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

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:Tara Kennedy for Feltmakers Ireland

Tara Kennedy_ Awakening Belief_ 300dpi_ Photo by Beyton ErkmanAs part of our interview series and as we look forward to the Knit & Stitch show, Feltmakers Ireland is reaching out to participating and exhibiting artists. Tara Kennedy kindly agreed to respond to our interview questions about her journey and work. We have included links to her social media accounts at the bottom. Be sure to check out this inspirational artist.

 Tara Kennedy for Feltmakers Ireland

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

Ever since I can remember I have only ever been interested in the creative arts. As a child I always had a pencil in my hand, drawing at every opportunity. Having a mother with an interest in the arts and supervising children’s art clubs she would spend time with me making and creating all kinds of creations. She always had a sewing machine, (and still does), with a little old chest of drawers next to it, full of sewing and crafting bits and bobs including a little lidded basket full of buttons. I now have this chest and the basket is full of much the same. She made endless clothes for both me and my sister and even for our dolls and toys as well as most of the soft furnishings for every room in the house.  With all this creativity surrounding me I found it comforting and inspiring.

Tara Kennedy_ Hope Emerging_ 300dpi

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

I went straight to Art college as soon as I could, happy to leave the constraints of school behind. I studied fashion and textiles for 4 years at the Berkshire College of Art and Design specialising in Knitwear. In my final year I was sponsored by two yarn companies who gave me huge quantities of yarn on cones, many of which I still have and use. I was also given lots of embroidery threads and wools from a great Aunt who was a big cross stitch enthusiast and I have been using many of these in my work ever since. I like the idea of using these old materials, along with recycling many other unwanted textiles to create unusual surface decoration, something I became fascinated by.

After graduating I set up my own knitwear business. A year later I went into partnership with Tim Kennedy, a fellow student and who a few years later I married. We developed our business adding items for interiors, selling at craft fairs and in small gift shops and galleries.

Over the years I developed, added and altered what I made but knew I only ever wanted to create art working for myself. After many years, my sales started to fall as the British handmade craft industry struggled against cheaper handmade imports. I was also starting to feel my work was becoming repetitive and undemanding and felt the need to challenge myself and develop more as an artist, free from commercial restraints. This was a turning point for me and decided it was the right time to move my work in a more meaningful direction.

Tara Kennedy_ Empathy_ 300dpi_ photo by Beyton Erkman

I came across the OCA, Open College of the Arts, and enrolled in a distance learning BA in Creative Arts, specializing in Fine Art and Textiles. This course was very convenient at the time, enabling me to wind down my craft business at the same time and have a small part time job, which I still have to this day. The course opened new and exciting ways of working, using new materials and helping me to be freer and more experimental. It was a valuable experience requiring both dedication and self motivation. My studies developed around subjects of personal identity with the contrasting cultures and religions of my ancestors having a big influence on me. It led me down an intriguing path of Eurasian studies, embracing politics and history, social and cultural change. These concepts had become an integral part of my work and I felt I had only just touched on the surface of ideas. I needed to develop this theme further, so I applied for an MA in Textile art at the University for Creative Arts in Farnham. This turned out to be the best thing I have ever done!  Being able to explore any creative pathway of my choosing and making whatever I desired was an incredible luxury and a significant journey.

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

My main motivation would have to be the reaction I have from creating and making. The feelings of comfort, tranquillity and wellbeing that come with the process is invaluable.
The work I undertook on the Masters course is the basis of my current work which continues to develop and change. My initial inspiration came from a need to express this unity of my mixed cultural heritage which then evolved into being less personal and became an expression of humanitarian unity. I made extensive research examining different cultures and religions in conflict and the effects of their suffering. The despair I feel of this suffering from conflict drives me to express important messages of acceptance, empathy and hope.  I feel It’s possible through understanding these messages there could be more harmonious outcomes in the world.

My present work now is about creating expressions of hope emerging from this pain. I aim to leave an impression on the viewer, causing them to contemplate and consider but it’s not essential to me they understand what it’s about. People see different things and I find it intriguing to hear their views and how it makes them feel.

