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.
The Exhibition title- Endangered?- how does your piece respond to the title? your inspiration and methods etc
The hat I have entered for the exhibition was my first idea for this theme. It is titled “Still here?” It is modelled from a photo I took on a trip to Costa Rica last year with my 12 year old daughter. The sheer exuberance of life in that tropical country amazed us, but we were constantly aware that this fantastic eco system is fragile and needs to be protected.
My second piece, “In Danger, Who?” is very much inspired by the pandemic. In the middle of March my daughter had had a cough and a high fever so we stayed totally isolated for a couple of weeks. That surreal sense of isolation together with the constant array of images of the virus, spherical, spiky and ominous, seemed to demand an artistic response. It was slow going, making all those spikes for the three viruses, but it seemed to lessen my sense of anxiety and help me to summon up the patience to follow the guidelines and carry on.
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?
I thought I would have all the time in the world to do stuff being confined to the house for months during Covid-19. My house is not at all as clean and tidy as I had envisioned, but I have found time for a lot of making. Just before the pandemic, I was gifted a few sacks of raw wool, and just had time to do a spinning course before the lock down. The cleaning and drying of wool, learning the rudiments of using plants to dye it and then carding and spinning gave me a sense of connection to the past. It also gave me a sense of self-reliance. even if I did not really expect that the pandemic would make a home spun economy necessary. Still, I also planted potatoes 😊.
My usual materials for making are ceramics, glass and bronze. However, I found the indoor pursuits of felting, spinning and other textile pursuits worked better for me during the lockdown as I could spend more time in the house together with my daughter.
Felt- how you discovered it, what it means to you…
As I mentioned, I usually work with glass, bronze and ceramics. These are materials I really enjoy working with but they are probably the most energy hungry art forms imaginable. The problem this posed for me came to a head for me when I participated in an exhibition about global warming 2 years ago. I was very happy with the visual aspect of my pieces that were made using all three materials, but could not stop feeling a bit hypocritical thinking of the energy cost of making them.
In November last year I attended a number of workshops at the knitting and stitching show. I really enjoyed the felting workshop I attended and joined Feltmakers Ireland as soon as I could. Since then I have been focusing on wool, recycled textiles and stitching. Working with wool somehow gives me a feeling of stronger and more direct connection to human history and traditions.
When faced with the question endangered, my thoughts immediately turned to the sea and the life that exists within it. It’s a place that can easily be forgotten, as life under the surface may not be immediately visible unless one seeks it out.
It was a by now famous image made by photographer Justin Hofman for National Geographic, in which a seahorse swam holding on to a discarded cotton bud, that highlighted to the world the issues of pollution in our oceans. This image has stuck in my mind ever since and it became the inspiration for this piece. I wanted to convey the beauty of the sea whilst still showing that there was an issue. I went through various ideas of trying to represent the pollution but in the end decided to keep the beauty visible and show that life in the sea is hanging precariously in the balance by using the cotton buds to hang and connect the pieces together.
I wet felted the pieces using the cracked mud technique and folded the upper sections under to represent ocean shelves. I then stitched in various forms of sea life from plants to fish to populate the piece. After consideration I left the edges of the three sections of the piece feathery so as to seem watery and with less of a defined edge.
I enjoyed the challenge in making the piece even though I’m quite new to felting and have a lot to learn. The current crisis has allowed me more time to pursue some of my passions at home so in one way it has been a blessing. It has allowed me to slow down and consider more what I would like to do with my craft in all its various forms and I’ve enjoyed being able to take the time to do so. I’ve always loved working with wool and felting is another aspect of it that I am looking forward to exploring in greater detail over the coming years. Ramona Farrelly joined feltmakers Ireland only last year. Thank you for being brave enough to enter your work in the exhibition. On the day we hung the exhibit, committee member Maria McGivern photographed some pieces outside. This piece looked beautiful, swaying in the breeze.
Feltmakers Ireland asked long time member Astrid about her inspiration for the Exhibition title ” Endangered”.
My Secret Garden- I was deeply impressed by my grandparents’ garden. The memory of colourful things and strange shapes, fascinated me!My inspiration of nature and textile are influenced from those sources. The materials are telling stories about life, people with their feelings, dreams, wishes, thoughts and sadness. I looked for a way to incorporate this memory into my felt making work.I chose wet felting technique with different materials who elaborated in this wall-piece. My intention is to invite the viewer to touch and investigate my piece of memory!
