Thursday, May 7, 2015

On Being a Student....

 To close off my teaching season, I decided to give myself a creative gift, and become a student for a weekend. It was such a refreshing and informative time.  Even outside of learning new skills under the extremely talented ceramicist, Julie MacKinnon

 The workshop was held on the my first weekend back after teaching at the Okanagan School of the Arts, and many weeks of both online teaching and on location workshops around the province.  On the first morning of the workshop I was acutely aware of how I was thinking about that day, in contrast to the first day of a workshop when teaching.

 I have no experience with ceramics.  Although I had some projects ideas in mind,  I had no expectation for my own output during the class. I did not expect to make anything close to the quality of Julie's work, whose hands have put in their hours to develop an intimate knowledge of the material. I didn't expect any notes. I expected that any information I needed to retain I would be responsible for noting myself, in images, sketches or words. I loved that I just had to show up with enthusiasm; that all the materials and tools needed were supplied.  I started the morning just looking forward to having a great creative time, with a group of other women, guided through the processes by Julie's knowledge, experience and good humour.

 I was really excited when I saw that Julie was offering this workshop. In one of those exuberant sparks of inspiration I saw how ceramics could provide the perfect base for a line of felt table lamps I have in process. The white felt lighting has a sense of ceramics when unlit...the surface design potential is very similar. I see simple clear glazed white ceramic bases, in perfect relationship with a the matte white felt work.  Julie is wonderful in allowing her students room to experiment and design. The lamp base above will have red linen stitching through the holes in the sides...we can't escape our own material languages! 

 This base is designed to have felted spikes coming through the openings, that have a relationship in balance with spikes on the felt shade. It really is so exciting. 

 I found as a student, with much teaching experience and a lifelong craft practise, I really wanted to understand the materiality of the clay. My hands understand every aspect of the wool fibres as they change as I work. It is intuitive and immediate, and requires no thinking....This is where the 10 000 hours of working as a craftperson brings your understanding of a material. But my hands don't understand clay, like Julie's do. I wanted to know what my fingers should be feeling, and how this would change how I would work with the clay.  The tactile experience and understanding was more important to me than the end product.  Julie was wonderful in answering my questions and explaining the different "hands" when working with clay.


 I became aware that there are two definite approaches to workshops. Really the difference between master/process based classes and interest classes. It benefits everyone to clearly differentiate between these when people sign up for a workshop.  Ceramics will (probably...almost certainly) never be my main material to work with, so my mindset in attending the class was entirely interest based. A little side trip into a new world...I know many people that come to my classes work in felt, and fully expect to take every nuance of what we do home, to integrate into their own work.  This sets a very different tone for both student and teacher.  Both are good and wonderful...but quite different in expectations and delivery.

 I loved having the opportunity to work on the other side of the table, to work with a material that felt familiar and yet very foreign, to talk with all the interesting and creative participants, and learn from such an exceptional much so I'm going back for more in June...The last chance I'll have to play outside my medium before intensive studio time kicks in for the summer. I can't wait, and my sketchbook is filling up with projects that combine felt and clay.  

  If Julie and I could work out the logistics around the firing and glazing of the ceramics, we could create a great collaborative workshop!

You can see more of Julie's work here:
Julie MacKinnon Ceramics
Warm wishes, 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

full(filled) exhibition and Artist Interview

  All of the exhibition pieces for full(filled) are just about finished. Each work is now getting individual attention each day, making it ready for installation on Tuesday. The exhibition is in quite a small but interesting space. This means there are not many pieces in the show- one very large wall that will cover a whole surface of the gallery, three felt skins, and smaller felt sculptures. It will  feel soft and intimate, and I hope invite people into the space and some quiet introspection.

The people at Craft Council of British Columbia have been amazing in organizing this exhibition and promoting the work. It is wonderful to feel so supported.

Link to my interview with the CCBC:
Artist Interview

full(filled) :: February 5th – March 19th 2015. 
Opening Reception :: Thursday February 5th, 7 – 9pm
1386 Cartwright Street, Granville Island, Vancouver

Artist Talk ::  Thursday February 5th, 6pm – 7pm across the street at Carousel Theater 1411 Cartwright Street, Granville Island, Vancouver

Monday, January 19, 2015

Starting in balance....

The Valhallas- the view from our cabin....

