Sunday, August 29, 2010

Felt Footstool -- Finally Complete!!

A while back, my friend Ben showed me some giant felt rocks that he saw on the internet. Immediately, I said to myself, "I want to make something enormous out of felt". And finally, I have. Back in February, I started needle felting a ball -- just sort of casually while watching the Winter Olympics. A few months later, it had become a rather large ball. That little nob sticking out of the ball in the picture below is the handle of my 10 needle felting tool -- very handy when felting something this large.

My intent from the beginning was to create a footstool out of solid felt. After getting the ball to the rough size that I wanted, I started to shape it into a cube. At this point, I had run out of undyed raw fiber, so I switched to some brown that I had around:

Next, I carded some various blues together that I had hand dyed, and started covering the surface. I wanted a mottled, watery effect:

Next, I needed to decide what sort of surface decoration I wanted to do. I was pretty set on an aquatic theme, and started out with some wavy green lines based on a sketch I had made previously:

The little pink thing sticking out of the stool is a finer needle felting tool that I like to use for detail work. Needle felting is a very slow process -- you literally interlock the scales on the fiber together by pushing a small barbed needle into the fiber. The more times you insert the needle, the firmer the felt becomes. In the photo above, you can see where I have been felting in the center of the stool, but the fiber is still puffy towards the outside where I haven't worked as much.

I really liked the green wavy lines by themselves, but decided to add some fish for more visual interest. At first I wanted to choose a "real fish" - that is, mimic the body shape and color pattern of an actual fish, preferably one native to Vermont. But I really wanted the fish to be bright and simple, so against my scientific judgement, opted for minnow shaped orange and yellow fish. I didn't want the stool to have only one correct orientation, as I imagined in practical use the stool might get tumbled around the living room floor, so opted to lay out the fish in circular patterns around two of the corners of the stool. This way, in any given orientation, some fish are right side up and some fish are upside down.

Some more close-ups of detail:
Here's a shot with Willie in the background for size reference (keep in mind Willie is large 80+ lb dog). The total weight of the stool is 11.5 pounds of solid felt. This is more than 2 sheeps worth of fiber!
Couldn't resist including some shots of the Calendula growing in my veggie garden -- just begging to be photographed in the morning sun and dew. These may become muses for a future fiber project.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Felt Fish

It's been so hot lately, I haven't been working with wool much. But here's a little felt pin cushion I made the other day. I'm selling these at the Emile Gruppe Gallery, as well as the Jericho Farmers Market (at Mills Riverside Park from 3-6:30 pm every Thursday this summer). Stop by our booth and say hi to Brian! I've almost fisnished a solid felt foot stool with similar color pallete and fish theme as this pin cushion - over 10 pounds of solid felt! Hope to have some pictures posted of that soon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Items Posted on my Etsy Site

I'm finally getting some of my batiked gyotaku tablecloths/handkerchiefs/wall hangings posted on my Etsy Site. The garden has been demanding most of my time the last few weeks, so the biggest delay has been finding the time to iron and sew all of the edges. Here's a little preview:

I'll post this one to Etsy tomorrow:

Monday, May 31, 2010

What to Wear to a Nautically Themed Birthday Party?

A fish print t-shirt, of course! One for every member of the family!

Thanks to cousin Julie for outfitting her entire family in some of our fish print t-shirts while attending a nautically themed birthday party in France. You never know when a fish print shirt will be just the garment to complete your wardrobe. Don't they all look great? They're their own school of fish. What's neat is that they're all fish that you might find hanging out together in the aquatic realm: A bluegill on Julie, a rockbass on Thomas, and a yellow perch and pumpkinseed on the kids. The pumpkinseed was caught in Shadow lake in Glover, VT, the yellow perch in Mills Riverside park in Jericho, and the larger fish were some that lived out their lives at the ECHO aquarium in Burlington, VT. Nice to know there's a little piece of all of those places represented in France.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gyotaku Batik - Try #2!

I finally had a chance to retry some Gyotaku batik. This time, I used cold water dyes and batik wax ( beeswax-paraffin mixture), and am much happier with the results. Like last time, I started by printing some fish on muslin. I then dyed the fabric yellow and waxed over the fish and made some splatters for visual interest. I then put the fabric pieces in either a magenta dye-bath or a turquoise dye bath. The dyes behave much like watercolor, and so colors build on eachother. So, the cloth in the magenta dye-bath came out a rich red, and the cloth in the turquoise dye bath came out a springy green (much greener than I had anticipated, but I like it just the same).
This time I tried boiling out the wax in a water bath instead of ironing, and this did a good job of preventing a hardened halo in the waxed areas. I primarily dyed handkerchief sized squares and sewed of the edges for a finished look. I think they would make nice small tablecloths, napkins, wall hangings, or could even be sewed into pillows. Brian and I are thinking of making napkins and place-mats and selling them in sets. I also made a long table-runner printed with large Tangs:

Most of the prints in this round were done with saltwater fish that were saved for us at a local pet store:


Butterfly fish:
But I also printed a few Bluegill:

I batiked one shirt I had printed previously with small yellow perch. I think the shirt came out pretty funky, and I think our customers will dig them - I know I do. I plan to make more of these in the future.

