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Theatre Textiles Part 1

Theatre Textiles Part 1

After I had retired from full time work in 2006 I was finally able to join SNADS – our local amateur dramatic society. I live in a small market town in Dorset and SNADS was the main source of entertainment for our area at that time (as it had been since 1930, although newspaper archives indicate that it was around at least as early as 1883). I had seen most of the productions which they had put on since we moved there in 1999 and longed to join in, not only on stage, but behind the scenes. During any one year there are at least 4 productions – Pantomime in February, Spring Play in May, a Variety Show/Revue in the summer and the Autumn play in early October, and as soon as that was over, the round started again with preparations for the following year’s Panto.

We had a fantastic wardrobe mistress, but she needed help with costumes, especially at Panto time as there was so much to do.

My first foray into costume was to make a full head cat mask for the summer review. Two of our members were to sing Rossini’s Cat Duet and the director decided that it would be fun to have a disreputable tom cat watching them from the side-lines. I had recently learned to wet felt 3D items using a resist, so I made the mask from wet felted pieces and needle felted details. I didn’t want the actor’s eyes to show through and anyway, I needed to give the cat it’s proper “slit” irises. So I stitched into the eye holes a piece of doubled yellow organza and just painted the vertical slit. (It is quite possible to see what’s going on through organza if it is held close to your face.) How to give him a proper nose? I needled the correct shaped nose on the mask, then I painted on some artist’s gesso, let it dry and added some more. Gesso is textured so it was necessary to file the nose to make it a bit smoother, also the gesso is white, so I painted the nose with black enamel paint which I nicked from my husband’s paint store (he’s a model maker). After a couple of coats of that, Tom had a shiny(ish) black nose. Add some “bitten” ears and “wonky” whiskers and he was nearly done. The cat’s mouth was open – it allowed the actor to breathe and gave Tom naughty grin. Finally I gave him a pink tongue and white tips to his ears.

Disreputable Tom Cat

The next production that I was involved in was the pantomime Cinderella, written and directed by one of our members. I was asked by the wardrobe mistress if I would dress both the Fairy (“Fairy Nuff”) and Buttons’ dog, Beau. The director wasn’t quite clear about what kind of dog Beau should be, except that he was to be comic. So I did a sort of 3D needle felt sketch of the dog’s head as I saw it – black and white with one ear cocked.

“Sketch” for Buttons’ Dog

However I’d got it wrong – Beau was to be a black poodle. 

After some discussion with the wardrobe mistress, we decided that the actor would wear a black polo necked top, thick black tights and black gloves. I managed to find a piece of curly black faux fur to make a short jacket, with enough left over to make pompon for the top of the head and the end of the tail, the long dangly ears and wrist and ankle rings to simulate the correct style poodle cut. I was to make a full head mask. For this I made a wet felt hood using a resist and a further piece of flat felt incorporating some of the curly faux fur trimmed from the bought fabric. A lot of that moulted out though because it was nylon or polyester and very slippery. Enough was fixed in however to give the right effect.

I made a needle felted muzzle – again with the mouth open to reveal the red tongue and white teeth, and to allow the actor to breathe.  The nose I made in the same way as for the tom cat – shaped with the felting needle, gessoed and painted.  The muzzle was attached to the hood/face with stitching and felting needles.  Some of the flat felt was cut to represent the dog’s lips and attached by stitching and needle felting to the muzzle.  The “Disney-esque” eyes were again painted organza and were stitched on the inside of the mask. 

The ears and head pompon were also stitched on.  I added a piece of brown fabric and a belt buckle around the dog’s throat to simulate a collar and allow the mask to be firmly secured over the actor’s polo necked top.  I have worn this costume myself a couple of times in subsequent Carnival processions – great fun.

Beau

Since the actress cast for the part of Fairy Nuff had a figure which could easily cope with a glamourous costume, for the base I was given a basque that fitted her. She was to appear out of a compost heap at the edge of the stage, so I set to and made lots of autumn coloured leaf shapes – mainly oak – out of different brown bronze and gold metallic organzas. I sandwiched sparkly bits between layers of organza. I machined stitched around the edges and along the veins of each leaf and then cut out the shapes with a soldering iron. This sealed the edges and prevented fraying. Then, with the basque on a dressmaker’s dummy I attached large pieces of bronze organza for the tail, and then added the strategically placed leaves.

