After a full 2 years hiatus, I’m preparing to create new work. It’s a bit strange for me, because when I stopped making work at that time, I thought, “That’s it, no more, end of an era”. And in fact, it was the end of one era with art quilts, but little could I have expected that a new medium would come into my life and inspire me to start making again. This new medium is directly related to my move to Russia, where I’ve been organizing my life and learning a new language.
When I could begin to understand Russian, I started watching YouTube videos about felting. It’s a fairly popular hobby here and there’s a great wealth of knowledge being shared from masters of the craft. There certainly isn’t as much information being shared for free in the English language, so I consider it essential that I know Russian.
I first made a lot of mittens….A LOT OF MITTENS! Then I moved on to hand puppets which are my current primary occupation. They are so much fun to look at. They keep me active and allow time and space for me to practice my listening skills in Russian (audiobooks are essential to any handcraft, I think!). They keep me from sitting on a chair all day (I felt my work standing up). But I can't say that they awaken the same spark in me as fine art. This spark arises from the intrigue of problem solving and pushing material limitations.
So now I've made the decision to dive into art-making again. I need to rediscover the landscape in a slightly different medium (felt, rather than quilts) and in a different country. There are a lot of logistics involved, including sourcing the materials I need. I've just spent over a week carefully combing through the internet to find wool, silk fibers, silk cloth, silk threads in preparation. I've carefully considered my theme and potential means of expressing this theme, which has a strong impact on my choice of materials. I have to admit, at first it was fun and exciting, but by the end of the week, it was just stressful. But luckily, I’ve now officially gathered all that will be required and now I just need to patiently wait for their arrival. In the meantime I am gathering and sketching ideas.
I think in this period of waiting, it will be beneficial to review previous work and also share more about its process. When I was in the thick of things, creating these quilts, I didn’t take the time to do that because I was always busy either creating or tending to the “business” side of things. So over the next few weeks I want to document the quilted works from behind the scenes. This will also be a way for me to reflect on what lessons, techniques and strategies I can take from that medium and that era as I move onto another medium and era.
So stay tuned as I share some never before seen photos of quilts in the making.
Here I decided to try wet felting a cat face in order to create a hand puppet that is truly damage-proof by little kids. Through my usual method of dry felting is very durable, it is possible to be damaged if in the wrong tiny little hands. The end result was not satisfactory, and I ended up giving it the usual dry-felted face over the original face shown here.
Over all conclusion: I will probably never try this experiment again. It's just not my style. But I'm glad I tried and now I can lay this thought to rest :)
Every cat and dog hand puppet I make naturally requires whiskers. The standard option is to use sewing thread, or buy some kind of string. I like making all elements of the puppet by hand, so I chose to create whiskers using the same materials as the rest of the puppet. I wasn't sure at first how to do this - not at all! But as with all art, there are synchronous occurrences and the light bulb goes on! I randomly turned on a video on Youtube about how to make a hood which included a thick cord to cinch it tight around the face. The lady created this cord in a way I would not have thought of myself, because in principle it involves laying out fibers horizontally, rather than vertically. Anyway, I took the technique and simply scaled it down to make thinner strings.
Check out this time-lapse video and then try it yourself!
All that's required is a little wool, water, soap and time. The amount of wool and the amount of pulling affect the thickness of your finished string. If your string is too thin, it will break, and if too thick, it won't look right as whiskers. Trial and error is necessary to obtain the right thickness and consistency for your project.