We also printed and batiked a few baby onesies, although I didn't get any pictures of them before carting them over to the gallery for sale. We've already sold a few after just one week, so they seem like they'll be a hit.

I plan to have some of the finished cloths up on my Etsy site for sale soon. Looking forward to trying more color combinations and making different finished products with the cloths. More ideas for other cool things to make out of fish printed batik cloth are welcome and appreciated!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Art on a Rain Barrel

To commemorate "Clean Water Day", the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) is holding an Art on a Rain Barrel Festival on May 15th. As part of this event, I volunteered to paint a rain barrel that will be auctioned off later this summer for a VINS fundraiser. You can find out more information about the event by clicking here.

When my Aunt first told me about this event, I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to mesh some natural science with art. I contacted VINS about participating and went to go pick up a barrel to paint. Then just a few days later, I was contacted through my work about presenting a river model flume that we use as an educational tool to demonstrate river processes. So, turns out I will be at the event as both an artist and a scientist.
I decided to paint my barrel with a fish theme, and feature some of the Vermont fish associated with a healthy cold water cobble bottom stream ecosystem. Below is a composite photo with a key to each of the fish species. I was originally planning to include invertebrates and different types of algae, but then decided to just keep it simple.
I took some liberties with the colors I used for some of the fish, and made the fish a bit larger than real life, sort of mimicking the way everything looks magnified when snorkeling under water. I wanted to make sure to include some of the habitat features that are critical for cold water fish species, such as cobbles and gravels free of excess sediment and large woody debris for cover.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Little Black Book

A few months ago, I made a concerted effort to infuse more creativity into my day. I started carrying a little black sketchbook around with me and taking at least a few minutes almost every day to just draw "something". Doesn't have to be anything special, just a chance to let my mind get in right brain mode for a few minutes. I've found that besides being a good way to get a pen or brush in my hand just about every day, it's also been good for my soul. Having a small creative outlet on my lunch break at work or spare moments around the house, has let me explore ideas I wouldn't have otherwise and gives my brain a sort of "reset", leaving me in a fresher state of mind. This week, I made the accomplishment of filling the last page of my sketchbook that I started last summer, and decided to share a few of my favorite sketches.

Some abstract color:
Some water studies of the Winooski River, which flows by my workplace:

I'm a little obsessed with the subterranean landscape:
Also a little obsessed with cephalopods. This one was a reaction to a news story about how octopi were observed collecting discarded coconut shell halves and reassembling them to use as a shelter. It's considered a form of "tool using", and thus highlights the high cognitive abilities of octopi. I think non-mammals, and especially invertebrates, get a bad rap in terms of people's perception of intelligence. Octopus, squid, cuttlefish are all in the class Cephalopoda (Phylum Mollusca), and are considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates. They're known for their problem solving abilities and ability to learn and adapt to new situations. The root "cephala" is latin for "head". Indeed, vertebrate or not, heads are where brains reside. So this little sketch was kind of a "no, duh..." reaction - not because I don't think cephalopods are amazing (on the contrary), I'm just not surprised to hear about octopi being so inventive.My version of Munch's "the scream" - renamed "the squeeze":
A brown bullhead. This and the two above were drawn with a non-waterproof pen and then brushed with water.
Some trees:

Some birds. The stork is based on a picture taken in Lithuania by friend Tony. I think of the other bird as a kind of superhero.

I saw this Carolina wren on Christmas day in Carbondale, IL. Had never seen one of those before.I drew this while flying over Toronto en route to St. Louis.
This reminds me of Pakistan. I have never been there, but this is sort of how I imagine it.

This is an abstraction of a thought about a description someone told me of how sometimes when the weather conditions are right, a very delicate and fine frost can protrude from tree bud tips.

Some random pen and ink doodles:

This one reminds me of cfl light bulbs -- sort of cfl light bulb people. An army of them.
Sort of sea anenomeish:

An abstracted landscape:

Today I made my first sketch in my next sketchbook. It's become a ritual for me, and I like it.