The wings were made from two lengths of flat wire (originally from a pop-up fabric laundry container) covered with more organza, this time creamy white but with sparkles and sequins added. These were attached to the back of the costume by stitching the wire to the shoulder straps of the basque and covering the join with some dark bronze/gold chiffon.

The crown was made from bronze Christmas decorations (that year bronze was in fashion over here – UK). I used bronze plastic icicles, some foil stars and some more organza leaves attached to a head band. I can’t remember what the wand tip was made from – possibly a bunch of tinsel.

I actually got a speaking part in this Panto – only a couple of lines but a step up from what I’d had before.
I don’t have a proper photo, this was before my husband had a digital camera, however I’ve managed to extract a clip from the video we had made of the show. It’s a bit fuzzy if enlarged but I think you can get the gist. I’m in the gold dress with my exclusive “Toilet Duck” perfume, and my punchline? “It drives the men Quackers!”

Guests at the Ball with “perfume”!

After this show, we had one final “adult” Revue and then we moved to where we are now based. Try this link it should show you the hall we left, Sturminster Hall, and eventually the Community and Arts building, The Exchange, which is now our home. https://stur-exchange.co.uk/about/
Unfortunately it seems that a second link, on the above page, may not yet be working – this is a new website in the process of being fully set up so here’s the brochure which was produced the year after it opened.

The Exchange Brochure 2008

The staircase balustrade is wrought iron made by a local craftsman and represents the river Stour which runs through our town. All the Rooms in The Exchange are named after rivers and streams running close by, and it is just beginning to open again to live theatre as well as community groups.

We at SNADS started off our return with an Adult Cabaret a couple of weeks ago, for once without a male Balloon Dance or a ladies Fan Dance, but there was a Pole Dance!

More about my exploits with SNADS (including an explanation of the picture of the wicked queen) later. Watch this space.

Connections: An Exhibition

Connections: An Exhibition

I’ve just taken down my work from a Made in Whitstable group exhibition at a local arts centre gallery so thought I’d tell you about the felt pieces I had in the exhibition.

Made in Whitstable is a loose affiliation of artists and makers who have a close connection to the town, on the coast in SE England.

With a diverse artistic group it’s not always easy to find a title that everyone is comfortable with. ‘Connections’ seemed to offer enough room for people to work with in their various styles and mediums.

This exhibition was postponed from Easter 2020 so it was great finally to get some work out there, and to catch up (albeit at a distance and in a mask) with people I haven’t seen for a long time.

As I’ve described in previous blogs, this year I’ve been learning from online workshops. I’ve long been interested in both seed heads and shells and these have both continued to feature in my recent work. Reflecting on this, I realise they are all forms of natural protective cases and although it’s not a snappy title, I decided it was a good ‘connections’ theme for me.

This is a picture I made specifically for the exhibition.

Recycling Oyster Shells: Turnstone at the Royal Native Oyster Stores, Whitstable

These photos show the oyster shells laid out, prefelt shells in a single sheet, then cut up and laid onto a background of white Norwegian batt (lower half) and tan Perendale batt (top half). There’s a recycled silk scarf laid over the tan batt layers to give the impression of a pebbled beach in the distance.

Layout for the turnstone, using a combination of merino wool and prefelt; fully felted turnstone and a trial with two birds. I decided to go for just one. I needle felted the turnstone into place then added the eye, beak, legs and a few feather details

I also made some smaller pictures along the shell & seed pod theme

Top left: mussel shell with recycled silk sea, cotton scrim wave foam and prefelt pebbles

Top right: Oyster shell with mixed wool and yarns and fabric barnacles on a recycled silk background

Bottom left: pink shell on a recycled silk beach with cotton scrim wave foam and mixed wool and silk fibre sea

Bottom centre: paper felt shell on recycled silk background

Bottom right: Corriedale, silk and yarn background with multiple-resist circles, hand stitching and a sycamore key

I also had various 3D shapes in the exhibition.

