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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.