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.
Participants meeting Mouzon
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.
- I. Accreditation
- 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.