Breda Fay here…. just a reminder to all you talented felters that MADE IN IRELAND exhibition The National Design & Craft Gallery (NDCG) have issued a nationwide open call for submissions of high-quality contemporary and traditional Irish craft for a new MADE IN IRELAND exhibition. With standard of work many of you produce it would be a great way not only to get public recognition for your skills but also to put FELTMAKING into a more public space…. Please visit www.dcci.ie for more info.
It seems this pandemic is just rolling on, with no real end in sight. It can be hard to stay positive at the moment, especially with the days getting darker and less scope for being outdoors. There are many ways to try to cope and to keep looking for the positive, and I wanted to share something that has been very helpful for me in all this. I live alone with my 12-year-old daughter and felt I needed something to help me stay connected and hopeful in the face of a long time with limited direct social interactions.
Feltmakers Ireland and sister organisations across the world have had to cancel workshops and meet-ups across the world due to the pandemic, the knitting and stitching show in Dublin being an example in point. All these cancellations have been hard on artists and teachers as a significant revenue stream has been cut off for them. A small spark of light in these troubled times is that the number of craft courses offered online has increased a lot, allowing access to knowledge and inspiration from a wide range of artists across the world.
I am a great fan of courses and workshops and love soaking up knowledge and inspiration from whatever artist or teacher available. I was in the fortunate position to have the time and the means to sign up to a number of online courses since the early summer, and I am certain that it has contributed in large part to keeping me relative sane through this very trying year. I know I would not have been able to attend such a range of courses if I had had to travel to each of them to participate. I also made a lot of new acquaintances and contacts by interacting digitally with the other students which has helped me stay positive and feel connected.
I have been asked to introduce you to some of these courses and give some ideas of courses coming up and where to find additional information if you are interested in taking a look for yourselves. These courses do cost money, but I personally have found them well worth the investment. With Christmas coming up you might be able to hint that they would be welcome in your Christmas stocking. If you still find that you cannot justify this expense, I hope to send out some more links to free online tutorials in the near future.
If you are interested in any courses similar to the ones I mention below, the best way to get enrolled is to go to the web page of the artist whose course you find interesting and sign up for their newsletter, or to follow them. They will then tell you when they have courses coming up and how to enrol. Fiona Duthie, (https://www.fionaduthie.com/workshops/online-felting-workshops/) for example is very popular. Her courses book up very fast and I already have a reminder in my calendar for the 4th of January when she will open registration for her 2021 courses. I just managed to get a spot on one of her courses in 2020 and hope to do more in 2021.
This course helped improve the quality of my finished felt no end, and showed me many examples of how to take a 2D piece of felt and work it till it became a very different 3D object, based on shrinkage and different qualities obtained from different levels of thickness of the laid down wool. It also put me in contact with people from many different locations in the world who all shared an interest in felt and we created a small community that felt very encouraging and friendly.
This was a shorter course, and Patti sent us all the materials needed for the course. All other courses send you a list of materials that you had to get yourselves. Patti shared some skills on how to get tighter, smoother felt by finishing by rolling the felt in on itself, without the bubble wrap. I made two little vessels, one as usual and one rolling it in on itself, and I must admit the second vessel looked better (the one on the left)
These are the samples I made in this course:
Another course I participated in was a two day live zoom course with UK artist Mandy Nash, making two different kinds of fish using a wool called bergschaus:
After that I joined a course led by Ruth Lane, called Nuno Felting with Paper Fabric Lamination. It added in mixed media techniques into felting which I found very interesting. I am still working on finishing samples from this course, but here is one that I am working on. I plan to add some beads and stitching. (https://permutationsinfiber.wordpress.com/about/ )
I have two other courses going on at the moment.
I managed to get a spot on one of Fiona Duthie’s 2020 courses: Felting over the Edge.
As the title implies it looks at how to do more with the edges of felt pieces. I still have 3 weeks to go to create a finished piece, but these are some of the samples I have made so far:
Recently I also started another course by Pam de Groot:
Texture and Dimension October 2020
The first part of the course teaches how to make a splash bowl. Easier said than done. These are my two first attempts:
In the 4 upcoming weeks we will be learning how to make spiral shell shapes.
