2018 Taking Felting Workshop #3 with Moy Mackay
2018 was a big year for workshops for both myself and my husband. He finally got time off in the summer coinciding with the Blacksmithing conference he has wanted to attend for more than 10 years. Even better it was finally a drivable distance! I think he was feeling guilty because after many years of not traveling we take a big trip and it’s to go to a conference for him. From Ottawa, Canada our ultimate destination was just north of Richmond Virginia. But first; Via Landsdown fiber festival (for Jan),
then cross the border and head to the steam train museum in Scranton Pen.(for Glenn)
Turn west and drive, the next day reaching the Woollery in Kentucky (for Jan)
I also discovered that although the distance from Scranton Pennsylvania to the part of Kentucky I wanted to see was not that great a distance on the map. The diagonal lines crossing the highway on that map were not some decorative feature but small mountains. With lots of tippy truck signs!! I had not realized it was such a big problem for trucks in the states.
The Woolery had a lot of felting tools, rollers, abrasion boards with nobbly surfaces, felting needles, needle holders, and lots of fibre. They also had wheels, looms, yarn, fibre prep and a comfy chair in the corner to leave husbands while you shopped. It was sort of like reaching Mecca!
(Pic of Glenn in husband corner and Great restraint in Shopping)
While at the conference I found out there were non-blacksmithing classes for those with badges that said “Spouse of (insert name of blacksmith)”. There were a couple of painting classes, a broom making class, one on repousse for non blacksmith, leather work and 3 basketry classes. Yes I made 2 baskets and a hearth broom and had a blast. I also did a lot of spinning in the air conditioned comfort while the blacksmiths were outside in the summers most extreme heat wave with multiple forges going. What were they thinking? When they could have been cool inside having fun making brooms, baskets, spinning and felting!
When we got back to Ottawa we discovered there were going to be interesting felting workshops at Twist (a big fibre festival in Quebec). One was 3 days long on sculptural felting with Marjolein Dallinga , (i promise i will tell you about that one eventually) and the second was on pet portraiture, with Megan Cleland which was also lots of fun. You have already seen the fox I was working on in the second workshop. There was one more workshop in 2018 and I would like to tell you about that one. ( It took me a while but i finally got to the point to this post.)
The Moy Mackay Workshop
Ann spotted it let me know it was happening. We had both looked into going to the east coast for a felting conference but after looking at the location, how to get there and the overall cost decided it was just too expensive. So we were both extremely excited to have the opportunity to take a workshop with an instructor we didn’t think we could make dues to distance and cost. Well it was still pricey but the commute was excellent!! We both signed up as soon as the store, Wabi Sabi, was open. We were joined by one of our guild-mates, Carlene, for a 2 day workshop with Moy Mackay! Day one we were to wet felt two pictures: one a landscape and one a still life. On day two we would embellish them using felting needles, stitch-work (Embroidery) and free motion machine stitching. We were sent a long list of the supplies to bring. The one we all had trouble acquiring was the garden netting. It must be a British thing?
We all looked at the list of what to bring and I was a little dismayed. Not knowing what the landscape would look like but having to bring wool to do it was a bit stressful. what to bring? Well my solution was to bring almost everything. If I didn’t have it likely Ann and Carlene did! Next problem. What is Garden netting? We discovered it’s a British thing. Not like the plastic netting we use in the garden here to keep birds out of the Saskatoons and Gooseberries! (Sorry i couldn’t take a picture of what British Garden Netting looks like.)
The day of the workshop arrived and, with a well filled car and my folding blue wagon, I headed off to the Hintonburg Community Centre just a few stores down from Wabi Sabi. This is very convenient since Wabi Sabi had promised to have a large selection of fibre in case we were missing any.
One of the advantages of taking workshops is you can see the methodology of the teacher. You can try to figure out why she is working in one way and not another. You can ask her lots of questions too. I have noticed there is often more than one way to do a thing. Just look at my spelling. Sometimes the choice is more a matter of “we always do it that way” but sometimes it’s because it is more efficient or effective if you chose this method over that one.
