Wow, what an incredible 2 day workshop @ Art Van Go, Knebworth. Yes, it was a long way to go for a workshop, and Yes I am CRAZY!! Crazy, but dedicated to learn more of my craft.
Having had more or less no exposure to Felt making, and none to wet felt making, I undertook the challenge with gusto. Luckily, I had been in contact with the tutor, Ray Reynolds, for the last 6 months, so I I knew what I wanted to explore within this workshop. Ray had brought in a range of coloured felt yarns and an assortment of wondrous materials that I had not been fortunate yet to use:
WOOL NIPPS, RAFIA HUSKS, SILK THREADS, REMNANT COTTONS AND SYNTHETICS, NYLON COPPER, SARI SILK THREAD & ANGELINA FIBRES.
I decided that I would continue with my (Busy Blooms) Gender Fluid theme, and purposely chose colours that could represent both men and women.
The process involved brushing a few hues of blue felt together, using of all things 2 dog slicker brushes!! The brushes are used to combine the felt colours to create a wonderful fusion of the chosen colours, not to mention a far more even colour than if placing the individual felts on top of each other.
EQUIPMENT NEEDED: WATER SPRINKLE BULB, BUBBLE WRAP, PLASTIC MESH SHEET, A BAMBOO PLACE MAT, WARM WATER & AN OLIVA SOAP BAR.
The felt was arranged (over bubble wrap) with chosen fabrics, threads, nipps and yarns and sprinkled with warm water via the water sprinkle bulb until saturated. Mesh matt was placed over top and olive soap rubbed over the mesh surface until lathered and soapy. The felt was flattened by wrapping the bubble wrap within the bamboo place mat and rolled in one direction for 2-3 minutes one way and 2-3 minutes the other. The felt was then watered and lathered again and its edges pushed in and surface patted to allow shrinkage. There was something so incredibly receptively tactile about the wetting process…I loved it.
The first workshop day entailed wetting the felt in preparation for stitch the following day.
The texture, linear qualities, colours and patterns created by wet felting are beautiful. I really felt at one with the fabric when undertaking this technique. I can see myself becoming addicted to the serendipitous results of this wonderful medium.
DAY 2 – Now that the felt had dried overnight, it became time to incorporate a stitch element within the fibre. I was surprised to find how much more detailed the surface pattern was on the felt, initially I would have thought the result to be less vibrant and texturally rich.
Free Machine Embroidery was used to embellish on top of the felt, specifically Straight and Zig-Zag Stitch. A lot of these designs are a little more stylised than I am used to, not to mention that the process of stitching onto/into felt was little alien to me; the raised surface became a little problematic to stitch over in places, but Ray told me that as I became more proficient in the rolling element of wet felting these problems would be ‘ironed out’. I will also endeavour to practice drawing with stitch; being able to draw proficiently with stitch will allow my ideas to metamorphose easily from concept to final design.
I thoroughly enjoyed this exercise, and will endeavour to hone its many observational facets into my own practice.