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Interview with Fiona Leech

Chance-something red
Fiona Leech

Fiona leech is a member of Felt makers Ireland. You may recognise the piece above as it was chosen by Filtti Finland to represent the Irish submissions for the “Something Red” exhibition brochure and flyers during the summer of 2019.

I started following Fiona on Instagram last year as we both undertook the #100daysproject. This is a free project that anyone can enter with the hashtag 100days. Creatives of all disciplines commit to undertake (as the name implies) 100 days of doing something, it might be painting, poetry, photography or journaling and the Instagram community supports you; Through sharing posts and following.

Fiona works under the name @feltathome and I know that I am looking forwarding to seeing more of her work in 2020.

fiona leech

Tell us a little about you as a person?

I am a sixties child, born in Dublin and a mother of three. I finished school and went to college in the mid-eighties – and yes, I had the dubious hairstyles too! I studied design at what is now D.I.T. specialising in theatre set and costume design. I worked as a freelance theatre designer, occasionally dabbling in scenic art from the early nineties until around 2009.

I’ve always had a passion for textiles; knitting, crocheting and sewing from a very young age. I was taught by both my grandmothers and was loved by the nuns for my enthusiasm! My father was an architect and came from a family of amateur artists. My parents were singers too, but I definitely did not inherit that particular talent! A weird fact about me is that I get tingly sensations when I see colour and texture and can’t visit a wool shop without touching all the yarns! (Probably too much information!!)

How and when did you start Felting… tell us a little about your journey with felt?

During my time as a design tutor at Ballyfermot College of Further Education I was constantly drawn to the textile studio and was very envious of the students. So, a couple of years after my third child was born, I stopped working in theatre and began exploring other options that would allow me to create work while being at home. I had experience of working with many different materials during my years in theatre; from timber, metal, clay, fibreglass, plaster to name but a few. I even did a bit of brick laying on set once, but it was always the textiles that I loved working with, and I tried to incorporate textiles into my designs as often as I could. I harboured an ambitious dream to knit a theatre set one day but never found the right director to indulge me! I started to doodle in notebooks, collage, paint and stitch but it wasn’t until I took myself off on a basic felt making course, given to me as a mother’s day treat, that I became really excited about so many new possibilities opening up to me. I could now make my own textured blank canvases. That was about 10 years ago and have been slowly finding my feet since with this versatile new medium.

fiona leech

Tell us about your process from conception to creation

Coming from a disciplined design background, my work is mostly abstract. Quite measured. Simple with clean lines, using stitching as a drawing tool, rather like my ink pen that I used to do technical drawings with. I premake the felt that I use in batches and then chop it up, layer and stitch. Hand stitching is an integral part of my work as I like the control that I can achieve by slow stitching. The varying nature of the handmade felt background determines the unique look of each piece. I mostly make wall hangings and framed pieces.

Photography plays a large part in my creative process; I draw inspiration from the thousands of photos that I take. I love the details, the minutiae of everything from the mundane to the miracles of nature. Colour is also hugely important to me.

fiona leech 100 days

I recently took part in an online 100-day challenge to create a piece of art every day for 100 days. I’m no stranger to working within parameters, such as working with scripts, spaces and budgets so I set myself a strict brief. With the theme ‘circles and lines’ I could only use felt and threads on 10 x 10 cm felt squares. The objective was to help with intuitive creativity and force me to focus. I found the speed with which I had to work exhilarating and created something different every day. Some I love, some not so much but that’s part of the process. The project evolved in a way that I never expected. It was restrictive and challenging but hugely constructive. I’ve ended up with 100 small abstract pieces that stand alone but also work as a large tapestry of felt mosaic tiles. I now have the task of joining them all together.

Perhaps the most thrilling event of last year for me was being invited to be part of the

Felt makers ‘Something Red’ exhibition in Finland. It was exciting as I’d never exhibited anything before, and I felt honoured to have been included. Being part of the Felt makers Ireland community has opened my eyes to the amazingly talented women working with felt in such diverse ways. It’s truly inspiring and I’m looking forward to being more involved in the future.

What currently inspires you?  

I am a fan of textile installation art. The work of Sheila Hicks and Shiota Chiharu really inspire me. I see it as the perfect union of texture and theatre. I love the drama of large scale works that take your breath away. I would jump at the chance to work on such a large scale if an opportunity ever arose. But for the moment I’ll concentrate on my next venture. A simpler brief I think…..

