want to pack her samples wet for the flight home that night to the UK.

dryingMy daughter played with using a river stone as a resist, and wrapped the wool around it.  I had learned this technique in a class a couple of years ago with Loretta Oliver at Convergence Grand Rapids in 2006.  Once felted, my daughter sliced the felt into two sections to dry.  Those would be the two pick ovals on the right.  She also played with a plastic resist and made a heart in the middle of a blue ground.  The rest of the samples drying are mine.

Of course we worked too late into the day.  Suddenly I realized I needed to get ready to head out to the guild meeting for the Jockey Hollow Weavers, and Liz had to do her final packing, and we were all in a flurry to clean up the mess on the deck and pack up for our respective journeys.

I took my slightly damp samples to the meeting that night, for show and tell, and what I didn’t know, was my daughter went into my zipper stash, and took out a heavy zipper and was seen sewing her two pink felt ovals together with the zipper, while at the meeting, making it into a change purse.  I just adore this child!samples_darylsamples_bri

Brianna also made a log of felt, and did a good job getting it dense enough that she was able to cut it into small rounds, like the ones she had seen when we went to the Fashioning Felt exhibit  last spring at the Cooper Hewitt.  The ones in the exhibit were larger, more industrial ones, but the same technique could be used for smaller buttons and adornments.

My samples are on the right, all but one are laminated, felted with a layer of silk or lace.  My favorite is the orange one, I had a layer of wool roving on the back, and a layer of orange wool I dyed in the crock pot, and on top a thin stretched layer of silk from one of the hand dyed hankies.  I’d like to follow up on that sample.  I really want to be able to make a jacket from my felt, for teaching purposes, and I think it would be a good stretch for me!

Coming:  Four whole days with nothing on the calendar.  YeeHa!  I get to catch up on my blog, learn how to use my new iPod Touch, which has been sitting on my desk untouched for a week, and finally catch up on some much needed sleep!

Surrounded by felters…

Seems like a year ago, but it was only a week ago that I was settling back in from my trip to MA, to Snow Farm where I taught garment construction to the felters.  I mentioned in a previous blog I felt like the only instructor not from the US? Milliner Jean Hicks was from Seattle, and Lisa Klakulak was from Asheville, NC, and Gail Crosman Moore was from MA, but many of the instructors came from great distances to bring an aesthetic to the conference that was fresh and inspired.  I left the conference at the mid-point, because I had finished my class, and I really needed to be home.  I longed to stay and play, but knew that after 5 conferences in a row, I had kids to get back in school, and a house to sort out, and business to attend to, and I needed to get on the road.  As fate would have it, the conference followed me, so to speak.

Liz Clay, renowned felter from the UK, chair of the IFA (International Feltmakers Association) needed a place to stay near NYC for a couple of days, so she could easily access public transport for some appointments she had, before returning to England Wednesday night.  After much logistical preparation, it was decided that Gail would drive Liz to my house late Sunday night after the conference concluded, since Gail lives another hour south of me.  A couple hours after I returned from Millbrook Village (yesterday’s post), I welcomed Liz to my home, where we had a cup of tea, and decided on a plan for the next three days.

I put Liz on a NJ Transit bus to NYC on Monday, where she poked around a number of shops in the garment district, some on my recommendation, like B&J fabrics, and NY Elegant, M&J trim, etc.  Others, like Paron Fabrics, Liz found from a recommendation from someone from the conference who sent a great link for a walking tour of the garment district. http://www.paulanadelstern.com/fabric/guides/index.php Paron apparently has an annex where you can get fabrics for half price.  And of course there is always a trip to Mood, of Project Runway fame.  Liz returned exhausted and loaded with bags of all kinds of silks to felt with.

On Tuesday, I decided to take advantage of Liz’s knowledge and connections, and accompany her to NYC.  resevoirI knew the routes, and the transit system, and she had a lot of ground to cover, even though I’ve seen many of the things that were on her list.  We left NJ early, and headed uptown to the west side of Central Park, on a subway, getting off at the 86th street entrance to the park.  I have only crossed at 81st street, in the past, because my destination is usually the MET.  The Cooper Hewitt Museum of Design is further north on the east side of the park, closer to 90th street, so it made sense to cross there.  We started on the road, and Liz said, let’s not walk on the road, lets go through the real park.  I had no park map, and fearful of getting lost in Central Park, I followed her.  She took a couple of instinctive turns and ended up on the pathway around the Jackie Onassis Reservoir, which was a spectacular body of water, full of joggers, walkers, baby carriages, and city life out for some R&R. We excited the park on the east side, right in front of the Cooper Hewitt.