I also have two more courses coming up end of this year, starting the new year, by two exciting artists:
And a figurative 3D course by Molly Williams called Contemporary Dancer
These courses do require a reasonable internet connection. Also, you will have to invest in materials for nearly all of them. Some of them are very specific in type of wool needed. Not all students in all the classes I have participated in have had the specified wool. Sometimes that worked fine, sometimes it made it harder to get the expected results. As I wanted to take so many different courses I had some problems with needing lots of different wools in a selection of colours. It would both be very costly and take up too much room in my house. This became obvious after the first course and I decided to only get white wool of the specified type and figure out how to dye it myself. Some trial and error ensued, but I think I am getting the hang of it. That may be the subject of more blog entries in the new year.
Feel free to contact Feltmakers Ireland – Annika Berglund-if you have any questions about this blog entry or if there are subjects you would like us to look at or information you want to share.
To all our lovely feltmakers out there here is a short film we made for you- members have already received an email and link to this video- now we wish to share it furtehr with our wider community through the blog post… we hope that you are inspired!
As we still can’t get together and the country is once again in level 5 lock down the committee have been busy trying to find new ways to inspire and promote the craft of felt making.
New 2020 committee member Deirdre Crofts undertook the latest task- filming a video with Sharon wells- textile Artist.
The committee wishes to thank Deirdre for her hard work ( made even harder by social distancing). We wish to thank Sharon for her participation again under difficult circumstances. We hope that you agree that this is a wonderful in depth look at how a felt maker artist works and their methods.
Sharon Wells is a fiber and textile artist working with wool and silk fibers born and bred in Co. Wicklow but her heart is in the Kerry hills. Sharon will explain how she skirts, washes and dyes raw fleece and will show us her beautiful work. You will find a link to her website below.
Breda Fay here – the money minder – an easy job in the present climate as we have no expenses.
I attended monthly meet of GANS this lunchtime. Usually I just send a link to GANS but decided today to be more personal and share some news that might be of interest to you. Some of it has time constraints so if you’re interested link to relevant sites quickly.
The POSTAGE SCHEME is going very well – €4.95 (inc VAT) for labels from An Post. The first consignment is almost gone so get your orders in quickly – A second consignment planned for before Christmas- this is a scheme for Guilds that can apply for postage rates from anpost.
The Irish Business Design Challenge has been receiving lots of applications (final date 28th October). Many of the 250+ applications are still in draft form so you still have time. It’s aimed at micro, small and medium businesses with a prize fund of €50,000. Check out the website as it might be of interest to many of our members: https://www.dcci.ie/irish-business-design-challenge
Business to Arts Fund is another scheme that might interest some of you. Will bring up an application of behalf of Feltmakers Ireland at next committee meeting. But some members might like to make their own submission for funding. Closing date is November 4th at 5pm and the project must take place between February and December 2021. Consult website for more details: https://www.businesstoarts.ie/artsfund/bank-of-ireland/
Phase 1 of “MADE LOCAL” has been a great success – with very positive reports from artists and makers. Phase 2 is to be launched in early November – the theme “Gifting for Christmas” will be in time for the Christmas market. Brian Magee (DCCI) urges all makers to register. The form is available on DCCI site or you can contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org. This campaign offers great support to makers with a wide range of publicity on radio, Nationwide on TV, social media, etc: https://www.dcci.ie/made-local
For the first time ever (or in a very long time) DCCI are putting out an open call to makers who create pieces of exceptional merit. I went to make coffee while this was being talked about – so will be in touch with Mary Whelan for relevant information!
Many of the Guilds and Societies are in the same boat as ourselves. There was particular concern about the absence of the RDS Christmas Fair. BUT there might be some good news, covid conscious of course –
Exhibition of Felt Artists inspired by Evie Hone’s legacy.
Exhibtion currently running (until end Oct) at “The Constant Knitter”- Francis Street, Dublin, organised by Feltmakers Ireland Member Niki Collier:
The exhibition was by invitation and engaged with artists during the lockdown. Over Zoom we looked into Evie Hone’s work and created pieces in stained glass visual narrative. The exhibition is comprised of 10 artists in different stages of their career. It is a combination of stained glass technique and hats made as a homage to front line workers. Most of the work in the exhibition is developed through workshops with Niki over Zoom. Each artist Clodagh O’Connor, Paula Delaney, Deirdre Carey, Claire Tudor & Dorothy Ingram had done something created this year during the pressures of our changing lives. Additionally two established artists supported Niki by submitting two pieces for the exhibition. Niki is really grateful to artists Claire Merry and Helene Dooley for supporting the initiative with their pieces. And Niki put the piece she pushed herself to explore freehand machine embroidery on felt and a few hats.