In my book of everything (my special black book that some of you will know!) this year is looking just fantastic, and got off to a wonderful beginning with some quiet personal time in a most beautiful place. The Valhalla Ranges in British Columbia. (I honestly did not appreciate the name of the place in looking for a perfect retreat until writing this!).  
Our cabin in the woods...I'm in the middle- almost a head shorter than my youngest two boys!

 My family was in need of some snow time, so we headed up into the mountains where we had rented a log cabin in the woods looking out over gorgeous lake towards snow topped mountains. Idyllic. Quiet. Peaceful. were the natural hot springs we visited in the area...within our creative practises we need some soul nourishment....inspiration that has nothing to do directly with art, craft and design.

I've been working non-stop since returning on my sculptural pieces for my upcoming solo exhibition in Vancouver next month.  More pictures and blog posts of this will come in the next few weeks! It's coming least I tell myself that and believe it (a little) having worked on a few exhibitions feels very tenuous at the moment, but I recognize this as part of the process and normal for this stage.

And I gave an artist talk and workshop to the Victoria Weavers and Spinners Guild this past weekend. They are a vibrant, rich group. It was truly an honour to be invited. They have such full life experiences and a wealth of knowledge and skill in the fibre arts that is deeply humbling and inspiring to be around.

The workshop was in a beautiful space. Lots of light, and a great group of women willing to laugh, explore, get excited about new techniques! It is so energising and enlightening to teach these workshops. I love it.

Hi Leola! She is a dear friend, and I'm looking forward to visiting her in her studio this spring....

A great start to the new year with a trinity in balance that I hope will continue as a theme through 2015. Some time in the natural world, relaxing, dreaming, thinking, breathing (heart); some personal art development time (hands), and some teaching and demonstrating (head).  Each one feeds me in different but equally important ways.  If I can keep the the ratios right, I hope to move through this year in a much more healthy way than the last two.  It feels like a promising start!

Warm wishes, 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Terra Textures-Surface Design in Felt Workshops

 Katia Mokeyeva and I are absolutely delighted to announce a workshop series to be offered this April at the Okanagan School of the Arts in Penticton, BC.

 The idea is to create a mix and match workshop combination where students can chose an assortment of classes, learn very different felting styles from two enthusiastic, supportive teachers, while creating a complimentary collection of felt wearables. We work from a similar starting point...nature as our inspiration and the space that feeds our creative spirits....and from this core, we then work quite differently in every design, layout and felting process....but both with an emphasis on surface design.   We will both be offering  two  x one day accessory classes, plus a three day garment class on the weekend.

The Okanagan School of the Arts at the Shatford Centre in Penticton is a perfect location for our workshops. Lots of room and a very supportive space, in a beautiful natural setting. Lake, mountains, orchards in bloom,'s quite idyllic....

Full workshop information and registration through the Okanagan School of the Arts will be available On December 15th, 2015. I'll send you the links when that happens.

It really is very exciting! 

Warm wishes, 


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Online Felting Workshops: Spring 2015

  Registration is now open for the four online felting classes I'll be offering in Spring 2015.

 The Surface Design Online class has gotten bigger every time I've offered it....there is always just one more idea that comes up, related to the materials. Because of this and student feedback from the Fall sessions, I've extended the class to be 8 weeks long. We have two built in studio weeks. These are break weeks, for you to catch up on the previous two weeks worth of materials, or to implement these new techniques in a project. I think it will be a wonderful addition. A comfortable sense of community builds up in the classroom, and having a few more weeks together will be great.

Felt Bags Online remains the same, covering everything you need to know to make a great seamless bag. These can be any style- open market bag, messenger style with flaps, or more sculptural.

  Felt illuminated Online will take a different format this Spring. It will be released over three weeks, with week one covering wool breeds and surface techniques for great illumination, week two covers drum, bell and empire style lampshades, and week three covers ball styles as well as more unusual lampshades.  There are two different methods for resist construction and layout, in order to create your perfect light!

Felt Jewelry Online will be available this Spring! It is also taking a different format and will now be a four week class, with each week covering a different basic aspect of feltmaking; flat felt, cords, beads and balls.... The felt jewelry class is best suited to beginning feltmakers or intermediate feltmakers looking for a light and pleasurable class..  

