Felting has become a popular medium with fiber artists! Depending on your personal knowledge of felt in general, most people think of those multi-colored felt pads you see in all the craft stores when someone mentions felt. According to Wikipedia ” Felt is a textile material that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing fibers together. Felt can be made of natural fibers such as wool or animal fur, or from synthetic fibers such as petroleum-based acrylic or acrylonitrile or wood pulp-based rayon.” It is an ancient craft and felt is used in art, fashion and industrial applications.
My alpacas Bella, Virginia and Kicho, supply me with much of the animal hair that I use for my kind of felting. But I supplement much of their black and white hair with the beautiful shades of wool from my friends with sheep. Fiber shows supply the additional wools dyed in a variety of beautiful colors.
After the shearing and the summer heat, 2 of the girls enjoy a spray bath!
There are a number of types and techniques of felting (nuno, knit, wet, sculpture, hats, etc.) and since a complete “how to” is beyond the scope of this newsletter, simply google “felting” and that will bring up a huge array of sites for you to further research! I do “Needle Felting” which basically is the only felting type that does not require wetting the fibers beforehand. Needle felting simply hooks onto fibers with specially placed barbs (felting needle) and forces fibers to tangled as you punch through the fabric!
Fiber shows and craft stores carry the basic tools for Needle felting. Crucial of course are the needles.They come in various sizes-either single or as groups. And a surface on which to place your fabric to begin the felting (poking) process. The image shows several gathered from various suppliers. All I use is in the image. Both the “brush” surface and the “Styrofoam” offer the necessary cushioning effect plus allow you to easily carry your lightweight supplies anywhere. Most needle felting done as a painting or scene use a sheet of wool as the “canvas” on which to begin an image. Below is a first result from a student of mine who first painted this very same scene on canvas before using the wool as her canvas!
Since I am a painter, my needle felting takes on the feel of painting. I mainly use it to embellish my ecoprinted silk noil (also known as raw silk)
I use raw silk for many of my garments and wall hangings as it feels very different from what we think of as silk…it has a pile (noil) is much heavier and is created with much shorter strands of silk. After ecoprinting a piece of yardage I look at it awhile and can envision where my embellishments such as birds, flowers or my Woodland Fairies might go to enhance my vision. Raw silk takes the use of the needle far better than regular silk.
One of my earliest needle felted pieces was a felted bird on a silk handkerchief. I had to be careful of over stabbing the silk as it can damage the area in which you work 🙂
My original photos do not do it justice but I learned that if I wanted to use my Habatoi silk stash I had to switch from felting on Habatoi silk to hand painting on it! SO you will see my raw silk wall hangings embellished with needle felting and my charmeuse or Habatoi silk embellished with hand painting.
My Woodland Faeries series are all hand painted onto the smoother silks! But below is a closeup of one of the birds being felted onto the raw silk.Most are created on large pieces ranging from 20-30″ wide by 36-48″ long!
I collect driftwood from oceans, lakes or rivers and have quite a stash as eventual hangers. I love the feel and texture of the old wood. In many of the hangings I have added backings ranging from cotton fabric to raw silk to burlap. The figures that I use to embellish are my own. You can use a pencil to lightly draw in your bird or flower or whatever. A lightbox can make it easier to lay your fabric down (if it is light colored) on top and trace out a darkly outlined image.
It takes practice but if you are familiar with shading techniques in painting, it is essentially the same! Use dark to outline and use lighter and lighter pieces of your wool or hair to show tonal changes. I predominantly use the 3 needle and switch to single use with outlining. The point is to make sure they are thoroughly adhered.
My “Bluebirds” (sold) attached to a burlap backing.
The fun to me is to “attach” whatever images I am using to the previously ecoprinted piece to make it look as though it was planned in advance lol. The ecoprinted piece comes first. I like to make my birds bold or hide them among the foliage and it all depends on how the original ecoprinted raw silk design looks. And wall hangings are not the only decorative piece that can be needle felted on!
Daises felted handbag
Needle felting is an art form that varies with what you are creating, what you want to achieve and how involved you want to be! Like all needlecrafts, it’s relaxing, easy to learn and only gets better with practice!
On the road again!
