Posted by on January 10, 2010

FruitOOOOoooo! I love it when I get my hands on a new medium.

It’s almost like trying an entirely new flavor of fruit! You can’t wait to bite in and feel the texture- will it be juicy or pulpy or even slightly grainy? or maybe Mmmmm tart with a crisp snap as you bit in to it? (lips smacking loudly).

I literally start drooling when I see a new tool or technique- it’s almost ridiculously Pavlovian- and can lead to embarrassing situations- especially if I drool onto some other artist’s studio floor!

My latest delicious piece of Arty fruit has to do with working in Felt.

Hmm, well felt is ummm… nice… you say, but doesn’t seem particularly exciting.

Oh NO! I declare. (most stridently!) Felt is Absolutely Awesome! You just haven’t had the chance to drink the Kool-aid yet!

Here- let me hand you a glass. You just sit back there nice and comfortable and take a few sips as we talk… :)

The Embellisher: Need for speed!

Fiberfly Deborah Weir Embellisher Workshop

The Utterly Awesome Deborah Weir @ the Workshop

My newest addiction started when I attended Deborah Weir’s (aka Fiberfly) Embellisher needle felting machine workshop last week. To give you an idea how addicted I am to new techniques; I didn’t even own the tool in question. Luckily, Deborah loaned me hers for the workshop.  Thanks Deb!

Now I’ve heard of Needle-felting before and even would have considered trying it- if not for the fact that it is ENORMOUSLY time consuming. But oh, the wonders of modern machinery!

For now, instead of having One lonely little needle in your hand that you have to laboriously punch in and out of the fabrics to “mesh” them together – you have anywhere from Five to Twelve on your handy dandy machine. This dedicated machine will merrily punch away all night and day (it has a lot more stamina than me!) All you have to do is push the foot peddle & move the fabric. This setup may sound familiar- because it’s basically identical to a sewing machine… but with no thread and with a bunch more needles.

Here’s the basic equation: More needles = More speed!

Oh yeah, I can get into this!

Felt as clay: (and paint, and more!)

The great thing is that if you are creative you can come up with new ways of melding the fabric. You don’t have to just treat it as a flat “felt painting”. The fact that you can meld the layers/pieces of fabric seamlessly definitely opens up your options. Try viewing the fabric as a sort of clay- that can be overlapped, cut, extended, rejoined and even built into sculptural structures with a bit of ingenuity.

And the machine not only “meshes” together felt or wool fabrics- it can also be used to “smoosh” (my own highly technical term) together other fabrics that have a bit of “tooth” to them. You can try synthetic fleece, woven wool, cotton… Just about anything can either be smooshed itself or attached to the base fabric with the aid of wool roving or other ‘smooshable’ material. It is absolutely amazing to see and feel the two pieces of fabric becoming one. Think of the possibilities… Bwahahaha! (evil laugh!)

Whirlpool: Embellisher needle felted piece

A pic in my kitchen of the unfinished Machine felted piece

Here is a pic of my (still unfinished) in-class fiber sketch. I started out with a flat piece of gray felt, some yarn and some yummy wool roving. I ‘couched’ down the yarn (without thread!) in a spiral pattern into the base layer of felt.  Noticing the strong puckering I was getting around the felted area, I was inspired to try for an even more sculptural effect. Heck, why not?

Cutting strips off alongside the felt base, I melded yarn on top of them and then layered them over the other spirals, only attaching the ends and lifting up the centers of the strips. I created abstract leaves out of the gray felt and luscious red, yellow and orange roving and attached them… Afterwards, I cut further in along the spiral to drop the center back and create a ‘whirlpool’ effect. I’ll be adding more spirals to the edges and then using floral wire to give the entire structure depth and stability. (It’s a little… floppy… at the moment)

Neat Note: You can also work both sides of the fabric simultaneously for completely different effects. By attaching one color to the front, you can create a more subtle shadow of that color on the ‘back’ of your work as some of the color is punched through by the needles. That means you can have both sides be works of art that reflect, but don’t exactly mimic each other. Cool!

The shadow on the 'back' side of the Felt.

The shadow on the 'back' side of the Felt.

This simple little sketch is only the beginning… Playing with this machine completely opens up my fiber options. Talk about mixed media- it’s like quilting, painting and sculpture all in one!  What delicious fruit!

:) Helene

BTW, if you’re interested in taking a workshop, or just seeing some awesome art, check out my friend Deborah Weir’s website and contact her to book a class!

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