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I had to shave my piece of felt … and eat toast!

I know, that sounds a bit bizarre, but let me explain.

With the upcoming art exhibition to be held in Beerwah in October, the pressure’s on to make more felt wall hangings to exhibit.  I already have Mt. Coonowrin, which I have documented previously on this blog, but one’s just not enough.

Today was the day to make another one.  I’ve been researching my subject, collected my materials and all I needed was a free weekend and when I woke up to the clear bright day this morning I couldn’t wait to go home and get stuck in.  When I say ‘go home’, I’m not a party animal who woke up in a strange house this morning after a drunken rave the night before.  I have recently taken on another part time job dog-walking and pet/house sitting.  It’s great because it is a rewarding job and I can fit it in around my other life commitments.  I’m house sitting at the moment, thus ‘go home’ meant leave the doggie for the day and do my felting at home.  Not to mention spend some brief, welcome time with hubby and son.

The toast incident

Arriving bright eyed and bushy tailed, I breezed in only to meet my teenage son in his pj’s yawning a “Morning Mum” with half-closed eyes.  This was followed by the sound of an electric toothbrush buzzing in the bathroom – hubby was making himself personable!  While I waited for him to finish his ablutions (don’t you love that word?) I hovered in front of my computer noticing a yellow stick it note in the middle of the screen.

“Your dinner for tonight’s in the fridge so you don’t have to eat toast, you touchy thing! … Luv U”

Aw, what a sweetie, he remembered my melt down last week when, stressed at juggling an extra job, trying to organize myself, emotionally detach from hubby, son and my own dog, bring in the washing and get to my next assignment before sun down so I could feed a farmyard of chooks (Australian for ‘chickens’) and ducks, I forgot to take dinner with me and had to revert to toast.  I’m a bit of a foodie, so toast was just not the same as dinner.

The next afternoon while pretty much repeating the previous day’s schedule, I managed to throw a guilt trip at my son who was taking for everrrrrrrr to get some chore done that is his job anyway but which I wanted him to do before I left for the evening.  I had good reason for that at the time, but can’t for the life of me think what it could have been now.  That’s how important it was in the overall scheme of things.

“Oh for goodness sake, hurry up!!!  It’s because I was rushing yesterday getting your uniform ready, that I left my dinner in the fridge and had to survive on toast!”

At which point hubby stuck up for son from his vantage point in the office around the corner…

“Don’t pick on him just because you weren’t organized!”

I was feeling so bereft by that time, because oddly enough, despite loving going on holiday and always wishing to be living in some other, more exotic place – which my assignment was – I was feeling desperately homesick and wanting to hug son, hubby and dog all at the same time and tell them I loved them.  I’d so looked forward to coming home that afternoon, so I could spend some warm and fuzzy time to make up for my transition into Agent Aannsha Dog Sitter.

Only instead of Happy Families, I’d managed to create a minor drama where my son was crotchety for me guilt-tripping him and hubby was rightly taking his side.  A silent tear escaped the corner of my eye and I opened the fridge to take last night’s dinner for tonight with me and escape before I began sobbing.

Too late, I choked one back as I opened the fridge door.

“What’s the matter?” Baz stood behind me quicker than I could take my things and run.

Well, I blurted it all out in a blubbery blobby mess that caused a puzzled look to crease hubby’s face.  He didn’t understand me.  He never does when I melt down.  To me it is perfectly natural and totally understandable that inner tumult can result from a few changes in routine and everything that comes with it.  But to Baz, I had turned into an alien and he couldn’t fix a problem he didn’t have any reference for.  God love him.  I do.

He hugged me warily and I tried to get it together and explain logically what was going on for me.  I couldn’t, so I wiped my salty face on his jumper and pulled away still watery. But I had no time to wallow in self-pity, I had animals to feed.  I left via my son’s room where I sincerely apologised to him for being mean. He is such a forgiving fellow and hugged me with the force of ten men. Then with a lot still hanging mid-sentence, confused and a tiny bit raw between Baz and me, I got in the car and drove off.

