Friday, May 1, 2020

The Ultimate Artist's Smock

This is the ultimate artist's smock.  And although you might not want to wear it for painting, it is so cool with all its pockets which literally could hold all your tools.  But what a garment to wear for traveling if we ever get that chance again.  You can pocket your cell phone, keys, wallet, passport and even keepsakes and talisman,
Ever since I got back from Ellen Baker's silk painting workshop on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, I have been obsessed with painting silk and using them in felted garments.  And although I did not have the time to also take Fiona Duthie's complex garment workshop which used the painted silks, I was just blown away and totally inspired by the gorgeous felted garments in their Color Collaborations exhibit which was located in the same hall as our silk painting class.  

I arrived home just days before countries started closing their borders and stay at home orders issued.  During this pandemic, I have had the time to create in my studio even more than usual.  With the extra time and Fiona's motivation from her on-line challenge (mums the word on what I made for the challenge but you will see it in a few months when the photos are published) and her direction to push and stretch ourselves artistically, I have been teaching myself how to make complex garments using multiple resists.  I have also been figuring out ways to make closures by using things like snaps and grommets.

I am loving painting silk using the method I learned from Ellen Bakker.

This garment took a lot of engineering and design effort including color placement for both the wool roving and silk fabric.  I first made a drawing of the front and back of the garment and then made multiple resists allowing for 35% shrinkage.  

I made felted beads and buttons from 4 layers of roving.

I placed grommets in the felt pieces to make them look more like buttons.  And then I threaded thin felted cords through them to close up the pockets.

Fun, colorful, graphic, freedom, pockets, swinging, sculptural - all ways to describe this complex garment.

Thursday, April 2, 2020


As I take my dogs on their daily walk, I am happy to be outside in the sunshine on these early spring days.  The weather is warming up and the ocean breeze is lilting.  Today is the first day I went without a jacket.  The wild flowers are blooming, the fields are ablaze with red and orange poppies.  I picked some to make a simple bouquet putting them in water in a Ball jar which seemed a fitting vase in these make-do, uncertain and unprecedented times of Covid 19.

I watch the news and read both the on-line NY & LA Times and the stories, the statistics, the lack of medical supplies and number of deaths are unbelievable, incomprehensible and other worldly.  

On my walks I see the local high school quiet and gated.  I see all the closed shops.  It reminds me of a  Sunday from my childhood when businesses were closed and families hung out together.  But seeing playgrounds surrounded by yellow tape, local restaurants shuttered, people safe distancing from each other and local beaches closed is an awakening that this is not the 50's; this is our reality, our new normal. 

I for one have it good; I am thriving in my creativity.  I am healthy and I hope it stays that way; I wish the same for my friends and family.  Some people have burst my bubble and chastised me for being happy while so many in the world are suffering.  But while we can have patience and compassion, we need to embrace the uncertainty in the best way we can.  For me it is mainly through my creative effort and spirit.  So far, I have been fortunate.
Fiona Duthie's current on-line felting challenge, SEPARATE YET TOGETHER, offered to all her former students has been a source of inspiration and friendship as was Ellen Bakker's silk painting workshop on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia hosted by Fiona.  Unfortunately I did not have the time to take both Fiona's felted garment workshop along with Ellen's workshop but I have been so inspired by their Color Collaboration which was exhibited on the stage in the same room where we were working.
Color Collaboration with Fiona and Ellen.

Me modeling a Fiona original

Fiona, me and Ellen

In a bubble on Salt Spring Island we were just learning more and more about the Covid 19 virus.  It was when the news came out that Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson had contracted the virus, that it became a reality.  I even painted silks in the workshop inspired by the horrible, contagious virus with the message on the silk to stay home although it had not yet become a requirement.
But just days after returning home the situation had drastically changed.  The USA/Canadian border closed, non essential businesses were shut down and shelter in place orders instituted.
The social media communication of my friends and colleagues in the felting community has been my life blood right now.  Fiona's challenge to stretch ourselves and to go outside of our comfort zone to create a felted piece for the SEPARATE YET CONNECTED challenge is metaphorically rich.  We are all stretching ourselves and we are all out of our comfort zone even if it means as little as not getting your regular mani/pedi or not getting your hair cut and colored by your stylist to experiencing the absolute worst scenario which is unimaginable to me.