Left – based on a eucalyptus seed pod. I made this in a wonderful workshop by Gladys Paulus in November 2019. I covered that workshop in my first blog for the Felting and Fiber Forum. Various wool batts and mohair locks.

Top right – conker made in two parts (using the stem technique I learned from Gladys). Outer made from Perendale and Norwegian batts, inner is merino wool tops

Bottom right – based on a hazelnut, also made soon after Gladys’s workshop.

Here’s a poppy seed head I made this year after Fiona Duthie’s Fibre + Paper workshop. Mulberry paper is felted into the felt surface. The paper adds structure, folds and pleats well and can be drawn on / painted. I painted this with watercolours. I had to make the top separately so stitched it on. A local craftsman made the base; the pod is held on a piece of dowel attached to the base.

This nigella seed pod is also paper felt but made side-on with pre-felted ropes and thicker wool sections (not prefelted) to allow variable shrinkage (learned from Soosie Jobson). I had a reclaimed jarrah wood and dowel stand made for this.

Another paper felt shape, inspired by shells, with pleats and nobbles made as a result of Fiona Duthie’s workshop

And finally, I included a few plant holders and some earrings.

Here’s my display area – I did put the cards (bottom right) on a small table!

My display area

There were lots of good exhibitors. Here’s a small selection: top left fused glass by Irene Southon; middle left acrylics by Josephine Harvatt; bottom left watercolours by Sarah Louise Dunn showing local sites commissioned by Whitstable Museum to illustrate a map of the town; right, prints by Linda Karlsen. Work by Irene, Josephine, Sarah and Linda (Wearartworks) can all be found on social media like Instagram and Facebook. They and other exhibitors can also be found on Made in Whitstable’s Facebook and Instagram.

The footfall was rather disappointing and I would guess that sales were down on previous years, but it was really good to get some work out on show and to see what other people had been creating.

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!

Mer Hands and Armature Study Group

Mer Hands and Armature Study Group

This past week in Ottawa was cold, with a few days that were not overcast and gloomy. We even had a little snowstorm and lost power for a few hours.  Since I couldn’t work on the computer and the lighting was off for colour work I tried to wash the dishes, no hot water…. Ok, how about cleaning up the dust bunny I spotted in the dining room the vacuum is right there… oh….. I will get the broom… Well, it was not all bad, I didn’t have to vacuum and Glenn brought home Fish and Chips as a treat for dinner!

 1 Ice on the window to inspire you!

So when the sun came back I made the most of the good light and blended some yellow-ish skin tones for Mr. Mer. I was focusing on his hands and building up his forearms (lots of arm curls and extensions to build up the biceps/Triceps now wrist curls to build up the extensors/flexors in the forearm) I suspect he would just like me to add a bit more fibre to him so he can skip the exercising!

 2 Mr. Mer, Miss Mer and Mrs. Mer.

It has been a while since you saw the understructure for Mr. Mer but the armature for the hands is floral wire doubled over and twisted. The rest of the body is 12 gauge aluminum. The armature was then wrapped in part of an alpaca bat I had used with all the Mer’s.

      3-8

The top layer is blends of Corriedale in cream, yellows, greens, blush and browns aiming to be similar to the underside of a northern pike with a suggestion of skin tone. I want to layer over a few more tones but I think he is heading in the correct direction.

 9 its hard to see with the wet window but there are gusts of snow on the other side of the glass

Today has been bleak and snowy, but not as cold! So I finished off my notes for the study group on armature wire. I have the outline written. It took a while to try to source locally some of the wire gauges we will be investigating. I also made a list of some of the online options. I wound up with five pages for the outline and shopping notes! I got them off to the registrar so she can send them out as registrations come in. The OVWSG study group web page is now live! The first few fellow studiers have signed up! I hope the rest of my wire orders come in soon!! We are starting 23 February 2021 running weekly on Wednesday (Zoom meeting 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm Local Ottawa time) until 17 March 2021. Because we are Zooming we can be accessible to more people. Please take a peek if you would like!

