Happy New Year to all!

At the Waltham Textile group we normally have a biannual exhibition of our work but, due to Covid, it was cancelled in 2020 rescheduled for 2021 and then had to be cancelled again. It’s now been confirmed for August but in the meantime I’ve sold my main “Leaf” themed piece so recently made this mixed media “Monstera” to replace it.

I’m also thinking of submitting this piece for the 2022 IFA online exhibition which has the theme of Flora & Fauna. I’m waiting to hear if a mixed media piece will be accepted. I can’t imagine it being a problem but, if it is, I can simply crop one of the images to show the felted leaf.

I bought a 40cm x 80cm canvas with the intention of painting Monstera leaves on it and then adding a 3D Felted leaf. After drawing a template onto paper and offering it up to plan the layout I changed my mind about painting onto the canvas. It’s not something I’ve done before and the surface appeared to be a bit too textured for the look I wanted to create. Instead I sketched the leaves onto a piece of white cotton fabric, outlined them with an Inktense pencil and added a little shading. The aim was for very simple, very smooth, perfectly formed leaves looking more like curved metal than the foliage on my cheese plant. I think this was influenced by the very smooth metallic looking Tyvek seed pods I’ve been making lately. The Monstera in our lounge has been a bit neglected, to the point that I couldn’t bring myself to photograph it for this post!

I don’t consider myself a painter but I do like painting on to fabric. If you need to paint precise lines a good tip is to use aloe vera (by far the cheapest) or acrylic medium instead of water when applying acrylics on fabric. This keeps the paint where you want it to be and avoids it bleeding into other areas. I managed to get a tiny bit of black paint on the lower section of the fabric but stopped short of starting all over again when I realised the felted leaf would cover it up!

My paper template for the painted leaves was 13” x 18” so to make the felted leaf I multiplied by 1.4 enlarging it to 18.5” x 24” to allow for shrinkage. Layer one was a very yellowish green Merino (might have been lichen but not certain). Layer two was a combination of various shades of grey with the yellowish green running down the centre. This was topped with a layer of dark green Merino and Ireland Viscose all around the edge and snippets of gold Viscose down the centre. These images don’t give a true representation of colours but you get the gist.

After wetting out I measured the fibres and found they had spread to approx 20” x 27”. At the fulling stage, every now and then, I put the original template on top to check for size and ensure I was keeping to the right shape.

Once it had shrunk to the correct size it was left to dry. The next stage was to add wires to the back of the leaf so it could be shaped. This could possibly have been done with directional laying of the fibres and lots of fulling but I wanted the option of posing the leaf once it was attached to the canvas and wires are a good way of doing this.

The wires were spaced out and attached on the reverse using a zigzag stitch which also formed the veins on the front side. You can see that bright yellowish green colour on the reverse of the leaf. Once that was done it was just a matter of cutting into the felt to form the individual leaves and the characteristic little holes of the cheese plant.

After attaching to the canvas with a few strategic stitches the leaf was given its final shaping. It’s now hanging in the lounge above my cheese plant where it will stay until the exhibition…..although if I do get the chance to sell it I suppose there is still time to make another!!

24 thoughts on “Monstera

  1. The Monstera is beautiful Karen!
    (Good tip about aloe vera or acrylic medium.)
    We’re very impressed that you managed to keep the leaf so precisely shaped during felting, and the stitched wiring works so well to form the shape you want.

  2. This is wonderful! Also thought stimulating, since we just repainted our living area in a neutral color and I am planning on felting lots of large leaves to add color and texture. I will have to do some inktense ones too- I have used inktense on a test piece (chicken on a tea towel) but I hadn’t thought that it might work really well for painting the leaves. I love it and I will definitely try making a philodendron using your instructions.

    1. Great to hear you’ve been inspired to have a go! Please post images on the Forum, if and when you get your leaves made, we would love yo see them.

  3. That is really fantastic work Karen, I love the texture and dimension of the leaf. The idea of stitching supporting wires so they become part of the sculpture always interests me. I’d mess it up in a heart beat. Congratulations on the sale of the first leaf. I’m always proud of a fibre artists who is also a professional. Can I add a tiny suggestion to solve the overly textured canvas if you ever try painting again? Gesso can be used to prime the canvas and make it smooth(er) and might suit your purpose. But it is another step in an already complex process. I apologize if I’m preaching to the choir.

    1. Thanks, I’m sure you would get on OK with the wire if you gave it a try! As for using Gesso on the canvas, it’s always good to get suggestions. I bought some ages ago but haven’t used it yet. I think the idea of painting straight on to the canvas was scarier than the thought of painting on to fabric! I must give the gesso a try on a smaller piece.

  4. I love how your leaf turned out. The combination of the painted leaves and felt is fantastic. Applying gesso to canvas takes lots of layers and sanding in between to get a smooth surface. So painting on fabric spared you more work 🙂

    1. Thanks Ruth, I particularly like combining different mediums. As for the canvas, I didn’t realise the gesso would need to be sanded so I’m more than happy to stick with painting on fabric for now!

    1. Thanks Karen, I hope it’s given some food for thought and you are right, there are so many other possible applications….we just need to live forever to make time to implement them!

  5. Lovely, Karen. Monsteras are one of my favourite plants and their leaves are so sculptural, you did a great job with yours! You could make a whole plant and you’d never have to water it 😉

    1. What a great idea! I had been thinking of starting again with a new plant…just hadn’t thought of it being felted! Might be a project for the Summer.

    1. Thanks Ann, I’ve heard back from Laura who looks after the exhibiting side of things and she is happy to accept it…..happy days! If Waltham gets cancelled again I’ve suggested we hold our exhibition online too. Fingers crossed it won’t come to that.

  6. I love this piece Karen, the Swiss Cheese Plant is one of my favourites, and at first glance the leaf looks just as if it’s just been taken off the plant.
    Leonor’s idea of a whole felt plant is a great idea – I don’t have many places to put a plant which won’t be in the way, will get enough light but not be in full sun. That might be the answer – add it to the list.
    I’m glad the IFA will accept the leaf for the exhibition, it definitely deserves to be there.

  7. Karen, fabulous! Love the Swiss Cheese plant too and the piece is truly amazing. I suspect you may need to make another as this is bound to fly off the wall once folk see it.

    1. Thanks Helene! I would be more than happy to make this again….with enough variation to ensure both remain unique. Now Leonor has suggested making a whole plant it would give me another chance to practice!

  8. Karen, great news from the IFA.
    Love Monstera 2. The contrast of smooth, flat, black & white with the placement of the coloured 3D textural felt is masterful.

    Looks like you used gutta percha tape to wrap the wires before stitching in place – good idea as it sort of ‘grips’ the wool fibres & stays in place.

    The felt leaf must have a wonderful sheen from the viscose.

    1. Thanks Antje. Yes the viscose does give a lovely sheen. Not having any green wire I used tape to hide the chrome colour…..being “grippy” was an added bonus!

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