Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Taste and see....

.... the beauty all around you.  So goes a favorite hymn, but in this case it's probably better NOT to taste the mushrooms since most aren't safe to eat!  I happen to think they are beautiful to look at, as are lichens and many other living things associated with wet fall weather.

I took these photos on two separate walks around the farm recently, and it was a good reminder to look a bit closer to find the beauty.  Fall and it's famous colors aren't all about pumpkins and maple leaves, there are other natural colors and especially textures just as pretty if not a bit more subtle.

The turkeys and deer that I scared up have plenty to eat from the hickory and oak trees here.  I'm not sure if they eat the fall mushrooms?

And speaking of natural color, check out my friend Sara's blog for a great couple of posts about dyeing yarn and wool with walnuts.  I'm tempted to give it a try, her results with several types of wool are gorgeous!
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just playing...

It's been quite a while since I've felt this free with at least some of my time, I'm really loving it! I'm trying to do more experimenting with my felting, and to remember some of the things I learned at Felter's Fling, especially from Marjolein Dallinga.

She has such an inspiring approach to teaching, she wanted us to NOT think or plan things out too much, and she constantly reminded us that mistakes are the way we learn. "When you don't get what you were trying for, what you do get is experience."  I love that!

Yesterday I just wanted to do a wall hanging and try to achieve some thin black line. I used some alpaca yarn that I had around- it did pretty well and I like the result, but am going to try some other methods as well.  You can check this little hanging out further in my Etsy store.
Today I've been working with some fall/pumpkin themes.

This guy (or gal), or whatever it is, I'm not sure if it's done or not?  Any suggestions?  I am really pleased with how well the cords felted in, looks like a rasta pumpkin!

And finally, a birdhouse.  I hope to make some more of these in fall colors.  It's listed on Etsy as well.
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Friday, September 23, 2011

A Week of Felting

It's been a great week for felting, cool with lots of rain and not much on my schedule for a change!  As much as I loved home schooling our daughter last year, I am thoroughly enjoying having more time for myself again, without every minute having a task attached to it (and even better, she is loving high school!).  I actually had two days in a row of not having to leave the farm.... paradise!

I am really getting into a nice groove in my studio, and feel that nearly every piece I felt is teaching me something lately.  The huge amount of new things I learned at Felter's Fling, taken in tiny little bites, has led me to a place of new inspiration and understanding of the felt process.  I am trying to be less predictable with color, and more free with my artwork.

The other side is that I do need to sell.  I've gotten lots of orders and encouragement lately- thanks to all who are supporting what I do!  I've been trying to determine how best to market my goods over the coming holidays while keeping as much profit in my pockets as possible.  Someone told me about a Jr. League holiday sales event- $675 for a table for the weekend?  I think not!  The galleries from which I sell are asking for more of my products, but it's hard to price things at a sellable level and still garner enough for my time.  So, I've decided to dedicate myself again to my Etsy store and and I'm going to really try to promote it like I should.  (The Wazala store that I tried wasn't what I was looking for).  I'll be adding more items over the coming days, so please check back frequently.  I plan to add some of my felting embellishments such as handspun art yarn as well as hand-dyed alpaca fiber.
Have a great weekend, if this rain keeps up it looks like yet more felting is on the agenda!
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Fiber Obsession

Well, it's about knitting but I'm sure that all of us fiber fanatics can relate! LOVE this video.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Midway Fall Festival 2011

I've been felting like crazy, and actually look forward to a little break from it this week, hoping to ride and get out in the woods.  This weekend is the Midway Fall Festival, one of my favorite events of the year and a great way to kick off fall!  Sales were strong at my booth yesterday, and I ended the day by selling the scarf above right off my neck, to a woman from Chicago.

A handmade book maker stopped at my booth- she liked my books and I asked for her advice on pricing.  She advised me to go a bit higher, and would you believe that I sold this one for the higher price right after she left?  In the few minutes I had time to walk around, I went to see her booth, and her books were amazing, all made from recycled leather and burlap coffee bags and old books.  The quality of booths at Midway seems to be better this year, with some very nice jewelry (but still a bit too much of it), recycled felt items, wine tasting, quilts, and of course the obligatory turkey legs (yum) and kettle corn.  The hours today are 11-5, come on out (and be sure to stop at our booth to see Finn the llama and Dacoma the alpaca).
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Never say Never- Handmade Book

At the Felter's Fling last month, I took a class with Chad Alice Hagan on resist dyeing and book binding.  To be perfectly honest, it wasn't my first pick but it looked interesting and I thought that Chad seemed like a cool teacher.  I enjoyed the dyeing day, but wasn't that excited as we started the bookbinding part.

