Ruffled Up

Three weeks ago, I participated in a Felted Clothing Workshop taught by the incomparable Tricia Stackle. She taught the basics of nunofelting, calculating shrinkage rates, translating the shape of a garment into a template and extrapolating the template  into a large resist.

With thirteen students enrolled from various backgrounds, Tricia was a wonderful teacher giving everyone just the right amount of attention. Students created either a  seamless tunic or a skirt. Some students finished two projects over the course of our three days together, while others plodded along methodically, completing a single garment.

After finishing my sample swatches with merino and silk chiffon, I decided to work with a design I’ve tried many times in my silk scarves: ruffles and ridges. Working with four yards of fabric, I ended up short on the front with sporadic ruffles. While I didn’t plan it this way, I think it made for a more interesting piece in the end.

On the third day, Tricia invited us into the dye lab where we experimented with different levels of dye saturation. My skirt cooked into a very soft dove grey. I’m thrilled with the result, and forever grateful to Tricia for modeling the grace required to pace us through our projects.

Watch out for Tricia’s sculptural felt furniture this summer at the Bellevue Arts  Museum ArtsFair.

Standing Out

At a loss for what to contribute to last week’s ArtWalk, I decided to pull two incomplete felt pieces out of retirement. Too short on time to build something new from scratch, I decided to see what I could do with something long abandoned.

Since I am not a painter by training or inclination, my primary complaint with the original composition was just how flat it was. Hoping to take advantage of the inherent strengths offered by fiber art, I built my piece out to give it depth and texture. Leaf shapes were cut from a piece of barely laminated nunofelt, then handsewn over the background tree trunk.

I wish the background were wider to allow for more of an exaggerated swoop in the shape of the upper story. Overall, I’m pleased with the texture and colors in this piece.

For the second piece, I turned to a sample made two years ago, preparing to teach a summer workshop for kids. Using various fibers in my stash, I built surface detail by needling  romney and merino locks, bits of silk noil and some clean wool from my Lopez fleece.

I wanted the handstitching to be a more prominent part of this piece, so I positioned the knots on the surface, and chose a contrasting color to stitch the noil in place. Happy with the general shape of this snag, I left the trunk exposed.

Unsure how to display two pieces of art with greater depth than most work, I called in Nate Stottrup, a talented artist down the hall from my studio for some advice. He suggested a weathered wooden background to offer a visual transition from the wall to my work. I bought a used pallet from the Re-Store, pulled it apart and rebuilt it, with the help of my home carpentry team, into something new.

Bringing these pieces to completion was much more difficult than I expected. There was lots of angst and casting about for my muse. When I finally figured out what to do, it was like being struck by lightning. While I received positive feedback from the visitors to the ArtWalk, I am eager to present both pieces to our local  Surface Design Association chapter for their critique.

New Work, New Space

Three months after acquiring the key to my studio in the BallardWorks building, it still feels like a brand new space, just a little more organized. With shelves installed, art framed and hung, wool and supplies stashed in baskets this place really feels like it is mine. Just about every day, several of the studio artists gather lunch upstairs in the kitchen gallery. When I need a little distraction, Nate and Marko, my nearest neighbors down the hall, are usually happy to chat about their current projects.

While I continue to juggle wholesale orders for kits, felt soaps and pebbles, I have had some free time to try new projects like creating silk paper out of tussah and bombyx silk roving. I pledged my participation in this month’s artwalk, which forced me out of my comfort zone to complete two long-shelved pieces of felt art. While it took some time for me to find my muse, it was thrilling to suddenly find the inspiration I needed to complete these pieces.

Working within a theme, I’ve made many variations of a white ruffled nunofelt scarf, altering the length, the type of silk and the position of the silk within the scarf.

Please join me this Saturday, April 9th for the Ballard ArtWalk at 2856 NW Market St on the second floor of the BallardWorks building. I am thrilled to announce the participation of my guests, Marcie Swift and Tricia Stackle, who have several pieces hung in the gallery. Marcie is a mixed-media artist whose graphic works are bold and whimsical; one of her pieces,  a Christmas present to myself, is framed above my workbench. Tricia is a talented fiber artist, furniture designer, painter and recent graduate from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. My studio will be open for visitors, as will many other studios in the building.

Three Sheepskins Felted

Several weeks ago, I wrote Three Bags Full, describing the booty I brought home from the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival. My most prized purchase was three bags of raw wool from Lopez Island. Hoping to perfect my process after two previous attempts to felt a raw fleece last summer, I bought three bags of dirty wool from Maxine at Island Fibers , each weighing about 3lbs.

The first week I was back in my studio, I began working on felting a new set of sheepskins into a merino base. I couldn’t wait to get my hands into those stinking bags of fleece.

After working on two by myself, I invited a friend to help me with the third so she could see how it was done. Because I love her so, I saved the best fleece just for her. While we were photographing the three fleece together, her cat stepped in to check out the new throws. I’ve caught my cat sleeping on the sheepskins living on my couch, though she has had no interest in the commercial sheepskin given to use when my eldest child was a baby. She must sense just how animal friendly these sheepskins are – no hides attached.

The white fleece has an amazing texture;  the crimp is intoxicating. The locks are a medium length, maybe 4″ long. They stayed intact throughout the felting process, producing a wonderful sheepskin once it was fully washed and rinsed.

The darkest fleece was by far the softest, perhaps a first shearing from a dark lamb. There were very few light spots on the tips and no white hair at all. The greyish brown fleece is soft in a wooly way, but far more coarse than the other two. The locks are also quite long and didn’t attach as well to the merino base. Since it is hard to keep our hands from fingering the locks while sitting on the sofa, we end up finger-combing it incessantly, pulling out bits of wool. I’ve been pocketing the loose fibers to stuff a pillow.

My only regret is that I didn’t buy more fleece. I would love to have them all over my house, one for the seat of my desk chair, a couple for cushions at my studio and then maybe a few to sell. There is some wool left in each color, but not enough to make a decent sized sheepskin. Since I’ll be returning to Lopez Island in May, I’ll have to hold tight for a few more weeks. In case you happen to be in the area, Lopez is hosting the First Annual Lopez Lamb and Wool Festival on Saturday May 14th. There will be a sheep drive down the main drag in Lopez Village and a lamb dinner prepared by Matt Dillow of Sitka and Spruce. What better reason do you need to make a trip to the island?