My workshops usually involve travel. My most recent was teaching participants how to ecoprint on leather and paper and creating leather journals from our efforts :-). My car was packed and it looked like I was moving! Air travel was impractical and the drive meant I could stop over with neglected relatives enroute.
But there’s a good reason people go to Florida during the winter 🙂 I’m back now from a 2 week jaunt down there (and Georgia) and I made time to actually turn it into a working vacation! Anyone who is a self employed artist knows how hard that can be!
I have taught workshops for a long time. You can’t be a painting artist and not share tips and techniques with big and small workshops.
So when the opportunity came from my friend, Suzanne Connors, to teach my ecoprinting techniques on leather and watercolor paper at her Aya Fiber Studio in Stuart, FL, I said “sure!” I chose leather and paper because once the techniques were mastered, my students would have the skills to create beautiful art journals for friends or for sale.
Not all workshops have such exotic locations! In this case, Florida’s weather was a far cry from what was happening in NC.
The 4 day workshop kept us busy! My students learned about the leathers that worked best for my technique, the papers that worked, leather tools, end products and created some amazing journals.
Not all workshops end with finished products. But I felt it was important that they have finished pieces to refer to when back home in their own work spaces.
Additional techniques added a WOW factor to the leather and everyone had gorgeous results!
Workshops do not have to be held in inspiring places. I’ve been in dusty expo buildings, recreation halls and similar places. My North Carolina studios are in the country and I share them with my artist hubby, Stephen Filarsky. It offers a different ambience-just as inspiring-but in a totally different environment in the country!
Below is a busy workshop I held in an Expo building in Michigan. My participants were just as enthusiastic!
Below is the art studio transformed into a workshop space for my participants (we also hold painting workshops in here of course)
April and May are the time the heirloom “rescued roses” bloom at our location!
A few alpacas provide not only fiber but entertainment for little ones who often mistake them for camels lol!
As long as people wish to learn new skills and techniques and involve themselves in the beauty of art, there will always be classes and workshops :-). Embracing the unknown in the arts broadens the mind and fills that creative space in your soul that just waits for some kind of inspiration!
And as a bonus to my teaching trip to FL we took a sunset cruise recommended by the studio. I missed the manatee that swam up to the studio docks but not on the hour long cruise! I had never seen one before!
So I am off to unload my car, (which looks like I moved half of my studio!) but adding
a parting image of what is called “The Golden Hour” on the water. We were able to enjoy it from the quiet puttering of the electric boat (and also why we could silently come close to the manatees)
Until next time!-Theresa
If you enjoy the idea or art of ecoprinting, my first suggestion for a true understanding and appreciation of this art form is to take a Walk. There is simply no other way to embrace Ecoprinting without exploring the world of the plants you use, up close and personal. The outdoor world you thought you knew unveils little secrets that lead to a better understanding of the “hows and whys” of ecoprinting. I’m not talking about being knowledgeable in “name those plants”. I’m talking about getting up close and personal with the moods of your favorite trees and plants. It’s a world of getting to know the growth cycles from early spring to fall. The imprints that plants share with the artist vary from day to day, week to week..even the time of day! get to know your walking trail.
Carry something like your camera phone and notebook and if you select leaves, photograph them and note the date and time. Become your own eco scientist! I can pretty much guarantee that you will not remember the details unless you record them 🙂
It is probably the artist in me that looks for visual harmony, details and patterns in even the smallest of plants. Look up, look down. There is something of note in your eco journal in both locations!
The additional benefits of your walk are numerous! Beyond the obvious exercise benefit, the subtle influence it has on your soul, your psyche and your mind offers a major calming influence in our lives. In a world of daily electronic bombardment embrace your time without it. I have several blog posts that spend time with traveling these roads. Take a look at them on my website and enjoy that journey with me!
What’s Happening and working with a mordant!
For centuries, dyers have known that natural dye colors are elusive on fabric unless the colors are “set” with a mordant. A “new kid on the block” is a mordant called Titanium Oxalate. And I’ll share my experiments with you!
But first, let me share what is happening! Click on the highlighted links for images and details!
