Utterly useless – a watering can that can’t hold water!

Utterly useless – a watering can that can’t hold water!

Inspiration: US Sculptor Rogan Gregory’s piece

Okay! I will admit it! I have a big thing about shapes.  Sometimes it keeps me up at night.  Over the Christmas between planning what to do with all the leftover turkey the dog hadn’t managed to steal (I had no idea he could jump THAT high) my mind got to thinking about book resists and how introducing a hole in the resist would totally transform the shape of the piece.  Then in the New Year I came across this felting challenge on social media (thank you Mia Hartgroves) which involved producing a wet felted interpretation of this watering can, created by the US Sculptor Rogan Gregory.  In my mind it ticked all the boxes.  I love the shaping around the handle and I reckoned the overall shape could be achieved with an asymmetrical book resist.  Plus I got to put a hole in the resist!

First was the sketching.  Not my strongest point but this year it’s on my to do list to practice more.  Normally I just do my calculations in my head and visualise (no wonder I’m awake half the night).  From a practical viewpoint I knew that I needed to get out the pad so I started small and grew the piece over a number of iterations.  Soon I had my pattern as the drawing had grown sufficiently to fit on an A3 page. I reckoned when designing the resist that it was important that a line could be drawn through the pattern so that each page would have sufficient area to accommodate the laying down of the fibre.  This was going to be especially important at the spout end of the design.  Also, the placement of the hole for the handle was important as I wanted to capture some of the curvature on the sculpture.  Once adjustments were made to accommodate these factors, I finalised the pattern and cut out the resist.  The resist has three pages; two to accommodate the bulk at the bottom and one at the top.  Therefore I cut the pattern twice, sewed along the centre of the resist and then stuck the two layers (where the handle was) together.  At that point I was ready to felt.  I chose Corriedale (grey) and I planned to embellish the piece with grey viscose.  Viscose has a beautiful sheen so I reckoned I could capture some of the shine of the original piece with this fibre.

Three page resist

I started with the bottom page of the resist as this was the one part of the project which could remain undisturbed once it was laid down.  First layer was laid north/south and second east/west as I wanted the top direction of the fibre to flow with the direction of the piece.  Viscose was then added and it was wetted down. Once a skin had formed on the fibre I covered it with some light plastic (decorator’s plastic) and folded over the page, making sure that the plastic remained next to the fibre.

The bottom of the resist ready for laying down the fibre
Ready for wetting out
Gently does it!
Turning attention to the top pages

Turning my attention to the top (handle) side of the resist, I set about folding in the excess fibre from the underside. To avoid build-ups I trimmed back some of the excess by pulling away and discarding the fibre.  I paid particular attention to the spout.  As the Corriedale fibres were long there was a danger that I would end up with a build up of layers at the top of the spout.  I did the unthinkable and cut back some of the excess with my scissors.  Then it was time to lay down the first layer of fibres.   Again in a north/south direction, I paid particular attention to two areas; I broke the long fibres in half so that I did not crowd (too many layers) the spout; I also took care when placing the fibres around the handle area – I laid the fibre on the bottom part of the handle and then tucked it into the other side of the resist.  Once that was safely tucked away I was able to continue to cover the rest of the side tucking in the fibre about the remaining section of the hole.   I laid down only one layer and repeated the process on the other side of the resist.

First layer paying particular attention to the hole
Wrapping the wool at the hole

Once both sides were covered with one layer of fibre I wet them down, tucked it in and set about working a skin on it.  Then it was time to decide where to place my fishing line into the felt so I scoped it out with pins, measured and added extra for the ‘overflow’ from the can.  I cut 6 lengths of fishing line (3 for each side) then tacked them down onto the fibre.  I made sure that they were symmetrical on each side of the resist.  I threaded the ends of the fishing line through a straw so that I had some control over them when I was tacking them down.

Scoping out the positioning of the fishing line
The tacking begins …
All secure and ready for the next stage

Once secured, I put the second layer on the top two sides of the resist.  I was once again mindful of the hole and the spout.  I checked to make sure that the spout end of the resist was still visible as I did not want this end to felt together. I applied the viscose fibre to the two top sections of the resist.   After that I felted the whole piece (placing decorator’s plastic on both sides of the top to stop the fibres being disturbed as I worked on each of the pages) and rolled it until it started to shrink.  Then I removed the resist.  I cut into the bottom section of the hole. I did not remove any of the felt just sliced through this section and then sealed it.  Once these were sealed I started the fulling process until I was happy with the size. 