My sketchbook has been invaluable in helping me to progress and develop my ideas. I collect information connected to my theme alongside related images of colour, form and texture and use these to help create ideas. I then make numerous drawings, creating shapes, patterns and forms in various scales, out of which designs for finished pieces transpire.

Tara Kennedy_ Hope Emerging detail 1_ 300dpi

The materials I use are chosen for their soft tactile quality to create a comforting feeling which include yarns, threads, carded wool and fabrics. I use various techniques including knitting, wrapping, felting, knotting and stitch depending on the expression, for example I often use knotting to convey tension, felted holes to express suffering and shibori felting to suggest buds of hope.

I have also realised how significant process is and how the act of wrapping and binding not only feels therapeutic but adds to the feeling of protection and healing.

The designs of my pieces take the forms of soft sculptures, wall hangings and more recently works on canvas. I use the imagery of cages suggesting protection, bundles and wrapped lengths conveying togetherness and trailing lengths to convey the spreading of hope.

Colour is also central for the expression, using blood red to suggest suffering and ivory to convey hope and often using a graduation of the colours from one to the other.

I also create detailed drawings which provide an alternative viewpoint and compliment my 3D work.

Tara Kennedy_ Continuous_ photographed in Somerset_300dpi

What currently inspires you?  

My work will continue to evolve, and I hope to work on many different concepts. In fact, I am presently planning other work on a very different theme after undertaking a month’s art Residency at the Textile Centre in Blonduos, Iceland with the ‘Textile Echoes’, a group of four textile artists. My work as a textile artist is usually inspired by emotional connections so the idea of coming to Iceland and using landscape and nature was to be a new and exciting challenge. After a few weeks of trips out exploring in the north I finally discovered the emotive feeling I had been hoping for.  The awareness of immense space from the endless landscape became increasingly overwhelming. Being totally absorbed by these incredible surroundings and the continually changing scenery I started to develop some ideas for a piece expressing these sensations. It was important to me I use solely Icelandic materials applying all the colours of the land from the black sand of the beaches to the imposing white snow topped mountains and everything else in-between.

From all this inspiration I created a 37-metre-long wrapped piece using Icelandic yarn, horsehair, raw sheep’s wool, fish skins and yarn dyed from Icelandic plants. By making such an extensive piece using a repetition of technique it helped me to express this continuous landscape.

I took the final piece to the coast, a short distance from Blonduos, and photographed it stretched out along the shoreline. It felt appropriate and was perfectly positioned amongst all the colours involved.

This piece is just the start of new making, working with landscape, experimenting with natural dye and natural materials. Wool will always feature in my work, as my favourite material whether felting, knitting, stitching or wrapping it.

Thank you so much to Tara Kennedy for taking part, for your inspirational images and work. We look forward to seeing and hearing more.

Website: www.tarakennedy.co.uk

Facebook:@tarakennedytextileart

Instagram:@tarakennedytextileart

Tara Kennedy_ Becoming_ 300dpi

 

 

 

 

An interview with Daisy Collingridge.

Burt LungesSome of you might know of the amazing and wonderfully fantastical work of textile artist Daisy Collingridge. I’m an avid follower of her work on Instagram and when I saw that she was coming to the Knit & Stitch shows including the RDS Dublin venue I was just delighted at the prospect of seeing the work up close!

Felt makers Ireland decided to get in touch ahead of Daisy’s exhibition to ask her a little about her journey as a textile artist. We realise that this work is not felt, nor made from wool but I hope, that you like me will love it and it will inspire you to develop your textile practice further.

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

Mum is a sewer, stitcher, patchwork maker. She decorates cakes and constructs curtains. It is her influence that has guided me towards being practical and ultimately towards stitch. My family home is full of fabric, threads, paints, wood. We are all hoarders so there is always plenty of materials to get a project started. I still return to my family home to do large parts of my sculptural work. My family play a huge role in what a do, whether it is practical or moral support they are always there.