We arrived at the Cooper Hewitt, way ahead of schedule, entering through the employee entrance,  we were to meet up with Susan Brown assistant curator of textiles for the Cooper Hewitt, who organized the Fashioning Felt exhibit, which I saw last spring.  Susan was gracious, and knowledgeable, and very excited about the show, the catalog, in its second printing should be available soon from Amazon.com.  If I understood correctly, the catalog was one of the best sellers of any show at the Cooper Hewitt. She was also in negotiations  to have the exhibit travel to the west coast, she wouldn’t divulge the location!  Susan took time out of her day to give Liz and me a private tour of the exhibit, before it opened for the day.  It was great to view the exhibit again from the curator’s perspective, and I saw things I completely missed the first time around.  Janice Arnold’s yurt in the conservatory was of course, beautiful, but I got a better understanding of the installation complications with such a massive structure in a historical space.  As it turned out, Janice had just flown in on the Red-Eye from Seattle, to do something with a videographer, and we had tea with her as well.

Our next stop was a 10 block walk south to the MET.  The MET would take a month long vacation to see all of it, but there are a few grand spaces which are my favorites, where I take people who haven’t seen the museum at all, and the lunch in the basement cafeteria is one of my favorite places to eat in NYC.  So we grabbed lunch, and I took her up to the rooftop, spectacular views of Central Park, where there was a wonderful installation by American artist Roxy Paine. We left the roof, and wandered down to the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.  This is one of my favorite departments, I love the primitive expressive quality of the work, and the simplicity of the forms.  I could spend hours in just this department bis-poles2alone.bispoles

Much to my complete surprise, an entire wing had been added onto the exhibition in the past year or two, that I had completely missed.  We spent a lot of time there and I learned about The Asmat Bis Poles, “The most spectacular sculptures of the Asmat people of southwest New Guinea, the ancestor poles known as bis.”  They were created as the vocal points of a memorial feast that honors individuals who have died recently and become ancestors.  Each figure on the poles represents and is named for a specific individual.  In the past, the poles also reminded  the living that the dead must be avenged.  In Asmat cosmology, death was always caused by an enemy, either directly in war or by malevolent magic.  Each death created an imbalance that had to be corrected through the death of an enemy.  So traditionally, a bis feast was held in conjunction with a headhunting raid.  Now a bis feast may be staged to alleviate a specific crisis or in connection with male initiation.” (Text summarized)

That would explain the very well endowed male figures!

We were allowed to take non flash photos, so Liz and I ran around with our little cameras, grabbing shots at whatever interested us.  I was totally taken with all the masks, the imagery, expressions, primitive interpretations of the human form, and in many cases, colorful sculptures, and playful characters.

oceania1oceania2oceania3oceania4oceania5oceania6oceania7oceania8oceania9I especially loved the woolly bear mask at the end.  The addition of stones, fur, ivory like materials, all added to the characters and their expressions.  I could see many of these masks as greeting cards with wicked sayings on the inside!  I’d love to know what the artist was thinking when they carved these creatures.  Especially the first photo of the male and female.

Liz and I ran through the Temple of Dendur, and the new Greek and Roman sculpture gardens, and then we set out for the 20 block trek to Julie Artisans Gallery.  Julie Dale has had this wearable art gallery on Madison Avenue for as long as I can remember.  Liz had some work there, and had an appointment to show Julie some of her new felted brooches, and scarves.  As we arrived, the gallery got very busy, so we waited for awhile before Julie could see us, which gave me lots of time to really study the work, the techniques, and watch a wearable art gallery in action.  I was blown away by how effortlessly someone spent a  thousand dollars on a  garment.  It has been many years since I did the craft fair circuit, and I have no reference point for fine American craft, especially in the textile world.  And I was really thrilled to see a venue like Julie’s survive in this very poor economic climate.  Julie selected a few of Liz’s floral brooches to try for the fall.