Our cat Sushi checking out the book
Boy, was I in for a surprise!  My excitement grew as Chad would say in her sing-songy voice, "Oh, I just LOVE this part!!!! (I think she said that at every part).  She told us some of the history of binding books, and explained how each step (and there were MANY) had a specific purpose.  I'd always liked the idea of  felt covering books (and I've made some covers in the past), but I never could figure out how to finish the book professionally.
The two little books we made (you can check them out here) took us nearly two full days (not including fulling, dyeing and embroidering the felt), and I thought there's no way I'll make another one of these.  Well, the idea grew on me as I came home and kept admiring my tiny books with great fondness.  I decided to tackle another, and have plans for more (it didn't take nearly as long as my first one).

The tools are simple (an awl for punching holes, straight edges for measuring, waxed linen thread, needle, PVA glue, special paper), and I was able to find most either at Michael's or ordered from Hollander's.

The best part was the thrifted leather coat that I found at Goodwill.  Chad thrifts all of her leather (it's really expensive to buy), and I couldn't believe the huge quantity of leather I scored for just $5!
I definitely have plans to make more of these books, and will have this and hopefully another 1-2 for sale at this weekend's Midway Fall Festival.  Book binding.... hmmm, is there anything I won't try?
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Felter's Fling 2, Butterfly Shawl

Jean Gauger's Butterfly Shawl class that I took at Felter's Fling was so much fun!  We worked in a large tent, starting out with drooling over some of Jean's shawls (which I'd long admired on her website, Sugarplum Originals- one is shown here, above) and getting a feel for the steps we'd take to create our own shawls over the next 3 days.  Jean showed us lots of inspiring examples, and we were encouraged to look at photos of butterflies for ideas as well (although none of us were trying for an exact duplication)
Jean showed us how to make "eyes" on our wings, and we each made sample squares to get a feel for how the silk and wool would interact upon felting/fulling.
Laying out our fibers and silk took over a full day, as we used silk chiffon, habotai silk, merino, tussah silk, and scraps of silk gauze to achieve the effect.  My back has complained about this laying out phase ever since, as there was lots of leaning, climbing on the table, etc!

 Terry's shawl, nearing the end of the layout process.
Deb's gorgeous piece, wetted down and ready for fulling.
 Most of our shawls, completed (a few people had to leave early)
 Close up of my butterfly shawl.
Proudly modeling my finished shawl
Jean was such a warm and enthusiastic teacher, I truly hope to stay in touch with her.  Her talent and artistry is truly original.  She put together this awesome YouTube video of our class during the process, I hope you enjoy it!
It already seems like a dream, but this great event was punctuated by the threat of Hurricane Irene (my first hurricane!).  It became apparent by Friday that we were in line for the storm, and we got word that flights out of all of the nearby airports were being cancelled for Sunday (the day when those of us from out of the area were flying home).  Fortunately, everything was well in hand at home so I never really panicked over my delay, and my husband advised me to simply "be flexible."  I was rescheduled for a flight leaving on Tuesday morning, and resigned myself to lots of reading on my trusty iPad (which I was so grateful to have for monitoring the weather radar, skypeing to home, and confirming flights to name a few things...)  

