I use felting as a means to create beautiful objects – fascinated by the ancient technique and the inherent simplicity of creating felt – yet also intrigued by the endless possibility of the material. Layering fibres to achieve a strong textile, beautiful colours and using the strength of her body, a bit of soap and time – is a continuation of my work with other materials.
I learned wet-felting through taking workshops in the mid 90’s. After graduating from OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design), my painter career took off and I put felting on the back burner for a while, yet always reading on it, collecting books with techniques and further educating myself through workshops with instructors in Canada and Switzerland.
Wet vs. Needle (dry) Felting
Wool fibres have little scales on each fibre – the goal of the felting process is to “tangle” up the fibres either with warmth, water and soap, or by use of a mechanical device (i.e. a barbed felting needle).
I use needle felting to make the heads of my dolls and occassionaly little critters. I also use it to tack wool fibres in place for wet felting.
Wet felting fibres makes an extremly strong fabric. By adding warm soapy water to the fibres, the scales open up – manipulating them guides the fibres closer together with the soap adding as a lubricant. Vigurously rolling and trowing the bonded fibres makes them shrink (generally by 30 – 50%) and entagles them in a irreversible way.
As with any craft, using the best materials and tools you can find makes it more pleasurable and results in a quality product. Originally I imported felting fibres from Europe just for my own needs, then for my students — slowly word has spread and The Olive Sparrow is not the only place in down-town Toronto where you can access many different types of wool fibres, felting needles and other specialty items.
Learning to felt can be intimidating when one is trying to learn from books. Learning basic techniques such as laying out the fibres, handling the wet fibres and creating beautiful objects soon teaches an aspiring felter that this medium has virtual limitless potential to create both beautiful objects and practical items. I like to teach various building blocks that can be combined in a wide variety of further explorations: learning to felt a flower teaches: felting with a resist, prefelt, shaping the prefelt, colour work, working with various fibre types, handling the wet felt in different ways, drying techniques that lead to sculptural forms.
Felting for teachers
Felting is a wonderful activity that can be used in the class room through group and individual projects. As a teacher, once you know the basic principles of felting, I can assist you in planning simple and successful projects for your class.
In Europe, especially Germany and Switzerland, felting has been a very popular expressive art form for a few decades now. Through the observations of felters that also have a background in therapeutic and healing work, it has often been observed how felting can be a wonderful way to help children with behavioral difficulties and adults with mental health issues to gain both confidence and inner calm. My hope is to teach basic felting skills to teachers and those working with people in those areas so that they might share the benefits of it with their students and patients. Although I am not qualified as an therapist, I have grown up with a mother that has had severe brain injuries when I was 12 years old and have a working understanding of dealing with people that have limitations. If you are working in the field, I would love to hear from you.
Felting can be done in virtually any space that can handle a bit of water – your kitchen, the basement, outdoors, I have even seen it done in fully carpeted rooms – although having a space where you have a lot of space is sometimes not an option. This is why I have decided to offer the use of my space at select times. The prerequisites to booking the studio space is that you have taken at least one workshop from me. Please contact me for pricing.
Wet Felting – Open felting Studio
Spend time at The Olive Sparrow studio to felt to your hearts content. Select times are available for use of studio space while I am present.
Wet Felting – Open felting Studio with Private Instruction
Spend time at The Olive Sparrow studio to felt to your heart’s content. Select times are available for use of studio space while I am is present to teach you specific skills and/or work with you on a special project (this includes e-mail discussion prior to the time).