Sea Patterns and Acorns

Sea Patterns and Acorns

Sea Patterns

I was recently showing some felt pictures in my little harbour hut gallery in Whitstable. 

Hut 23, Whitstable Harbour Market

I had two sea pattern pictures and someone was very taken with them, but neither of them was exactly what he wanted.  He liked the overall ‘troubled sea’ impression of Sea Pattern (on the left), and the ‘frilly bits’ top and bottom, but he preferred the size in the frame of Summer Sea (on the right).

After some discussion he (Peter, we were on first name terms by this time) decided he liked the idea of commissioning a picture from me.  Now, I’ve written once before about my qualms about taking commissions, link below if you want to take a look.

The long and short of it is that I find it very difficult to know what someone else sees in a picture, which means it’s difficult to be confident I can produce what’s in their head.  Even aside from whether I can translate what’s in my own head into felt.  My conclusion when I was writing previously was that I would take a commission for a picture I’d happily make anyway, on the understanding that if the person didn’t like it, I’d take it into my stock and they wouldn’t have to buy it. So, for example, I’d happily do a picture of a local coastal bird in its environment, but I’d be reluctant to take on anything I didn’t have a feel for and/ or wouldn’t want to make or offer more widely.

This commission fit my criteria so I asked Peter to describe in some detail what he liked about his favoured picture compared with the other one.  He liked the less calm, more turbulent feel of the winter sea pattern. I agreed to take the commission and took a 50% deposit as I think it shows good will on both sides.

These pictures are made by creating two lightly felted cobweb felt pre-felts (one in white and one in blue) then laying them onto a (predominantly pewter-coloured) background and felting them together.  I’ve developed this technique over a number of years.  They’re quite difficult to control but I enjoy the results.

When it came to making Peter’s picture, I first made some blue cobweb pre-felt.  I laid out two layers of a pewter-coloured merino wool background with a few greenish wisps on the surface for a bit of extra colour.  I then put the wet blue cobweb pre-felt on top.  I say pre-felt but it’s very lightly felted – only one step beyond wet wool – so I can pull it about to fit where I want it to go. That’s one of the things that makes it difficult to control.

First layer being laid out
Base layers with blue cobweb overlay

Rather than making new white cobweb pre-felt I used some I’d made previously – which is where I think I went wrong.  I realised in laying it out I didn’t have quite as much as I’d have liked. The client wanted some turmoil, which I interpret as a lot of white, and I was in danger of making a picture more similar to the summer sea pattern.

Final layout

Indeed, although I like the resulting picture – which I’m calling Autumn Sea – I decided it wouldn’t do for the commission so I had another go.

Finished picture – Autumn Sea

I do sometimes get carried away with what I like or am interested in trying and forget what I’m supposed to be doing

This time I would include more white, so I made a new batches of both white and blue cobweb pre-felt.

Laying out wool for blue cobweb felt

Here you can see the dry background: pewter with some wisps of green and blue.

Dry base layout: pewter with blue and green

And here it’s laid out with first the blue and then the white cobweb added, waiting to be felted.

Picture laid out ready for wet felting

And finally here’s the finished picture

I sent Peter a couple of photos, fingers crossed, but reminding him that I’d return his deposit if he wasn’t happy. Fortunately, he liked it and asked if he could name it.  So, it’s called ‘Upon Reflection’ and it’s waiting for me to frame it so Peter can arrange to pick it up. 


As a small aside, last month I participated in something called ‘East Kent Open Houses’.  People in this area open their homes or studios for 3 weekends in October to show their art.  I have two friends (Sue, a potter and Irene, a glass fuser) who I often exhibit with so we decided we’d show our work together in Sue’s lovely conservatory. Here’s a link to a video on Instagram if you’re interested in seeing what it looked like.  The potter is @suemortonceramics and the glass fuser is @irenesouthonglass.

We shared the stewarding which meant I had quite a few hours with nothing specific to do other than sit in the lovely conservatory and wait for visitors.  I’m way behind getting anything made for the upcoming seasonal markets so I thought I’d make some acorn tree decorations. I first made these a few years ago when I’d visited a park that had a gorgeous oak tree with large acorn caps.  I’d picked them up without knowing that I’d go on to making felt acorns for them.  So, I popped into the studio and grabbed my needle felting gear along with a few different wools as I thought I’d experiment to see how much they varied.

I tried 4 different wools: merino tops/rovings, merino & silk batt, Cheviot carded sliver & merino & silk pre-felt. The first ones I fully needle felted.  They all felted well. 

Felted acorn shapes along with natural acorn caps

You can’t see a lot of difference in the photos and indeed there wasn’t a lot of difference. As the Cheviot carded sliver was by far the cheapest of the wools and produced good results, I decided to go with those.  I also decided I got the best results if I knotted the end, lightly needled them into shape until they held their form then wet felted them.

