Happy New Year!

I have my fingers, legs and toes crossed that, at some point later this year, we might actually be in the position of being able to safely congregate once more in large groups. Zoom has been, and continues to be, a great way of keeping in touch with family and friends but it’s also proving invaluable for many creative groups allowing us to carry on meeting, have our regular show and tell, exchange ideas and generally stay together.

Another creative positive from last year was online shows and exhibitions. Ok it’s certainly not the same as actually being there but it has allowed artists an outlet for their creativity and, in turn, provided inspiration for those of us who have visited, albeit virtually. In some cases it may be that, having seen a body of work online, we might be all the more likely to make the effort to travel to see it in the flesh once things return to normal. For me, the most inspiring work I saw online last year was the Hinterland collection created in 2017 by Gladys Paulus and featured in the 2020 video Hinterland by Gladys Paulus – a film by Chris Chapman. Gladys’s work is incredibly skilful in its design and execution and I’ve been in awe of this body of work since it was first made public but not had the chance to see it on display. With this film we are privileged to not only see but also hear the story behind this collection, as narrated by the artist. This takes the viewers experience to another level. Its a very personal and very moving story, if you haven’t already seen this film please take a look.

Another “positive” that some of us were able to take from last year was a “reconnect” with nature. Prior to lockdown my morning routine with Maddie was a short walk to the local park where I would throw her ball for half an hour while chatting to other dog walkers. On days when I was working this would sometimes feel rushed and I would be constantly clock watching to ensure I wasn’t making myself late.

Lockdown meant my days had no time constraints, it was also no longer socially acceptable to stand around in groups in the park chatting, and the government were encouraging us all to get fit……Maddie was about to discover doggy heaven! The lengthy weekend walks, anything from one to two hours across the fields and through the woods, now became our daily routine. When we return to work I’m going to have to set my alarm a lot earlier as this is one routine I’m not prepared to give up!

Country walks are always a great source of creative inspiration and, if you’re like me, you’ve got hundreds of photos saved “just incase”! Someday you might get around to starting that felted/textile project on weeds, lichen, frozen puddles, frozen leaves, dried leaves, tree bark, tree skeletons, fungi, seaweed, stones, bracken, insects……..the list goes on!

One thing I hadn’t particularly noticed, and hadn’t deliberately photographed, prior to last April was shadows. I’d not given them a thought in the past but with time on my hands, and what seemed like never ending sunshine, I found myself noticing them. The most interesting were on a tree lined stretch of the Viking Way. I’d walked this path hundreds of times before but only now was I seeing these wonderful lacy patterns and thinking they could be the starting point for an abstract wet felted Wallhanging.

I didn’t sketch or design my layout or colour scheme, it simply started out as a white Merino background with clouds of pale Viscose. Several layers of “shadows” were built up randomly on top, the first was green Viscose, the others Merino. After felting I added detail with free motion stitch and lots of Colonial Knots – my favourite hand stitch! The addition of texture started to move the piece away from “shadows” more towards bark/fungi but I was happy with that as it was keeping the tree connection. The finished piece is approx 42cm x 58cm.

Due to ongoing restrictions the International Feltmakers are holding a virtual AGM on 27th March and to coincide with that they will be launching their second online exhibition of members work. This years exhibition title is ReConnect and any work submitted has to be less than a year old. I’ve chosen this piece as my submission as its creation back in June was sparked at a time when a lot of us were reconnecting with the natural world, taking the time to notice things that have always been there but which we may have previously overlooked. It’s world’s away from the imagination and expertise of Gladys but we all need someone or something to aspire to…..fingers crossed it gets selected!

I wonder which feltmaker/textile artist you find particularly inspiring?

20 thoughts on “ReConnect

  1. I follow many felting groups on facebook. I have a difficult time picking just one that I find inspirational because I am inspired by so many. However, after reading your post today, I find your thoughts and creativity inspirational.

    1. That’s very kind of you to say Debs. I get a lot of inspiration from other contributors on here so I hope you keep enjoying the posts and have a very creative year!

  2. Karen, you have an excellent eye for photography. I love all the images you collected for inspiration!

    Your finished piece is beautiful, and I really like the close-up image – I don’t think I’d have noticed the hand embroidery otherwise…

    I’m glad you’ve had time to pause and reconnect. It’s so important to remember to live in the moment, in this culture that glorifies busy-ness. Thanks for the reminder.