 10 Mr. Mer is demonstrating how well his new fingers work by holding the first wire order that has arrived. (Approximately 10 gauge Aluminum.)

 11 This is an assortment of wire collected locally in Ottawa at; Dallerama, Home Depot, Walmart. I also found some 12 gauge aluminum wire at McBead Creations but it’s not in the picture! (the 11 gauge steel is what I used in the Quadra-dents and is too stiff for most armatures. But does make excellent weapons!)

I hope this will inspire others to try study groups as a way of learning remotely while we are still stuck at home. At least the commute to work is quick for some of us? And hopefully, the rest of us are having fun felting!!

12 Mr. Mer shows off his fingers

2020, Just a bit Mer to go.

2020, Just a bit Mer to go.

Glenn and I have been travelling as far as Oakville once a month, to take over running errands for his parents and give his eldest brother, who is closest, a break (there are 5 brothers). We are second closest at 5 and a half hours away. The rest live in the US so are on the wrong side of the border to come and visit.

This last trip we checked the hotel was still open, Yes.  Packed up the car; extra grocery cooler bags, suitcases, and fibre related to the Mr. Mer project. One quick look at the garden and off to Oakville!

1-2 Silly lungwort, silly strawberries, it’s not spring, it’s December!!!

After MUCH debating about what kind of fish Mr. Mer actually is. I suddenly realized he was a pike! A Northern Pike! So off to the internet to get reference images! I carefully looked at fin placement, size shape and colouring.

 3 the reference photos

 4 wires were placed for the lower fins.

I pulled out the measured wires (floral wire,22 gauge I think) and started to lay out one side of the fin, mixing tones as I went.

 5 side one of the fin. (wire still to be added)

Added Fibre to the wire and then stuck the ends of the wire back into Mr. Mer just above the tail fin.

6 lower underside fin

7 Getting ready to start upper back fin.  

 8 using 3 of the 42 gauge triangular needles. These are quite nice. I would like to get some in the 333 configuration these are the 222’s.

9 I also used the 38 which suddenly felt aggressive compared to the 42’s!

 10 I started laying in the dorsal colouring. I was hand blending and tearing the fibres into short unorganized sections which I laid on in thin washes.

11-12   I tried attaching only one side of the fin wire for the hip fins.

I had worried all this addition of fins may have been a bit overwhelming for Mr. Mer, but he found a spot to blend into on the couch and started reading a postcard (he seemed interested in the picture from Dubai)

13-14 Mr. Mer refused to wear a mask but he did have a lot of poking with a needle and may have felt that boosted his immunity.  (I did not have a mask that would fit him). I think I will wait for the kind of needle that has the vaccine, fewer barbs in those!)

Parts of Christmas are already in Oakville, they even had more snow than we did! I spotted the mouse angel and the Christmas card from was that just last year?

 15-18 A bit of x-mas has already arrived.

 19 back to work defining fins and covering that butt.

20 the sun finally comes out shortly before it’s time to set.

 21 He had a swim around the computer desk in the hotel room.  Then I had a nice float and some stretching exercises in the hotel pool. Just to prove I don’t actually melt in water, So far…

 22 The mostly empty hotel

 23 The greatest shock of 2020 thus far is I now float,….. in a pool that is saltwater….as long as I hold on to the rope.  I wonder if this new skill will last into 2021?

Have a fabulous week and a nice relaxing X-mas!  I hope you get lots of Fiber, spinning wheels, wonderful inspiring books probably about felting and maybe a loom or two.

Felting Alfresco (Outside! Its Summer!) On to Pet Two. Part 1

Felting Alfresco (Outside! Its Summer!) On to Pet Two. Part 1

Felting Alfresco (Outside! Its Summer!)

On to Pet Two. Part 1

So, this week the goal was to start on Mer-Pet number two. (Sharkette Needs a friend!)

As usual, I did some digging on the internet to find out about them. After a lot of browsing, looking at Spotted Eagle Rays, Bat Rays and Manta Rays I decided on Manta Rays. As I was Focusing on collecting many different views, I started to notice there were differences amongst the photos I was collecting. I think I need to look at words now too. <drat>  While looking for pictures of what a female manta ray looks like I tripped over a post with cool facts about manta rays.