Later that night, I texted Baz only to find that Baz – a man whose longest text to me yet had been “ok” – had texted me:

“Still lu ya, U touchy bugger”.

The most adorable thing a bloke could tell his missus.  I melted and in an instant the whole drama dissipated.

…So, the message on my pc was in reference to the toast drama.

What about having to shave my felt?

After Baz came out of the bathroom all squeaky clean, I asked him if that meant I had dinner for tonight.

“You do, it’s chilli con carne.”

“You’re a dream, thank you.”

Big hug.

Half an hour later, Baz off scuba diving, Luke chilling in his room, I set to making my felt painting.

Why I had to shave my felt

The subject of today’s felting is of an entry way north, along Moffat Beach – one of the beaches in Caloundra, on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, near where I live.

Pic of Moffat Beach thanks to Caloundra Tourism website

The ocean is blue, the sand gleams white in the sunshine, and there are sandy walkways to the beach through sea-grass lined with wooden railings and shaded by trees that are very pleasing to the eye.

At this point, I would like to acknowledge Gusha Visual Media who have inspired my latest work with some of their photos of the Sunshine Coast. In particular, Moffat Beach, which is so beautiful, I wanted to try and capture the scene in felt.

I beganMoffat Beach sky sea layout with a piece of cream pre-felt 60cm x 60cm as the base.  Starting with the sky, I laid several shades of blue, and thin white clouds, then laid the water in deeper turquoises.

Moffatt Beach full layout less treeThen I laid the white strip of beach and followed with the brown-sandy colour of the path, which I underlaid with brown alpaca to add depth.  After that I added the greens of the grasses. Next came the wooden railing and the shading.

Moffat Beach full layout less yarnHappy with the overall background, I put in the tree using black mixed with white and ochre, and short whispy pieces of yarn for the leaves.

Moffat Beach full layoutTo finish the work at this stage, I added the silks and yarns to give interesting detail and lustre to the overall painting.

As my feet were very sore – that’s a story for another day – I laid the work on a 60x60cm canvas on the lounge coffee table so I could sit for the couple of hours it took to do the layout.  I wasn’t sure how much wool would float away as I carried the piece over to the kitchen bench for felting, but I walked slowly and it all remained intact.  Once the canvas was removed it sat on the bubble wrap, on a towel to catch the excess water.

After soaping, rubbing, rubbing, squeezing, heating, rubbing, heating and rubbing some more, the picture was finally felted to my liking.  I rinsed the soap out, final rinsed with a bit of vinegar and spun it in the washing machine.

As I ironed it flat, I noticed that where the brown alpaca had been laid down, it had migrated through the other colours and the long fuzzy wool filaments covered the bottom half of the painting obscuring the other colours and details!  I forgot to take a photo at this point, because I was concentrating on fixing the furry mess!  After trying to snip it away with scissors and realising that would take all afternoon, I got a fresh disposable razor from my hubby’s stash and proceeded to shave the wool off the painting!

Despite being worried about losing the underlying detail, and messing up the finish of the felt that was left, I knew I couldn’t leave it furry, so shaved away.  I removed a very large handful of alpaca and was happy to see the rest of the painting was intact!

Re-ironed, I was satisfied that the painting was pretty good and after hanging it out to dry overnight, I’m looking forward to adding the finer details with needle felting and embroidery tomorrow.

However – Note To Self – only use alpaca in a felt painting if the painting is of a teddy bear or something else that requires a fuzzy finish!

That’s definitely a tip I’m going to put in a Felting Book when I get round to writing one!

Anyway, here’s the felted wall hanging of Moffat Beach, awaiting embroidery and needle felting.  Felted size is approximately 50cm x 50xm.

Moffat Beach felted

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Open Studio Weekend 2

Despite it being a wet wintry weekend, Sandra and I enjoyed another shared studio experience.  While I think the weather put a lot of people from coming out so we only had a handful of visitors over the two days, we were very creative.

