Why did I start? Where am I now!

I have been making these figurative wet felted sculptures for over 10 years and people often ask me when, why and how, I started to make them – not the easiest question really!

Several thoughts though –

  • I have worked figuratively since about 2005 and the first sculpture I made was for the final show of  my BA Embroidered Textiles 2008. She is now a feature in my garden and it’s amazing how long she has endured through weather all year round!
  • If I hadn’t discovered wool fibres and felting I would work in clay – I love to mould and sculpt and shape and use the energy of my hands.
  • I had an idea to see if I could mould the wool fibres as I would clay – and it worked!!

I have shown my figures at Prism and SDC exhibitions in London and Birmingham and have sold them in local galleries.

This year I made ceramic and mixed-media figures for the first time!

RBSA Prism 2019

Then, out of the blue…..

I was asked to teach at Felters Fling 2019 – I had a wonderful time and met amazing felters and friends – and I realised that what I am doing, with wet felt sculpture, is very different and of interest as a new technique.

So….I am embarking on another new venture, to teach online! It’s been a huge learning curve for me and I have had a lot of fun finding out and mastering many skills and processes:

  • Studio lighting
  • Filming
  • Talking and making at the same time!!!
  • Editing videos
  • Creating written content and illustrating handouts and worksheets
  • Finding the best course platforms and learning how it all works
  • Classroom discussion forums
  • Selling and marketing

…and I have had a great group off Felter’s Flingers to trial the course with me –  their advice and encouragement has been invaluable! Thank you, thank you xxxx

Maybe you’ll join me?

Contemporary Dancer Online Workshop

My new 5 week online workshop

Contemporary Dancer – A Unique Felt Sculpture

Friday 17th January till Friday 21st February 2020

Registration for the course is open!

 

This is an exciting online workshop where you will make a free standing figure 20″/50cm tall. You will learn a new, energetic wet felted process that has similarities to clay sculpting and can be easily adapted to make any shape or form. 

The course is suitable for intermediate felt makers and will include simple hand sewing techniques. 

The online classroom is hosted on RUZUKU – each lesson contains multiple videos, presentations and downloadable course information and worksheets to show you, step-by-step, exactly what to do in a simple, clear format.

I am so excited to have developed this course and hope you will join me in January!!

Be on the first course……

Head over to my workshop page for more information:

My 30 Day Challenge 2019

A 30 Day creative challenge for myself starting Friday 31st May 2019.

  1. Create a new piece of art every day
  2. 30 minutes minimum
  3. Drawing, painting, sculpture
  4. Try new materials – recycled, acrylic and oil paint, fabrics, wood, metal, concrete, paverpol, plaster, collage, 2D and 3D.
  5. Log daily with images and text
  6. Daily instagram and FB

Day 1- 31 May

Decorative felt for a bag.

Added a lot of fabric and wool and then finished with free machine embroidery – this was for a bag however the felt was too thick to attach to the purse fixing and will use it to make a pouch bag with a clip closure.

Experimental ceramic figures

I have been developing a way of creating sculptures with a clay and textile mix on a wire frame.

The figures (usually felted) are changing in response to the theme of ‘Fragility’ for the Prism Textiles Exhibition at Hoxton Arches gallery, London next month.

 

There is nothing the least fragile about my felt sculptures that go through a very vigorous, wet felt process. By creating a ceramic sculpture I have introduced an element of fragility to the form – or that is my intention!

 

 

The process thus far:

The figures have a twisted wire skeleton – 2mm and 2.5mm to reinforce the standing leg.

I made a paper clay slip with stoneware clay, paper and water and used this to soak ribbons of cut knitted woollen fabric to bind around the wires – then left to dry.

I repeated this process with the same material to shape the arms and the hips and legs. The torso was formed with solid clay to add a textural contrast.

Once dry I polished the torso clay to bring it up to a smooth shine – but only possible in places so not very sucessful!

Firing the figures

I have placed the figures in a foil ‘saggar’ with a range of colouring materials.

Materials:

  • Seaweed powder (spirulaena)
  • wire wool rusted
  • copper wire
  • banana skins
  • salt

I wrapped fine wire wool and banana skins around the figure securing them with copper wire. Spirulaena and salt was sprinkled on last and wrapped the whole in layers of foil.

Figure wrapped in foil

 

Then out to the yard and my steel bin!

I put a good 30cm of sawdust in the bottom of the bin and lined the sides with wood. I then placed two foil parcels of figures onto the sawdust base. Long ribbons of fabric soaked in white spirit were tucked into the this layer and then filled the rest of the bin with smallish pieces of wood. Finally I pushed more spirit-soaked fabric through the four vent holes, into the layer of sawdust, at the bottom of the bin.

I lit the kiln from the base of the bin – lighting the four fabric ribbons.

Once the fire was really going – about 8-10 minutes – I closed the vents with fire proof fabric kept in place with bricks.

Finally, once I was sure the fire was hot and fierce, I put the lid over the flames and there it stayed for 18 hours (over night).

Link to Raku firing

The materials have added plenty of colour to the figure and happily there are no cracks in the clay!

My final task is to find a suitable base in which to set the figures!

Question – do I add a wire head dress? Gold leaf to highlight? Lacquer? Hmmmm……

 

 

 

Firing Day

I’m going to drum fire two ceramic figures today – it will be a first!

I am going to sagger each figure in foil to protect them and to see how the organic materials I am adding might colour the figures.

Process

I wrapped two lengths of ceramic insulating fabric around the steel drum just above the second air vent, securing the fabric in place with galvanised wire. I plan to pull the fabric down to cover the air vents, and place the lid on the drum, once the fire is really going. Firing time is about 4 hours and will then leave it all to cool completely before removing the figures.