The second piece ” Light like a Feather, but can’t Fly ” , is supposed to inspire earth care and respect for the environment as well as to create awareness and encourage taking responsibility for our environment ! This particular piece commemorates the oil disaster of the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
What has it been like crafting through the current crisis?
In this challenging time, I try to get a different aspect to managing my daily routine. Suddenly, I had more time, in one way, I was excited to have time working on pieces there laying in boxes waiting to be finished.Also to do some experimental work, exploring new ways and new materials.
How and when did you discover felt?
Through a friend I was introduced to felting in 2002. I learned how to work with different types of wool, researget new techniques and materials.I was overwhelmed, amazed and fascinated about using wool to shape my ideas. There a endless possibilities and I`m delighted to keep this exciting ancient craft alive. I aim to make unique hand-felted surfaces!
We asked member Carmen Garcia since questions about her piece for the Endangered exhibition, entitled “The last trace”.
The Exhibition title- Endangered?- how does your piece respond to the title? your inspiration and methods etc
I chose the trace of the Hawksbill Turtle, one of the many critically endangered species. First, because of the beautiful pattern it leaves in the sand, which I thought it would work well in felt. But also, because of the turtle being a symbol of slowness, a quality with negative connotations in our collective psyche. By using the slow process of felt making, this quality is celebrated.
I used natural white and brown Icelandic wool for this project. I love using this wool in sculpture, especially if I need transparency, as I did in this case. I used flax fibers, Tussah silk tops and silk rods for texture.
The idea was to create a basic bell structure. The turtle trace and other simple traces were sculpted in the structure using resistances and creating a finer more transparent mark to let the light through.
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
I have crafted, but I haven’t felted much.
I normally make hats, scarves and vessels that I sell online , in shops and at Gifted Craft Fair. But during the lockdown I felt I needed some distancing. Like many of us, I felt the need of re-assessing things. I had the pull to stop whatever it was that I was doing, and do something different. I love stitching, so, I started an embroidery course, and it really felt right in that situation. Maybe it had to do with the way things were controlled in the small cloths amidst the uncontrollable situation around us. But also, I enjoyed the repetition and its calming effects, I found it extremely therapeutic. It also provided new ways of looking at things and, who knows, maybe new directions.
Felt- how you discovered it, what it means to you
Like most things, by chance. I attended a Felt workshop at Phizzfest (Arts Festival in Phibsborough). I thought it was magic!
I love the way it brings us back to basics. So little needed…fibers, soap, water. No equipment needed, just our hands , our bodies, with no separation from the piece.
I also like the way we do not control it completely. Unintended things happen that can not be undone… and we have to work with that. Sometimes getting more than we expected and always learning from it.
The slow pace of the process is also something I am attracted to. You can get faster… but to a certain point.
It’s like a metaphor for life: it takes the time it takes, you are where you are, and that’s fine.
If you are regular follower of our blog and Feltmakers Ireland you will know that we have spent the past year preparing together with Filtti- Finnish feltmakers association, for a joint exhibition running this summer 01.07-04.08.2019 called “Something Red”.
Many of our valued members submitted excellent pieces of work. All of a very high standard making the job of the two independent adjudicators very hard indeed. The entrants were evaluated both in digital photo submissions and then as actual pieces and a final selection was made. The Judges remarked that Feltmakers Ireland can be very proud of the standards of its members and congratulated everyone on their efforts in taking part and helping to promote the art and craft of feltmaking.
This exhibition has been part funded by DCCoI, with thanks to them for their continued support in heritage arts and crafts.
A selection was made and 26 individual pieces of art were selected.
The grand opening is today the 30th of June and the exhibition will run for the month of July. We hope to have lots of great feedback and endeavour to take part in more international exhibitions in the future.
We are very lucky to have secured an excellent exhibition space in Portumna Castle, Co. Galway and will be exhibiting as part of the Shoreline Arts festival which runs from 8th Sept- 22nd 2019.
We encourage all our members to take a trip west to see the pieces for themselves. We will also be looking for volunteers to assist in the invigilation of the exhibition for the fortnight.
With inspiration for each piece ranging from the political to the personal this is a wonderful collection of textile work.
We hope to bring many of the pieces back from Galway in the autumn, to Dublin, to be exhibited in the Phoenix Park studio from Oct-December. This will truly have been “Something Red” on tour, and thank you to all who have helped to organise and deliver the events.
Congratulations to those successful in “Something Red”, well done to all the Feltmakers for their efforts.