Tuesday, 18 September 2012

I passed! - Arts for Health & Wellbeing

 Readers of my other (more business-y) blog, Hue & Dye, may have seen that I recently passed my Arts for Health and Wellbeing course. Squee!

As part of the course which was run by Bolton University, we were asked to produce a series of pieces for a public exhibition at the end of the course. This was the brief for the exhibition.... (apologies for the blurry photo of the exhibition intro - no idea what happened there!)

I focussed my part of the exhibition on felting and made a series of felted pieces to express the personal creative journey I had taken during the course.

 For me, felt is such a tactile media - it has so many applications. How many products can there be that can be made soft enough to wear close to your skin, diaphanous, delicate and lacy like my merino/silk scarf, but can also be moulded into three dimensions to make the warmest, cosiest footwear like my little bootees, or my representation of a felted woolly shroud? (Yes, they really do exist).
 Not forgetting the more familiar uses of felt for decorative art - here is a felted landscaped made with soft felt embellished with needle-felting. It is destined to be a cover for one of my art journals in due course.
A personal favourite use of felt is for jewellery and accessories. Some of these pieces are made from simple wet-felting using merino roving in a range of colours. Other pieces incorporate stitching and embellishments with shisha mirrors and beads. I've also included additional fibres such as silk noil in the cuff, to give added texture.

Felt can, of course, also be stitched and sewn like a fabric. The purse on display is made from pieces of flat felt, cut to a pattern template and stitched. And no felt need be wasted! The small brooch is made from offcuts of an earlier project, this time torn to give more freeform edges then stitched and embellished with a brooch pin on the reverse.
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When I teach children felting we usually begin with felted balls for bracelets (or caterpillars!) and then make flat felt for purses. But, being a school project, I like to throw in some history and geography too. When I ask about where they can find felt today, Fuzzy Felt is usually the first answer! The students are always amazed to discover that felt is used to make homes, even to this day. They also love to hear anecdotes, such as the origins of "mad as a hatter" (from the extremely harmful mercury used historically in the hatmaking industry).

These are a couple of videos I like to use to illustrate some of the uses of felt....

Making a traditional yurt in Mongolia

The original stetson, made from, yes, you guessed it, felt...(Please note, this process uses rabbit fur)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Research vs Procrastination

Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour That Changed the World

...where do you draw the line?

I could fill books with my research, great blogs, websites, books etc. I've found, but I fear that my research is becoming an excuse for not actually doing anything! Will take this as a "note-to-self" kick up the you-know-what and go do something "real"....

Oh, but before I go, seeing as I have spent so long researching, I'll share a couple of my recent finds - blogs, pinterest boards and websites....

Instructables - Tutorials, projects, videos etc. on all kinds of topics.

Mary Lamson-Burke's Teach Me Some Art pinboard on Pinterest - Great links to practical art sites.

Awesome artists - Some great drawing tutorials in an easy-to-digest format.

And find of the day, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's blog, Balzer Designs. Her Art Journal Every Day dates back to 2011 but has some ideas I really like for breaking that "blank-page-block" amongst other things.

Incidentally, nearly finished reading Mauve - awesome read if you're into the history of colour and the massive impact the invention of synthetic dyes had (and still have) on modern day chemistry.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Assignment 1: Reflective Commentary

This first assignment has been a series of bursts of exuberant energy followed by struggling to get going. Looking at the work I've completed, it was no surprise to analyse the gaps and find that they were when sketching or drawing was required. (Um, and rather longer than planned finding the right theme for the blog - oops!).

I think I am developing a little more confidence with picking up a sketchbook and have been doing lots of research on other people's methods for sketchbooks and journalling. I've also found some good resources such as the Sketchbook Challenge for encouragement.

My Pinterest account and Picasa albums are building into a good collection of visual inspiration.
Joining the Textiles Facebook group and engaging with other students via the group is proving a really useful resource - just being able to discuss ideas, plan visits and trips etc. helps to keep me motivated.

In terms of work I have completed so far, highlights have been working with a wide range of materials. In particular, I have (finally) learned that it is both necessary - and possible - to teach oneself to use a new medium (watercolours in my case). This revelation was quite liberating. For some reason I assumed that artists are all naturally proficient in all media when I would never assume that I should instinctively know all textile methods but have to spend time learning them. An interesting statement on my assumptions about fine art and artists. With a bit of luck I'll cut myself a bit more slack and spend more time learning about the media before plunging straight in and expecting to be an instant Da Vinci!

Am I pleased with what I've done? Yes, in the main. I've a long way to go but I'm enjoying the learning progress and pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I'm enjoying the research and collecting, too. I think it will improve my future work.

My approach has always been to go straight into the stitching and do my practising and testing “live”. I am starting to see benefits in taking a step back and putting thoughts, visual images and the like onto paper before I commit to fabric as it is making me think in a more focussed way.

I’m still wrestling with how to structure sketchbooks. I have several on the go at any one time – different sizes and formats – some with themes, others less structured. However, I like to be able to pull images together from different sources so rarely put anything permanently in one place. The bound journal format really doesn’t work for me. Ring binders and photo albums with removable pages have been my preferred choice previously - not as arty or “sexy” but more practical! Online “albums” such as Pinterest are also great for the way I work. I can scan or photograph objects as well as straightforward images and create online, really flexible mood boards. Maybe I’ll need to think about printing off collections as a more physical record?

For the next assignment I’d like to work more with colour and texture, working larger-scale and sketching/journaling more. Onwards and upwards!