These felted wings are a commission that I've just finished making for a friend, Sue. She asked me to make her some Angel wings so I got to work, with perhaps a little bit of divine intervention! With all the constraints we are living through at this current time, the sweet taste of freedom is in these wings.
I'd like to share with you a bit about the felt making process.
Feltmaking involves agitating wool tops with warm water and soap and then applying friction, which I do with a wooden block. I did this stage out in my garden in September, when it was still warm enough. It can easily be done indoors too, always with a piece of net over the top to keep the integrity of the wool tops and a towel underneath to absorb the water.
Then after much rubbing and rolling, the felt becomes 'whole' and firm and is ready to dry.
Sue has given these felt wings as a special birthday present for a friend. She also has a felted wall hanging that I made for her this year in her Reflexology treatment room. Here we are in the gallery picture below, as I gave Sue the wings in the beautiful garden at Spithurst Hub, Barcombe.
Here's to freedom, health, creativity and vibrant living!
As a self employed artist and teacher, I have had many life enhancing experiences of delivering art & craft sessions and really enjoy seeing participants' creativity evolve. However, very occasionally it has been challenging negotiating fair payment for the work that I offer. My dealings within this sphere have usually been based on trust and of course, relationships can build from this as a starting point. However, not everyone values the delivery of visual arts workshops in an equal way.
With recent news headlines including health and inequality in the workplace, this is an issue worth taking seriously. It is stated that poor health has been linked to work and conditions, especially within the period of austerity the UK has been living through for the last 10 years.
A self employed art tutor does need to draw up some terms and conditions. Ideally there will be a healthy balance of trust and terms combined. There is the saying ''Trust in God but lock your car''.
Indeed, it is to be expected that there will be some differing viewpoints and a certain amount of compromise may need to be reached. So long as this is all clear, agreed and in writing (either via email or otherwise) after initial discussions, then the workshop can go ahead and progress. Consider the cost of the art materials you are using in the art workshop too and how these will be covered.
For art tutors who want to learn more about drawing up a contract or a letter of agreement, this is a good starting point that you may find useful:
Joining a Professional Body and/or Union is very supportive and offers all sorts of information and benefits, e.g. The National Society for Education in Art and Design:
Self employed artists and art tutors have all the outgoings that any self employed person has, including insurance, sick pay, holiday pay, rent, mortgages, bills, tax etc. so it is vital that we are paid properly for our skills and value ourselves enough to ask for what we deserve. Of course we can still use our intuition and it may not always be necessary to put absolutely everything in writing, especially if trust has already been built.
We need to ensure that we can share our creative skills from a position of strength, so that in turn others can be inspired and develop their creative potential too.
“The path isn't a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.”
Barry H. Gillespie
We're half way into the 10 week Autumn courses for the repeat of Exploring Textiles and the addition of Exploring Textiles 2. There are many committed and creative participants and it's lovely to see how their artwork is developing.
Exploring Textiles 2 combines mixed media collage in the first half of the term, coupled with felted, woven wall hangings in the second half. So far the mixed media collage has been explored and I'm so delighted and inspired by the process and results.
We've been developing techniques learnt during the Exploring Textiles courses that ran in the Spring and Summer. We started off with handmade papermaking, then experimented with further monoprinting and wax resist. After that we looked at paper and fabric collage, as well as stitch. The completed pieces are a mixture of all these results, with ideas being explored to decide what to include and to see how the composition and hanging will take shape.
We're having a break for a couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to the next stage, making the woven and felted wall hangings. As well as the slideshow below, you can see a selection of images on the Gallery page, along with overall work in progress.
It's been a while since I wrote a blog, with lots going on to learn and grow from and hopefully inspire others with too! My courses have been busy, especially at a lovely new venue (new to me) called Made and Making. It's been really exciting to teach Collage, Card Making and my Exploring Textiles course there this year, the latter of which just finished the last of it's 10 weekly sessions. The seeds of this course were planted some years ago and it's been so rewarding to be able to teach it and see how people responded. You can see the visual journey of the participant's inspiring and experimental work on my Gallery page.