 

Cool Facts About Manta Rays:

The name “Manta” comes from the Spanish word “Mantilla” or cloak.

  • Female manta have pelvic fins but no claspers (that’s a male thing). Females tend to be larger and generally more friendly towards divers than males.
  • Manta can be identified by their splotch patterns on their bellies. Each is different.
  • Manta and Mobula rays have the largest brains of all fish. They keep their brain warm by a counter-curent heat exchange system using their circulatory system. This keeps their temperature more even than most fish.
  • They are smart and use coordinated and cooperative feeding. They are also social and curious about divers.
  • Rays are in the same family as Sharks and Skates. In the ray family, (Myliobatidae), there are two species of Manta (Manta Birostris – Giant Oceanic and Manta Alfredi – Reef manta) and 9 species of Mobula devil rays. You can tell the two types of Manta apart by their coloration, location and size.
    • Birostis (oceanic) has a ‘T’ pattern and there is a distinctive black/white division on their back and almost no spots on their bellies. Tending to be larger around 7m wide and are more solitary. They can stand colder temperatures and are seen most often off shore. Manta have evolved from sting rays but Manta Birostis is the one who has a vestigial sting on their tails.
    • while Manta Alfredi (reef) have a ‘Y’ pattern fading into the black colouration on their backs and unique spot patterns on their ventral side. They tend to be smaller, around 5m wide and are found more frequently in schools around reefs and tropical islands.
  • The Marquesas Islands are one of the few places in the world where you can find both species.
  • I also found photos showing all black and all white manta as well as a definitely pinkish one. So we should keep watching and see if there is another subset of Manta are discovered.

 

Ok, time to get to work!

 1-2  I brought out the implements, armature, fibre and photo reference.

3

Here is the armature I created for the back of the Manta Ray.

I reinforced the leading edge and front scoops (cephalic fins). The black wire running through the body is to help support the posterior aspect, back, of the body. There will be a separate section for the anterior body/mouth. I used fine floral wire to help stabilize the tail extension which like the rest of the body is 14-gauge aluminum – thankyou Dollarama!

 

I started at the proximal (nearer to the centre or midline of the body) point, attaching with a few quick stabs.  Then wrapped fibre towards the distal (further from the centre of the body) end then back, securing it at both ends.  As you can see, I was able to leave a loop at the end of the scoops. This gave a good location to secure the fibre at the distal end.  (I promise there is no medical vocabulary exam hidden at the end of this post but I bet you would pass it if there was!)

 4-6 Wrapping the wire securing at both ends

I added a base layer wrap to the armature to give a bit more support for the fibre that would be added later.

 7-9 First layer of skin for the wings

I then began adding the dark split from a piece of the batt and then adding more to build up the midbody section.

10

10 Back or top of manta ray

  1111 underside of manta ray

This brings us to the missing bits. We are missing the inner mouth structure, gills and the rest of the abdomen/body.

(Manta ray Undercarriage armature.)

So its time to create an armature for the mouth/abdomen.

12 12 Armature for mouth gets measured

Glenn arrived home and I moved to working from the bench in the front garden. Glenn enjoyed one of the gravity chairs and was just falling asleep when we started to hear Harp music which seemed to be coming form the other side of the front hedge.

13-14 working in the front garden

1515 Yes that is definitely a harp being played next door!!!

Our neighbour was hosting his other neighbour on his bench with her Harp! (He likes his lovely green grass, unlike my front yard, which has almost no grass.)

16

 16 What a wonderful way to felt, to live music! (Usually in the summer she plays harp at weddings. I hope she will be practicing in the front yard again soon!)

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We use to have someone who played bagpipes at sunset from somewhere behind our yard. He or she was also vary good. i always hoped i would find them and be able to request Alice Cooper or a bit of really old Black Sabbath. in more normal years we would heading down to the Ottawa Bluesfest and watch live bands, mostly Alt rock, old rock, techno, industrial, prog-rock and yes even blues but only once or twice. i usually brought my drop spindle or one of the portable spinning wheels. It was fun to see bands we had never seen before and some we had. Muse, Alice Cooper and Gretta Van Fleet were particularly enjoyable!

this summer will make us appreciate all the things we use to enjoy once we get to do them again!  so back to felting!!