1. The ceramic figures

  • Wrapped fresh and dry banana peels around each figure securing with a bronze wire.
  • Base layer of foil and a layer of sawdust – this will create a black colour where the sawdust touches the ceramic.
  • Added pieces of rusted steel, table salt and copper sulphate.
  • Sealed the foil wrapping to make a parcel

2. Into the drum!

  • The steel drum is large – added sawdust to the level of the second air vent.
  • Put the two foil-wrapped figures into the sawdust.
  • Trailed three spirit-soaked lengths of fabric into the drum.
  • Placed layer of wood pieces in and around the bin about 30cm below the surface.

  • Lit the fire by lighting the fabric lengths.
  • As the fire grew I added more wood.
  • Once the fire was really going I pulled the ceramic insulating fabric down over the air vents and place the lid over  the top. Ideally I would have a chimney lid but I don’t!

I have left it over night (about 18 hours) and will see how things work out tomorrow!…..

Another interesting YouTube film about sawdust kiln firing

 

 

 

Ceramic & textile sculptures

Finally ready for the fire.

To create these figures I started with a twisted wire skeleton and covered it with ribbon cut from a medium weight wool/acrylic sweater. I then coated the wool fabric liberally with paper clay slip. Once this layer had dried I applied ribbons of wool fabrics soaked in the clay slip – wound onto the legs and arms, shaping as I went.

Paper Clay Slip – Add 5–15% paper pulp to the stoneware clay slip mixing it thoroughly with a drill mixer. I soaked shredded loo paper in water, with a capful of bleach, over night and then pour the lot through a colander, pressing out the excess water before adding to the clay slip.

Next, I used stoneware paper clay to form the torso – making a smooth surface to contrast with the wool texture on the legs and arms. Once I had the shape I wanted I left the figures to dry slowly to prevent the clay from cracking.

 

Firing plan

I have a large steel drum and also several metres of ceramic fabric to insulate from the outside. A local joinery has lots of sawdust and there is plenty of wood in the shed.

Plan to cover with figures in organic material such as banana skin and may wrap in aluminium foil before placing in the drum kiln.

Colours

  • Hardwoods- Black/dark grey
  • Drift wood – Blue/greys, aqua shades, grey/black
  • Seaweed roots – Brown, rust, beige
  • Kelp – Yellow, orange
  • Table salt – Orange, yellows
  • Sea salt – salmon pink, orange, yellow
  • Copper carbonate – green, black, maroon
  • Ferric chloride – iron reds, yellow, orange

The ceramic network

You can place colourants in the bedding, around each piece, on top of each piece, or even throw it at the pieces during the firing. Each can result in different effects in the coloration. When you bury the colourants, it will add color late in the firing. If you place in around or on the piece it will colour in the middle of the firing. When you throw it in you can get instant colouring much like a star burst pattern.

  • Copper Carbonate – greens, blues, maroons, reds
  • Copper Sulfate – greens, blues, maroons, reds
  • Cobalt Carbonate – blues
  • Ferric Chloride – reds, yellows, oranges
  • Steel wool- blues, greys, pinks
  • Banana peel- greens, grays
  • Copper wire – red, black, blue, green, whites depending on wire
  • Sawdust- black, grey, blue-grey,
  • Cow pies – blacks, yellows, greens, greys, browns
  • Bacon Grease – brown/greens
  • Sodium Chloride- Orange, yellows, salmon, peach, gold
  • Coffee Grounds – browns, greens, blues
  • Leaves – brown/greens
  • Grass – brown/greens
  • Miracle Grow fertiliser
  • Red Iron Oxide – browns, maroons, rust

Up in smoke pottery

 

Colourants I will use:

  • Copper sulphate
  • Copper wire
  • Ferris oxide – rusty tub
  • Banana skins
  • Table salt
  • Tumeric
  • Leaves from perennials -robinia, laurel
  • Hard woods

Before placing the figures in the drum I will put them in the kitchen oven and to heat to a good temperature – hoping to prevent stress fractures.

Firing day is Tuesday 26th February!

References:

Pit Firing

http://www.eduardolazo.com/pitinstruct.html

Pit Firing Using a Good Old-Fashioned Charcoal Grill

http://www.upinsmokepottery.com/pit-firing.html

video

 

 

 

Figures in ceramics – work in progress

 

The Prism 2019 theme is ‘Fragility’ and knowing just how robust the process of making the felted figures is I really can’t imagine them as fragile. However by combining clay with the fibres on wire would create a fragile form – the fibres being burnt out in the kiln….

Problems:

  • I am not a ceramicist! – I did experiment with this technique during my degree but is was rather unsuccessful.
  • Finding a kiln – could ask the lovely people at Brighton University where they have huge kilns that I used to experiment and the Phoenix centre rent kin space – not as big….. or I could pit fire the pieces myself…..

Chris Dunn – great teacher

First attempt 22.10.18

Looks good – shows potential however the clay cracked on drying and on further research realise that I should use a paper clay…

As I have already bought a large slab of stone ware clay and a pot of slip I need a recipe!

Next… paper clay making!

 

The Mollies – large felt sculptures

Life size (in height) felted sculptures in their beautiful new home in Colorado.

The first  Molly, ‘Tall Molly’, took 6 months to develop and has been followed by two more and there is another  in the planning to fill this amazing space.

1C39B383-FE7C-4D1E-964F-3BDC1821695AFBB3A08E-778F-4360-8619-FD9196DD62A3

Commissions welcomed!