The Prism 2019 theme is ‘Fragility’ and knowing just how robust the process of making the felted figures is I really can’t imagine them as fragile. However by combining clay with the fibres on wire would create a fragile form – the fibres being burnt out in the kiln….
I am not a ceramicist! – I did experiment with this technique during my degree but is was rather unsuccessful.
Finding a kiln – could ask the lovely people at Brighton University where they have huge kilns that I used to experiment and the Phoenix centre rent kin space – not as big….. or I could pit fire the pieces myself…..
I make my own soap and have done for over 10 years and I always use it to make felt.
There is nothing quite so good as handmade soap and it can be made in bar or liquid form. There are many great websites and YouTube videos now that recount the history of soap and how to make the stuff – not the melt and pour variety but the cold process method – it’s Chemistry in the Kitchen’!
If you would like to view the my soap course please click on this image:
For the ingredients I can’t find in the supermarket I go to The Soap Kitchen (UK) and there are also plenty of good suppliers on Ebay.
It has taken me about 6 months to develop a full size felt figure and there have been plenty of problems to overcome along the way when upsizing from a 40cm tall figure to one that is 4 times bigger!
From these small figures…
…to this one – 164cm high
The problems I encountered were due to the scale of the figure and they began with the wire.
I tried heavy fencing wire however this just wasn’t strong enough to hold the figure up right one leg so I had a length of steel tubing bent to follow the line of the spine down to the toe of the standing leg and built the rest of the body around this structure.
The musculature was added beginning with a layer of knitted woollen strips to cover the wire to form a base for the wool fibres. I used Blue Faced Leicester wool, wet felted in layers, to build the shape of the body and a steamer and sander to aid with the felting and fulling.
The final layer or ‘skin’ was felted separately and then stitched onto the the figure.
As you can see from the variety of figures in this post I have made several more! I am now going to experiment with adding the colour and texture straight onto the figures to cut out the rather lengthy processes of making the felt skin, stitching it in place and fulling with steam and sander. So watch this space!
The movement and emotion in this art form is wonderful and I use images of dancers to create the sculptures.
Starting with a wire I make a skeleton and then cover it lightly with knitted fabric to give me a soft layer to attach the wool fibres. I then build up the musculature with layers of wool fibre using soap and water to felt so that the final shape is firm and well sculpted.
The decorative skin is a piece of handmade felt that I hand stitch onto the body of the sculpture – this is the most time consuming part of the process.
Three dancers ready to be mounted on wood
I love the contrast between the rough felt and smooth polished wood – both are natural and compliment each other.
People often ask me how to look after their felt sculptures – and it is very simple!
Just wipe gently with a damp cloth to remove dust. Moths are the main concern especially in the summer. You can buy moth killer to spray on the felt or periodically put the felt sculpture in the freezer over night – this will kill any moth eggs.
I will be posting the dance sculptures in my shop in the near future and if you are interested in ordering a sculpture or would like me to notify you when new sculptures are ready – please contact me.