Fun on-line, Creating the Under-Mer

Fun on-line, Creating the Under-Mer

With stay at home, I have been on line a lot more than I use to be. I have had fun playing Runescape, listening to music, (this week’s felting was assisted mainly by Blue Oyster Cult), audio books and I have had a lovely time watching videos on felting. I have watched both wet and dry and some that were even in English!  There have been a few free workshops and even some felt-alongs on YouTube.  I have watched hats, scarves and flowers being made. It is exceedingly strange with my aversion to unnecessary wetness that the felt along that got my attention was Sara Renzulli’s (Sarafina Fiber Art) felted Mermaid.  She has done a lot of 3-D sculpture, I particularly like her armature work and her felted horses. She has the felt along mermaid and other felt along projects posted on YouTube if you would like to check it out; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hljS4YRmz9w&list=RDCMUCQOKYjvA0xYeHXAnQCmTlIQ&index=1

By now you likely know me well enough to expect enthusiasm and probably not doing what the instructor was expecting (ether from miss reading the instructions or going off on a tangent). I suspect that too. Her Mer-Exampel is pink so I can see design changes ahead. I had originally intended to behave and adhere to the instructions, except for the pink body of course which was to be our own colour selection.

This being the week before the long weekend and our government here being very kind, has allowed some stores to partly re-open (garden centers and hardware stores were the two I needed to visit). So, at 6:30am, armed with gloves and one of my clinic masks, I was off on my quest for the side yard plants and 14 gauge aluminum wire. Wire first at Home Depot since they opened at 6am.  I found steel wire at 14 gauge and a few lighter steel ones but no aluminum… Oh well, maybe I will do better with flowers? Sort of,  I found most of the herb and some very short cherry tomatoes. Well since I’m out and across the street from the Dollarama, I should stop in there for a big shallow bucket to put the plants in until I can plant them out next weekend (I will use it as a plant saucer once I have the plants planted). Why look! Dollarama has aluminum wire the same diameter as the 14 gauge steel. I should have just gone here first! I picked up black and silver. (This could be a very sinister Mer-Person in that colour scheme.)

1 1 the hall of wire acquisition

I had wanted to make a Mer-Man, which just sounded much more fun but also wanted to understand the process before I messed with it too much.  Thus Mer-Woman it was and I followed along with the correct proportions but used the 20 gauge floral wire instead of the lighter aluminum wire I couldn’t find.

 

2 2 Mer-Woman

By this point, I was having quite a bit of fun and wanted to make a Mer-Man too.  So I upped the proportions making him 2 heads taller than the first.  I also added a sternoclavicular section so I didn’t wind the wires more than twice at the shoulders.  I used 20 gauge for everything but the hands since I found the tail wires a bit floppy in the Mer-Woman and wanted stronger in the Mer-Man. We will see if I overcompensated!

 

3

3 Mer-Woman and handsome Mer-Man

I was still having fun and started thinking about my niece who is a competitive swimmer, so on to Mer-teen, (pre-growth spurt) at least a head shorter than a Mer-woman. So subtracting 2 to 2.75 inches should work. Success I have a Mer-Family!

4 4 Mer-Man, Mer-Woman and Mer-teen

 

Now that I have 3 skeletal fish people it had better get stated on adding a bit of flesh to their bones!

I was being good and followed Sara’s instructions. She seems to work in a more additive way, like sculpting with clay. Make a shape and add it. While my inclination is to block in basic shapes then refine them by subtractive sculpting (lots of poking); adding in sections of wool then felting till it’s the required shape and reasonably firm. The way I have been leaning towards is a lot slower but I have good control over the felting. I wanted to try her method so I wrapped the wire then added the filler piece. i used parts of an alpaca batt from Ann, in blends and layers of light creams, browns and reddish browns. Not having the correct tool to do Sara’s rapping technique, I substituted one of my stick shuttles for weaving. It worked reasonably well.  I do like the idea of having a gradation of sizes that can be used to make a shape. This makes the shape size repeatable.