Liz and I hopped on an M-4 bus, and headed down 5th avenue, all the way to Penn Station.  We had an appointment to meet a boaclient of hers, or a potential client of hers, an absolutely charming woman, who, as she describes herself, works to feed her craft fair habit.  I instantly fell in love with her.  This woman had apparently traveled all the way to England to see a well known craft exhibition called “Origin” in London, the first two weekends in October, and had seen Liz’s work there.  We met up at the museum of FIT, a short walk from Penn Station, on 27th and 7th Avenue, where Liz got to see the Isabel Toledo exhibit, and the Fashion and Politics Exhibit.  We were quite exhausted at this point, so we were no longer absorbing anything we saw, but it was good to wander through the exhibits again, and share them with someone from the UK.

Afterward, the three of us went around the corner to a quiet pub, and had a beer.  It felt so good to just sit down, and relax, and Liz showed her client the work she had brought to show Julie Dale.  I haven’t done a craft fair since 1989, and it was fun to reminisce about the old days, the old shows like WBAI, and some of the key players in the textile arts.  And I was thrilled for Liz when her client purchased one of her ethereal felted scarves (pictured at the right, on Liz).  It was hard to see in a dark pub, but her client happily kept darting outside to see the colors in the sunlight.

Liz and I made the trek home, back to NJ,  just making the transit bus, and hitting virtually no traffic.  We were completely exhausted.  We raided the refrigerator for leftovers, had a feast, and fell happily in bed.

Tomorrow: felting with Liz!  (Can you see why I’m so exhausted?)

Is it fall yet?

I need this summer to be over.  I am tired…

I have so much to blog about, and absolutely no time to sit down and write.  And that’s frustrating me.  I spent the weekend volunteering for two days at Millbrook Village, an old 1850’s farming village on the Delaware river, demonstrating weaving and spinning, dressed in period costume, with my daughter.  We had a great time, and I’ve got pictures to share, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

For now, I would like to finish up with the Felter’s Fling, I took some shots of some of the work from  the other classes, before I left last Tuesday to come home.  The conference continued for another four days, ending this morning.  Since I was only teaching the first three days, I opted to leave after my class.  I would have loved to have stayed to play, and see what the students made, but I needed to be home.



Karoliina Arvilommi and Roderick Welch, from Finland, taught a class in Scandinavian Feltmaking/Color, Design and Form.  The rugs were beautiful, so well made, and the imagery fresh and interesting.


Liz Clay, from the UK, taught a class in Elemental Rhythms/ Felt and Photograph.  I loved the work that came from this class, especially two of the pieces that Sharon Costello did.  The top photo was made from a photograph (on the right) juxtaposed with a piece of felt that was manipulated, stitched, and embellished to recreate the same feel as the photograph.  I posted a shot of Sharon working on the piece on my blog from a couple of days ago.  The photo below, of the fungus, is also by Sharon Costello, the large fungus in the front is in dimensional felt, and the smaller one behind, is a photograph.  Everything the class did, was interesting and sensitive.  And lucky me, Liz Clay was dropped off at my house tonight, and is staying with me for a couple of days while she plays in NYC.  I’ll take her to the airport Wednesday night before I head off to my guild meeting.


Myfanwy Stirling from Australia, taught a workshop called Feature Texture, Felt Vests or Smocks.  While learning to add surface texture to the felt fabric, students created interesting vests that fitted the body and celebrated the wearer.


Jeanette Sendler, also from the UK, taught a class making Collars, Cuffs, and Mantles, some of the work was displayed on the folding screen, so I could get a group shot.  Beautiful surfaces.



Jean Hicks, from Seattle, WA taught a class called Millinery Questions for Feltmakers.  She is wearing one of the hats in the top photo, and some of the other hats made during the class were lined up across the table.  There were such amazing shapes, and styles.  All were wearable!

I had a great time at the Fling.  Sharon Costello, who organizes this event every two years, does a wonderful job, and I’m really loving the felting community.  And I’m looking forward to having Liz Clay in my studio/home for a few days.

Tomorrow I’ll blog about my Demonstration days at Millbrook Village.