I came across this shot last night from March 2013. I was sharing my vision for building the STRONGFELT STUDIO with local photographer Michael Mauney who had been assigned a shoot for a story in American Craft. It is so dramatic to see such an empty lot as I can hardly imagine my home without the south facing studio whose windows I would be touching had it been built at the time of the photo.
It had been just a few weeks since the first STRONGFELT STUDIO class in early April, but this crew got to see all the terraced beds blooming with color and texture. From the left: Karin Fish, myself, Susan Kaplow and Nina Denninger.
Nina’s hands are in action below, exploring the raising of a form from a 2-D plane by fulling the differential shrinkage into the third dimension. The ladies then employed the same concept of placing partial felt density into the layout, but this time while wrapping a resist. The increased area from both sides of the resist provides more height for the form’s walls as well as an ability to close the mouth of the form. Karin and Susan are refining their fiber layout around the resist, so to not bulk up the area at the edge, which would impede the raising of the form once the resist is removed.
My demonstration piece showing the art of less, is more! Negative space, or areas of thinner layout, result in more dramatic forming as these high shrinkage areas can undercut the low shrinkage partial felt leading to concave and highly protuberating form.
Nina’s form below and to the left, in the process of being fulled by using the STRONGFELT tool to not only agitate the concave areas but also to block and stretch the protuberations. Of course, this level of muscling the felt is in response to the strength of the fulled felt and shouldn’t be applied when the felt has less integrity or it will tear up or pill the surface. It’s all about intent…you have to prepare the form you are wanting by how you lay out the weight of fiber and on what shape resist and then think about how you agitate the wool from the beginning of the process to the end! Lastly, a little refining by way of steaming, shaving, stitching and applying shellac. Great class ladies!! Next course on Sculpting Hollow Form, Sept 17-20, in the STRONGFELT STUDIO, Asheville, NC!
The piece created during my Vance Elementary School Residency with 5th graders last week, April 7-10, 2015, has been completed today! I stretched it over a 28″ x 38″ x 3″ frame, which resulted in a lovely effect of several of the Dogwood blooms wrapping around the sides and sitting on top of the frame.
A special thanks to the Asheville City Schools Foundation for funding my TAPAS Residency at Vance, to Brian Ballenger for providing time in his science class for such a project, to Mark Schieferstein for cranking out a frame for me and to Steve Mann who made time today to photograph the piece. I look forward to sharing more about this residency and posting a collection of images on my website’s residency page in the next week…
Now I am on my way to the school’s open house so to be present to hear the kids talk to parents about their experience!
A rather joyful group started off the 2015 workshop schedule at the STRONGFELT STUDIO last weekend with a course on all things related to the coercing of wool fibers through pre-structured fabrics. We isolated variables in the fabric fusion process through a variety of studies to learn the range of possibilities that each variable offered. For instance, how much hair the hand of the maker allows to penetrate the fabric when the area and type of fabric and the amount and type of wool are the same or the control….the scientific method in action!
Then there is the density of fabric as a variable shown here by Elaine Evans…
Also the integration of partially felted sheets of wool! Depending on the integrity, partial felt can create a resist to hair grasping the fabric allowing the fabric color and pattern to be more bold and can also be used to refine the edges of the fabric as demonstrated by Becky Hope Mallory below. Structural design in wet felting is all about ‘hair availability.’
Oh and can’t forget to mention the wonderful linear effect of the hairs of the partial felt edge navigating to the surface shown in Elizabeth Childers sample….nor the simplicity of solely edging the fabrics to create a stain glass effect.
The days were at first calm and pleasant and the beaches offered very little in the way of shells and other visual delights to scavenge. After a tremendous storm of wind and rain, however, the ocean churned and churned for two days and on my last sunrise walk I found a visual and metaphorical playground to propel my return to the studio.
I am officially on vacation this week, from making at least, but of course I have many things in the works…on the mind! I am very excited to get back in the Asheville Schools this April for a week long residency at Vance Elementary School in West Asheville. I have received a TAPAS grant (Teaching Artists Present in Asheville Schools) to work with three classes of 5th graders. The 65 kids will all have an opportunity to learn to felt by making a sheet of partial felt from which they will cut shapes of branches, buds, leaves and flowers of the NC State Flower, the Dogwood, Cornus, florida. I was working out the colors and amounts of wool, how far we will felt the sheets before cutting and the sizes of the shapes before I left town on Monday. The classes will organize the components into a composition illustrating the seasonal gradation of growth which will be backed by silk fabric and wool fiber in a gradation of color related to how high the sun is in the sky. The piece will be stretched on a canvas and exhibited in the school. I love the idea of working with seasonal changes as the kids can relate to the physical changes of the environment and how those changes can effect their energy and emotions. A special thanks to Ginger Huebner, founding director of Roots +Wings School of Art and Design, for helping to bring this residency into fruition and of course for funding by the Asheville City Schools Foundation and LEAF in Schools and Streets.
I have just completed uploading the most recent photography of the work I had created this past winter. This neck piece is one of my favorites from the new series. It incorporates a stainless steel wire form skinned with very thin felt and threaded onto an undulating cord. The cord has been free-motion machine embroidered to compress the remaining air from the felt creating an embossed surface and a stiffer felt. I have found that by allowing my stitching to be guided by the random incorporation of novelty thread on the felt’s surface, a visual and energetic balance is created with the controlled parallel lines of stitched thread. Please have a look at the new images in the Bracelet and Necklace galleries.
After driving back 9 hours from Baltimore on Wednesday night, I arrived to a quiet landscape in the process of being carpeted in snow . With my body craving to be moved and my mind soothed after such an expedition, I began walking the streets of Asheville and did so, unknowingly, for three hours. I captured many images that night finding visual inspiration in the way the white snow patterned the dark ground and sky and I was reminded of my most recent body of work…high contrast and defined structure created with a soft white medium.
This past friday, February 20th, I was incredibly honored to receive the James Renwick Alliance Award of Excellence for Innovation in Craft along with Stacey Lee Webber, pictured to my right at the American Craft Council’s Baltimore Show. It is the first year that JRA has presented this award with the awards juried by JRA board members, Judy Wiesman, Marc Grainer and Sean Hennessey. The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum showcases 20th Century American Craft and the Alliance’s mission is to celebrate and foster scholarship, education and public appreciation of achievements of American Craft Artists. Of course, it is so very gratifying to have my work acknowledged, but I am also so pleased for my work to be a conduit for broader awareness of the felt medium. Many thanks for the capturing and sharing of this picture on the JRA Facebook page with American Craft Council Executive Director, Chris Amundsen and JRA board member, Rebecca Ravenal.
I am excited about these new solid felt form elements in some of my felt pearl cords. They offer little windows that bring whatever color you may be wearing into the composition and the interior shapes play nicely with the undulating oval shapes throughout the cords.
Registration opens today around 2pm for classes at this years Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival! I will be offering a two day class in Solid Form Felting Techniques there or sign up for a three day course at the STRONGFELT STUDIO June 19-21 with an expanded offering including the incorporation of partial felt to achieve more defined shapes and the lovely color bleed effects you can see here as the yellow core fibers travel to the surface of the black felt skin on top.