Needle then wet felting gave the smoothest finish and was also quicker than the fully needle-felted ones. Ultimately, I think I just like wet felting more than needle felting.  I’ve glued on the natural dried acorn caps and a hanger, so these went off yesterday to a pre-Christmas fair of cards and decorations at Creek Creative Studios in Faversham, Kent. More info on their website

Felted acorn tree decorations on a stand ready for sale

And finally – an exciting challenge for 2024

There’s a fantastic Michelin-starred restaurant near where I live called The Sportsman. Looking on their website they say they took over The Sportsman in 1999 with the intention of serving good food in relaxed and informal surroundings.  It’s a good description. A link to their website, if you want to know more.

It’s not a ‘posh’ place. More like an old pub in a beautiful slightly out-of-the-way spot by the sea.  As well as serving fabulous food, they also display local artwork on their walls. I contacted them a short while ago to see if they were interested in a display of my artwork.  I sent some photos and they invited me to bring some work with me and come along for a chat.  Happily, they liked what they saw and have booked me in for 6 weeks from 1 April next year. All very exciting but I hadn’t realised quite how much space I’d have to fill.  They casually estimated about 35 to 40 pictures should do it.  Gulp.  So, I now know what I’ll be doing in January, February and March…..

12 thoughts on “Sea Patterns and Acorns

  1. Great post Lindsay, not sure why but somehow your post that was scheduled did not post as it was meant to. I went ahead and posted it today. Sorry I didn’t notice that yesterday.

    You sea pictures are wonderful and it’s great that you took a commission that you were more sure of working out. I will go take a look at the open house video after I finish this comment. It’s nice to be able to do that with artist friends. It seems such a large undertaking for one person.

    The acorns make such lovely decorations and I like that you have kept them white.

    Good luck on the artwork in The Sportsman, I guess you better get busy 😉

    1. Many thanks, Ruth. I should have checked that it posted as it has failed once before but I was very busy the last couple of days so didn’t get round to it. Note to self.

      Thanks for your comments on the sea pictures & acorns. There’s some discussion of making the Open Houses 2 weekends rather than 3 which I think might work better. 3 is a big commitment.

  2. Love your sea patterns & good on ya kid for accepting a commission….great way to negotiate with the customer too.

    The video is a feast of wonderful artwork. Thank you for the link. Open studios offer great opportunities to see otherwise unknown/unseen talented artists.

    Your felted acorns are very elegant and seem to be the on trend at the mo. Last Saturday one of our textile members submitted several as hanging Christmas ornaments at our charity coffee morning in aid of MS.

    1. Thanks for your comments Antje. I’ve made the acorns for a few years now and they’re always very pleasing. I wasn’t going to do any this year but a visitor to the first weekend open house asked me for some so I thought ‘why not?’

  3. Welcome to the “tie a knot to make it work better” club, Lindsay! 😀 Those acorns are adorable.

    I really enjoyed reading about your hesitation in taking on a commission. It reflects mine from when I was doing needle felted sculptures. I think some of us creatives have a hard time coming to grips with the notion that what we envision might not correspond to the client’s own vision but it often works out – as it clearly has in this case, the sea looks amazing.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments Leonor. I don’t know where I got the knot idea from but probably reading someone else’s blog!

      I do agree that understanding accurately what someone else sees in a picture or sculpture can be very difficult.

  4. ‘Upon Reflection’ is gorgeous and it’s no wonder that your customer was pleased with it 🙂

    The conservatory looked so inviting with all that wonderful art – glass, ceramics, photography and felt go so well together.

    All those pretty acorns must have taken some patience to make.

    Good luck with filling the space in The Sportsman. You’ve got your work cut out supplying 35-40 pieces but it’s a challenge you’re capable of doing. The menu in the pub is impressive and a far cry from chicken in a basket with chips on the side!

    1. Thanks so much for your ever-positive comments. Sue, Irene & I often display our work together. Although the media are very different, we are clearly inspired by, and try to reflect, our lovely coastal environment. So they seem to work together.

      Yes, I really do have my work cut out for The Sportsman. I’ve started ordering frames but won’t get to the picture-making until January. Watch this space!

  5. I love those sea pictures Lindsay. Glad your customer liked his commission.
    Good luck with displaying your work at The Sportsman next year, hope you sell lots. (Better get to work then!)

    1. Thank you Ann. I’m glad you like the sea pictures. I like them, but, like everything else, they’re not to everyone’s taste. Yes, there will be plenty of focused picture-making coming up.

  6. I think there are congratulations due all round Lindsay. I am so pleased that you secured the space in The Sportsman. You will be busy (but sure what else would you be doing from January to March (lol)) but I know you will rise to the challenge.

    Congratulations also on the commission. The result is really stunning and Peter made the right decision. I am sure he will get enjoyment from his beautiful acquisition daily.

    Love the little acorns. They should happily adorn many a tree over the festive season.

  7. I love the sea picture too, and so interesting to see how the web develops.
    Wishing you so much luck with your display of work at the restaurant.

We'd love to hear your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.