Introducing Petunia and Friends

Introducing Petunia and Friends

I first saw the masks of Gladys Paulus 4 or 5 years ago and was instantly mesmerised, to me, the photo below is iconic of her work, stunning felt, photographed in curious and inspiring ways.

When I started to see photos of her students’ work appearing online I KNEW this was a workshop I HAD TO take. Gladys has a young family so understandably limits her teaching schedule to only a handful of events each year, she also teaches internationally, this means there are typically only 1 or 2 dates each year when she is teaching in the UK. Not surprisingly, her workshops sell out pretty quickly, having been pipped to the post on 2 previous occasions I wasted no time when she announced there would be a fantasy mask workshop at the beginning of April. Cheerfully glossing over the health warnings and assertions that it would be very hard work, I suspect I was the first person to book a place! 🙂

In preparation for the workshop Gladys asked us to collect photos / create drawings from different angles of what we would like to make. I knew I wanted to make something based on a leafy sea-dragon, a very flamboyant relative of the seahorse, and found lots of photos from the front, a few from the side but none from behind. I attempted to sketch what I thought it might look like but found that almost impossible.

In a moment of epiphany I remembered I had a bag of clay left over from my diploma in art and design course. Would it have dried out and be unworkable?

It was perfect! Still soft and malleable, it was a delight to work with and it was strangely cathartic to see my leafy sea-dragon evolve the more I worked the clay.

Until finally, a flowery-sea-dragon was born…

And of course, the all important shot from behind 🙂

I went back to sketching based on on the model, as you can see I was already brainstorming possible names; one of my instagram followers suggested she should be a perfumer with a nose so large.

It turned out I wasn’t the only one who made a clay model before the workshop, Suzie did too, only she went a few steps further, glazing and firing her work:

Carolyn also made a super-cute needle-felted model of her gargoyle.

Gladys commented that we were the first group to make models in preparation for the class making it all the more interesting that the 3 of us had done so independently of each other. Great minds eh? 🙂

With nervous anticipation (I had waited over 3 years to take this workshop) I filled the car with as much wool and felting paraphernalia as I could cram in, carefully perching my fragile clay model on the pile in the front seat, and made the 2.5 hour drive to Felt in the Factory on the Welsh border.

There were 7 students on the course, all lovely, very experienced felt-makers. Two had flown over from Canada (they did not know each other before the workshop), now that is dedication! The first day started with introductions and how to design and plan your mask template before creating the template.

Templates made, we started laying out the wool by the end of day 1 and this continued for the next two days interspersed with making prefelts and some rubbing. I am so glad most of us were staying at Felt in the Factory or nearby as we worked until 10pm most evenings and coming in an hour or 2 before class officially started again to work on our creations. Did I mention that the sign up form included a health warning regarding the level of fitness required? I thought it was exaggerated but we really did end up spending 12+ hours each day on our feet, only stopping to eat and sleep. The ever-helpful Nina provided a constant supply of tea, coffee and cake ensuring the meal breaks were kept to a minimum.

I think most of us went through quite an emotional journey with our masks, starting with excitement and a little trepidation at the scale of the task to despair that it would always be a twisted misshapen mess to finally the joy and fulfilment as it finally started to resemble the sketches and photos it was created from. Some of us even changed what we thought we were working on, when I bumped into Nickie at the Contemporary Textiles Fair she said she would make a dragon, by the end of the week it was a griffin, I will let you decide….

Everyone left 5 days later with a mask they could be proud of although, sore hands a big smile on their face. I think all of us have continued working on our masterpieces.

I think I am the only one to name my new pet, perhaps you can help suggest some names? Introducing…..

Carolyn’s gargoyle
I’m sure gargoyles should be frightening but I think he is gorgeously huggable 🙂
Nickie’s dragoniffin
Suzie’s Ram’s Head – Work in Progress
Suzie Gutteridge
Petunia – my Flowery Sea-Dragon

If you are interested in taking the workshop I recommend signing up to Gladys’ newsletter on her webpage, otherwise you may keep missing out as her classes fill very quickly.

On a totally unrelated final note, I have received some requests to see how the felted pictures made by my Embroiderer’s Guild group in my last guest post turned out. Please follow this link to see more….

27 thoughts on “Introducing Petunia and Friends

    1. It was an incredible workshop, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any intermediate-advanced felt-maker who wants to extend their skill set

  1. Wow. Wow. Wow! These are amazing. I can tell they were a huge effort to create, but what great results. Thank you for sharing this–love it! The class does sound daunting, even for experienced felters. I don’t think I could stand for that long without the spongy-feeling health mat I purchased for my studio. It makes a world of difference when you are standing for a while (I have them in my kitchen, and loved how it helped prevent back aches, so I bought one for my studio). I would have brought it with me to this class! Your sea dragon is gorgeous and I also really liked the dragon griffin.