The current form my artistic work takes isn’t the most financially rewarding so I am also an illustrator. I have my own greetings card company; DMC Illustrations. It is very different to my sculptural work, but keeps things fresh! When I’m not sewing or drawing, I like to run. Running has always been part of my life and it has given me the discipline to grow my card company and continue to sculpt with fabric. It keeps me sane.

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

From making over 40 stuffed toys as a kid. (I was a little obsessed with teddy bears) it has been a direct route through Fine Art GCSE, A-level, Art foundation and finally a degree in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins that has led me to this point. There were always textiles elements to my work during school, which naturally led to fashion. On reflection my heart was never really in fashion, but the freedom to create and the people that I met during my degree were invaluable. Since graduating I have predominately left fashion behind focusing more on sculpture (though still wearable). These have been shown as part of the 62 Groups’ Ctrl/Shift group exhibition as well as part of the World of Wearable Arts in New Zealand. My best story is still making a dress for Bjork. That was unreal!

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

I like a deadline. It’s good to work towards an exhibition or competition. I take great pleasure in seeing a project from start to finish and more importantly to create with my own hands. I felt that I would lose that if I were to be a designer for a company. I never stopped making even during the years that I didn’t have a focus. It is impulsive and rarely planned. The act of creating makes me happy. So, I guess my motivation is happiness!

Projects usually start with a period of experimentation. My work is driven my fabric manipulation and experimentation as opposed to concept. It can be difficult to allow yourself to just play without an ‘end piece’ at the end. I think it is vital phase to keep your ideas moving forward. The ‘Squishys’ have been a development on from my graduation collection. They are the culmination of free machine quilting pushed to the extreme. I work in the same way as I would making clothes, I work mainly on the stand. Draping and physically wearing the pieces as I go to see how they hang and move. The result is no longer a ‘couture’ dress but a ‘couture squishy’!

The fabric is hand dyed. Once I’ve selected my colour palette, I used Procion dyes to create the pastel shades. This is done in the sink (my parents kitchen sink). Each Squishy is made from 5-6 different garments; mask, trousers, top and/or jacket and gloves. I build up the underlying volume at this stage using thick wadding; essentially build the silhouette. I then begin to build up the relief and shape by hand sewing on blobs of fabric with wadding and beans (both heavy and light). I always start with the head first. This informs the character of the person I am making. They are all made up in this way (rather than based on real people).

Daisy Collingridge clive kneelerWhat currently inspires you? 

Bringing things to life.

I worked with the animator Isabel Garrett to produce a miniature squishy for a short animation called ‘Listen to Me Sing’. It was pure magic to watch the small person I built around an armature actually breath and come to life!

Similarly, I love creating videos with my wearable pieces. I am excited to do more film work. They are the most fun.

Felt makers Ireland would like to thank Daisy for her time in participating in this interview process. We can’t wait to see the work in November. We wish her every success in her textile journey.

The Knit & Stitch show is on at the RDS Dublin 7th-11th of November- where you will be able to meet Daisy’s fantastical creations- in person!

Website: www.daisycollingridge.com

Instagram: @daisy_collingridge

www.dmcillustrations.com

Interview with Catherine Kaufman

12-Lee-Parkinson---Live-Magazines-Photography---Catherine---Sculpture-14Catherine Kaufman, sometimes affectionately known as the “Woolly Queen”. Feltmakers Ireland requested an interview ahead of seeing her work in this years Knit & Stitch at the RDS, Dublin.

Following on from her win at the Ribble Valley Craft Open Exhibition 2019, Catherine Kaufman was asked to exhibit her work at Olympia in London, and she is set to showcase her sculptures in Dublin as part of the Knit & Stitch show 7th-11th November this year.

Catherine grew up in a household full of art –her father was an antiques dealer and as a small child, she recalls her mother drawing beautiful elaborate pictures.

“Our home was filled with beautiful art and furniture – this greatly influenced me. My mother drew dancing ladies with crinolines for me which I loved.”