Exploring Titanium Oxalate
It’s a big word huh? Well for those who may not know, the word mordant is derived from Latin and means “to bite.” It is what “fixes” dye colors to whatever fabric you are using and its uses have been recorded back to ancient Chinese and Egyptian times! The two most popular mordants in ecoprinting have been alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) and iron. Titanium Oxalate has become the new star among dyers, yet it too has been around while. Doing some basic research, I found repetitive descriptions such as “These double salts may be applied to textiles and other substances without injury to the texture or material.” and “Titanium salts are now employed in both Europe and America as mordant and dye in the manufacture of leather goods, having proved of especial value for use on chrome tanned leathers” and “Titanium salts are currently extensively developed in replacement of chromium salts for environmentally friendly titanium-tanning techniques used as an alternative mordant for use with natural dyes.” That’s a lot of information (and only the start of it!)
To further confuse things, natural dye and ecoprint Facebook groups are full of conflicting information. Through my own experiments, what I know for sure is that when combined with the tannin in leaves when ecoprinting, titanium oxalate will produce a distinct range of oranges!
So in this photo, on the left is silk with an indigo and iron water blanket applied. On the right is a titanium oxalate and indigo blanket applied. The silk on the right is actually a bit greener than shown in this image. As an artist, it makes sense for yellow and blue to mix and create green., thus the abundance of green in the silk on right.
In the image below, I simply alternated dipping maple leaves and maple seed pods into an iron or Titanium Oxalate solution. Can you see the difference?
For me, this “new kid on the block” is better in small doses. I love the control of dipping leaves where I can stagger the bold oranges in any manner that I like! That is what I did on the two examples below. For me, less is truly more 🙂
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How deep do the roots go into the personal Psyche of those people captivated by “Ecoprinting?” What nourishes their interest and fascination? On what level do they embrace it?
There is nothing quite like Nature’s artistry in her plant Kingdom. Our own personal journey in Nature determines how deeply our roots are connected to our appreciation of such beauty. There are so many ways to embrace this love of Nature.
Who has not enjoyed spectacular scenic views while driving camping or hiking? Part of what motivates the artist in me are views that take in the distance.
The play of light and shadow on acres of sunflowers captivated me off a dirt road in Virginia.
Gardens and vistas, both cultivated and wild have been celebrated and admired by people from all walks of life. Artists, poets, writers, outdoor enthusiasts and musicians have taken inspiration from Nature.
With cultivated gardens, I think initially for many it is the colors that capture their attention. And colors aren’t limited to planted gardens! I know in my long hikes through forests, it’s the wildflowers -some bright and showy and some very tiny peeking up in early spring walks.
For some it may be the significance of a particular plant discovery. My sister’s annual joy when discovering the purple crocuses pushing their way through the snow is one such vivid memory for me. Even for those of us embracing the winters in upstate New York, crocuses signaled that Spring was truly coming!
And with that knowledge came the certainty that soon it would be time to tap the sugar maple trees , carrying the frozen cans into the house for my mother to add to the sugaring pot on the stove before we caught the school bus.
In Ecoprinting, I have found delight in imprinting not just plant designs, but memories. The results are tactile, visually beautiful and a delight! Not all maple trees are the same. The ones of my childhood are not as common in the North Carolina Piedmont area. Even the ones on my own mini farm are not what I look for in my art. But I have located a few special sugar maples that take me back to my roots. And I delight in what they share with me!
In an en earlier blog I wrote about roses….and shared images of abandoned homesteads, heirloom roses and the resulting beautiful images from fallen rose leaves. More memories captured through the art of ecoprinting. But perhaps this final image says it best! And if you want to connect in my NEW Facebook group “Personal Journeys in Ecoprinting” where you can share your inspiration, happy thoughts and positive energy, join us! https://www.facebook.com/groups/532432183800670
(Note-see 2018 update at end)
When I was an art major in college at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, I lived in a small place on the Tar River near my family’ s farm. Driving home late one night after an evening class, I slowed at a little home to turn into our long dirt drive and noticed my neighbor in her garden. She was silhouetted against a bright moon and was obviously at work picking pole beans. The next day I asked my parents why our neighbor was in her garden at 10:30 pm. They said that she planted and harvested by the phases of the moon. I was intrigued as no one’s garden compared to hers! She grew more in an half acre of land than anyone could and her corn grew to Iowa heights! We talked several times about her planting methods and I’ve never forgotten her or her garden.