5        5 Creative use of a stick shuttle

I inserted the carrot shape into the leg space which created the filler for the tail.  Then I got engrossed in adding quads, creating an illiac crest at the hips.

 6-7 Filling the tail

As I started adding the body, arms and head, I got distracted…..(no photos sorry!) I had a blast adding latts, anterior delts and the serratus ant.  You can see cute little clavicles but I didn’t add more than a suggestion there might be a manubrium! I even had a sternum that was more visible before she acquired breasts. (I felt very guilty sculpting them, that needle did look vary sharp!) I got busy sculpting and firming up the fin section and discovered I liked the suggestion that there were knees in that tail, and the hint of the remains of legs within her tail.

8 8 Discovering (my) fish woman has knees (but no hands yet)

As I started to add the hands I realized I should have had hands on all my felting projects (whether or not they originally had hands). Look, she is self-felting!!

   9-11 Hands can be very useful in a sculpture

Saturday Sara had her wet felted tail section of this project. She showed laying out layers of wool then adding embellishments to it. Then wetting and rolling the tail cover. Her colours looked like they will work grate on her finished Mer-maid.  I particularly like the silk inclusions at the tail, it looks vary beta fish fin-like.

Since I am still having fun sculpting and I don’t have a spot to wet felt set up I am going to finish the under structure and then decide on the top layer to blend over it. I will treat this like a 3-D grisaille underpainting. I will lay washes of colour over top. The mottling reminds me of sand on a creek bottom. Since she does not have any obvious defensive or offensive weaponry (unless she keeps my pen tool), I think she will have to go with camouflage to be safe.

As I watched the instructions about wet felting the tail cover, I kept sculpting and finished out the structure of the tail. I added what in the base of the hand would be the thenar and hypothenar eminences at the base of the tail.  Muscles here would allow it articulation of the membrane between the outside edges of the fin and give more control when moving through the water. I gave her a single gastrocs (calf muscle) but kept the suggestion of two quads (thighs) and the hint of knees.

After the YouTube, instructions were over and I had most of the understructure in hand. I took a short break to plant a few of the plants I had purchased then gathered my camera for her in-progress photo shoot

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12-13 a quick touch up before her photo shoot

It had been very overcast when I took the first set of photos. I went inside to check them …. and the sun came out.  I grabbed the camera and my model and off we went to the front garden hopeful the brake in the clouds would last! It was a tiny bit brighter but the lighting was not the raking Caravaggio like light I would have enjoyed.

   14-16 photo shoot for Under-Mer-Woman.

(yes she is naked waving at strangers walking past on the side walk!)

   17-20 Luckily she became distracted and stopped shocking the neighbors

The Mer-Woman seemed most interested in the Daffodils once she stopped touching up the felting on her tail.

 

   21-23 Mer-Woman admiring Lungwort while sitting on rocks beside crashing waves of violets

 

I want to add SCM (Sternocleidomastoid) muscle in the neck and I have still more work to do on the face particularly the eyes but I am very pleased with how she is coming. I will put her aside and do the under structure for the Mer-Man and possibly the Mer-teen before I decide exactly what over layers of colour I will add. It should continue to be fun and He will get a trident I think!

 

I have not forgotten about my Pictish shepherd or the mysterious creature. Thanks to Ann M. and Carlene P. I have fibre to soon get back to them. I do tend to like to sit and think about a project partway through, so I can reassess it (see it through fresh eyes). I may come up with tweak in the design or I may finish it as I had originally intended.

 

I hope you are also enjoying all the tutorials, blogs, and other inspirational felting ideas out on the internet at the moment.   If you are not jumping into a project immediately, then  hopefully putting inspirations in notes or sketches to enjoy doing them later. Have fun inside and now also in your gardens!

24 24 to inspire you one of my fancy daffodils

A zen sculpture and some cuteness

A zen sculpture and some cuteness

I saw an interesting Zen sculpture on Facebook. Now I can’t find the picture to link to of course. I think it was one of the Russian felters. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting resist and sculpture so I would see if I could do one.

first I made some circles. each one a bit smaller than the last one. then I cut out a bit where I would join them.

