Hambidge Residency Intention: Wire Armatures

I have recently been experimenting with stainless steel wire for structuring bone-like bead forms and bracelets. The stainless steel is choice as it doesn’t rust and won’t shift the color of the natural dye baths I intended to submerge the pieces into after felting. There is often, however, not time to truly explore the breadth of a concept when distracted by the focus of production and making money. This, I believe is what a residency is designed for and my intention was to explore and push the idea of structuring paper-thin, yet tightly felted wool over armature during my two-week residency.

IMG_7510My first approach was to enlarge the bracelet armature I was previously making to develop a collar style neck piece. Wool must have space to shrink in order to become entangled into felt. Therefore, I  calculate how much larger the surface area needs to be around the wire and build up to that dimension with plastic as well as how much wool needs to be applied over the plastic form so that I achieve a thin, high-shrinkage felt that is taut against the wire when well-fulled. NOTE: I introduce this concept in my teaching in the course, Resist-based Pendants, where participants encase an object of their choice.





As the thin layering of wool begins to felt, it first feels like tissue paper, then a delicate pastry and at this stage I start removing the plastic so to give the felt encasement more airspace to shrink into.





Once all the plastic is removed and the felt is taut against the wire, I let it dry, free-motion embroidered between the two wire circles and then manipulate the wire structured, endless ribbon.






My friend Taran inspired my thinking of a wire structured collar form when we were at the park this past summer. Thanks little man!






The Hambidge Creative Residency Program, Dillard, GA

IMG_7532I was presented with an Award of Excellence jointly by the American Craft Council and the Hambidge Center last March 2015 at the ACC Show at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta, GA. Honored, of course, but unaware of the Hambidge Center, I had wondered what the awarded two-week residency would entail. Considering I live only 2.5 hrs from the Hambidge Center, would the environment there be that different to affect my thinking and making? At this point in my career I have my own home studio, would it be worth packing up my studio to bring to the Hambidge Center?  I have the solitude and dedicated time for my studio practice as a single, full time artist without kids or pets, would it be worth leaving the comfort of my home for what awaited me in Dillard, GA?

IMG_7540I have just returned from spending the first two weeks of December 2015 in the Fisher house, one of nine residences on the 600 acre property. The center was created in 1934 by Mary Hambidge as an artist enclave and farm where she employed Appalachian weavers and gained significant recognition for their textiles. After her passing in 1973, the center transformed into a residency program for creatives from various fields. More information on herstory can be found on www.hambidge.org as well as details about the residency program and those who have benefited from its existence.

IMG_7494The Fisher house has the largest visual arts studio with wonderful northern light. I existed primarily in this space aside from attending group dinners with the other 8 creatives Tuesday through Friday nights in a main building on the grounds, a handful of solo hikes on their trail system and a few sauna’s in a structure built by a former resident. It was a very comfortable space with my own kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and studio and the experience was certainly worth the effort of packing up my studio and relocating. Following posts will discuss the affects on my thinking and making….

Opague or Illuminated


Here are images of the finished surface composition of the chest piece. The image on the left is opaque being lit from the outside, revealing how it would appear to someone viewing it on the wearer. The image on the right is backlit revealing the colors and patterns of the Murano beach glass suspended in the silk compartments.












This second set of images are of the backside of the chest piece. The distressed silk chiffon/tissue and the mending efforts to repair it are against the wearer’s body, unseen to those looking at the person . The image to the left shows the page surface as lit from the front and the image to the right shows the piece back lit with all the stitched grids.

For context of this project please read my first posting and those that followed about the DHG Charity Project in STRONGFELT’s Blog, INTRIGUE.


Completion of Reparation

Reparation_fullMy donation piece for the DHG Charity Project has arrived in Prato, Italy! Dyeing House Gallery has posted an interview with me on their site as well as the piece in their on-line gallery. It is now available for purchase through DHG with the sale benefitting the Meyer’s Childrens Hospital.