    1. Thank you 🙂 Your spongy mat sounds like a great idea! I wore some well cushioned trainers (sneakers) so my legs and feet weren’t any more tired than the rest of me, but I did sleep well every night, despite dreaming about fantastical underwater creatures 🙂

  2. What wonderful creations. All so unique and different but you can tell it was an excellent class with such examples created. I love that kind of class where you are so immersed in what you are doing and you just carry on into the wee hours 🙂 Petunia is amazing! And I love the story about how you worked out the plan for creation. I hope you will also keep your model as it is a work of art as well. Thanks for the great post.

    1. I totally agree, it is a huge testament to Gladys’ teaching skills that all her students create such fantastic masks, seeing the creations from each successive class was one of the reasons I knew I had to take this class.
      While it was amazing to be so completely immersed in felt for 5 days (and nights) it really isn’t sustainable long term, it is just too exhausting!
      I am afraid Petunia mark I did not survive the journey home, she lost quite a few of her appendages.

  3. All are fabulous masks! It was great to see Petunia evolving and she’s beautiful – especially her purple nose.
    Please could you post a photo on the forum so that we can see the nose from the front in all its glory?

    1. Thank you ladies. I’m afraid my computer seems have a conflict between the class forum pages and the open access forum, if I log into one I get locked out of the other. I haven’t been able to figure out why my computer thinks they are the same site as the urls are clearly different. Answers on a postcard please…

    2. Teri, if you have a photo from the front, I will be glad to post it for you. I have no idea why the forums react that way. I have no issue with it at all moving from one to the other. But I have had students with the same issue.

    3. Thank you Ruth, please feel free to repost any photos of Petunia (for the others I think we should ask permission first but I know Carolyn is a member so may have already posted some photos). If there are questions I can be reached via the contact form on my web page.

      I really should try accessing the open forum again but with another class about to start the idea of getting locked out of the class forum again fills me with anxiety. I suspect the issue is because my user name is the same on both sites.

  4. They are all fabulous!!! Her class is certainly on my bucket list, she just needs to make it down under. Well done!

    1. Good news Kay, I received a survey from Gladys last night, asking what we would like to learn on an online course from her, I suspect it might be a year or two in the making but masks were on the list of options….

    2. Sounds great! But of course, as you would appreciate, you get so much more from doing a class in person…….like no housework, cooking, kids asking whats for dinner, dogs needing a walk… you get the idea! 😀

    3. I totally agree, you also get more immediate feedback from the tutor, so mistakes and possible problems are corrected before it is too late but unless you are prepared to travel long distances sometimes online classes are the only option.

  5. All are totally fabulous. I loved seeing your design evolve from drawings through clay to the Felt mask of Petunia. Just seeing the masks you can feel the effort needed.
    It was obviously meant to be that you waited 3 years and arrive with 2 others who had done 3D models, and the two from Canada! All Gladys Paulus pieces are very inspiring.
    Petunia is stunning, you have translated your design skilfully, I too immediately looked for her front photo….looking forward to seeing it.
    Hope you can resurrect Petunia’s predecessor then colour and glaze it.

    1. Thank you Antje, I am so glad I persisted with trying to get a place on the mask workshop, it was definitely worth the effort! And as you say, perhaps it was meant to be. I will see if I can add another photo of Petunia to the post above, watch this space…

  6. Glorious results, quite wonderful. I’ve been following Gladys on social media for a while and have signed up to do her seed pods course in November in the Netherlands. Quite a commitment in terms of travel (from the UK) but I’m really looking forward to it. Great blog, Terri.

    1. Thank you Lindsay, are you going to Atelier Fiberfusing? I am sure you will have a ball, I drove there a couple of years ago, its not as far as you might think (I completed the whole journey in one day) but it was a bit freaky overtaking in a right-hand-drive car. I haven’t taken her seedpod workshop but others tell me it is fabulous. Enjoy! And perhaps write a guest post about it when you get back? I know the FFS team are always on the look out for interesting fibery content 🙂

    1. Thank you Kim, it certainly was, now I am wondering how this experience will impact my practice… there is a dragon taking shape on my bench right now but I can’t see myself making lots of masks, maybe garden sculpture….?

  7. Whoa! What a fabulous photo of Petunia’s full face! Glad you were able to post it – it’s brilliant!

  8. They are all fab masks, so creative and unique. It’s interesting three of you did 3d models first. I think I may have done the same. I saw her work years ago and would have loved to take her class, but I’m no longer strong enough to do that kind of physical work. But I do enjoy seeing what others create. Thanks for sharing your class and experience.

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