The Felting Workshop: From Inspiration to Art

After finally leaving Barra, with the help of my new friends, I made my way to Garsdale Head in North Yorkshire where I had reserved a room at a B & B – Garsdale House.

B & B

The workshop was in a nearby village and the B & B owners also run a taxi service so getting there was no problem.

I had first heard of Andrea Hunter, who teaches the workshop, when my friend, Colleen, showed me her book.

book

Immediately captivated by how she had depicted sheep in her wet felting process. I contacted her to see if she ever did workshops. She put me on her list and, once I got the possible dates, I worked my trip to the UK so I could take the workshop. Her studio is in the beautiful little village of Hardraw.

focus on felt

garden

sculpture

And here’s where we got to work!

inside of studio

Andrea explained a little about herself and her philosophy and technique (I highly recommend her book to find out more). With her fine arts background she decided to see if she could work with wool in a “painterly” manner, actually working with the wool as if it is paint. She also believes in framing her work as she finds people then see it as “art” rather than “craft”.

her art 1

her art 2

her art 3

her art 4

Andrea limits the size of her workshops so as to be able to give each of us the individual attention and hands-on help that we need.

For those of you interested in felting, here are some details. We worked with Merino wool as it wet felts easily. She had natural and dyed colors available for our use. First, she showed us how to make a base of white wool. Very thin pieces are pulled out (drafted) and placed in a row. The second row overlaps the first by approximately one half the length.

row and beginning of overlap

It isn’t that clear in this photo but the second layer is put on perpendicular to first, again overlapping rows. In this photo the wool has also been sprayed with a soapy water solution.

second layer wet

We were to bring an inspiration item to the workshop. Do you remember this photo? It ended up being my inspiration. I had another shot in mind but this is where it is important to listen to the instructor! The view I had chosen was way too complex for my skill level at this point (but Andrea has encouraged me to pursue it at home).

inspiration

Part of the success of Andrea’s technique is her use of pre-felts for certain aspects of her pictures. A pre-felt is making felt that is only partially felted. Pieces cut from this pre-felt can then be applied to your picture when you want that part to stand out more and appear more solid. I was going to need black for the sheep and grays for the rocks. I think this photo better shows the placement of the two perpendicular layers of felt.

pre-felt

The wool is worked on bubble wrap and a wooden dowel is used to help roll…and roll…and roll….the felt. Sometimes we even used our feet! With my pre-felt finished and my white layers prepared, I was ready to design my picture. Since several of us had some sky in our pictures, Andrea showed us her technique for designing sky. If you want a diffuse look, you pretty much just draft it out.

photo of drafted

To achieve a darker, more unsettled sky, she uses small cards to blend wool to create a more mixed look.

two looks

I went for the peaceful sky. Then, to get an idea of where my sheep shapes would be placed, she showed us how to twist some wool to then approximately “draw” our shapes on the background (remember, “painterly”). Traveling with an iPad has many benefits!

sky and outline

Now, for me, the hard part. I had to sketch the sheep in approximately the size I wanted. Andrea helped me some with this part. I checked their placement on the background. Using a template like this avoids making mistakes when I then actually cut them out of the pre-felt.

cut outs

I was able to free-hand cut out the rocks so now it is ready for all the rolling it takes to turn this into felt.

ready to roll

Another participant needed to learn how to make a tree so Andrea showed us her method. Starting with the trunk and then continuing to draft out and up, you end up with this amazing tree!

first tree

Spraying with the soap solution and using your hands to felt it some through the bubble wrap lets you create a piece that can be lifted up and applied to the background for further felting.

second tree

Here are the three other participants’ pieces in progress. I think they are all pretty amazing and wish I had photographed the final results but you get the idea.

tree project

landscape project 2

chicken project

All too soon the day was over and I was on my way back to Garsdale to continue my journey.

My picture needs a little more work when I get home. I will use some needle felting to better define the horns and clean things up a little. A visitor came in while we were working and, when I explained the origins of my motivation piece, she said it was a wonderful way to keep them with me a bit longer. What a wonderful thought!

my project

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Published in: on June 1, 2015 at 3:09 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Those felt pieces are incredible, yours included.

  2. Gardale! That’s where I caught the Little White and Little Red buses for my trip to Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop. Wonderful day made possible by the help of many, many kind and generous Dalesmen and women.

  3. I love it. You did such a extraordinary felted pictures.


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