Marking Time…

This is what I feel I’m doing at the moment, marking time, waiting… Waiting for the spring, waiting for my studio to be build, waiting to climb out of the muddle of boxes that surround me in which I have packed all my materials so I can’t find anything… 

My sanity has been saved by having some wool and fleece  to hand so I have been needle felting pincushions.  As well as the two I made as prizes (which I got in the post this morning despite the snow and ice)…

I have made a couple more with a view to selling them when I get my Folksy shop up and running (another ‘Watch this Space’ moment!) It’s a comforting thing to do, needle felting.  It’s very tactile, it’s like magic feeling the change from soft fluffiness to springy firmness happening in your hand with just the action of the needle. And the colours are cheerful, just what we need with all this whiteness!

The sun shone yesterday and so Higgins and I managed to go out for a walk.  It really hasn’t been that easy in this weather.  Higgins is very much a fairweather walker, and any suggestion that we might go out in inclement conditions sends him scuttling behind a chair, or burrowing under his blanket, and I am easily persuaded not to bother myself!  However yesterday he was kitted out in his jacket and carried beyond the point of no return so he made the best of it.

I took the steam driven camera along and I’m getting such good results it makes me very frustrated with the Olympus (which is packed up to go back to the shop tomorrow)

As I sit here I am looking out at two very chilly chaps building the studio as the snow blows all around and into the cups of tea I have just taken out.  I suppose it concentrates the mind towards getting the roof on, I’m really glad I’m sitting in here at the computer!

The sky looks blue, it isn’t, it’s snowing!  I’m looking forward to showing this view in a few months when the sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom and there is a glass of something cool and delicious on the garden table!

A Wimwam for a Goose’s Bridle…

When ever I was rummaging through my Father’s toolbox and asking  ‘What’s that?’  too many times as a child my Father would tell me ‘That? It’s a wimwam for a goose’s bridle’ and, in the way of children I would go away quite happily, if a little confused.    I was quite grown up before I questioned the concept. (Actually, I am embarrassed when I look back at the number of things I accepted without question as a child AND I thought sprouts grew in tiny rows like fairy cabbages although why fairies would like such nasty bitter things…) But I digress.

A while ago I showed you a ‘thing’, a thing given to me by my crafty friend Kit, and made by her talented husband.  Because it was from Kit, I opened the present with my mind quite set on it being an amazing tool of some sort, a challenge.   So when I saw it, I knew at once it was a loom of some sort, for weaving amazing…things. And it was a challenge, because there were no instructions. There was a second part to the present too, eight reels of Nutscene jute in lovely colours, just what I needed to make the amazing things on my beautiful hand made loom.

So I sat for a while and I puzzled, and I couldn’t work out how to use my incredible hand made loom.  So while I was puzzling I photographed it, and blogged about it, and asked if anyone out there knew what it could be.  Then Kit came home and I phoned her and said ‘OK, I give up, what is it and how do I use it?’  After a baffled silence Kit said,’Do you really not know? Have you opened both parts?’ and I said ‘Yes, and the Jute string is lovely and the colours are beautiful and I know I can weave something lovely on my special loom but I don’t know how..’ 

And Kit said’ Oh dear I’m sorry, because you think I’ve been really clever and it’s just that I saw the Nutscene jute in the lovely colours and I knew you would like them and then I said to Bill it would nice to have something to put the reels on so he made a holder out of a nice piece of  walnut and I got the little scissors and the little brass thing at the end is a scissor holder…’

And I looked at it and thought,  ‘Of course,’  and if I had had a young person to hand they would have said ‘Duuur’.

So there is the answer to the question I posed a few posts ago, and I had a wonderful variety of answers so I was not alone in my puzzlement which made me feel somewhat better. I said there would be a prize, and in fact there are two, one for the correct answer and one for the answer that made me, and lot of other people laugh.  So without further ado, the winners are Emma, of Silverpebble who is the clever person who correctly guessed it was for storing yarn, and Hilary, who suggested it was a drying rack for Higgins’ welly boots, both sets, and I so wish it was true!

So Ladies, if you could email me your postal addresses I will send you both needle-felted pincushions made with hand dyed Merino and Blue-faced Leicester wool, heart-shaped appropriately for February and Valentines Day. My address is pennygjatgooglemail.com(replace the ‘at’ with@, I’m being spam conscious!)

(My Mother’s guess was that it was the wimwam for the proverbial goose’s bridle – she didn’t get a prize)

Too Many Cameras…

…and not enough photos.  The camera saga continues…sorry, I’m sure it will be resolved, just not sure if it will be this side of sanity.  I haven’t been able to get to Norwich to the camera shop so I’m still snarling at the Olympus.  In the meantime Tim, who is in the middle of the North Sea,  has bought me a second hand Fuji on Ebay.  We resolved the fact that it came without the Smart Card because I still had an old one from a past camera lurking in a drawer, complete with old photos I had forgotten about.  I have managed a few reasonable pictures this afternoon, and in doing so discovered that   the new old camera’s rechargable battery needs to be charged for six hours  to do 10 minutes photography.  Talk about swimming through treacle…

However, onwards and upwards.  This is what I thought was just what I wanted in 1995…

It was my first attempt at ‘Folk Art’ painting, a little desk which belonged to my grandfather and destined for the scrap heap.  It’s been in my studio and is crying out for something for something more ..er…restful …in the way of a paint job before it goes into the new studio.

And I have another doll. After I made the Fairy of Sensible Shoes I had to demonstrate how she was made to a class and so had another body tucked away in yet another box which surfaced in the clearout, naked and bald.  I spent a whole evening working on her hair.  I had some left over sock wool in brown, black and grey so I carefully cut all the grey sections out and painstakingly embedded each strand into her scalp with a felting needle. As I said, a whole evening.  How long for Higgins to do his own version of hairdressing?

Thirty seconds…

Some raging, tears and a good nights sleep later I tried again with a new head entirely, without rips, teethmarks and spit.  I abandoned the bandana and went for a miniature felt hat…

…with co-ordinating shoes…

I cheated with the socks, I now have a pair of gloves with the middle fingers missing!

Her little cardigan and bag are crocheted with Blue-faced Leicester wool left over from my hand dyed wool/scarf project, and the skirt is from the stash of fabrics accumulated during my recent ‘Polka Dot Period’ (any one can have a ‘Blue Period’), and here she is…

She sits on a VERY high shelf…

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.

Getting ahead with a hat…

Absolute bliss this weekend to creep off and leave the boys and spend two days having fun!  Ewa always turns up with yet another cunning plan to make felt making slightly less hard work and I’m all for that.  I’ve always felt slightly scared about making hats because of hat blocks and steaming and all the things you see in the more intimidating manuals.  It’s a big outlay if you turn out to be rubbish or you only have one hat in you. 

 

By the end of the first day of measuring and drawing, deciding on the colour schemes and laying out the fleece, we ended the day with each studio table holding a large amorphous shape of soggy wool, covered in plastic.  It was hard to imagine that any of them could posibly be transformed into any sort of head wear.

That’s what I love about felt making though, the magical transformation from a wet sheep to something with form and structure, colour and substance.  Wool absorbs dye so well, the colours are intense and saturated, a visual feast.

I was pretty pleased with my hat, just the thing to wear on Planet Penny…

…now… a hat block…I’m just off to Ebay!