 

Felt makers Ireland would like to thank Fiona for taking the time to answer our interview questions and supplying the wonderful images of her work.

You can follow Fiona’s work on Instagram

@feltathome, she often also sells at @dublin8craftmarket and in Stoney Batter

fiona leech

Membership Application form 2020

agriculture-animal-animal-photography-459215

Hi folks,

As we welcome in 2020 we ask that you consider your membership of feltmakers Ireland… welcome back to returning members, you are helping to keep a craft alive. You are helping to introduce the sustainable craft of felting  to new comers. members take priority at workshops and only members can enter exhibitions.

At €25 a year this is a very low membership fee, with discounts available on workshops.

The basic & beyond on 25h January this year ( we have only 3 places left)

Then April- Nancy Balusterous from treetops Australia will join us for a workshop.

Followed by Marjolein Darlinga from Bloomfelt in May.

We are also in touch with the Knit & Stitch show at the RDS and are really crossing our fingers that we will be accepted for a gallery space at the 2020 show- in order that members can exhibit their work in this national event.

 

Thank you and please continue to support our voluntary organisation.

Feltmakers Ireland Membership Application Form 2020

International Meeting of Felt Makers Associations.

agriculture-animal-animal-photography-459215An update on the work of the Felt makers Ireland committee in Autumn of 2019. In mid-October of last year, a meeting was held in Mouzon France at the felt museum of Mouzon and the International Felt makers Association invited board members of felt organizations of different countries and relevant felt makers of countries without association to the first International network meeting.

Felt makers Ireland sent along our secretary Sinead Doyle to attend and here is her report together with the official report of the event.

The committee has held a meeting since the visit in Nov 2019 and intends using this information at a special “Strategy 2020” meeting this month. We just want to keep you our members and followers up to date with the work going on behind the scenes in Felt makers Ireland.

mouzon meeting international feltmakers
Sinead Doyle- Black dungarees RHS, feel free to speak to Sinead at our Sunday sessions!

Meeting Venue

Musée – Atelier Du Feutre

Mouzon, France

11th – 13th October 2019.

The weekend kicked off with a 2-minute introduction from each attendee. I have not included every associations presentation but following is a synopsis of a few.

Participants meeting Mouzon
Norway:

40 members, membership is €150 per year. This association accepts members on an evaluation basis. All members must submit their work, once accepted you receive a guild mark of excellence. They meet once a year at the AGM and organise a yearly trip to other countries to take part in various workshops. They have expressed an interest in coming to Ireland in 2021.

Netherlands:

They have over 1000 members. This organisation is divided up into regions that hold their own meetings throughout the year at varying intervals.

IFA:

This association has over 1000 members, however approximately 900 reside in the UK.

They host an AGM on 9th May in London.

The IFA are currently seeking a petition to have the craft of Felting deemed a UNESCO cultural Heritage of Humanity.

They will be sending out a call in December to all their members for an England based exhibition in 2020.

This association is split into regions with a regional officer who organises meetings and workshops. I spoke with Mandy Nash the Regional officer for Wales. She told me that she has her region broken down further into more localised groups. She accomplished this by facilitating the local set up of groups but has no ongoing operational input.

These groups are self-funded however the IFA personal liability insurance extends to cover all members.

Mandy arranges 5 meetings per year where members can come together to work on their own projects and share information.

Conclusion:

It appears most organisations do not meet up that regularly as distance/travel is a huge obstacle. The AGM seems to be the only time members will come together in most of the groups. They host at least one International workshop per year and focus on travelling to others.

 

Workshop #1

Quality in Felt making

This discussion began with the term

“Ancient craft – Contemporary textile”

We focused on ways to set standards and how to elevate felt as a textile in the consumer’s eye.

The IFAs agenda is to standardise felt making techniques for beginners. They have asked all organisations to develop and run detailed beginner workshops for members. Emphasising the importance of creating samples at the start of every workshop, to teach how to calculate weight and shrinkage, and to understand how different wools behave and interact.

They would also like standardised criteria/guidelines to be set for Tutors.

This workshop was then split up into three small groups each concentrating on one of the following topics.

 

  1. I.   Accreditation
  2. II.  Guidelines for Tutors.

III. Good practice for members. (my group)

Accreditation:

The German organisation has established a Quality mark. 