I have been making samples and some cowls in preparation for my larger challenge garment.  I am using the vibrancy of my hand painted silks which I have immersed myself in since returning from Ellen's workshop.  The first week back I made a silk stretcher frame, bought supplies and made a make-shift stove top steamer. I have also painted both nuno prefelts and silk fabric with sumi ink and steamed them both along with the painted pieces.  
The color vibrancy is my happy place, the connected part but actually even the separate part since I am happy alone.  The wool locks in the samples represent our locked situation, our requirement to self quarantine, stay home and relinquish our usual comings and goings.  But the locks are open on one side, moving freely and will be set free at some point. 

This piece has two channels with felted cords threaded thru the channels.  The channels and cords are our means of communicating and connecting, channelling our efforts through social media, Facetime, texting, email and now Zoom.  We are channeling new ways to communicate and we're reaching out to others, some of whom we have not spoken to for awhile.  
But there are knots in the cords, still connecting but knotted, closing up, twisted and anxiously knotted to create a barrier from socializing and from connecting physically with the outside world.  

But as horrible as this Covid 19 war is, we will grow and learn from our new normal; we'll have more compassion, more love and patience and more appreciation for the little things.  The world is connected right now fighting this crisis.  We are SEPARATE YET CONNECTED to fight this common enemy of our universe, the universe for all of us.

Stay well my friends.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Making prefelts using the dryer method

My finished prefelts are blowing in the wind. I'll use them to enhance felted garments.  I'll cut them up and use them both under and on top of my silk fabrics or even directly on the wool roving. 
You can layer them on top of one another since they have a wool base.  

Here's my method for making prefelts using the dryer. For more on the dryer method for felting go to:

And prefelts are such a great thing to make when you're not feeling particularly creative but still want to spend time in the studio.  And when you need that little extra embellishment later on...voila, it's already done!
On a large piece of painter's plastic, lay out your wool roving in one layer using a herringbone pattern.  Wet it out with a ball brauser or similar using room temperature water and some liquid soap (I use 7th Generation).

Cover the wet roving with a second piece of painters plastic.  Wet the plastic and compress with your hands.  Then carefully remove the top plastic.

Add silk fabric, hankies or viscose or even pieces of yarn.  The white is 5 momme silk habotai that I will later paint on using sumi ink.  Rewet like you did above.

Again cover it with the top plastic.  Wet the plastic and rub for about 2 minutes.  Put a rolled up towel at one end and roll up the package like a sausage.  

Secure the roll with cut off panty hose or similar.

Put the package in the dryer for 5 minutes with no heat.  Remove from the dryer and open the package on your felting table.  Move the towel to the other end and roll up the package. Again secure with the panty hose and put back in the dryer for an additional 5 minutes. 

Remove the painter's plastic and give it a quick rub on your bubble wrap. 

Remove the excess water using a spin dryer.

My  prefelts are drying in the sun.  Once dry, I will use sumi ink to embellish the white silk section.

Have fun, stay safe and healthy during this self isolation and crisis period in our lives.  Happy felting!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Nuno Felted Seamless Collage Vest Workshop - Felters Rendezvous, March 2020

I was lucky enough to be invited by Deb Tewell, the organizer of the annual Felter's Rendezvous in Colorado Springs and owner of the Felting Source to teach at the March 7-10, 2020 Rendezvous.  This event was absolutely amazing, so much fun and so wonderful to reunite with felter friends and make so many new ones.  And thank heaven that this event went off without a hitch right before all the ensuing tumult resulting from the coronavirus.

I taught a four day nuno felted seamless collage vest workshop.  Since the class size was smaller than expected, mainly due to just too many garment classes, I made lemonade from lemons and encouraged each student to go out of their comfort zone to create a more complicated vest than I would normally invite in a larger workshop.  What a win/win!

Deb's husband Duncan was a former park ranger and was the best guide to me and Perla at the Garden of the Gods.
I had always wanted to visit the majestic Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and I was lucky enough to have the tine and the best guide.

Going out to dinner with Deb Koesters, Ellen Castleberry and Kathy Krein at the Rabbit Hole, a super fun upscale restaurant in downtown Colorado Springs.

Jill Gully, owner of Outback Fibers, was one of the vendors at the Rendezvous market place.  I took my very first felting workshop from her in 2007 in Fallbrook, CA. 

Perla's amazing vest was inspired by our visit to the Garden of the Gods.

So much joy and happiness with these lovely ladies - Perla, Kathy, Deb and Cathy.