The whole process has been a journey, from tweaking the layout and design of the course to delivering it for the first time. Although I had practised all the textiles disciplines within it, some I had never taught before and it was exciting to prepare the visual and learning resources. Each week a different theme was explored, from Wax Resist to Feltmaking to Papermaking etc. I have a particular interest in Papermaking and have visited Paper Mills in Britain and France.
The Exploring Textiles course will be repeated in the Autumn, plus there will be a Part 2 for anyone who has just done the first one or has some Textiles experience. During August there will be an Exploring Textiles 3 day summer school, taking on board a selection of textiles techniques, including Monoprinting, Collage and Weaving. I always encourage an inquisitive and experimental approach, using a variety of materials. The making process is just as exciting as the end results and the creativity that unfolds in people is so inspiring to witness.
My husband Daniel had a hand in things with the preparation for the Exploring Textiles course, as he made all the amazing Deckle and Moulds for the Papermaking session and the looms for the Weaving session. He also had a go at some of the processes with me as I made my preparations.
Here's a peek at some behind the scenes shots.
I've just completed another felt wall hanging. Since making my felted Chakra wall hanging, I have been experimenting with the colour in a more abstract, free form way. I am enjoying the expressive and playful merging of colour to create texture. My latest felt making projects have been quicker and simpler than previous projects, however they have all been satisfying as means of self expression and I'm learning more about the felt making process and its possibilities.
I'm also delighted with my new felting tool, a nifty wooden palm sander from Wingham Wool Work. I find it makes the process a lot more manageable for my hand, arm and back.
Once the felt was made and dried, I used the sewing machine to add organic intersecting lines of running stitch. This breaks up the shape and adds further textural interest.
Below is a detail from the finished piece. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the colour and texture.
“But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano / act / paint / write a decent play?"
Yes . . . the same age you will be if you don't.” Julia Cameron
Since childhood I have been a creative person, with a love of the visual arts. I've also been inspired by the coursebook The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, for most of my adult life. This amazing 'tool book' for helping to unleash creativity is useful for creative people and 'blocked' artists alike, whether that be visual artists, musicians, writers etc. For a variety of reasons people may have self limiting beliefs, as well as a perceived lack of time to be creative. The Artist's Way helps to unpick this. Some people may have not discovered their creativity yet and this book can help a creative journey to unfold, through it's wisdom and encouraging exercises.
''As blocked creatives, we like to pretend that a year or even several years is a long, long time. Our ego plays this little trick to keep us from getting started. Instead of allowing ourselves a creative journey, we focus on the length of the trip. ''It's such a long way,'' we tell ourselves. It may be, but each day is just one more day with some motion in it, and that motion toward a goal is very enjoyable.'' Julia Cameron
''Q: What is creativity?
A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.'' Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert reminds me very much of The Artist's Way, as both have a similar ethos and intent to inspire us to tune in to our creativity. Although Big Magic is not a coursebook like the Artist's Way, the author also shares stories of her own creative path and both books portray the message that we are all creative and have a unique voice and gift to the world. They are fantastic sources of inspiration.
''Water seeks its own level and water rises collectively.'' Julia Cameron
I meet with some friends regularly to discuss our creative processes and achievements. These meetings are inspired by The Artist's Way and originally we supported each other through the journey of completing the exercises in the book. I find that witnessing each other's creative paths is a hugely valuable tool in itself. The sharing of the ebbs and flows is very encouraging. Wonderful opportunities and ideas have been dreamt up or seized upon and achieved, partly as a result of sharing our thoughts and experiences. Certainly from my perspective our meetings give us focus and confidence to branch out in extra ways that have been encouraged by our solidarity.
I believe fear is what seems to hold most people back from being creative, for whatever reason; fear of failure or being rejected, fear of the unknown and even fear of being successful. The Artists Way and Big Magic highlight this and give us insight to help overcome it.
