Elizabeth Bonnar is the founding member of Felt makers Ireland. At a recent committee meeting she described herself as “the oldest living member” which was quite amusing and a humble introduction! Liz will be leading a 1day workshop on 15th June on the topic of Nuno felting. Ahead of this we decided to find out a little more about her personal journey and relationship with Felt.
Tell us a little about you as a person? E.g. upbringing/ work other than felt etc.
I was brought up in a small town in central Scotland, and had a “free range” childhood, during which I made strong and lasting connections with nature.
My mother was a talented seamstress and knitter and also a creative home decorator. Home was always full of fabric, yarns, paints, patterns, all set against the constant hum of the Singer sewing machine. From her I developed a strong connection with fabrics, colour, texture and style; my own creativity was rooted in darning and then knitting.
Working life was as a GP in Scotland and England and later in Ophthalmology in Dublin.Over the years I have enjoyed collecting fabrics, yarns and textiles on my travels.
How and when did you start Felting… what is your experience, tell us a little about your journey?
Through joining the Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers I discovered felt, a craft I had never heard of, despite my love affair with wool. From that beginning I joined the International Felt makers Association, based in the UK, eventually becoming the local co-ordinator for its Irish members and in 2003 I set up Felt makers Ireland.
Of the many felting techniques I explored, my favourite soon became Nuno felt. Having converted our garage to a studio has given me storage for my stashes of fibre and fabrics, and keeping them all in glass cabinets helps the creative process.
Tell us about your process from conception to creation and what is your motivation?
My inspiration starts with the fabric – usually patterned silk, or ultrafine merino. The pattern and the colours guide me to any yarns in my collection that may be incorporated and very soon I can picture in my mind the finished article. My real passion is using silk fibre and fabrics in the design, along with exotic yarns, often in a grid system. At present I am exploring “painting” flowers on to hand painted silk, often using Treetops fibre, which comes in beautiful colour combinations, with silk fibre to match
My motivation is to try to make something beautiful from the colours and textures I have in my collection. Attending a recent dyeing workshop however has shown me there is much more waiting to be explored!
What wool fibres, will do for us is a continuing source of amazement to me; they can be as fine as 14 microns (the human hair is about 60 microns) and when felted can end up as parts in airplane engines or as delicate cobweb felt; they have the ability to travel spirally along their axis in the felting process, wherever we direct them, and then to shrink into the new fabric we are creating – and bring other fibre and fabrics along with them – physics and engineering!
What are you working on now?
I will be giving a 1 day NUNO felt workshop on behalf of Feltmakers Ireland on June 15th.
You can find the link below for application form and details of the materials required. I’d love to see many of our community there to share my skills.
On behalf of Felt makers Ireland, we sincerely thank Liz for her work on the committee and for setting up this valued organisation. Although Liz intends to step away from committee duties she continues to be a valued contributor. You will be able to see and learn from her skills if you choose to sign up for the 1day Nuno felting experience in June.