I was recently showing some felt pictures in my little harbour hut gallery in Whitstable.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here you can see the dry background: pewter with some wisps of green and blue.
And here it’s laid out with first the blue and then the white cobweb added, waiting to be felted.
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.
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 https://creek-creative.org/
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. http://www.thesportsmanseasalter.co.uk/
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…..