''What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?
I'm delighted to share with you the latest of my felted & stitched wall hangings, depicting my interpretation of the Chakras.
It was quite a process; in fact the very first Chakra drawings I made were back in 2010. Moving on from these, it took me nearly 3 years from making the initial drawings for this textile piece in 2014 through to completion in Spring 2017; working on it in tandem with other projects and keeping 'the thread' going.
It has been a very personal journey, which I can liken to creating a tool for inspiring wellbeing, as well as a physical and aesthetic journey with the materials, texture and colour. This Spring it launched into being on my living room wall and now hangs from the ceiling to the floor, as a full length strip of vibrant colour.
Chakra is Sanskrit for 'Wheel', with Chakras representing energy centres within the body, that spin like wheels.
For this felted textile I have combined wet felting with needle felting, embellishing the design with hand and machine stitch, as well as tiny beads and netting in places. Each Chakra felt piece was made individually, with the qualities of the particular Chakra in mind and how I related to it. I then used the felt to help shape those attributes and the feelings they inspired in me. Once I had made the basis of all the 7 Chakras, I then sewed each one onto the fabric backing that forms the hanging, expanding and embellishing them further once they were in situ on the material.
It is a joy for me to have realised this piece; not only for the finished hanging but because the whole process was really valuable. The qualities the Chakras evoke for me cannot always be put into words, yet I have found it fascinating to help develop my understanding from what others have written about them; especially Siri Datta, Caroline Myss, Theresa Sundt and Susan Shumsky.
I meditate on the glowing Chakra colours regularly, envisaging them in my mind's eye on the relevant areas of my body. They are like food for my spirit and seeing them every day represented by the felt gives me great sustenance and pleasure. They help me feel centred and balanced, encouraging me to reach for my dreams.
I hope you enjoy the images below. I have included some of my initial drawings too. You can also see a 'work in progress' image within the slides on my About page.
Another day of hugely inspiring work unfolding... this was the 3rd Exploring Collage workshop I have taught at the Much Ado Books fantastic barn in Alfriston.
This time I introduced some additional tips and processes to add to the core course material. These included the use of coloured transfoils, painting Bondaweb & using rubber letter stamps.
One participant said she 'didn't know how she'd managed to live all this time without Bondaweb'! This is an exciting adhesion method that I teach that enables layering and trapping of textures, including delicate materials that may not stick so easily with the glue stick. I first learnt this from my Experimental Textiles teacher Kim Thittichai in 2002. I've since been using it as a medium on paper, as well as fabrics, for making cards & collages and find its versatility and scope very exciting.
See my Gallery page for more images of the day.
It was another great day in the barn at Much Ado Books, Alfriston on Saturday. There was a lot of enthusiasm and creativity, with each participant creating something beautiful in response to the materials and teaching tips, combined with their own unique approach. The barn is such a lovely space and we were able to have the door open with the sun coming in for some of the day, with the Agar giving a gorgeous background warmth.
Nash & Cate who run the bookshop and the barn were as friendly and helpful as ever and Cate made cakes again for us all to share, which is such a lovely touch. Their bantam chickens are always curious to see what's going on and love to step in from the garden to come and visit us to check on the creative process!
Below are some images of the day. You can see more on the Gallery page.
In January and March of this year, I went to see some incredible work by the Polish weaver, textile artist and printmaker Tadek Beutlich. I have loved his work for a very long time, having first seen it at Hove Museum & Art Gallery many years ago. So I was absolutely delighted to discover his work was going to be displayed at Ditchling Museum and The Jointure Studios, also in Ditchling; the latter hosted by the Emma Mason Gallery.
I absolutely love Tadek's innovative use and contrast of vibrant & natural colours, organic shapes and textures. Below you can see a picture of me looking very pleased to be standing next to one of my favourite of his pieces, as well as a slide show with some other examples of pieces that were housed in both exhibitions.
You can see more images of Tadek Beutlich's work on the Vision Gallery website.