Sandra’s painting

On Saturday Sandra worked on a calla lily:

Sandra’s Calla Lily

Yesterday, she painted two in a series of three intuitive paintings, plus several beautiful bright birds and trees on small canvases.  I love how Sandy can change style according to what she’s painting, so she has a variety of work that can be appreciated by many. Sandy drying her artHere’s Sandra drying one of her intuitive paintings.  Let’s face it, with the cool and damp weather, rather than sit around watching paint dry, you’ve gotta love technology and a handy hair dryer. Don’t you love the colours she’s using?

You can read more about Sandy’s painting at her blog: Hearts Landscapes.

Aannsha’s Felting

On Saturday I made a small ‘earthenware’ coloured round bowl about 13cm in diameter.  I used a muted pale blue with maroon wool and a splash of orange wool, then accentuated it with maroon sari silk threads and mulberry hand-dyed silk rovings. I then created a cobweb scarf using pale blue and pinks, a nice combination that I haven’t tried before. I was happy with how I laid out the wool rovings as the resulting scarf had a good structure that was semi-translucent and having small holes across the work which is a mark of cobweb felt.

Felt 'earthenware' vase and pinkblue scarf

My felt bowl and scarf in front of Sandra’s painting

The experimental vase that looks like an upturned hat!

On the Sunday I gave myself a large project, wanting to experiment with a vase/vessel using a flat resist. The two round bowls I’ve made so far have been made using a circular resist.

Vessel making is a new avenue for me in felting, so when I decided to make a taller vessel, more like a vase, I wasn’t sure how to start.  I went for a flat resist and threw myself into the project giving myself permission to like any outcome however outlandish, as this was an Experiment.  It was actually a very big project and in order for the ‘vase’ to be sturdy enough to support its own weight, I had to work it very hard.  So this baby took all day to create!

I started with bright green, followed by a muted, earthy blue and did four layers alternating these colours one for each layer.  When I got to the decorative layer I went mad with orange, lime green, maroon sari silk, brown alpaca and red/grey silk hankies. When I finished laying out the top layer, it looked like something the dog had thrown up on to be honest.  But I was out on a limb and determined to see it through.

Decorative top layer of vessel - aka dog's dinner

Decorative top layer of vessel – aka dog’s dinner

At first, it wanted to become a handbag and I struggled to go beyond a hesitant decision to stop at that point, knowing that a bag would be a good outcome.  But no.  I wanted a vase or a vessel of some kind and that was what I was determined to make. I worked on it some more until I had gone beyond the handbag stiffness, and knew at that point I was on the other side.  Where the vessel resided.

We stopped for lunch and had a salad.

Once more into the fray dear friend.

Occasionally I surfaced over the green brown thing it was becoming, to look enviously at Sandra who was producing beautiful work after beautiful work – she really is industrious!  I noticed that she too though was questioning her own colour choices and was surprised at how her own intuitive paintings were developing.

Eventually, when it was way past cup of tea time, we both stopped.  Sandra was all out of paintings, and I had finally mastered the beast!

The final result was totally different to what I’d pictured when I started, and certainly a world away from a handbag, but quirky though it is, I love it.  It’s a vessel that could be an upturned hat, as my son proved when I brought it home, but I reckon it works.

In my attempt to flatten the bottom and create an even oval base, I used a plastic bowl that was shorter than the vessel.  By the time I’d pushed the base into shape, I noticed I’d inadvertently pushed down the sides, creating deep wrinkles.  Wow, that was a great accidental serendipity!  I turned the top over by about four centimetres to  contrast the lovely lime inside with the now muted and gorgeous autumn shades of the outside.

Stepping back, I noticed the brown alpaca fleece fuzzing out in places, that adds interest. It stands about 20cm  tall and 18cm wide. Here are some pictures showing the process and finished vessel.

What would you use it for?

