Felting the landscape

Landscape and felt equivalent

In the name of getting myself out of the house and into contact with more people, I’ve been looking for interesting things to do locally. I thought I’d keep an open mind and try anything that’s arty, crafty, or alternative, as these are the kind of places I feel I’m most likely to come across interesting people.  A shop/art gallery called the Funky Aardvark has opened in Chester, and they were running a one-day workshop called Felting the Landscape.  The idea is you make a picture out of felt, based on a photograph.  There are pretty obvious reasons why I was interested in this and it sounded like fun so I thought I’d give it a go.  You can see my piece of felt above, underneath the landscape photo I used for inspiration.

It’s certainly not a masterpiece by anyone’s standards, but I don’t think it’s too bad for a first attempt.  I have no claims to be a textile artist, and I don’t think it’s a line I’ll be pursuing!  I’m happy sticking to photography – where I might have some modicum of talent – but it was an interesting exercise to transform something from one medium into another.  One of the big disadvantages of studying something through distance learning is that there aren’t any opportunities to step outside your main focus of study or to combine different media.

Felting is a very imprecise thing as the wool fibres move around a lot as you ‘felt’ them, and it’s difficult to get any sort of detail going on.  You can’t see it very well, but some of the twiggy things in my piece of felt were added afterwards using a technique called ‘needle felting’ and the wool for that came from my fellow workshop participant, Rachel.  Rachel keeps sheep (‘only fifty’, as she says) and these pieces of wool came from her own flock – I learned quite a bit about sheep keeping while I was there.  Rachel lives in Wales and I believe it’s almost obligatory to keep sheep if you have even a teensy bit of land and live in Wales. 🙂

Having had some time to reflect, I think I’d prefer to make pieces of felt that concentrate on abstract colour, rather than aiming for something pictorial.  I thought perhaps I could use some home-made felt to make the cover for a book – I’m not sure at the moment what that would be, but it occurred to me that a photography book portraying aspects of the landscape and a cover made from the wool of the sheep that graze it could be an interesting way to go.  Perhaps that’s a little obvious, but I’m sure there are lots of other possibilities.

If you’re ever in Chester, the Funky Aardvark is well worth a visit. The shop is amazing – there’s so much in it you can’t take it all in at once, but they have high-quality crafts of every variety, including some beautiful glass pieces and many things made out of hand-made felt.  They also stock materials – sketchbooks, camera film (including out-of-date film to experiment with), wool, beads, and all sorts of other things.  They run arts and crafts workshops, analogue photo walks, and are starting a photography club very soon.  I’m really happy to have found this place and hope to be doing lots of interesting things there in the future.