Saturday, February 25, 2012

Felt Landscapes

It feels so good to be starting to experiment with something I have been thinking about for a very long time -- landscapes in felt. It's funny how ideas can stew for a long time, and then all of a sudden, they're ready to pop and I explode into action. I go through cycles like this, where I am not actively creating, but mulling ideas as I drift off to sleep at night. Then something randomly piques my interest (like an inspiring picture or a conversation), and all of a sudden I'll start a new project. Then I become an obsessed insomniac, unable to stop thinking about the project and the next time I'll be able to work on it. Sort of sounds like a scary drug addiction, now that I think about it... I wonder if there are similar chemicals being released in my brain? Guess I'd rather be addicted to art than anything else.

In this particular case, the trigger for starting a new project was a photograph of a gooseneck barnacle I saw on an old nature calendar -- I was intrigued by the colors, patterns and textures of this amazing creature, and started to envision how I would recreate it in felt. It's a bit of a roundabout chain of thoughts that lead me to felt landscapes instead of barnacles, and that's a topic for another day (in the mean time, you should Google gooseneck barnacles if you've never seen one - amazing!). I do intend to work on a gooseneck barnacle project, but that idea is still incubating a little more.

Anyhow, I've been working on some felt landscapes on days I'm not working at my real job and my little one is napping. I figured out the other day that this probably affords me about 4 hours a week to work on artistic endeavors, and although that's less than I'd like, I'm actually kind of impressed with how much I accomplish in that time. I think part of the reason is I spend a lot of time thinking before the actual doing. So when the opportunity arises to work on a project, I know exactly what I want to do.

So, here are some photos of works in progress. These aren't finished pieces, and since this is a new format for me (a smaller wall hanging rather than a big thick rug), I'm experimenting with different techniques.

Laying out the fibers to gauge color combinations (decided against a dark sky):
A mountain landscape taking shape, loosely based on Camel's Hump (or at least the Camel's Hump in my mind - the view from the north, of course):
Adding some foothills and firming things up a bit:

And made smooth with a final wet felting:
I'm thinking that I may add some texture to this with some hand stitching, but am not certain what style I'll use, so am giving it time to stew for a while. I have a second felt landscape in the works where I am experimenting with various embroidery and stitching, and this will probably influence how I approach the Hump piece.

Starting to stitch:
Some detail:
A little more progress on the stitching:

It's difficult to see in the photos, but I like how the stitching makes the felt puff up and add some dimension to the piece. My plan is to stitch more heavily in detail in the foreground, and have less density in stitching towards the background. I think for the sky I will use very small stitches with a single strand of thread and lines emanating from the sun. I'm excited to see how it turns out!

Mountain Goat

Last summer, my friend Sacha did some traveling, hiking, camping etc. in the U.S. Rockies. On one of her hikes, she came upon a little clump of fiber that had shed from a Mountain Goat. Knowing I have a thing for fiber, she brought it back to show me and let me keep a little. Holding it in my fingers, it was fun to imagine the life of the goat who had worn the fiber, scampering over mountain sides, doing things that wild goats do. It was extremely soft, and I could imagine that if I were living off the land as an early human, it was a substance I would seek out and use for clothing and warmth.

I kept twisting it in my fingers, and decided it would be fun to try to spin some into a bit of string. I removed some of the debris that had collected in it, carded it a little with some hand carders, then spun it on my spinning wheel. I then Navajo plied it (a technique that allows you to ply from a single strand instead of two), and voila, I'd made about 10 inches of Mountain Goat yarn. I decided to memorialize it by attaching it to a felted pin cushion I had made in the shape of a mountain. I even made a little mountain goat with pin legs to live on top of the mountain.

I was feeling lazy, and wasn't really sure how I'd attached them, so didn't give him any horns. Poor little hornless Mountain Goat.

I attached the bit of Mountain Goat yarn with a needle felting tool in a spiral around the mountain and outlined the snow cap. I'd originally made the pin cushion to give to Sacha as a little Christmas present, but it wasn't quite finished in time. Now that it had her Mountain Goat yarn attached to it, I knew of all people, she would appreciate it most, and just gave it to her as a random, occasion-less present. The best kind of present to get, in my opinion!