Here are 4 of the Exhibiting Feltmakers:
Paula Delehny Sunrise
Paula has loved textile for a very long time. She has been doing felting, sewing and knitting for many years now.
She has embraced felting as a centre of her interest for several years and has travelled on Feltmakers Ireland trips to Hungary.
Her work was inspired by sunset and uses a combination of wet and needle felting technique to create the piece.
Evie Hone was a deeply religious person who principally created sacred art in the latter part of her life. It is believed that her conversion to Catholicism in 1937 influenced her decision to work with stained glass. While not exclusively, much of Evie’s work is associated with church settings. Light and shadow reflections through stained glass were the inspiration for this piece. The felted spiral is suspended and is in constant motion creating shadows as the light hits it. The coloured viscose sections retain an element of mottling and shine which seeks to mirror light in the style of light reflecting through stained glass.
Clodagh O’Connor, has been inspired by Evie’s work on stained glass, but used fish images to explore its possibilities in felt.Clodagh has become a full time artist 3 years ago. Her work is multidisciplinary.
Deirdre Carey has used a trip to Spain for her inspiration. She has used a combination of wet felting and needle felting techniques.Deirdre has been taking feltmaking classes for several years and enjoys creating art pieces that are delicate and beautiful.
If you are in Dublin perhaps you can take a trip along- #supportthearts #supportlocal #supportingartists
Virtual Sunday Session – Fiona Duthie, Vessel within a Vessel
By Annika Berglund
Unfortunately, we can not meet in person yet due to Covid but we still want to keep up the contact with members and keep the learning opportunities coming. Feeling connected and having opportunities to develop the craft seems more important now than ever.
We thought we would look outside our group for new learning and we found an excellent tutorial by renowned teacher and artist Fiona Duthie. Fiona Duthie gives online workshops on a regular basis that have a great reputation. Unfortunately, her workshops are all fully booked for 2020. We will keep an eye open for when registration opens for 2021. Luckily for us, she also has a free online tutorial that we want to suggest to you for this month. It is a great introduction to her teaching style and you end up with a lovely little vessel and an interesting technique in felt making.
I had a go at following the tutorial and it was easy enough to understand.
First, I made a template that looks like two circles connected by a “bridge”. Then you have to think a little “inside out” and put the decoration down first on one of the circles as this one will be turned inside out eventually However, you put the decoration on last for the second circle. You rub and roll these together, throw them down a little and then you cut openings in the second circle and pull the template out through these. Finally, you push the first circle through the bridge, into the second circle. This turns the first circle inside out so the decoration becomes visible through the holes in the second circle. Magic!
‘Into the Matrix’ Exhibition: 2 pm Monday 31st August to 4pm Sunday September 13th.
Open every other day from 10-1 and 2-5pm. 7 people can visit at any one time
Liminal is a County Wicklow based group of four artists motivated by their shared experience of establishing a sense of place in their adopted county. They have come together to find strength in working collaboratively and explore contemporary ways of working with fibre arts and mixed media.
Fabienne Herbert, Christine Theobald, Anne Walsh, and Nessa McCormack met through their involvement in Feltmakers Ireland and have previously exhibited with FI. This is their first group show. Each artist has responded to the theme individually, producing wall and 3D pieces in their chosen art medium.
Anne worked as a dress designer for 18 years before following her passion to understand the myriad and innovative ways that humankind have developed to exist in their worlds. This led to her completing a degree in Anthropology, later focussing on the Anthropology of Art in her Masters in New Zealand. It was there that she first learnt to felt, an artform that had enthralled her many years earlier during frequent visits to Co Clare. On returning to Ireland she continued to explore feltmaking, attending master classes with Feltmakers Ireland, constantly seeking out the possibilities that feltmaking provided.
