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My Studio Challenge Contribution and Excuse

My Studio Challenge Contribution and Excuse

The second quarter is almost done and I finally have one of my planned pieces done. It is the simpler of the two but I  know I will not get the more complicated one done. This one was done like a line drawing with just a few bits of colour. It didn’t turn out as nice as I would have liked.

I make myself a piece of prefelt. Prefelt is just barely felted wool. You stop the process when everything is just holding together. I used Briggs and Little country roving. It comes as 5 strands of very thin roving ready to be put through a spinning machine. The only colour I had was red. It bleeds. I thought it might give the piece an interesting look. Here is the first strand on the prefelt.

roving on prefelt

Next I drew the picture and added some coloured felt from my left overs bin. Before cutting out the shapes and placing it, I brushed the back side with a dog brush to make it fuzzy.

all the elements added

I covered it with netting and rolled it up in a straw mat and rolled in all directions. I didn’t do any heavy fulling to shrink it because it does not need to be really strong.

I did start my second piece. I made the felt for the base. I used some cotton gauze for strength so I wouldn’t have to use much wool. I plan to cover the whole base with more wool  in several layers using my embellisher so wanted to start out fairly thin.

wool folded over to make neat edges
second base ready

While we are talking a little about technique people ask me why I use a star burst Tupperware lit to do my rubbing. I do it because when I rub directly on the sheer no mater how lightly I rub the I pull would right through the sheer and out. I’ve found about 1/3 of the people who come for classes have the same problem. I don’t know if our hands are just to rough or what.  Here are 2 pictures of what happens.

wool pulled through

And lastly my excuse. Besides waiting to long to start I have been getting ready to sell at our local medieval fair. One of the things that has taken time is my costume. Here is the under dress drying on the line after tea dying so it is not bright white.  There is a lot of material in it and I haven’t hemmed it yet. I have a little over a week to go and I have to make the top dress yet. I have a busy week ahead.

underdress dyed with tea
Abstraction – Taking It Further

Abstraction – Taking It Further

I was really inspired by Zed’s use of Photoshop to “abstract” her photos. So I decided to take my sketches from my last post about Ann’s challenge and use Photoshop to see what the results would be. I mainly used filters and I didn’t really keep track of what I did. But if you have Photoshop, you can just play around with the filters until you come up with something you like. If you would like to compare the original pen and ink sketches, go to this post here.

You can click on the photos to see better. This one is the mosaic filter. I really like how the background moves from light to dark. I didn’t really see that in the drawing itself.

I can’t remember what I did to this one but I really like the dramatic contrast between the background and the birch trees. This to me is a much striking composition.

This gives an almost impressionistic feel to the dogwood branches. It looks kind of cool but I think the element that catches the eye in this composition is the lines of the red dogwood branches against the background and this doesn’t really improve that.

I thought this was an interesting effect and it might be the embossing filter. I like the way the blue and the red play off each other in this one.

This is one of the outlining filters, I think. I like the contrast of the darker hill in the background. I also like the outline of black on the dogwood branches as it seems to give them more implied shape.

This one isn’t that changed but does give more outlines than the original and makes it a bit darker. I think this helps to ground the trees.

Now this is abstract. I’m sure I never would have come up with this idea on my own when I was drawing the willows. But I kind of like it. What do you think?

This is another one where I used a mosaic filter. I do like how this filter works. You can see it better if you click on the photo to enlarge it. I don’t think that you could repeat this effect very easily in felt though.

I really enjoyed playing with my sketches in Photoshop. There are a million options and it can give you some ideas that you might not come up with on your own. Which of the sketches do you like now? Which one do you think I should use to make a piece of felt? If you played with abstracting a photo or a sketch in Photoshop, I’d love to see it.

Not quite what I’d imagined

Not quite what I’d imagined

I mentioned the other day that I’ve been working on Ann’s Abstract Challenge. I had a folder full of ideas and photos that I’d worked on, but couldn’t quite see how they’d translate into felt or maybe fabric. After looking at the photos with me, my girlfriend suggested looking at something more simple and bold, like maybe a cup. So I started looking at different photos, found some with simpler shapes and lines, bolder features. One that I really liked was a simple photo of a shell. It was almost colourless so I gave it a blue tint.

