eBook Structural & Sculptural Complex 3D Shapes in Felt
My new book has finally been published and to celebrate the first 50 customers get How to make Felt for free. Its been a long path to publication but its worth the wait – 88 pages of 11 Projects plus an extra section on more ideas. Easy to follow and loads of photos. Its my biggest book yet. Value at $10.
Learn how to shape and mould felt into complex 3D forms using a variety of template resist and prefelt methods for wet felting techniques. You only need basic felting skills to start as the multiple felting techniques in 11 sessions and 9 projects, in Structural and Sculptural, will give you the foundation skills to create your own complex shapes in felt. Loads of images and diagrams, and step by step instructions will lead you through the processes.
I have had requests for images of the individual Cacti made from felt and a little about each one so here goes! First up the Barrel Cacti. I love these slow growing prickly giants. It took me several attempts to get the ribs right – each resist becoming more complex and more barrel like.
Cacti and succulents come in all sizes from tiny pebble size conophytums to giant saguaros. Working small has issues in detail but working large poses 2 main challenges; making a self supporting structure and handling the piece before it is felted. In the design phase I ensured that any branches, ribs or vanes were the same angle and proportion that they were in nature. And when constructing the Saguaro I used a differential layering technique to ensure the felt’s structural integrity.
The saguaro was 2 metres long laid out making it about 30cm longer than my studio table, and used over a kilogram of wool. As wool can absorb many times its own weight in water it was very heavy once wet. I used strategic layers of thin plastic and bubblewrap to keeping everything in place and then folded the piece in various places to manoeuvre it.
The ribs of cacti are either fleshy branch like sections of the main trunk or perpendicular vanes that sit proud of the trunk. This structure is a survival mechanism, it allows them to swell and shrink, to manage dramatic rainfall fluctuations without cracking or wilting. Spines are both a protection mechanism, they prevent predators from munching on the fleshy part of the plant, give shade, impede water loss and insulate against the cold. So it was important that I had a similar structure in the felt – I solved this with multi- ribbed resists and vane like protrusions encased in a final layering of wool.
Cacti have different kinds of spines and spikes depending on their main purpose. Some are defence against predators – it difficult to munch into something with long thick spines all over it. Some are for collecting moisture and providing shade so are finer and more delicate, and some are for insulation against cold and heat. These are intrinsic to the shape and structure of cacti so I had to get them right. I solved this with a combination of very thin stiffened silk nuno felt cut into thin strips and tiny glass beads.
The Cactus Garden pieces aren’t replicas of cacti & succulents, to think I could “reproduce” nature in its perfection would be arrogant but to infer their reality through attention to detail and context is achievable. To this end I studied the hundreds of images I have taken over the years from various botanic gardens around the world, and plants in my own garden; noting the nuances in their ribs, spines and proportions then researching their habitat and growing requirements. Finally “planting” them in terracotta pots filled with stones and pebbles and displaying them in appropriate scenes adds to the perception of reality.
I have had a lifelong obsession with succulents and cacti. My first memory of them is in 1960s on a road trip along the Port Wakefield road north of Adelaide in South Australia. A mysterious and strange cactus garden loomed on the side of the road the only thing for miles in the flat dry landscape. The garden was a dichotomy; I found it strangely welcoming but on the other hand hostile looking. The weird shapes, the spikes and the spines of the plants were foreboding. On the other hand the garden had a dry stone wall and entrance way, dotted with rusty wheels and farm detritus that inspired such curiosity that many felt compelled to pullover and have a look. It was a complete contrast to the gardens of the time in Australia; most people had a front yard filled with roses and delicate water hungry plants and in the back a large lawn with a Hills hoist and veggie patch. Water wise was not yet a concept.
Like many things, cacti and succulents suffer from faddism, they become in vogue and then fade from popularity and sadly many amazing cactus gardens have been left to a slow decline, as has the one that inspired me as a little girl.
My other long time obsession is felt making and in particular sculptures and structures, so it was no surprise that eventually I would make succulents and cacti from felt. Triggered by a friend’s photos of cacti, from a recent trip to the USA, cacti took over my life – for nearly 12 months. It started with one barrel cactus and ended up in a whole garden.
Its been a while since I have blogged regularly and now feel the need to do so again. I have got a really busy year ahead, and as I found when studying at Uni, blogging helps me keep things clear in my tangled maze of a brain. So what have I been doing for the past 2 and a bit years? Graduated from Uni with a First Class Honours degree in History, travelled the world and became obsessed with making Cacti & Succulents from felt. Yes from felt. I became so obsessed I made a whole garden. My video is below I hope you enjoy and please feel free to share.
Got a Highly Commended Thematic Category in the Scarf Festival in Geelong for my Coast to Coast scarf. Wool on silk using 33 resists.
The theme for the festival was “coastlines” and my scarf was inspired by the Japanese traditional drawings of waves pounding the Japanese coast, I have used the hollow form of felt to produce movement and light stitching and beads for detail, to hint at the subtle strokes of the Japanese work.
The scarf is a tube (resist 1) with 16 resists perpendicular to the tube at each end for the waves.