The sculptures are the culmination of a conversation in wool which started for myself a decade ago and somehow to my overwhelming sadness brought the whole world to a standstill in 2020. The dichotomy between function and form in viruses is commonly our immediate response. How something so cute and small (in our eyes) could do so much damage to us. To Us?! To Humans?! Often when fear and darkness overwhelm us we ask the wrong questions, don’t we?
My life experiences have made me ask a different question.
Are we the measure to all? As humans we have the weakness to put ourselves in the centre of the universe. It is heart wrenching to try grasping the idea that more often than not we are part of the universe., an organism in nature, not the centre of it. So the bugs that are bugging us have brought me humility and their impact on my life- a constant reminder of this eye opening perspective to our self proclaimed hierarchy.
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
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.
The Endangered Exhibition drew in new members to Feltmakers Ireland, to whom we welcome. Yling submitted a wonderful piece of work entitled “Clouded Leopard”. We asked her 3 questions about her work in response to the Exhibition title.
The Exhibition title- Endangered?- how does your piece respond to the title? your inspiration and methods etc The tropical rainforest has been a lifelong love of mine even though I have lived in Ireland for the past 20 years. I grew up playing in streams, and had spent practically every weekend and holiday in the forest. My main interest is macrophotography of insects. Unparalleled diversity: A square kilometre of rainforest contains several thousand species; absolutely mind-boggling. Immersing oneself in it is a humbling experience.Not only is the rainforest disappearing fast, it is nearing an irreversible tipping point beyond which it can no longer sustain itself.The loss of such a magnitude of living beings is heart-breaking. I bear witness. I chose the Clouded Leopard because it is native to my birth country and its survival depends on presence of primary (pristine) rainforest. It is an elusive, beautiful cat, well known for it’s tree-climbing skills. I am grateful to Endangered Exhibition for raising awareness of our planet’s collapsing ecosystem. I take this opportunity to challenge the viewer to look him in the eye and say one does not care. Feel the heart break and take action.
Crafting through the current crisis, with the pandemic have you found more or less time to craft, has it inspired you or have you found it more difficult- discuss For me, the crisis meant a combination of maternity leave and lockdown with two young kids. I felted a little every evening. Felting has helped me maintain my sense of self.
Felt- how you discovered it, what it means to you I was looking for a craft that looked attractive, yet flexible and forgiving. Needle felting is also very exciting due to the endless possibilities! Even better, it is a natural compostable material!
In January 2020, I got a box of needles, felt, core wool, 40 colours of dyed Merino and embarked on my felting journey. This art form is as fun as it is therapeutic.
We thank Yi ling for her participation in this event and congratulate her on the quality of her work, especially as she is so new to the craft and has managed to jugle so much through lockdown! We look forward and anticipate seeing more from this artist.
Its been a strange and in many ways a sad year. In January when Feltmakers ireland launched the “Endangered- lost there felt here” exhibition title, we did not know and could never have imagined how changed our world would become in 2020.
A global pandemic that might endanger human life and our very understanding of how we live would evolve. Covid- 19, coronavirus, socially distant, bubbles, pods and zoom all entered our vocabulary. We became news addicts, home schoolers, front liners, essential, non-essential, unemployed.
We have had to pivot the way we work, change the way we socialise and adapt the way we think. But as Charles Darwin put it- “its not the strongest of the species that survives, but the one most adaptable to change.”
Here at Feltmakers Ireland we mourned not seeing our members and friends face to face at Sunday sessions. We tackled zoom like the best of them and have held all our committee meetings remotely.
We’ve had had to cancel the best laid plans- two workshops with international tutors travelling from Canada and Australia ( postponed) and we have had to “pivot” so much that it’s left us dizzy!
We wanted to press ahead with our exhibition plans, now more that ever the title “endangered” seemed to resonate. We had 20 wonderful entries, from dedicated craft maker, artists. Our judges have told us that the quality made their jobs very difficult indeed.
The committee decided that because of the efforts of the artists and the quality of the work received as well as a motivator to the rest of us, we would like to show you all the pieces submitted- in an online way.
We reached out to the member makers and asked 3 standard interview questions. We hope that the work and the artists answers inspire you to keep crafting through the crisis.
Interview 1- artist CLAIRE MERRY, whose piece entitled “tree hugger” was chosen for our publicity poster, above.
The Exhibition title “Endangered”- how does your piece respond to the title? What was your inspiration and the methods you use?
I entered two pieces to the exhibition- the first, “ Tree Hugger”- €750
These tail-less amphibians are wonderfully diverse many with fantastic colouring. Sadly many find themselves in an increasingly inhospitable world. Large numbers are listed as ‘critically endangered’. If we could all hug a tree and embrace the endangered habitats. We and the world would reap the reward.
The making of this piece-I have started playing around with mosaics recently. It’s possible to see the influence in this piece. I used prefelt to imitate tiles.
My second piece- “BEAUTIFUL SUNSET OR DEADLY FIRE”- €850.
The impact of the fires in Australia profoundly affected me. The loss of life, human and animal, habitats destroyed, homes and land devastated. The really sad news emerged that 85% of fires were triggered by human activity including arson as well ascarelessness and recklessness.
I thought, wouldn’t it be lovely, if we could turn everything around and celebrate a beautiful sunset and the life of of the ecosystem living there.
I spend a lot of time laying the fibres. Then I am up and down a ladder in order to view the piece as it’s growing. I love adding prefelt to drop in colour.
Crafting through the current crisis, with the pandemic have you found more or less time to craft, has it inspired you or have you found it more difficult?
During lockdown it was great to have crafts to divert my attention
from the terrible news that was emerging. I was lucky to have supplies.For a craft person they are as critical as the sliced pan and loo rolls.
It wasn’t always easy to get down to work but once I did I could ignore the news and live in my head.
Felt- how you discovered it, what it means to you?
I describe myself as a craft butterfly. Over the years I have been involved in so many areas. Textile, jewellery, ceramics and felt. I first came across felt at Bloom in 2008 when I saw a demonstration by Feltmakers, it really captured me. I love colour and find felt is a perfect medium for it. The versatility of felt means that there is always something new to discover.
I have had fun with 3d, needle felting and clothing. I find working on a submission stretches me and makes me try something new.
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.
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.
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.
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
An 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.
Musée – Atelier Du Feutre
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.
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.
They have over 1000 members. This organisation is divided up into regions that hold their own meetings throughout the year at varying intervals.
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.
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.
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.
II. Guidelines for Tutors.
III. Good practice for members. (my group)
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.
Networking and Synergy
I. What do we expect?
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.
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.
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.
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.