Moy is a fine artist and sells her pictures. She has to be able to produce images in a reasonable time to be able to support herself and continue her artwork, She does not have the option of taking hours to needle felt the background and then add many more hours to hand stitch the final embellishments after the felting is done. So she has developed a method that works for her purpose. She is fast! This is definitely not a negative thing. I was truly impressed at how quickly she worked. It was obvious that she has had many years of practice and was comfortable and confident in her colour palate and design choices.
She showed us the 2 landscape photos she had chosen for us. They are views from her new house in Scotland. They showed the yellow fields and looked out to her neighbours farm house. One shot had fencing and wildflowers. The other had sheep but they were very tiny. For composition I tend to like dramatic lighting or repetition or overlap that draws you into a view. Also yellow is really not my favourite colour, except if I’m painting with rhoplex to make my acrylic paints more transparent, then yellow gets much more interesting. (I bet you can smell the fumes destroying my brain cells even as I think about it!) Ann said “no grumbling and do it anyways” she is right. We are here to experience her way of working and watch her colour palate and methodology.
She did a demo for us. (she didn’t want us to take pictures of her working) It was amazing to watch how really fast she laid out her colours. Both Ann and I were sure all the spinners would be cringing if they watched her carding to blend fiber but it worked for her and gave her the amount of blending she wanted. And it was a lot faster and produced larger amounts than the hand blending I tend to do.
She sent us off and gave us the rest of the morning to finish the layout for our landscapes. From 2 pictures it was very interesting to look around at lunch to see what each of us had taken from the compositions since there was quite a bit of variation within each of the two themes. But you could still see unifying elements within all the pictures.
After lunch she set up a vase with flowers and then Moy demonstrated her technique for laying in back ground, table and creating flowers. The vase and flowers where there only to inspire us. We could expand upon what we were looking at. We were happily adding leaves, flowers and background and she told us we had to hurry and finish up so we could felt both pieces before we had to clean up the class room for the next group coming in. EEK!! Felt Faster!!
We discovered she doesn’t like bubble wrap. It is too aggressive for what she is aiming for. What she is doing in wet felting is not creating strong cohesive textile as you would for a vessel, slippers or a cat cave but a thin softer felt which more resembles pre-felt for her base. She can then still manipulate the felt after it has had its wet felt treatment. If it were felted as fully as a vessel or even worse my cat cave fish it would never fit under the pressure foot on the sewing machine.
I did stick with my bubble wrap but I was pretty back weary by the end of the day and was sure I could keep the fibres from over felting (I was too sore by then to be aggressive anyway). So after only minimal felting I was done and packed everything up into my wonderful wagon and headed back to the car. When we were all packed up we took a quick shopping trip up the street to Wabi Sabi. More Wool!! Really you can’t have too much wool can you? After a good dose of fibre we all headed home so we could do part 2 tomorrow!
Day 2 Embellishments
Moy does some needle felting with her pieces but mostly she does a form of embroidery and free motion sewing on a sewing machine. She spent the morning with demonstrations of needle felting, hand embroidery and machine embroidery/ sewing. My sewing machine doesn’t have the feed dog covers and I’m not sure I can get them but I watched her demonstrate with the felt and sewing machine. It was interesting to see her add more detail with just a bit of stitching. And again She was fast! She demonstrated the technique enough that I am confident I have the concept if not the dexterity to understand what she was describing.
I spent most of the time working with the needles making my trees mildly 3 dimensional. By the end of the workshop I was wiped and I still had more work to do on the landscape and all the embellishment left to do on the flowers!
Ann’s and Carleen’s are much more embellished than mine are but I hope to get back and finished them eventually!
It was fascinating to see all the pieces together at the end of the workshop. There was a lot of variation on the theams we were given. I am very glad I was able to attend this workshop. I learned a new way of approaching picture felting, used pre-felt for depicting the building and really enjoyed the workshop. (But i am still not fond of Yellow.)