They conduct four evaluations a year. The fee is €50 (members) €90 (non-members).

Should the artist fail the evaluation they are given a full report as to why, and how they could improve their work with an invitation to apply again, free of charge.

Should they be awarded the accreditation, they are then given a label they can tag all their products with.

This is a recognised sign of excellence in Germany. It has greatly increased the amount of professional felt makers in the country and has also aided in the awareness of quality felt making.

*It was thought that every association should begin the process of establishing an accreditation system in their own country.

Guidelines for Tutors:

They discussed the importance of establishing excellence in teaching. Discouraging people who take masterclasses from going on and teaching poor quality classes when they really haven’t mastered the correct technique.

*No set guidelines were established but this is something each organization should actively work on.

The IFA are compiling a list of “recommended” tutors. They are in the process of setting criteria and categorising those tutors who fit the bill.

Good practice for Members:

“Encourage properly and well-made felt which is fit for purpose.” – Many Nash.

We discussed encouraging members to develop their own personal style and not regurgitate masterclass techniques.

It is thought that work completed in Master Classes should not be accepted into exhibitions, selectors need to be very strict about this. Also, that when masterclass techniques are used in a person’s work the Master should be acknowledged.

We also talked about encouraging our members to take part in regular regional sessions to develop personal skills and share techniques. Promoting members to develop their own style.

Workshop #2

Networking and Synergy

 

  1. I.   What do we expect?
  2. II.  How to stimulate synergy. (my group) 

III. What would change for our members?

We talked together about what we expect to get from this meeting and how it will help us all.

The exchange of information on how we run our organisations and how we communicate with our members will be invaluable to everyone. The meeting is also about inspiring each other and bringing felt to a wider audience. We then broke into two smaller groups and discussed the other topics.
How to stimulate synergy

Fostering personal relationships will make it easier when we need to contact each other on a professional basis.

There was talk about how some organisations make international tutors sign a contract agreeing that they will not teach anywhere else in Europe in the same year. We must make sure this is prevented from happening in our own association, and instead push for more cooperation and cost sharing between groups when organising workshops.

It was decided that a Facebook group would be set up for all those attending the meeting, this would encourage good relationships to grow and keep the flow of information between us all. The IFA International officer Henny will arrange this

Each organisation is asked to prepare a small one-minute video about their association to be put up as an introduction to the group.

We can also use this platform to share information regarding wool related festivals and happenings in our countries maybe enticing people to visit from other countries.
The other important decision that came out of this group was that an International gathering would be undertaken every two years, with a different country hosting each time. The IFA will set this in motion. 

What would change for our members?

These meetings give us a chance to share information, which we can offer to our members. It is up to them what they do with that, however we should repeat the message of connection on an international level.

Putting a spotlight on what other organisations are doing and letting our members know of international events.

I’m not sure what else this subgroup discussed this was the extent of what they told the main group.

The other two workshops I was not involved with gave a brief account of their discussion, as follows.

Education

There is no official course for felt makers in the education system.

We need to have an approach to introduce felt to textile schools and art colleges.

It may be of interest to find speakers from Industry where wool/felt is used in unusual or surprising ways.

We need to network/collaborate with other textile organisations in order to keep felting on the map.

My thoughts on this is that our organisation is too small to go down this road as we have no education officer, but it is certainly something to work towards for the future.

Exhibition

An international exhibition has been set to run from April 2022 to April 2023,

The theme “building bridges”.

Over the course of the year separate local exhibitions in every country will take place with an accompanying online exhibit running alongside.

Culminating in a final exhibit, in France, with pieces selected from each country.

The IFA exhibition officer Laura Mabbutt will be the lead on this event and will be in contact.

2019_10_Summary of International network meeting in Mouzon

The above is the link to the official report of the event.

The Felt makers Ireland committee thanks Sinead for giving her personal time to attend the meeting. We also thank Henny Van Tussenbroek for the invite to participate and look forward to renewed contact with other international organisation. We endeavour to keep our members informed of these ongoing relationships. We will be using this information as the basis of our Strategy 2020 together with our own regional findings.

 

 

Review and Resolutions

As we end 2019 and look forward to the New Year and indeed the new decade we often look back at our achievements of the past or sometimes our regrets. It is that time of year, when traditionally we make New years resolutions and plan to turn over new leaves.