Fast forward to the here and now and as we approach a total eclipse near our area on August 21, I found my mind turning back to my long ago neighbor harvesting from her garden. And I started thinking.
Ecoprinting on paper is something I have done since my college days. Ecoprinting on silk has been the past 5 years. But as I said in an article I wrote for the spring edition of “No Serial Number” magazine, my immersion into ecoprinting involved far more than the finished design! As incredible as the designs are, it is the “hard to explain” part of being one with Nature in her moments of giving me her bounty of design and color. I like to forage for the leaves. I like long hikes in back woods, hearing the birds, absorbing the colors. The artist in me has been involved with Nature since my teen years of solitary cross country skiing through birch forests in the Catskills and even earlier with years of horse ownership and trail rides. They are peaceful places for me.
Collecting right now, as I practice it, has been more a case of going for a drive through the countryside or on a cool enough day (it IS summer here in the south!) to collect from my own farm. But I started to wonder, just recently, what IF I harvested and processed by the phases of the moon?
I have collected enough to know that the day, the time and the maturity of the leaves and plants I collect influence my final result. The same rose bush today might give me different colors than from a week ago. I totally get that.
But what would happen if I thought about both harvesting and processing based on the ancient principles of the phases of the moon? I think it was the Mayans who had a comprehensive calendar for their crops.
What if I tried my idea for several months? Studies moon charts, kept notes on the results, collected my usual way from the same trees or plants and did a test study? Tried to make sense of something that for our forefathers was as ingrained in them as breathing? I quote from a web page called “Planting by the Signs of the Moon”
Pliny the Elder did it, and so did Benjamin Franklin and your great grandma as well! They all planted gardens by the phases of the Moon, using a method practiced in rural communities for over two thousand years. It was so well established in the first century AD that it became part of the “natural history” that Pliny wrote about in his series of the same name. A method proven successful over that length of time deserves more than a label of folklore. It warrants a trial in our gardens too.
So I’m going to start this Monday during the total eclipse that will be seen at 92% in our area and 100% in places like South Carolina, Great Smokey Mountains, Oregon and elsewhere. The small window of opportunity for me will be around 2:00 pm (EST)
I am curious to see if my free range chickens will think it’s time to roost, or if the brief twilight will have an effect on my other animals (ponies, alpaca) But what I do know is that I’ll later watch the eclipse on NASA’s station (since I don’t have proper eyewear) and concentrate on the experience while I collect my pecan, rose and maple leaves to test.
In the end, it is not as much about results. I am not a scientist. It’s about the experience. My collecting is natural, my results sustainable and beautiful. I enjoy the time it takes to create each piece as much as the time I spend communing with Nature in her environment. I have loved ones that have passed that I often talk to as I gaze up at the moon or stars (funny how it’s not during the day) and somehow I find the idea of an art form I know they would have loved, being practiced during the moon tides to be kind of appealing. So for me, it would be an additional experience added to a process I already enjoy. And what’s not to like?
Sept 3 2018 UPDATE!
I never got around to posting results from the days of the eclipse. But this year, while ecoprinting the same leaves from the same plants (pecan, maple, rose, etc.) exactly one year later, there WAS a difference! Prints in 2017 were crsiper and clearer and expecially so with the pecan leaves. As soon as I find those photos (sorry in a rush here, I will share those. Below are a few as from that period as well! But I DO have better graphics-be patient 🙂
I found that at shows, people are fascinated by my ecoprinting. The infinite number of leaf prints, especially sharp, crisp ones, is the first area of fascination. The second is realizing that Mother Nature can actually release such beautiful colors onto silk. For many, it is the knowledge that the entire process is a sustainable and renewable art form. But universally, it is the image of collecting leaves on a beautiful day, scattering them onto silk and, in the end, creating a beautiful, unique surprise from Nature that has the most appeal!
So It did not take long for people to start asking if I would hold workshops in ecoprinting. I condensed my process down to a one day workshop that has made it easy for participants to leave with beautiful scarves created with their own hands!
What I love about the Ecoprint workshops is that Everyone is Equal in experience, creativity and artistic ability! With painting workshops, even for beginners, there is always that subtle competitiveness and insecurity. You can hear it in the conversations “Oh, I’m not really an artist,” or “Is this good?” or “I won’t trace, that’s cheating,” and the list goes on. In Ecoprinting, the participants all learn to initially work the same way with the same methods, but in the end, it is Mother Nature who holds the reins!