As a young girl Catherine always had a love of nature, imagining a world of fairy tales in the forests, countryside and riverbanks as she played near her childhood home.

“I remember that I always gravitated to the nature table at school, it was a magnet for me. I was always making and putting things together. I loved sand, playing with water and my favourite was fuzzy felt.

36-Lee-Parkinson---Live-Magazines-Photography---Catherine---Sculpture-38This was the start of things to come.

“I loved the smells of nature and the birdsong and noises. While among nature my imagination would be full of fairies and pixies and characters from stories I had read. It was all there, a rich tapestry just waiting to emerge.”

Attending a Catholic school in Altrincham, outside Manchester. Catherine left school at 16 but it wasn’t until she was living as a housewife in Rossendale, that she began to re-engage with her love of art.

“I began painting, I joined a local watercolour class, while bringing up my three children and I was asked to apply for a place at Blackburn University to study for a BA in Fine Art. At first, I thought it was crazy as I had no academic experience and I was a housewife with children! I wasn’t sure they had the right person to be honest!

“I made every possible excuse not to goas I was scared, but they kept pursuing meso eventually I decided to try it.”

Catherine went on to gain a first-class Fine Art degree in 2012 and is now one of the UK’s leading needle felt fibre artists.

39-Lee-Parkinson---Live-Magazines-Photography---Catherine---Sculpture-41

“Working as a felt fibre sculptor happened by chance. One morning I saw a lady who was demonstrating spinning and felting. I had never considered this medium before.

I asked her if she thought I could make sculptural figures with wool. She went onto teach me all the craft skills I needed to start creating my work.

That lady was Judith Beckett of the Wonder of Woollies and she became my guru and mentor. “Wool is now my love and being a fibre artist is my life.” says Catherine.

Catherine gleans inspiration from many things to create her beautiful life-size sculptures, as she explains: “It all starts with a thread of an idea. Where to start comes in many forms, I may find a figure whirling around in my subconscious – I often don’t really know who will surface so it’s very exciting!

“Then I get to work practically and physically, and the figure literally comes pouring out. It’s something that once I start, I don’t stop until its finished, so I never quite know how long it’s going to take or how I’m going to create it. It all happens naturally and organically during the creative process.”

Catherine admits that her creations are a reflection of her emotions. It is a way of working that suits my personality. I work for long periods with my pieces, so I can attach myself and immerse myself

completely into it. I find this very healing and comforting. The making process is so physical – it is very therapeutic and cathartic.”

Having chosen wool as her medium for her art, Catherine says it was important to her to select a material that is environmentally friendly and organic.

“In a world of synthetics there is no substitute for wool. Wool has a celestial symbolism that represents purity and truth.”

She sees her work as a ceaseless daily discipline: “It stems from my love of the making process, the physical repetitive act of making and assembling. I explore my own sense of self and that of the female narrative within the yarns.”

Her award-winning work showcased at the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show in London, was highly praised and she was delighted to be able exhibit there:  I was chosen to be an exhibiting textile artist there and was lucky to have a large stand where I displayed my collection of sculptural needle felt. The show was wonderful, and I have had a great response to my work, and I met some wonderful people.

I hope to raise awareness of the value of traditional crafts. This at the heart of what I do and if I can inspire young people to keep these ancient skills alive, then I have succeeded.”

You can see Catherine’s work at this year’s Knit & Stitch show in the RDS 7th-11th November… support your fellow felters- and get along!

Catherine Kaufman

Interview with Valerie Wartelle.

Into-The-Drift-#2SS-VALERIE WARTELLELike many of our members I follow a few felt makers on Instagram and Facebook for inspiration. One Artist that caught my eye recently is Valerie Wartelle. When I saw in the spring that she was attending a Royal horticultural Show with an Artisan felt stand thus marrying my two loves of craft and plants I was inspired to make contact. I asked Valerie a few questions about herself and her practice.

Tell us a little about you as a person?