Of course, we all know deep down that if it’s worth doing, it’s probably worth doing today, rather than waiting until January 1st!

I’m not actually one for New Year Resolutions, I’ve never managed to keep any and I feel it puts too much pressure on myself- which is one resolution I would like to keep ( less pressure). It is almost like, I’m planning to fail!

However, I am one for habit and do believe firmly that “it’s what you do, not what you say you will do” that makes who you are. Habits can start in a very small way… For example, you don’t need to think 100 days ahead, and feel the pressure of say “100 days of walking”. You could simply choose to walk today. Tomorrow, repeat the same. Do and repeat.

At the end of this Crafting year I’m posting the “Motivation Mondays” of 2019… which many of you will know from our Facebook Page. Some of these quotes will resonate with you and some you will disagree with. Perhaps you have a favourite or a quote you simply “don’t get”. I do hope however that of the 52 there will be something that you can respond too. Perhaps there is saying that motivates you and something that reminds you to be true to who you are.

The future is full of possibilities and it starts today. Have a good one.

Christmas present idea

basic and beyond hat making 2020

basic and beyond application form 2020

It is that time of year… and some clever people have already purchased this Day course as a present for a loved one! What a lovely present that is and perfect timing, just afer Christmas on 25th of January… going away with a new hat and a new skill… perhaps even a new group of friends in feltmakers ireland and certainly a fun day out.

If you want to purchase one of the last places on this course- for a friend- contact us.

We will endevour to help you out and can provide you with all the details and a gift certificate to give to them…. be someones secret Santa- GIVE EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS.

Xx

Interview with Yaroslava Troynich

YAROSLAVA TROYNICHFelt makers Ireland follows several felt makers on Instagram to get our regular fix of inspiration. A member put us in touch with Yaroslava Troynich, a 41yr old Russian textile artist, based in Helsinki, Finland.  Her specialty is felted animal puppets. She says “this is fun textile way to worship wildlife” we decided to get in touch to find out more…

 Tell us a little about you as a person? e.g. upbringing/ where you work/ work other than textiles…

My life seems to me like a huge pile of wool, which I could transform into endless forms.

I was born in USSR and had no artistic background in my family. As a child I was fond of sewing textile toys and dreamed about art school and industrial design. The next big dream was to become a policeman to fight for justice and make the world better. However, the world itself captured all my attention so in the end I graduated from university as a journalist! For several years I have been traveling the world and contributing to Cosmopolitan and National Geographic in Russia and continued to write for local media after moving to Finland in 2007.

Most of all I loved to make stories about remote places, where wildlife, traditional lifestyles and crafts remain. The best moments of my life have mostly connected to wildlife – snorkeling with manta rays in Galapagos, planting rainforest for orangutans of Borneo or searching for the sloths in the Amazon.

Humans and wild nature cohabiting and environmental issues were always on my top interest list.

 

How and when did you start your textile journey… what is your experience, tell us a little…

Once in 2009 I came across of artwork done by Stephanie Metz. Her meaningful sculptures made of white wool and some experimental textile pieces were shockingly modern, pure contemporary art.

In Russia felting is very traditional craft and to me it felt quite outdated. But this was the first moment I began to look at it differently. My inner artist woke up. I tried needle felting and was amazed of wool’s ability to take any shape. But I really fell in love with wool after my first wet felted piece. The feeling of soapy babbles on my hands and witnessing of wool fibers transformation into something totally new – this magic has forever bewitched me. Quite soon I realized that I want to work with 3D-felt. In my childhood I loved “bibabo”, traditional Russian hand puppets, with their history dated back to 17 century and originated in Italy and France. Ideas came fast and naturally. My first fox puppet was born, and it felt like a real gift from textile and craft gods. Surprisingly, combination of traditional felt with traditional toy turned in to very modern and unique art object. Suddenly everything came together: my love of puppets, of wildlife and of wool. That is the story of my own transformation into textile artist specialized in felted animal puppets.

My artwork is my small personal contribution to environmental awareness. These puppets are really great communication gadgets. They help to connect parents with children, create new stories and learn new things. They have strong social position – they support environmental education and promote love to animals. My special pride if they work with ecologists in the national parks and museums and with teachers and psychologists.