The last of stitching was on the machine to compress the rounded black cords into tight bands that would cross over the shoulders, connecting the chest and back pieces. The stitching made the cords much stiffer, appropriate since the muscles crossing my shoulders are so very tight, restricting my neck movement. Additionally, having these black cords stiff allowed me to hang the piece by fishing line in the middle of the cord to create an arch and not have the cords fold over and collapse. This created a negative space that one can imagine being occupied by human shoulders with the chest and back pieces covering just those parts of the torso. As you can see on the back piece to the left, the surfaces with the 3.5 mm silk chiffon that were distressed through the fulling process and subsequently stitched and repaired are facing inward against the wearer. The outward surfaces that would be seen by those viewing the wearer are less visually complicated and revealing.

For context of this project please read my first posting and those that followed about the DHG Charity Project in STRONGFELT’s Blog, INTRIGUE.

Further Thoughts on Materials Used

Reparation_backpiece_frontsideReparation_backpiece_backside_backlitI closely observe the materials I choose to work with.  I had mentioned making wet felted partial felt from DHG’s Merino Top. I had laid it out very fine giving it approximately 90% shrinkage. I had fulled it to 60-70% of its possible shrinkage before I cut the fence patterning from it and from the white needle felted batts from DHG. The black wet felted partial felt shrank down smaller than the same fence shapes cut of the white needle felted sheets because they were thicker with more wool/area. The black partial felts were also thinner when fulled and had more drape. The white needle felted batts, being thicker, had more airspace to compact with the machine stitching, offering me the ability to emboss the surface. One material or approach isn’t necessarily better than another, just simply different. If you pay attention and study your materials you can choose what products or ways of working will best achieve your desired effect.

The bottom beach glass encasement in the first image of the outer side of the back piece shows the white wool gauze as it shrank down in the fulling process. As the wool gauze encasement side shrinks and the silk fabric side did not, the beach glass was pushed to protrude more from the other side. The holes in the fabric grid between the warp and weft can still be seen, but had the white needle felted sheet had more shrinkage like the black partial felt those holes  and the structure of the woven wool gauze would no longer be visible.

The second image showing the inside view of the back piece, back lit, reveals how the bottom piece of beach glass is pushed out unlike the pieces of beach glass above it that are held in the middle of the fabric. This image also reveals the gorgeous detail of the light shining through the machine stitched squares. When the light shines from within and radiates through and out more is revealed then when the spotlight is directed, absorbed, lessened and then reflected….

Handstitching….the Reparations









I use silk fabric of a lower momme weight as it’s more transparent, allowing the shape and colors of the beach glass to be seen. The lower the momme, however, the more vulnerable the silk fabric is to being snagged. I used the most delicate 3.5 momme silk chiffon from Dyeing House Gallery on the inside of the chest and back pieces to illustrate the internal wear of my neck tissue and our vulnerabilities that we as humans tend to hide from the outer world. As I fulled the pieces, the warp and weft threads of this delicate silk fabric encasing the glass, shifted and created a distressed look. Even more severely, as the wool shrank around the perimeter of the silk encasements the beach glass began to push apart the warp and weft threads of the silk, threatening to slip out of the encasement like a slipped disc in the cervical spine. I chose to hand stitch or repair the distressed fabric so that the beach glass wouldn’t eventually push its way out. The variations in the hand stitched patterns of lines and grids represent the various modalities I have tried implementing to mend my distressed neck tissues and bones. I chose to stitch a fiery red circle around the most vulnerable areas of the silk fabric where the beach glass would surely slip out if not mended to draw attention to these acute and inflamed points.


For context of this project please read my first posting and those that followed about the DHG Charity Project in STRONGFELT’s Blog, INTRIGUE.

Free-motion Machine Stitching

photo-35photo-33I delight when it is time to transition from the wet felting process to the machine stitching. Of course, it is nice to not have the hands constantly wet, but it also marks the end of the constructive part of a piece. With all 6 of the components of the piece, Reparation, completed, it is time for the surface refining. Free-motion embroidery compacts the airspace that is remaining in the felt creating a stiffer fabric as well as an embossed surface, an effect that is more dramatic when the felt is thicker and not as densely fulled. Now that I had made a correlation between this piece I was making for the DHG Charity Project and the current condition of my neck, I began making design choices informed by that condition.  I created a checkerboard of stitched squares running along one side of both the chest and back piece because the tight stitching as well as the controlled grid illustrates the energetic block from the muscle tension on the right side of my neck.