For full information on each class, and to register, please click on the images above.
I love teaching feltmaking...and this online format has been wonderful to be able to connect with feltmakers all over the world. I hope you'll join us in February!
Warm wishes, 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Okanagan School of the Arts Workshops 1

  I have been working in one version of my most perfect place... there are several variations on this... but this is definitely a good one. The Okanagan is beautiful. And home to Canada's best wines, including some amazing reds. I'm staying on the Naramata bench, right on the KVR walking trail, in a vineyard... overlooking the lake.... with fine sunrises and sunsets. It is heavenly...and that is just my mornings and evenings.

  All day I spend at the Shatford Centre, home of the Okanagan School of the Arts. Some days I am teaching... and then others I am there as Artist in Residence. I'm using this time to tidy up some old work, refine my plans and goals for 2015/2016 and then start to enter into the mindspace for my upcoming exhibition in February. It is a wonderful world! Even with a separate studio space at home, and older children now, who are pretty self-sufficient, it is still a unique experience to go to a different space and focus. I think that is the have clear goals to work towards in this special time set aside....with some breathing spaces allowed for...of course...and a fine glass of local red wine.

  This weekend was a three day session on Joomchi Feltmaking. We had a small class, due to a few cancellations, so I had the opportunity to make my own piece as a demonstration. With experienced feltmakers in the class, we delved deeper into perfect fit in garment construction and with a focus on lots of surfaces and composition techniques. 
All of the pieces were beautiful and perfect for their individual wearer and creator...

  And my own, red study....working with a single colour to really highlight the textures in the piece.

   This is first class I have taught in years that was not full. It was a tiny ego hit...being honest with you... but not for long...this smaller class size opened up opportunity to go much farther with my students and create something alongside them. We had more time for discussion and even a short "felt clinic" looking at past projects and tips for improving each work. It was a great gift of space and time.... These were three calm, creative, wonderful days, in an incredible setting and facility. It was pure pleasure.

And there are still 4 more days to go....
Warm wishes, 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Technique: Colour Shifting with Batting

  Wool fibres can be used like paints, laid out to create surface colour changes, but also combined in layers to build new colors through shadowing. We can also use this simple technique to create a shift or transition in colour progression.  It can be easier to imagine how to blend the layers when using wool roving than when using wool batting.  This is a method I use to create a more subtle shift in colour when laying out using wool batting.

This technique is illustrated using C1/Pelsull and C1 wool batting from New England Felting Supply.

 For many projects, we only need half the total thickness of the batt.
Unroll the batting so you have it at its full thickness. Then open up the layers into two- divide the sheet into two thicknesses. The wool batting divides easily this way…like sheets of phyllo dough….one half will usually be a little heavier than the other. For this layout, I am using the slightly more thick layer. Remember to do this for all your wool colours.

 On the area where you want to continue your layout and start the colour transition, divide this wool layer into two, and pull the top layer up about 2 inches (5cm). This amount will depend on the size of your overall project and composition.Pulling up a larger amount like 4 inches (10cm) will give you a large transition area with more opportunity for gradation.

 Using one hand as a clamp, pull off this part of the top layer.

 Repeat this process on your next colour. In this case I'm using two complementary colours.

 Lay the thin section of the new colour, over the thin section of the previous colour. Because these are both half thicknesses, the transition area now will be the same density as the full colour layer.

  Repeat this same process for all of your layout and colour transitions.

  Wet out and compress as usual.

 You may want to add this the very lightest, finest wisps, not adding weight, but another layer to deepen the gradation through the transition.

 Felt using your usual methods.

 In your transition areas, the two colours overlapping migrate through one another, creating colour shadowing. This migration is what will create the seamless colour transitioning. Tossing your felt really helps to get those fibres integrated and achieve good migration. It is very important to full your felt completely. If you are not seeing any colour shadowing, you probably have more felting to do!

 The transition areas show clear colour blending. A definite purple between the analogous blue and fuchsia, and a brown/orange tone coming from the lime green and fuchsia. This transition could be even more graduated by making a more deep overlap, and lightly adding wisps to the edges of the transition area in the closest colour. The colour transitioning is more subtle between analogous colours than complementary colours. This would also be true when using natural wool colours.

 This is a beautiful and simple technique for adding more depth to your felt composition, with just a simple variation in wool layout.

  A question about laying out using batting in this way was asked by a student in one of my online classes. I started writing out a text description of how to achieve the gradated result, and realized pictures just would tell it so much better! It was a fun exercise for me....a nice distraction from larger projects I have on the go, which I so need from time to time....and also a great opportunity to write a post here!

Warm wishes,