Snow Farm and Sharon Costello did a great job of keeping us informed, providing flashlights and water in case of power outages, and rearranging our airport shuttle schedule.  The storm hit at about 2 AM on Saturday night after light rain, and all it amounted to for us was about 18-20 hours of HARD steady rain and moderate, steady wind.  I feel so sorry for those in hard-hit Vermont and other areas.... and grateful that we didn't experience the same!
Somebody with a bubble-wrap rain poncho!
There were only about 25 of us left at Snow Farm on Sunday, and many of us had the chance to take a "bonus" class with Marjolein Dalinga of Bloomfelt, which seemed to make it all worthwhile!  I had long admired her work, and was so impressed with her presentation given earlier in the week, in which she shared her artwork, philosophy, and sources of her own inspiration.  Marjolein has a unique career of creating amazing costumes and prop pieces for the Cirque de Soleil.  Here are a few photos of the piece I created during her enjoyable class... you can decide what it is!
I was invited by the "Colorado ladies" to spend the day with them on Monday, and had a wonderful time shopping (we visited Osgood's huge fabric warehouse and raided their silk stash) and returned to New England Felting supply (and yes, I found some things I'd missed on the previous visit!)  Rather than an anticlimatic end to a great trip killing time at an impersonal airport, I had a fun-filled day with these energetic and interesting ladies (Cathy, Fran, Deb and Barb- the only other alpaca breeder at The Fling).  

I'm so thankful that I had the chance to attend Felter's Fling, and I can already tell a huge difference in my skills and creativity in my work here at home!  (Just what I was hoping for....)

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Felter's Fling 1

Sky over Chicago
I know it's been a while! Between getting the kids settled back in school and then my trip to New England for Felter's Fling, time has literally flown by!  What a great experience I had at "The Fling", which was held at beautiful Snow Farm (The New England School of Craft) in Williamsburg, Mass.  Organized by Sharon Costello, this biannual event was all I could have possibly hoped for, and more!
I had been looking forward to this sabbatical for about a year since first learning of it, and was scheduled for the classes which were in high demand since January.  It would be a great chance for me to really focus on my art, learn new skills, and connect and share with other feltmakers (with 90 people participating from 22 states and 4 countries).  I got all I'd hoped for, and more!
My friend Dawn Edwards with her cool hat
Elynn Bernstein with her peacock hat
The first day began with a Mad Hatter's Party with wine and cheese, with many participants wearing handmade hats and competing for prizes.
Deb Naremore and I at the end of the Fling
I was fortunate to share a room with Deb from Taos, NM- it made me feel like I was back in college as we compared notes and told stories each night.  We got along great and I look forward to staying in touch with her.
My first class was with Chad Alice Hagen on resist dyeing and book binding.  Using undyed wool prefelts, we clamped various items onto the folded felt before putting into a dye bath, and each piece went through a series of up to 3 dyes with changes in the folding and clamping in between. Here are some of my results:
One thing about workshops is that you learn a lot about teaching from the teachers, and I hope to schedule some new classes here soon.  Chad Hagen was a master- enthusiastic and funny but extremely organized and methodical.  When one is teaching something as detailed as bookbinding, keeping everyone together and on the same step is really important, and she seemed to anticipate our every move and question.  There was something so reassuring about her approach, and I had flashbacks of the joy of being in art class in about 4th grade with colorful materials before me and just waiting to create!  It was a wonderful feeling to relive.

Here are my two finished books, which I will always treasure as mementos of this trip.

We had a great side trip to New England Felting Supply in Easthampton, a feltmaker's paradise!  (We got to drive through the beautiful campus of Smith College in Northampton, too).  Situated in an old theater, they had everything one could want and need for felting, gorgeous wools in every color, hand-painted silks, hundreds of tiny bags of treasures for including in felt pieces to add interest, books, tools, and more.  And yes, I did load up! I am anxiously waiting for UPS to arrive with my big box of treasures today.

Dawn Edwards and Andrea Graham, in the gallery of NEFS, creations by Andrea

Every day was scheduled to the max with optional activities besides the classes, beginning with a morning stretch/yoga and ending with either "show and tell" or presentations by the mostly international instructors who shared informations about their countries, cultures, and felt pieces.  
These presentations were interspersed with an exhibition of student work and a fashion show- all so fun and inspiring!  We were welcome to visit other classrooms any time, and there was a sincere spirit of generous sharing between the instructors and all of the students.
Sculpture made in Marjolein's class
Awesome vessel by Ohio feltmaker, Pam McGregor

Rug made with Finn wool by Deb
In my next post, I'll write about my second class, Nuno Butterfly Shawl with Jean Gauger, as well as the impact that Hurricane Irene had on my trip!  Enjoy the photos of beautiful Snow Farm, and I hope you have a great Labor Day weekend.

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