I then played around with it until I was happy with an abstract design.

This seemed like a perfect picture to try with my idea of layering organza. So I worked out how many layers I’d need and what shapes those layers would need to be. I wanted a black background, so I thought it’d be a good idea to have a base layer of white felt the same shape as the first organza layer.

I then made the shapes into outlines, so I could print them out and trace the shapes onto the pieces of organza for cutting out.

I chose the colours of organza I liked and layered them together to see if they would work.

I then traced all the outlines onto the organza pieces and cut them out. It was then that I started to realise this wouldn’t be quite as simple as I’d first thought. Some of the organza was very thin and distorted while I traced, so I had to re-do a couple of pieces.

Layering the shapes together wasn’t easy either, they just wanted to slide about, so I started with sewing the first couple of layers together. That seemed to go alright. It wasn’t looking as tidy as I’d hoped-the organza was fraying, but the abstract design had outlines around the sections/layers, so I hoped these would hide the edges. When I started to add the 3rd and 4th layers, my sewing machine (hand cranked ancient Singer 🙂 ) started to make weird noises. When I looked at the back of the piece, it was a mess, all the thread from the spool had looped up underneath. I don’t know if there was a tension problem, but I decided to abandon it as a failure.

I left it on my work table and tried to think of other ways I could interpret the design with the supplies I’ve got, but all I could think of was using 5 shades of blue cotton fabric, which I don’t have. Looking at it in daylight this morning, it didn’t look quite as bad as it did yesterday, so I decided to put a bit of effort into finishing it. I had to patch up the second layer, as it had frayed so much it wasn’t attached at the edges. I also had to recut the top layer as when I was sewing it on by hand, the thread caught on it and tore it. It didn’t really turn out how I’d expected and hoped it would, (maybe some fabric stiffener and a bigger scale would help?) but it wasn’t the complete disaster I thought it was yesterday 🙂

How would you have interpreted the abstract shell picture differently? Would you have used different fabrics, or maybe wet felted or needlefelted the design? If you’d like to use the design, please feel free to do so. I’d love to see what you come up with.

Nuno Felt and Abstracts

Nuno Felt and Abstracts

I’ve been doing a lot of nuno felting recently, mostly a lot of samples for reference, but also quite a few pieces for using to make into things at a later stage. One thing I like to do with nuno felting is use different types of silk together. I think the differences in thickness, sheen and texture work well together and highlight each others’ properties. These two pieces use hand dyed silk ponge 5mm, which is floaty and shiny, and also silk chiffon 3.5mm which, though lighter, almost seems heavier than the ponge because of its ‘rough’ texture. For this first piece I used strips of silk in roughly equal widths.

This close up shows the difference in the textures of the two types of silk, and also the differences in the way they felt. The silk chiffon seems to sink into the felt, becoming more a part of it than an embellishment or surface texture.

For the second piece, I used smaller pieces of silk to create a kind of mosaic effect.

Close up:

Another thing I’ve been working on lately is Ann’s 2nd Quarter Studio Challenge. I’ve been looking through photos for inspiration, taking photos, editing, altering… trying to think what technique would work best with different pictures etc. One of my favourite photos is of a bunch of tulips in the snow. I tried a few different techniques in Photoshop to alter the photo and make it more abstract. This is a collection of the original (top left) and 3 abstract versions.

Thinking about the simplest way to achieve all the different shades of pink, I thought about organza and how using 3 pieces of the same colour can give 3 shades when layered. So I got out my organza collection to have a look through the shades. I hadn’t realised I had so many until they were all out together!

Seeing all the shades brought me back to one of the first pieces I started working on, a photo of a Mahonia bush. My first thought was to make different colours of prefelt, cut the shapes out then felt together, but I think this could be achieved more effectively with a combination of fabrics and organza.

Have you thought about joining in with the Abstract Challenge? It doesn’t have to be figurative. Do you often make abstract pieces from fabric, fibres or felt? Do you have any good tips to share? We’d love to see your work if you’d like to share with us 🙂

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