I had a few weeks of sales / exhibitions coming up and was rather low on felt pictures so I decided to go on a little picture-making binge.
First an oystercatcher. I’m particularly keen on square pictures but I know some people prefer rectangles, so last time I had a batch of box frames made for me by my friendly local framer, I ordered four large rectangular frames – two finished in oak & two white wood. (Frame size 84 x 64cm / 33 x 25”)
I’m afraid I didn’t take many ‘in progress’ shots of the oystercatcher. I’d wet felted the bird’s body a little while ago. I then wet felted the background to fit the frame using a variety of pebble-coloured prefelts for the foreground, some incorporating bits of recycled silk scarves. The waves are merino wool with lots of small locks and some sort of tube of knitted yarn designed for scarf-making that I’d picked up in a charity shop. The patches of sea foam are bits of cobweb prefelt and I also included some blue cobweb prefelt to suggest light reflected from the sky. These were added to two base layers of pewter-coloured merino with additions in green and mink.
I needle felted the bird into place then needle felted in the eye, beak and legs, using orange prefelt and hand-dyed fine merino wool.
I wasn’t sure what I’d put on the right-hand side of the picture. I’d considered a second oystercatcher with its back to the sea but there wasn’t really enough room. I live in Whitstable, in south east England – a town famous since Roman Empire times for its oysters – so thought oyster shells might work well for an oystercatcher. I wet felted a pair of 3D oyster shells using bits of different recycled wool and silk yarn on the outside and some pearl fibre from World of Wool on the inside. I like the pearl fibre as it adds a sheen and is presumably made from the insides of shells (i.e. mother-of-pearl) so it seemed appropriate.
I thought it needed another shell so cast about in my stock and found a wet felted mussel shell to add to the collection. I messed around with the composition a little then needle felted them into place before framing. I now use sticky backed hook strips (like the hook half of Velcro) when framing felt – the hook strip attaches to the mount board and the felt is held in place by the little hooks. The felt can easily be removed without damage or residue if I need to move it or someone decides to reframe it.
Next up I made a very lightly felted cobweb prefelt to use in the next three pictures.
When making cobweb felt I tease out a piece of wool roving rather than laying out separate tufts of wool in a single direction. This is part way through the teasing-out process. I prefelt it very lightly – in fact it’s scarcely more than wet wool – so I can stretch it out as I apply it to a picture.
I then started on Summer Sea. Again a pewter-coloured merino base but with lots of other colours applied in wisps on the surface.
Then a layer of blue cobweb prefelt topped with some white cobweb.
Here’s the final picture ready for framing. I’m happy with this, even though the wisps of colour aren’t quite as visible as I’d have liked. (64cm / 25” square)
Next picture is a single wave. I start with 4 layers of pewter merino for the sea area and two layers of natural white for the wave and beach. In the past I’ve forgotten to take into account how much extra material goes onto the wave and beach. If I have 2 layers for the whole of the base, the sea part shrinks a lot more than the rest.
First I added some lighter grey/blue merino on the sea alongside some strips of darker blue cobweb prefelt. Then some cobweb prefelt in front of the wave to suggest water from a previous wave. Next I layered on broken baby alpaca top, mohair, silk hankies, wool locks and wool burrs to create the wave itself. I’ve also put a few strands of silk on top of some of the background waves and the wet-look front area to create sea foam.
Here it is from the side so you can see how high that wave is piled!
And here is the final picture. I spent a while when it was dry picking up some of the wave elements with a broken felting needle to enhance the 3 dimensionality of the wave before framing it. (64cm / 25” square.)
4th and final picture was a smaller one (framed size 43cm / 17” square) called ‘Choppy Sea’. Base layout is pewter with highlights in green and mink, with sections of blue cobweb prefelt and silk hankies for wave tops.
Here it’s felted and dry, sitting on top of its frame waiting to go in.
Again, I’ve used a broken felting needle to tease up the silk hankies that make the wave edges to enhance the depth. And here is a view from a low angle to show the 3D.
So, that’s how I’ve been keeping myself busy recently.
To end with, a few shots of these pictures in situ in a gallery.
These pieces didn’t sell in this week-long exhibition but some older work did – which is a great result for me. I like to live a while with the new pictures so we get to know each other but prefer older things not to hang around for too long! However, the last week and a half I’ve been in the beach hut gallery in my local harbour and yesterday both the oystercatcher and the single wave found new homes, which made me do a couple of very happy ‘shop small’ dances.
If you sell your work do you also get that ‘I’m not ready to let it go’ versus – ‘ok, you need to find somewhere else to live’ feeling?