Did Sandy and I morph artistic styles? (Cue Twilight Zone music)

One thing Sandra and I noticed was that we’d both apparently switched colouring styles.  Most of my paintings and felt carry bold, warm colours, while usually Sandra’s work tends towards blues and pastel tones – well some, not all of her work.  This weekend though, I was favouring earthy colouring and using muddy browns and blues for the top layers of my work, while Sandra found herself painting in bright vibrant hues.

We’re both intuitive by nature and as we worked, both occasionally uttering, “Wow, this is an odd choice of colour for my work”, we also both came to a vague conclusion that we were possibly somehow ‘tapping into’ each others’ brains and morphing our artistic palettes!  There’s no proof of that of course, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. So, that was our weekend.  I am looking forward to next weekend when Open Studio weekend 3 gets underway.  What will we create next?

Embracing the square long enough to be creative

Most of my felting is very free form in the way I put colours and design together.

blue green wool layout

Wool layout for a scarf that turned into a bag – in navy, turquoise, aqua, cerise pink

It starts like this … and I feel my way with the project, which is a very organic coming together of colours and patterns until I love, love, love it!

If I’m working for someone, I focus on their energy while I’m working.  That’s something I can’t explain to anyone left brained enough to want proof, but it’s a thing I do when I’m making felt, that also helps me get accurate readings for folks when they come see me for tarot readings.  I think it’s a genetically inherited ability because my dad used to get psychic insights in front of those old roaring log fires way back when people actually used real trees instead of those ceramic logs that zip into flame with tongues of ignited natural gas.

Anyhow, I digress.

I’ve been thinking about felt designs today as I’ve rolled out pastry in my part-time job – which I have to say is the best little job in our small town, and which I sincerely try to fit into – but honestly, it’s a bit like a star-shaped peg squeezing herself into a square-shaped hole.  It’ll work some of the time, but the rest of the time either the star gets cramp in her pointy bits, or the square gets prickly trying to reinforce its shape.  (You’ve can’t help but feel empathy for both the star and the square really).  Again, here’s another area where I’ve done my best to conform, but my arty intuitive self just keeps failing!

Normally, I’d balk at the thought of failing at anything, but this time I’ve come to realise, failure can sometimes be a kind of self-preservation at the soul level. Being a bit of an intuitive people pleaser means I can’t stand to feel the square reinforcer’s (and I use that term symbolically to illustrate my point here) irritation at my inadvertent bucking of the system – or should I say systems – as the whole job is broken down into methodical, productive systems – but I’m learning to live being constantly corrected for the sake of my sanity.

I also admit that I can be a bit of a square reinforcer at home when my pointy star-shaped teenage son shines brightly all over the place but doesn’t stop anywhere long enough to finish a job… “Oy, empty the recycle bin!!”  Enough said.

So, there I was today, body doing the job, mind doing its own thing when it could, and I thought how nice it would be to embrace the square long enough to be able to do the part-time job better and also to create something more tailored than my usual freehand style of design.

I was commissioned at Christmas to create a black scarf with a “reserved pattern” for someone who doesn’t like to stand out in a crowd, but whom I’ve met once and was impressed by her vivaciousness which I think under other circumstances or cultural background may be more forthright.  The scarf I made for her was quite challenging at first, as I had to put some actual left-brain logical thought sequencing to the structure of the design and colours.

However, I think I achieved a nice marriage of logical and intuitive because the finished scarf was so lovely, I would have kept it for myself had I not promised it to my customer!  This is what it looked like:

Scarf in black merino wool with red silk hankies and grey silk chiffon inlays and rovings, nuno felted onto silk chiffon

Scarf in black merino wool with red silk hankies and grey silk chiffon inlays and rovings, dimensional wool, nuno felted onto silk chiffon

So despite my initial anxiety at creating this scarf, I fell in love with it.

And it is this boxy black and grey scarf that is the inspiration for my next work.  Simple, structured design but using colours that are bold yet harmonious.

With the Easter long weekend coming up, I’m looking forward to playing!

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