A Feeling for Felt


Spending the weekend with Ewa and the rest of the Felt Hat Gang has made me think afresh about my whole love affair with woolliness and how it evolved.  You can see that living on Planet Penny with a Pink Sheep has made me pretty woollyminded!

When I started at Norwich School of Art and Design (as it was called then) back in 2001 I had had a long history of dabbling in textiles under one guise or another.  I went on to the Visual Studies Degree Course determined to find out what else there was out there. Visual Studies is a unique course in that it gives you the opportunity to explore every medium to find out exactly how you want to express your ideas.  In the first year we had workshops in photography, welding, Photoshop and web design, textiles, etching, silkscreen printing, woodwork, blacksmithing, casting, machine embroidery, creative writing…At the end of that, if you realised that your raison d’etre was to create a wonderful three dimentional steel, patchwork edifice on a wrought iron base etched with embroidered poetry you knew it would be possible. 

To begin with I struggled with the fact that despite trying all of that with varying degrees of success, in the end my heart was still firmly textile bound.  I struggled because it felt like laziness.  But I realised after a while that  I now had a whole new perspective on making, and materials and what they could do.

I also rebelled against the expectation that to be Art it must be uncomfortable, even unpleasant.  Ever since Duchamp shocked society with his urinal ‘Fountain’, it seems to be obligatory to be outrageous, to the point of tedium.  It doesn’t matter if the message is lost, create your piece with pigs blood and elephant poo and it must be good.  I was even told that I would ‘get over’ my desire to make things which would make people happy!!

So my little corner of the communal studio became a little oasis of comfiness.  Because of the M.E. I had to have a comfortable chair to retreat to, and there I sat, and I knitted.  I knitted tiny tiny things, a huge sock you could use as a sleeping bag, a cocoon into which you could retreat while you worked on becoming a butterfly.  I wound a huge ball of wool using all the oddments of wool that Norwich’s charity shops could supply which prompted endless debates around ‘what would happen if ‘ scenarios..  Once I started deconstructing wool, discovering the sacks of Merino rovings in the college supplies shop, the rainbow of dyes in the textile workshop…

I’m not going to write a dissertation of how amazing wool is, or the history of felt or any of the things I found out about it, and myself on the ‘journey’ (popular buzzword) that was my degree.  However, my theme for the degree show, which had hovered scarily in the the background all through the preceeding years, became obvious to me as I explored the protective qualities of felt.

Hence my attempts to stem the coastal erosion at Happisburgh with a cosy wrapping of red felt…

 and needle felted cocoons for the safe transportation of glass. 

A late discovery of needle felting led to the arrival of Tallulah, a slightly raddled old stripper who has seen better days,

… and to continue the cosiness, a nice pot of tea.

8 Responses

  1. Wow! I remember all these things, and much more. I’ve been thinking of doing a blog post about you, but I might just give a link to this. Wonderful pictures!

    Elephant poo is for gardens. A felt stripper is for life;-)

  2. Tallulah is charming and much more amusing than anything to be seen in formaldehyde . Were she more weatherproof I’d like to see her in Trafalgar Square ….she’d be really at home in Amsterdam too , come to think of it .

  3. Wow – these are awesome! I love wool but, alas, cannot felt or follow a pattern to save my life! I plain knit stripey little rectangles and make them into bags. If I am feeling generous I may add buttons! I think it’s lovely to make things which make other people happy. Life can be hard enough without making it more so!

  4. Lovely to read of someone elses journey through an art degree.

  5. Great stuff. You really are very talented.
    FELT 4U

  6. I lurve Tallulah and the teapot and cup and saucer. Didn’t know you’d made Tallulah !
    Respec !

  7. Thanks for visiting my blog .

    I like your creations and appreciate your writing about the process of creating vs the process of shocking . Seems that the world (at least the western world) has become so numb that some folks need to be shocked to feel anything at all …. (at least that is my psycho-babble explanation for the increase in sex, violence and fart jokes in art and popular culture/media) …then again, I do love watching Adult Swim .

    About my butterfly flitting from project to project, I am both Asperger….(obsessive focus and ability to do tedious tasks ) and ADD…..(fluttering) , so am in constant battle with my own contradictory neurology . TMI ?

  8. Oh, the good old days at Art School, lovely to see the work again Penny, love the hat too!!

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