Feltmaking with Feltmakers Ireland
Driving through the Phoenix Park one Sunday morning, I noticed a group of women all carrying large bags congregating at a small building. Curious, I found a parking space and approached them to find out what was going on.
And that’s when my adventure into the world of felt began, a world where you take some fibres, wet and agitate them, or prod them with specialized needles so that the fibres become entangled or matted, and thus create a completely new fabric.
Everybody who has ever washed clothes has, at least once, felted unintentionally – felting is another name for the shrinking that happens when you put that treasured wool jumper into “too-hot” cycle in your washing machine.
However, it’s the differences between accidental shrinking and feltmaking that cast the felting spell on you: in feltmaking, you take control of the results you achieve; you engage with a group of like-minded creative people; you learn through practice from craft masters as well as fellow practitioners; you make new and life-long friends and sometimes pieces of art that really please you.
International Feltmakers Association, offer classes that are specifically designed to hone your felting skills. I did some modules of CIFT (cert in Feltmaking techniques) and did see some improvement in my feltmaking.
(a) making felt from a variety of wools; (b) different edges
Workshops with fellow felters
Many fellow members of Feltmakers Ireland (FI) share their felting skills and techniques at workshops and Sunday Sessions. (a) Gabi McGrath delivered a workshop on textures and embellishments on a book cover; (b) Tamzen Lundy led members in a Christmas Workshop Sunday Session that was televised on RTE; (c) Liadain Butler, Niki Collier and Caoilfhionn O’Hanlon demonstrated how to use “Stained Glass” technique in needle felting. The work produced by the many participants was presented in the Pearse Museum and then at a Felt Festival in Vienna.
FI organises an annual Master class, often with an international practitioner (a) Boots with Natalya Brashovetska (b) My Place in Space with Marjolein Dallinga
I also attended Master classes with Wendy Bailye (50 Shades of Grey) and Anna Gunnarsdottir (3D Sculpture with Icelandic wool).
During Covid, many master classes were delivered online. (a) Molly Williams presented a series of classes on making Contemporary Dancers. (b) Aniko Boros (Baribon) Workshops taught a technique of nesting pebbles (or other objects) into fine felted jewellry. I used the technique to create a beach scene. (c) Yaroslava Troynich, a textile artist who loves felt and animals gives regular online classes on making puppets. I’ve worked with her to create sheep, hedgehogs, hares and foxes. Great fun! (d) the woven felted ball used a very exciting technique with pre-felt and was one of the workshops presented at a felting retreat organised by Corinna Nitschmann – a week of felting online with a variety of artists.
Annual Exhibitions, Art Sales
I support the annual FI Exhibitions by submitting pieces on a decided theme. My flower vase was an unsuccessful entry for the Something Red Exhibition but was later sold at a local exhibition. Pippi Longstocking was one of three pieces accepted for a members exhibition “Colour My World”. The “Pea Piece” as I called it (officially “Torthúil”) was part of the Bountiful Exhibition and resulted in my first commissions.
Swapping works internationally
IFA organises an annual swap. The theme is decided in May and the various participants (across the globe) are paired. Their pieces are swapped before a closing date and the results of the swap are published on the IFA website. (a) Woven is a vessel within a vessel, the interior being woven. (b) Brooch was made using the Baribon technique of nesting one item within another and inspired by Yeats poem Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of FI, all members were asked to submit flowers that would be displayed as a “Field of Flowers” at 2023 Exhibition as well as at future FI activities. I beaded my three flowers before submitting them. In the past, I participated in a Make Bunting project.
Passing it on
Lastly, but certainly not least, i loved the experiences and joy of sharing felting skills with the next generation. I made dolly blankets with 30 first class kids – a truly wet and wild experience. Here are some coasters I made with my grandson. I think any activity that involves sudsy water and throwing wet objects around is particularly pleasing to small ones.
That’s all so far!!!