Cutting the hole in the prefelt and removing the resist
Time to Shape

I wanted more definition on the curvature around the handle so I decided to stiffen the piece.  I soaked the can in a dilution (Golden GAC Medium-800) stuffed it and left it to dry. 

I’m pretty pleased with the end result.  If I was making it again I think I would use more fishing line in the piece, perhaps including it in the bottom section.  That way it might not look as if the line is flowing through the top section only.  At the moment the line (representing water) seems to be defying gravity. 

I thoroughly enjoyed planning and making this piece.  Next time I may try a hole in a symmetrical book resist just to check out the overall alteration in the shape of the structure. 

Happy felting!

20 thoughts on “Utterly useless – a watering can that can’t hold water!

    1. Thanks so much Lyn and Annie. It was fun to make and good to think through the various challenges the shape created. 😊

    1. Thanks Karen. Sometimes I wish I could get the grey matter working during daytime. It always hits me in two spaces, in bed and in the shower lol

  1. Fascinated with the process used for watering can! Am wondering what a “book resist” is. Shall go find out.

    1. Thank you B! This might save you a search. Have you ever made a bowl using a resist? This is where you would felt around a piece of plastic or floor underlay (some felters use other things but I want to keep it simple here for explanatory purposes). Ok so, you can now picture the underlay resist. it has two sides (front and back). Now cut a second identical resist and either use a waterproof sticky tape or needle and strong thread to stick them together at a centre line. Instead of having a two sided resist you now have four sides to cover with fibre. You could add another circle and have more sides to cover but we will keep is easy for a first try. This is the book resist If you only want to work with three sides, simply stick (or sew) two of the ‘pages’ together. If you want to try this, be sure to lay some thin plastic sheeting (eg decorators plastic between the ‘pages’ as you work. Otherwise the pages will felt together. Best of luck!

  2. Wow, that’s a great piece and so interesting to see how you worked it through. As for the ‘water’ coming out of the upper part of the spout, that happens all the time for me. I leave the can outside & when I go back to it a snail has got inside and partially blocks the spout. Blame a snail.

  3. Thanks Lindsay, I got hold of a crochet hook and managed to pull the critter out of the spout! Now if I get him to stay still long enough for me to take a photo, he might be my next project 😉

  4. Helene what an amazing sculpture you’ve achieved.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thought process. You are definitely a kindred spirit.

    Maybe you would point us to where we can find the work of others for your watering can challenge and tip us the wink if there are more such challenges in the future.

    1. Thanks a million Antje. I recently joined a group on Facebook Sculptural Wet felting Group. The watering can was the first challenge for 2021. Our next challenge will involve Fibonacci. I have just checked and I think you are already a member of the group. 🙂

  5. Wonderful job Helene! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your process. I have to try more book resists out. I have done a few but never quite achieved what I had in mind. I will have to go back to the drawing board. I will have to check into the FB group you mention. Not sure I’m up to Fibonacci at the moment though 😉

    1. Aha, Ruth, the challenge is free for your interpretation of it, make any sculptural shape you wish!

    2. Thanks a million Ruth. I agree. The book resists require a bit of concentration. I can’t count the number of times I “lost” a page in the process 😅 I have sent you sn invite to join the group. I think it need me to go for approval to the group admin. But it should be with you soon 💖

  6. Great process Helene and a great piece. Maybe you could make a hole in the top of the spout like in the original. Would that make more sense to you if the water was coming out of the top that way? That FB group is an interesting one. Fibonacci may be more than my brain can manage right now, although I was thinking of making some spirals.

    1. Thank you Ann, I was asking myself for years where all the sculptural posts were and in the end realised I’d better do something about it. Administrating it has given me positive focus over the last few months too!

    2. Thanks Ann! I had considered that with the spout but ran out of energy on the book resist. And altering the symmetry. As the fishing line runs through the layers I couldn’t cut it. The spout was comparatively narrow so I reckoned I would have ended up with a build up of fibre at the base of the spout even breaking the fibre length more than I did. Yes the page is interesting. Lots of talent. Fibonacci is quite a challenge 😬😳

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