    As for an artist I find inspiring, Gladys Paulus is of course a must, as well as Stephanie Metz – I had the pleasure of seeing (and touching!) one of her teddy bear skulls at a London Knitting & Stitching Show and it was lovely 🙂

    1. Oh wow, lucky you! I’ve seen the teddy bear skulls close up but wasn’t able to touch them. They were being exhibited as part of the Black Sheep – The Darker Side of Felt touring exhibition but if I remember right they were in glass cases. It was that exhibition that sparked my interest in Feltmaking and opened my eyes to what could be achieved. Have you watched any of Stephanie’s YouTube videos? There is some very interesting content including how she sculpts her enormous pieces and how she makes the patterns for covering them. There’s also this one showing how the skulls were made fascinating stuff!

  3. Such wonderful photos, inspiration and a lovely end result with your piece. It’s wonderful to reconnect with nature and have time to see a little more closely. I hope that you will still be able to take those long walks even after the world returns to “normal”. I hope that everyone can learn what is important to their well being and creativity from this pandemic experience. Perhaps Mother Nature is trying to teach us the way to enjoy the small moments.

    1. Oh yes, I’m going to do all I can to maintain this routine Ruth. Before lockdown I was frequently struggling with a stiff back and hip pain but since increasing the walks I’ve felt like a new woman. I just need to get that mirror on the wall now!

  4. Your piece is wonderful, lots of layers and texture. I hope you get picked. Some wonderfully inspiring photos. There are so many inspirational felt makers, it is to hard to pick. I also like some of the fused glass artists.

    1. Thanks Ann. It’s funny that you mentioned fused glass. I started selling through, and volunteering at, a craft shop just before Christmas. Of all the wonderful crafts on display leading up to Christmas I would say the most popular, and the best seller, was the fused glass.

  5. Your photos are great Karen – mother nature at her most interesting!

    Love the piece you’ve chosen for submission. Fingers crossed but we think it deserves selection.

  6. Thank you Karen! Just nice to know we are all in the same place and excited about the prospects for the new year!

  7. Oh, yes Karen, you capture the up-side of normal life interrupted so well: wonderful observations of natural beauty. Your wall hanging is gorgeous – I do hope it gets selected for the exhibition.

    I agree completely about Gladys Paulus. The Hinterland exhibition is inspiring, moving and beautifully made. She’s also produced more recently a series of amazing masks to highlight animals in danger of extinction.

    I love to hear about others’ favourite feltmakers as I sometimes haven’t heard of them and I get to spend a while getting to know their work. For very different reasons I’d add Soosie Jobson, not just for her work but also her experimentation and huge generosity in sharing what she learns (mostly via her YouTube channel). And finally Atsuko Sasaki for the sheer perfection of her amazing bags.

    1. Thats exactly why I asked the question Lindsay, it’s great to get a recommendation of someone you haven’t yet come across. You are so right about Soosie, I discovered her videos when I started felting and learnt about differential shrinkage….what a revelation that was!! As for Atsuko, I would love to know how long it takes her to make a bag, the quality of felt she produces is second to none. In fact the first time I saw a display of her work I thought it was colourful ceramics!!

  8. Karen your photos are amazing & your shadow piece is a work of art on so many levels & layers. I hope others will have the opportunity to be inspired by it.

    Yesterday I took Raffles for a long walk just as the sun was setting. He was so patient because I was stopping every few metres photographing the snow & ice on the field posts & vegetation etc glinting in the sunlight….it was glorious. Oh but once that sun had gone the slight wind was very 🥶 I really enjoyed my hot chocolate on arrival home.

    Although I’ve not had the opportunity to see their work in person I have been a follower of Gladys Paulus, Stephanie Metz & Soosie Jobson along with many more, for a while. They are inspirational & the story behind the Hinterland is very poignant.

    Colonial knots & fly stitch….where would we be without them?

    1. If you ever the chance to do a workshop with Gladys you must do it Antje. She’s not only a terrific feltmaker but a fabulous teacher too. Another who’s workshops I would particularly recommend is Annemie Koenen. She comes over to the UK every year and has a very relaxed, very natural, teaching style but she makes sure that whatever you are doing you get it right…..she doesn’t miss a trick! I have learnt so much from both of these ladies.

  9. When I first saw the theme for the next IFA exhibition I found it very difficult to find anything in “reconnect” – I have a very literal mind so that I have difficulty in seeing behind the obvious. I had real difficulty with the pieces accepted for the first Exhibition with the theme “kaleidoscope”.
    Your piece has shown me how to look behind first thoughts and I think I now have something I can make for the exhibition. Thanks.

    1. Sometimes I’ve gone to the wire with deadlines for challenges when I’ve struggled to get started on a theme. I had wanted to do something for Kaleidoscope but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get interested in it as a subject. I’m glad this post has helped to open up the ReConnect theme for you and I hope whatever you create makes the selection.

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