Then I used some duct tape to join them.

I forgot to take a picture of the layout before felting but here it is when I was about to cut it open and remove the resist.

Here it is finished. My husband’s and grandson’s first words were that it looked like a snowman, specifically Olof from Frozen. It looks a little better against the colourfull background.

It wasn’t a bad first go. I would make the balls smaller next time.  Also, the bowls need to be wider and flatter by comparison to the balls.  I would start early to make the bowls flatter and wider. Also, I am not happy with my colour choice. I think a solid colour might be better.

And now for the cuteness

These are the bottle lambs.  Some got cold and didn’t go back some had other problems. on of a set of 4 had a strange leg that is now much better and not causing him problems but of course, it’s too late to go back to mom now. The white one my husband is holding is called Prince Ali, named by my granddaughter. The lambs are having a bigger pen made for them as I type.

 

Studio Space -“Final” Layout

Studio Space -“Final” Layout

On my last post, I showed you my new studio space. I had just moved in and my beloved fibre was still very much scattered around, and I felt a little at a loss as to where I should place my furniture.

It’s been 3 months, so how have things progressed?

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The quick answer is, very much as I’d expect – there’s still work to be done! For good reason, however: I’ve been busy working on a new collection and have been concentrating my energy on that instead of changing things around.

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I did manage to add a little touch of whimsy to this corner. A few of my for-dyeing fibres are tucked in those cubicles, and I managed a way to show off a few o my hand spun art yarns, as well as some commercial ones I have plans for very soon.

Holes in the walls are a no-no, so I’m buying some MDF, placing it behind the shelves and  drilling that instead to keep my vertical storage organised. Having it propped against the walls as is isn’t agreeing with me.

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My little reading corner, currently filled with work stuff. When I’m sewing I feel I never have enough space to place my finished items.
I managed to add a little artwork to the walls, to liven the place up. My ceiling is very high and the bare walls looked a little sad. Wish me luck when it’s time to remove them…

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Placing the sewing table in front of my window was both smart and silly. I get plenty of light (my initial reasoning) but when it’s windy I can feel the draft from the window ventilation slots. For now, it stays where it is, but I might change it later.

Have I told you I named the sewing machine Marge?

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My former dining table can be completely stretched now, which is lovely. It might look chaotic but every item is in use for my current project! Ok, most items are.
Spot the Christmas wreath in the background… it’s needle felted.

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I made this wreath for my husband, who had to spend the holidays by himself in Scotland. I wanted him to enjoy a little seasonal joy and made this in a couple of hours. What do you think?

That’s my tour of the studio space. I’m still going to add more artwork to the walls, and might change the big table’s orientation. Other than that, I’m very happy with my work area and have found my energy is higher here, especially now that the days are growing longer. I’m looking forward to working in my corner during Summer.

Felt Pod with Differential Shrinkage and Machine Lace

Felt Pod with Differential Shrinkage and Machine Lace

I am continuing on with my experiments with differential shrinkage. I wanted to add some free motion machine stitched lace so I started out with a very simple addition.

I thought I would add some stamens to the center of the pod. I already had black thread in the machine so I just went with that not thinking very far in advance as you will see.

I began my layout with the embroidered piece on the bottom. I covered that stamen with plastic wrap to make sure nothing would stick or felt in. I don’t think that I really needed this step and I will try without the plastic next time.

I then made one layer of black wool laying the wool out in a circular fashion.

On top of that, I added 5 cut pieces of green wool batt. There are probably 6-8 layers of batt so it is  much thicker than the black wool layer. I then went ahead and felted and fulled to get the black to shrink into a cone shape as I showed here.

I then pinned it after shaping to dry. You can see only two of the stamen as they were really not as long as I wanted them to end up. And here is the poor planning part.

You can’t see the stamen in the black center. I should have made a different color center or stitched different colored stamen. Duh!

So I will try another. I will pay more attention to the center color being contrasting with the thread color. I think I will use a resist next time to achieve a different shape.  I also want to progress to adding some texture to the outside surface with machine lace felted in – more ideas/experiments to come.

 

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