“Throughout my life I have been drawn to the alternatives and possibilities of other worlds, to other ways of being. The exhibition theme, Into the Matrix, defined in one dictionary as ‘a mass of fine-grained rock in which gems, crystals or fossils are embedded’, led me on a journey to explore the otherness of the little known, the underworlds of limestone ecosystems. My personal quest was to interpret this environment through the patterns I saw, believing that even within the unknown, we recognise something, it resonates within us, speaking a language that we know in our souls, and it offers us a window to imagine and understand diverse ways of living, seeing, and being in our world.”
Originally from Switzerland, Christine studied Visual Arts and Art History in Geneva. Since arriving in Ireland, many moons ago, she has worked in the field of Special Education and Autism with a particular interest in facilitating arts and creative activities. After completing a degree in Early Childhood Education, she questioned the role that creativity plays in human development. With this vision, she found herself felting her way into the visual and design world.
“Wherever my eyes wander and play, I follow. Marvelling at patterns, I like to explore the underlying framework of all things. I am fascinated by the transformation of airy fibre into shapes, revealing geometric markings, with light and shadows playing their part. Smooth felted edges create harmonious lines and blends of colour emerge softly, adding to the understanding of the piece.
Free falling ‘Into the Matrix’ of my own creative experience, I made a series of pieces that tempted fresh boundaries. Upon self-reflection, my aim was to link natural patterns and ways to follow the fibre of my intuition, directing myself towards a space of effortless creativity that I remember having as a child.”
Nessa is an Irish artist living and working in County Wicklow. Having worked in the IT industry for many years, she returned to college as a mature student in 2015 and studied Visual Art at the National College of Art and Design, Ireland. Over the past 10 years she studied and worked with screen printed and sculptural fibre art which inform the layers and textures in her paintings.
“Vibrant abstract paintings that celebrate colour and simplicity in composition, combined with a deep connection to intricate patterns, form the basis of my work.
My paintings begin with colour investigations, usually derived from sketchbook studies and evolve intuitively through play, and a considered response to emerging layers of hand printed marks, spontaneous drawing and textured paint surfaces. I strive to keep an energy and freshness going throughout the process by working in a series of paintings, taking risks, moving quickly from one to the next interpreting and responding to what each one is telling me.
I have discovered a sense of place and a deep connection with beauty in the intricate details observed in my environment: in particular, communities of abundant thriving life forms in nature, their connectivity and constant renewal.
Indigenous global cultures have embraced this deep wisdom in the natural world and offer inspiration through symbols and vivid colours found in their textiles. My current body of work is an exploration and celebration of the beauty evident in their daily rituals.”
Fabienne grew up in western France. The daughter of a dressmaker, she was drawn early on to the process of creation. After working in software localization for many years, she studied, graduated and worked as an Interior Architect. This experience reinforced her belief in the value of simple forms and that materials awake our senses, evoking memories. She also studied Visual Art Practice in NCAD, where she won a prize in Embroidery. Her art is inspired by observations of her surroundings, an experience or a moment in time. Using printmaking and thread work, her work evolved towards abstraction, influenced by cubism and the Bauhaus movement. Fabienne has now taken a more experimental approach to her work by making and using natural and plant-based materials.
“How I perceive my surroundings, and what engages my senses, drive what I do. I seek to capture a shape, an outline, an element and build upon this. By expressing myself, I can find a balance between a sense of order and the unexpected. My process can start with a mark, a colour, a material or a series of experiments. I use printmaking and thread work to construct simple forms in wall art and sculptural pieces. I make my own colours using plants which I turn into a natural print paste, dye or ink. Having a direct link with the raw material is fundamental to my creative process.
Into the Matrix evokes the idea of repeated forms and actions, as seen all around us. For this exhibition I explore the relationship between repetition, pattern and space and how it impacts us. Based on my observations of the San Francisco city scape, this body of work looks at how materiality and repetition define our environment. I interact and move through the city where space, form and place meet.
All my pieces in this exhibition include natural dyes, pigments or inks made either from my garden plants, local flora foraged in Wicklow and during my journeys in France, or from food and plant waste.”
I joined the Feltmakers Ireland committee back in 2018. I took over the role of Chair back at the start of this year, ah, and what a year it has been.
A Global Pandemic wasn’t on my prediction list for 2020 and it certainly was not on the FMI “aims and objectives”! Who would have thought it? How our lives could be changed, futures altered and humans “Endangered”.
