Several years ago, while in Ireland, I first learned to create felt from the local fleece. We used the wet felting method and created a variety of samplers. Many people ask about the art of feltmaking, and I want to share some details of our workshops, as well as ideas about how the fiber work is created.
People have created felted objects for thousands of years, much of it functional, making everything from homes to capes to boots. National Geographic did a fabulous story about the history of wool and humans, tracing the ways people around the world have learned to use it for so many things. The fleece from various animals, not only sheep, was created into magnificent rugs and tapestries, and many cultures have perfected the techniques to suit their needs and climate.
After years of teaching workshops using wet felting, often combined with needle felting, I began to explore using this way of working in my own art, and find that I am continually excited about the possibilities. I have taught workshops with all ages, and have received grants to work with school programs. It is always fascinating how quickly people can learn the technique and how to use the tools, and what successful art is created!
Depending on the workshop length, I offer a variety of options. We often create samplers using blending
techniques and specialized ways to create shadow and depth. As we work, frequent discussions are held as the pieces progress, adjustments made, and the image takes shape.
I have often held workshops where we collaborate on a finished piece. A favorite project was one where I developed a curriculum on phenology, and taught students K-12 about the changes that occur throughout the year, such as the Equinoxes and Solstices. We created several panels that had to do with the 4 seasons, Celtic symbols, the Greenman mythology, and universal symbols.
I enjoy teaching workshops where there is time to go into more depth and explore ideas more fully than can be done in short classes. So much can be done with felt making! We can use the wool fleece as a “painting” medium, and can design a multitude of effects, from strong colors to blends.
For example, while walking in the landscape during a felt making workshop, I might take photos such as these, then , based upon the inspiration create a felted piece.
Below are some images from workshops and the work that students produced.
Below, a student is working on a collaborative project at my John Campbell Folk School workshop on “Pictorial Felt”