I’m including some images from a few recent workshops. I am fortunate in that my mini-farm contains all the plant material we need, right outside the doors of the 2 art studios! Although I work at my
smaller silk studio, and often outside on the deck, it is the larger “Painting” studio where I hold the Ecoprint workshops. I can fit up to 6 (my max number of students) comfortably with my spread out techniques and best of all, we are out of any wind….you can imagine the frustration of laying plants onto a silk scarf on a windy day :-).
All my workshops run from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. There is plenty of time to relax after the bundled silk is in the pots. This is when we all eat our bagged lunches, tour the silk studio, engage with the ponies, chickens and assorted livestock on the mini-farm. On a gorgeous day, we sit under the trees and simply soak in the atmosphere while the silk processes in the steamers.
There is no doubt that the most exciting time is when we open the bundles of silk and see the results!
As you browse, you’ll see the faces say it best! Enjoy the closeups. Visit my workshop page to see what dates are available and contact me with any questions!
Until next time!-Theresa
It’s always fun to find yourself in an International magazine! And especially so when that magazine is the up and coming “Green” magazine, “No Serial Number” an “an eclectic lifestyle magazine about Eco-conscious and Heritage Craft, Design and Fashion.” The purpose of the publication aligns itself beautifully with my ecoprinted collections and it is a joy to see this publication embrace all that is sustainable, renewable and beautiful!
So what about my article? Well, I had the best time writing it and pulling together my images. 6 whole pages! But for a sneak preview you can see a bit of it here!
Botanical or ecoprinting appeals to the simpler side of people-the surround sound of being in the woods, gathering plant matter and watching it come to as an art form is my passion. But many collectors simply enjoy the finished pieces. Whether for home or office, there is something peaceful and beautiful in knowing the ecoprinted art has given us a lasting piece of Nature’s designs and colors!
It was my pleasure to have “No Serial Number” echo my thoughts and feelings by publishing my work and photos!
Who is not entranced by the mystical world of faeries? Whether your first introduction was Tinkerbell or you’re intrigued with the myriad of myths, legends and sightings of such fleeting “little people”, it is a fun world to enter!
Faeries ( or Fairies)were a favorite theme of my twin sister. As children, we imagined them in the ancient maples that populated our farm in upstate New York. We would take what figurines we had and play among the stone walls and foundations of the huge barns. We invented names, places, personalities, and made “faerie houses” from all manner of rocks and twigs.
So I have enjoyed re-inventing our world of not just faeries but the birds that also populated our country playground. Chickadees, sparrows, finches and tiny house wrens all flocked to our suet feeders in the winter when the snows made life challenging for all!
My eco printed silk seemed to call to me to peek closer into the world of nature. As a painter, it was just an additional step to begin creating my hand painted designs among the imprinted silk. The challenge was to keep a soft hand to the silk and yet have control over the silk dyes-not always an easy thing to do! So laying out my plant matter to create designs with open spaces for my birds and faeries, I began to paint. And I am still creating versions of them both. The possibilities are endless. Yes I could simply paint an entire Faerie world on a single canvas, populated with tiny birds, magical creatures and such. But the challenges of working with silk intrigued me. My hand painted figures dance with the movement of the silk-something that cannot be achieved on canvas.
The birds continue to flock to my feeders even in the more temperate climate of North Carolina. And while I paint and design, I see tiny faeries everywhere-dancing on the dust motes, peeking out from behind the roses leaves and perhaps playing tricks on the free range chickens. Join me in this magical world of no worries, playful fun and enjoy the art!
Faeries and their little bird friend on Cotton dipped in indigo!
Truly-there is nothing like the look and feel of silk! Soft and luxurious or earthy and light, nothing compares to this all natural, sustainable fabric against the skin.
And nothing speaks to the soul as eloquently as wearing Mother Nature’s colors imprinted naturally onto silk fabrics. For me, wearing creations that come from Nature and to experience both the natural colors the leaves give up during my process or the results of natural dye additions is the journey I enjoy most!
Let the look of my handcrafted garments tell their own story!