The title for our 2020 exhibition had already been decided at the end of 2019. After a few brainstorming sessions and with the Climate action protests at the forefront of our mind, we all agreed it was an appropriate topic. Ambiguous enough to give scope to creativity but clear enough to hopefully link the incoming submissions.
I am terribly proud that as a group we managed to put on an exhibition at all this year. Our proposal was for a gallery space at the Knit &Stitch in the RDS, this was cancelled… we had a plan B in place, a lovely space in the visitor centre at the Phoenix Park- 3 weeks before we were due to open this space changed too!
We flexed a little and changed course, in the end the judges- Gabi Mc Grath and Jane Fox were extremely impressed with the standard and marked and ranked the pieces. This we communicated to the applicants.
As a committee however, we decided we would try to show everyone’s work. With the year that’s in it, our aim is to keep the community motivated, to promote the work of local artists and to support… and so it was- all applicants work was shown albeit in a smaller location in the Phoenix park and we hope that you have enjoyed the on-line “meet the maker” interviews and photographs too…
Here’s mine. Tamzen x
The Exhibition title- Endangered?- how does your piece respond to the title? your inspiration and methods etc
My piece is titled “Coral Bleaching” it highlights the topic of habitat loss, specifically in the Great Barrier Reef, the phenomenon of coral bleaching linked to elevated sea temperatures.
It is a textural piece using wet felt techniques including cords, attachments and shibori as well as hand embroidery and bead work.
I love colour and texture, so I’ve used bright fluo combinations. I interspersed these highly coloured sections with neutral undyed “ bleached” out wool, where hopefully the textures speak for themselves.
Last year I undertook the #100day project and many of the small pieces I created reminded me of coral or sea creatures. I spent some time collecting plastic waste and ghost fishing nets and incorporated small pieces of these into my work. I suppose that this “Coral Bleaching” piece is a continuation of that work.
Crafting through the current crisis, with the pandemic have you found time to craft, has it inspired you or have you found it more difficult- discuss
In my family this really has been a crisis year. I was acutely aware of the Global situation as it unfolded. I watched Covid 19 news closely as it emerged in China back in January. Back in 2003 I was working in Hong Kong when Sar’s emerged. I remember the nervousness of having my temperature checked at the airport en route home from a business trip.
With my own fashion design work, I travelled to Germany in February this year to consult with a large retailer ( and took a face mask with me “just in case”, but it stayed wrapped and sealed in my pocket).
By the end of that month, our relatives in Milan, Italy were in lockdown.
My Indian boss, whose family live in Madrid- had already started home-schooling.
On 12th March I picked up my 3 Children from school. My partner and I still didn’t realise then that by the end of the month both my freelance business of 15years would have ended ( I hope suspended, but I simply don’t know) I would have become full time- “home- school” teacher on PUP!
As large European retailers simply cancelled orders for knitwear, product that was already designed, manufactured, and shipped, the knock-on effect to the manufacturers and all their auxiliary partners (including me) was extreme. Capital dried up, goods stopped at ports and contracts abandoned, claims of “Force majeure” as European retailers shuttered their doors and passed the problem to the Asian manufacturers, ( and freelancers like me) who soaked up the losses.
I turned my focus to staying healthy, keeping mind and body together, working on my own creative projects and my family.
Luckily for my birthday my folks sent down a great big package of fibre, so materials weren’t a problem and crafting as always played a huge part in my life.
Art and Craft is not something I do in my spare time; it is the thing I do. The Earth without Art… Eh.
I’ve used this time to make 2 videos for DCCI and to start to video my work for future on-line felting tutorials. I am also organising a local #madeinmaynooth market for artists and crafters to simply set up a socially distanced stand and hold a “art and craft walk” on a designated day in the month.
I’m doing this as well as setting up an etsy store, supporting my kids as they transition back to school and volunteering with the FMI committee.
Felt- how you discovered it, what it means to you
It was at a Knit & Stitch show a good few years ago now that I first saw a demonstration. I studied Fashion and textiles at university and design knitwear ( very commercial, colour and trends) but felt was not something I had done before. I loved the versatility, 2d and 3d. It was almost like magic, fibre to cloth, with no needles!
Felting means I can be creative at my kitchen table. I can be present in the house, I can chat to the kids, but I can also work creatively for me.