On the opposing side of the piece, I stitched around the white wool nepps, leaving the thread line that was drawn as I moved from circle to circle to present more of a flow and movement.

For context of this project please read my first posting and those that followed about the DHG Charity Project in STRONGFELT’s Blog, INTRIGUE.

Hinging Clasps

photo-38photo-36I get excited about felt hinges and their dual purpose as clasps…this airy wool fiber that has qualities of softness and vulnerability felting tight into a mechanism that has a strong industrial nature.  When I felt wool fiber into solid forms, I begin by systematically preparing the general forms by bundling or wrapping crosshatched fibers with ample airspace (think something between cotton candy and a cotton ball) so that the wool fibers have space to intertwine as the mass of wool shrinks into an integrous felt fabric (think Q-tip or suede). The more the fibers intertwine the less vulnerable the surface fibers of the form are to abrasion and pilling, important considering the wear a clasp will endure.  Pictured are the dry prepped forms for the 4 hinges that will connected the two black dry prepped cords with hoops on the ends to the hoops on the chest and back pieces already made for the DHG Charity Project.



The tightly fulled/shrunk and much smaller hinges are pictured here soaking in hot water to make sure the soap has dissipated out of the form and into the water before a final rinse and drying. You can see a variety of clasp styles in my jewelry work on the www.strongfelt.com website under the NECKLACES category from single clasps to more complex systems as well as clasping systems used on a vessel. Now that all the components of the piece, Reparation, have been felted/fulled, the stitching can begin…

For context of this project please read my first posting and those that followed about the DHG Charity Project in STRONGFELT’s Blog, INTRIGUE.

The Chest & Back Pieces

photo-29I had decided the piece didn’t feel strong enough  with only a focus piece to lay on the chest of the wearer. I wanted the piece to feel more like wearing armor and having a fence or a stone wall of glass on either side of the heart would create that expression. Therefore I made a chest and back piece as seen here laying flat on my studio table. The space between the chest and back piece is too small to have the necklace encircle the neck, so the next strategy of making was creating the clasping mechanisms to join the two pieces into one….

photo-39During the making of this piece for the DHG Charity Project to benefit the Anna Meyer Children’s Hospital, I have been struggling through issues with my neck muscles and cervical vertebrae. As we are influenced by our environments and experiences, it wasn’t surprising to see how the daily visualizing of my spine and efforts to deduce the issues and heal have influenced the making of this piece. I had x-rays of my neck taken and as I was looking at them through my studio window into my backyard, this connection became clear and I decided on the title of the piece, Reparation.




For context of this project please read my first posting and those that followed about the DHG Charity Project in STRONGFELT’s Blog, INTRIGUE.



Building Layers and Encasing the Glass

photo-28After placing a base layer of fabric on top of the partial felt cut into a fence pattern, the beach glass is placed on top of this fabric in each negative space of the patterning. Depending on the thickness of my fabric choices and how hard it would be for the wool fibers to maneuver through all the layers, I will sometimes lay a fine layer of fiber ontop of the partial felt before covering the layout with another piece of fabric to act as a “glue” to bond all the layers together. The final step is to edge the piece with strips of partial felt to cover up the fabric edges and in the case of this neck piece, I added two solid felt hoops for part of the hinging and clasping mechanism.

As seen here, the blue Murano beach glass is trapped between two layers of fabric, well not quite yet…once the layout is rolled to initiate the felting process the fibers from the partial felt fence patterning will maneuver through the layers of fabric locking the pieces of glass in the silk compartments.

For context of this project please read my first posting and those that followed about the DHG Charity Project in STRONGFELT’s Blog, INTRIGUE.