Judith Finkelstein looks over felt under production.
For me, there is a definite parallel between felting and cooking. You begin with a basic recipe, assemble your ingredients, combine the elements into a whole, adjust the flavor as your proceed and voila, you have created a unique product reflecting your own expression.
I have been exploring various fiber techniques as long as I have been cooking, which is a long time! The women in my family were all knitters. I longed to join their ranks at an early age, but was told it would be impossible because I was left handed and they just were not able to reach me. I did become a knitter as well as a spinner, weaver, tatter and quilt maker because once I began handling fibers I wanted to try it all. In some respects, I am self-taught. My formal education is in the health field, not art. But to truly say that I am self-taught would be a disservice to all the talented artists and crafts persons from whom I have taken individual classes and workshops.
I began to explore Nuno felt two years ago after a friend brought the process to my attention. I studied the procedure during a summer session at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. I realized immediately that this medium would allow me to combine my knowledge of different fiber processes and the tactile satisfaction of handling fibers into a new, relatively unexplored technique. And this has been the case. My knitters "yarn stash" and a bit of combed top that I had on hand became the basis for my first attempts at felting.
I feel I have tamed the process and am now able to explore the range of possibilities just waiting to happen. It is all about color, texture and shape. My wall hangings begin with a very concrete image which I sketch out on paper first. The image comes from memories of places I've been, the beautiful countryside of Central Pennsylvania, or events that capture my imagination. When I am satisfied with my sketch, I begin to think in colors.
Pulla a palate together may take days. I select and deselect colors until I feel I have achieved a satisfactory balance. Next, I choose a ground fabric, either hand dyed silk or cotton, and using chalk, transfer my sketch to the fabric.
The wool fibers are carded together to blend colors and laid upon the ground fabric. The original image becomes more abstracted as the colors blend. I try to work from all sides of the piece so that there is design integrity in both length and width. Most pieces can be displayed in either direction.
Upon completion, my original image is still very clear to me. I choose, most often, not to share this with a customer. I prefer they find their own meaning and reasons for enjoying the piece.
My wearable pieces are developed in a similar fashion. The scale is smaller and the shape is defined. I prefer to develop patter pieces as I felt rather than making yardage and pursuing a more traditional cut and sew method. To some degree this approach limits tailoring possibilities, but I feel it is an honest presentation of the felt.
The hand dyed ground fabric becomes a natural lining for the piece and in many cases facilitates reversibility. The basic procedure is the same as in knitting where you complete a back and two fronts and then assemble them into a garment.
Knitting continues to find its way into my work. Sometimes I will felt a piece of knitting directly into a piece. I knit sleeves and bindings for the wearables and even knit frames to set off the wall pieces. I enjoy thinking of the women in my family and the women who came before them who used all these fiber techniques to clothe and comfort their families. I feel connected.