I have an output for my creative madness that is both flexible and forgiving, qualities I respect and strive for in life.
I’d like to take this opportunity as the “Endangered” exhibition closes to thank our hosts the OPW, Phoenix Park visitor centre, The DCCI, The feltmakers Ireland voluntary committee for their hard work, our two esteemed Judges- Gabi Mc Grath and Jane Fox and all the applicants for their wonderful work.
We hope that through these tough times you have been inspired to keep crafting, keep creative and keep safe.
We asked artist Deirdre Crofts the same 3 questions that we asked all the “Endangered” applicants…
The title of the exhibition is “Endangered” how does your submission relate to that concept?
My piece was inspired by the wonderful Irish Bee. 30% of the Irish Bee species are threatened with extinction, this is because of intensive farming practices, monocropping and excessive use of agricultural chemicals. I wanted to show the bees disorientated over the Irish countryside. I used a wet felted resist background. The bees I needle felted with galvanised wire support with free motion embroidery voile wings. I enjoyed making this piece.
How did you first come upon felting?
I was first introduced to felt work by the genius Sharon Wells and then I met the very welcoming feltmakers Ireland group. They were so friendly and helpful, the magic of being able to take colourful raw wool and with warm water and soap you could make such wonderful things.
The coronovirus lockdown, did it help or hinder your craft?
The covid pandemic, tho terrible it was, gave me time to breathe and spend time with my family, we walked and worked in the garden. We had time to enjoy what we had.
I am lucky I live on three quarters of an acre on the foothills of the Dublin mountains where I have a studio. I love sculpture and I had some ceramic exhibitions that I had to prepare pieces for. They took place in August and September.
Ceramics Ireland, Dublin Castle, Montenotte Cork and Birr Castle Co Offaly.
Fiona joined the feltmakers Ireland committee earlier this year. Some of you may know her from her “Feltathome” handle on instagram or as a regular seller in Dublin markets- back in the day when that was a thing!
We asked Fiona to provide us with a little information about her piece “Touch”, submitted to the Endangered exhibition. Due to the change in space and location of the exhibition changing at such late notice we even had to display Fiona’s wonderful piece vertically! When really it should have been shown horizontally- it is 2m long!
Fiona was very obliging to let this happen. For those of you that did manage to visit the show in the Phoenix Park- here is how “touch” should really be viewed, and hopefully in the future we will get the chance to exhibit it again in a more spacious arena!
What inspired your piece submitted for “Endangered” and how was lockdown for you?
Before the lockdown,I was beginning to work on a totally different piece for this Endangered exhibition but quickly abandoned it as the impact of the rapid life changes soon diverted my focus.Glued to the news and watching with horror as our lives were suddenly ruled by daily numbers.On March 11th when the first life was lost to Covid 19, I stitched a small dark circle on a scrap of pre made felt. (I always saw the soul as a dark circle as a child!) I continued stitching one circle for every life lost and it soon became an evening ritual.The inability to touch,hug or even handshake had a huge impact on me and those around me.This piece evolved daily with no plan. I used dark and light scraps of previously made felt and ended up with 41 separate pieces of varying sizes (On April 20th the day that the state recorded its highest number of deaths of 77, I decided to stop) and felted a charcoal background to put it all together. The piece measured 2 meters in length, the required social distancing measurement so I added in that visual ( that we’re all so familiar with) in red stitching. Then added newspaper cutout words and red threads to connect the circles. This was to symbolise how that we are all connected somehow. We all know someone who’s been touched by this sadness.
I found that during the lockdown,I worked more than I ever have.Getting up at 6.30 every day to enjoy the quiet hours before everyone else got up.I was working on a large commission throughout the entire lockdown from design, sampling and 11 weeks of felting and stitching.It was a piece 2.3m x .5m and as I don’t have a designated studio, I needed the kitchen table, hence the early start.The bright mornings helped too!.The piece was very detailed and based on the clients love of maths, physics, Star Wars, astronomy, Doctor Who and cycling!.All handstitched.It’s finished now and hanging in it’s new home in London.Having a routine and a focus allowed me the few hours to forget all that was going on and out of my control.Working on the endangered piece was also very cathartic for me. I think it kept me grounded.I’m not sure if that’ll last as the kids go back to school.