I have been learning a lot from great textile artists to develop my own skills, tried new areas of textile art but nothing makes me as happy as these animal puppets. Felting process itself has great art-therapeutic effect on me. So, I do share these benefits with others on my workshops around the world. I love to teach adults and transform them into artists and kids at least for a day. This transformation is no less amazing than wool metamorphoses. Sometimes I feel that it can be my real vocation to inspire people for creating via my puppets.

thumbnail_Bibabo_Puppets_3YAROSLAVA TROYNICH

Tell us about your process from conception to creation and what is your motivation? e.g. for hobby/ creativity/ art/ fashion/ health/ money…

My strongest motivation is a game with the world, special quest. I want to explore its secrets and search for opportunities to create new, positive and inspiring things.

Almost all my ideas I draw from the nature. Weird animals, beautiful animals, endangered animals. While visiting national parks I have chance to encounter wildlife closer. Even though I don’t follow physiological accuracy in my work, I study animals a lot, examine pictures, watch nature documentaries and read about their habitats and personal lives. I am minded in spirit of minimalism, restrained Scandinavian design and naive art, so I try to create live animalistic images using as little details as possible. But I also like to add some humor or bright travel and cultural heritage inspired details to my work. Especially, I feel free with my finger puppet collection. Some animals can wear Russian felted boots at some occasions and use the laptops at their homes. This kind of art makes me play all the time. I draw very poorly, so my rare sketches look like ugly construction schemes. More often I just have an idea inside my head and then test it directly on the wool. Complicated shapes I break into many simple forms and play with it. I combine different felting technics but my main one is wet felting. There are wool, soap, water and hands only. I use a lot of different fibers for creating animal hair, especially I love hairy goat mohair. I try to make my felt durable and flexible in the same time to keep the most of mobility for the toys. Sometimes my projects involve dyeing of materials and even painting on top of the wool toys.

It is weird, but 3D objects at first are just flat and in the beginning of my journey I was too depending on the patterns and constructive solutions but nowadays I become increasingly aware of limitless sculptural opportunities of felt. You can always change, reshape, improve. Felt makes me feel braver as an artist because in this process even apparent mistake can turn in to genius idea. Besides, it is difficult to make mistake with animals – they always come out wonderful. Probably, because they are born twice – at first from the idea and wool and then again become alive on top of the hand while playing.

il_570xN.762203968_7y1s
YAROSLAVA TROYNICH

What currently inspires you? 

Lately I am passionate about the animation to give my puppets even more life and voice. It is inspiring to integrate and collaborate different types of art and creativity in to the one beautifully felted structure. Well, and sponsors of all my ideas and inspiration invariably remain wildlife and life itself, with all that everyday routine and new changes. The coolest ideas come to me when traveling or hang out in the mountains, through the forest or along the cold ocean. The Amazon jungle and Himalayan snowy peaks are my eternal favorites.  But during my life in Finland, I fell in love with the north. Perhaps the northern animals are not the most vivid and expressive as objects for creativity, but the power of life in northern nature, with its short as a flash summer, is simply unique.  This power nourishes me. In Finland, people are very respectful to their nature resources, and this gives me the feeling that I am in the right place. After all, partly my work is pure nature worship, and toys are a tribute to the nature.

 

Thank you Yaroslava for taking the time to answer our questions for supplying the wonderful images of your work and for providing the dose of Instagram inspiration that we need. If you want to see more follow Yaroslava at the below.

 

Instagram

@yara_bibabo

#yaroslavatroynich

 

VPP_7219
YAROSLAVA TROYNICH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Sunday Session

dec 19 session

The Next Sunday session will be a very casual affair… mince pies and coffee and some relaxing hands on felting… maybe make a christmas decoration… as regular members advice on projects… bring along some things you are making and show us… A crafty little day time get together away from the Hubbub and hoobala of the Xmas rush.

 

SLOW DOWN this year, have a chat and a coffee… make something, watch….

Everyone is welcome ( members/ non members/ past /present and future).

 

Christmas Sunday Session

dec 19 session

The Next Sunday session will be a very casual affair… mince pies and coffee and some relaxing hands on felting… maybe make a christmas decoration… as regular members advice on projects… bring along some things you are making and show us… A crafty little day time get together away from the Hubbub and hoobala of the Xmas rush.

 

SLOW DOWN this year, have a chat and a coffee… make something, watch….

Everyone is welcome ( members/ non members/ past /present and future).