Brought up in France and French Polynesia, I enjoyed a loving childhood with my two siblings, French father and Scottish mother. My mother involved us from an early age in all kind of making, sewing and cooking. Therefore as a teenager you would have found me happily making my own clothes and involved in varied creative crafts.

Somehow predictably, on completion of my schooling, I left France to study in England – I attended an art foundation in Essex followed by a BSc Textile Design course at the University of Huddersfield (then Huddersfield Polytechnic) where I specialised in Knitwear.

Then followed a 10-year period working in Manchester as a knitwear designer. Whilst I loved it, I felt the need to bring my IT skills up to the 21st century and in 1999 returned to University to take a Masters in Interactive Multimedia Product Development- such joy to be learning again! Strangely I then worked for over 13 years for my Local Authority mainly with Elected Members, and barely touching a thread or knitting needle.

The-Hum-SS-VALERIE WARTELLE

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

I was introduced to needle felting during my studies, though I must admit never explored it further. It was not till many years later that a friend showed a few of us how to wet felt. I remember the event well – a rainy Autumnal Sunday afternoon and more specifically finding myself utterly spellbound by the wet felting process…

Move forward to 2012 when I finally tackled my first wet felting project, slowly reacquainting myself with my love of colours and textiles. I initially made design products, such as notebook covers, laptop covers, scarves; but it wasn’t long before my interest solely focussed on mark making, textures and colour.

I quickly realised I needed more time to dedicate to my new hobby, and resolved to compress my working week onto 4 days. I started showing pieces at local art events, received good feedback and in September 2014 decided to take the leap and establish myself as a full time artist.

I now have a studio near my home in Halifax in an old Mill – it’s a lovely space if a little dusty and unfinished, but has plenty of light, and critically some heating!

IMG_4164
Tell us about your process from conception to creation?

My inspiration comes mainly from the rural environment – sometimes from a collected object (pebble, fossil, and grasses), sometimes a photograph, and lately more often than not a drawing or sketch. Whatever triggers my interest, I draw on its colour, texture, form and light… curious about how to translate it using wet felting.

Understanding the craft and behaviour of materials is very important to me, but so is the manipulation of fibres as an expressive art form.  I love the properties of wool and I feel it lends itself well to the dramatic and moody landscapes we have here in Yorkshire. I start with a pre-felt, which equates to having a blank canvas, and I apply fibres in fine layers in a painterly way. I enjoy bringing in other elements (fabric, thread, printing…) to create depth and transparency within the composition. The analogy with painting is significant, making the viewing inquisitive and challenging people’s perception.

What currently inspires you?

Currently I am experimenting with working BIG… size and weight brings a new set of issues to have to resolve along with working flat, working wet and with shrinkage. However solving issues is to me intrinsic to the creative process – it is by seeking out solutions that I achieve small breakthrough. The organic and at times unpredictable response of the medium will keep me curious and engaged for some time to come.

 

Thank you Valerie for taking the time to respond. Your story is inspiring. Valerie plans to exhibit at the Knit & Stitch show, Dublin in 2020. You can find more information on workshops she runs and her work at her website below.

www.valeriewartelle.co.uk/news

Drifting-Thread VALERIE WARTELLE
VALERIE WARTELLE

We at felt makers Ireland plan to keep in touch and perhaps link up with Valerie to run a workshop in the future.

 

 

Heritage day event

https://www.heritageweek.ie/whats-on/event/felted-bunting

heritage day 2

It would be lovely to see our members on the day! Familiar faces and fancy felters, to help guide new beginners in the art & craft of  this past time from past times- that is felt making.

Thank you again for all your contributions already to our wonderful bunting! If you haven’t already submitted a piece of your work- a triangle of bunting then this is your chance! Come along, drink tea, eat buns and show your skills.  This is an extra long felting session- replacing our normal Sunday session…

We will be using this bunting for decorating our stand at the knit & stitch- your piece is vital. Your skills are welcomed and we would love to see our valued members pass on their skills to new comers.