Monday 13 December 2010

Even more Felting Fun with Art Nation in Wolverhampton

Here I am back in The Art Shop in the Mander Centre, Wolverhampton.

This Art Nation project is going well and at the end of the first week we have had a good range of people who want to find out more about the arts in the Midlands and also to actually make some art themselves.

Dave is a musician with the Midland Music Network. He usually plays the mandolin but that didn't stop him having a go at feltmaking and making his own unique felted Christmas bauble for his Christmas tree.

Dave came to visit the Art Shop in the Mander centre because he had heard about the previous Art Shop in Sandwell but hadn't been able to get along to it.

Here are some more of the felted angels that were made during the sessions. Using uncombed dip dyed Wensleydale wool tops is a great way to get curly hair for your angel.

I was delighted that Rhii came back to The Art Shop.

She had visited on the first day with her friend Kirsty and had had really enjoyed making her own felted jewellery.

On this visit she made Felted Baubles, a Mini Felted Santa Stocking and a really cool Snake (that she's giving to her brother).

Rhii was really comfortable working with wool fibres.

She remembered what she had learnt on her first felting session and before I knew it she was sharing her knowledge of felting with new visitors to the Art Shop i.e. teaching them!

Rhii with her selection of hand felted Christmas booty.

Andrea's cute little pink felted stocking.

More felted treasure: Christmas baubles, a felted snake and felted flower brooch.

These were made by one of the Art Shop helpers. She is from Kathmandu in Nepal.

I mentioned how the felted items that are on sale on several of the stalls on the German Christmas Market in Birmingham are imported from Nepal but my Art Shop Helper (I can't remember her name!) although coming from Kathmandu had never heard of Felting. I was really happy to teach her!

The Art Shop will be open Tuesday - Sat 10.30am - 5pm and runs until 18th December 2010.

Everyday there will be art activities to get involved in. These include storytelling, mask making, puppet making, printing, animation and even some sound recording.

For more details visit the website

Thursday 9 December 2010

Family Arts and Crafts fun at The Art Shop in Wolverhampton

It has been noticed that we, as a nation, see a trip to the shops as an activity. An activity that many of us seem to enjoy even when we aren't really looking to buy anything. Find Me Swap Me is a project that has been devised to make a trip to the shops even more rewarding.

Various shops in shopping centres are being transformed into temporary art galleries and art workshop spaces. Popping into one of the Art Shops you can have a cup of tea, hot chocolate etc, nibble on some biscuits, view an art exhibition and take part in an art activity.

The Art Shop that I am currently working in is in the Mander Centre in Wolverhampton.

We have only been open a few days but already we have attracted a good range of visitors; Young mums with babies, teenagers with an afternoon off college, couples out doing some midweek shopping and older people too.

We have had visitors who simply wanted a hot drink, others who were interested in viewing the exhibition (especially as it’s a photographic show of local Midlanders and the subject is the sea). Being in the very centre of England people here often yearn for the sea. We do definitely get excited about a trip to the it!

There is also currently an exhibition by the Wolverhampton Society of Artists in another empty shop across the way so we have had other local artists in to visit us too.

Yesterday I chatted to a lady who told me how she has continued to sculpt using air drying clay now that she doesn’t have any access to a kiln. She showed me photos of her work and it was lovely to hear the passion in her voice.

While at the Art Shop I have been showing people how to make various hand felted items. The ancient art of feltmaking using only sheep’s wool, soap and water.

This is Alexander's totally unique Christmas decoration complete with lots of jingly bells!

Gwen was interested especially when I showed her photos of the beautiful felted portraits made by the ladies in the St Chad’s Arts and Crafts group.

I also had a couple of visitors who made a bee line for the Art Shop when they saw our sign saying, “Free Felting Workshops”.

One lady said, “ I’ve wanted to make felt for ages” can anyone do it? The answer.... “Yes!” I was really pleased when she enthusiastically sat down and got started! While she was rubbing the wool fibres a lady called Jean arrived. She is a spinner who is also a felting enthusiast. She had actually attended some of felting workshops in the States.

Gwen's finished flower (she will add beads later). Jean and I both agreed that she should be very proud of herself. This is her very first piece of hand felting!

Gwen enjoys art and craft activities with her twin 14 year old granddaughters and now she has another activity that she can share with them.

I have been felting for 14 years now. I first learnt when my daughter was 2. It’s a wonderful craft especially for parents with young children.

Some projects can be made very quickly so even if you only have 10 minutes to spare you can make a hand felted Christmas bauble.

Kirsty and Rhii had such a lot of fun. Rhii’s earrings and bracelet are the perfect colour scheme matching her headphones perfectly!

We shared lots of stories while making our hand felted Christmas Decorations and Jewellery in The Art Shop.

Only when you make your own handmade jewellery can you make something that is absolutely perfect for you!

On the first day in the Art Shop we made a lovely range of felted Christmas tree and Santa Helper decorations; here are a few of them.

The Art Shop will be open Tuesday - Sat 10.30am - 5pm and runs until 18th December 2010.

Everyday there will be art activities to get involved in. These include storytelling, mask making, puppet making, printing, animation and even some sound recording.

For more details visit the website

If you would like to have a go at feltmaking then I will be back in the Art Shop on Friday 10th December.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Hand Felted Christmas Decorations and Santa Stockings

As Christmas gets closer I am being booked to run more and more Christmas themed felting workshops.

Last week I worked with sixth form Students at The Friary School in Lichfield. They wanted to learn to make felted items to sell at Christmas fairs to raise money for their Young Enterprise Project.

So last week we made:
-Magic Felted Ball Christmas tree baubles,
- Fairies and Santa’s Helper decorations
and also
-Hand Felted Christmas Stockings using the seamless felting resist method.

The day was so full on that I am afraid that I didn’t manage to take any photos of the students work but I do know that they had a successful sales session on the same evening...

Their felted items were barely dry before the Young Enterprise Students’ cash register was ringing!

This week I was at Rolleston on Dove WI group. Again we had a busy ... but definitely fun... two hour felting session.

Every stocking is completely unique. All the above are the fantastic handiwork of the Rolleston on Dove WI 'felting team'.

Thanks to Joan she recommended me to the WI committee. Joan had made a felted stocking with me back in 2008 when I ran a session for the Arthritis Care Together Group in Burton on Trent.

This time Joan brought a spare hand towel; so handy to dry your hands on between laying out and wetting each layer during the resist felting process.

Joan pictured above on the left.

Stripes; a simple but effective choice of decoration.

The beauty of hand made felt using the resist method is that you can make your item with a complimentary or contrasting colour on the inside.

The finishing touch; adding some tinkly bells.

We had lots of fun and Verity who was a self confessed ‘Craft Dunce’ made a really lovely cerise pink stocking which she has decided to give to her mum.

In Verity’s words, “I am giving it to my Mum for Xmas. She is the only one who will appreciate how hard I worked to do this! Especially as she knows how bad I am at practical things!!!”

And as all mums know we love our home made Christmas presents the best!

Presents made by our children are treasured for years to come.

Verity pours the tea. This felting lark is thirsty work!

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Hand Felted Portraits and Stitched Photographs go on show in Wolverhampton

The Threads of Our Lives: What Shaped Us.

What an exciting project this was!

I was asked by Wolverhampton Art Gallery if I’d like to be the artist working on one of their outreach projects. Like many art galleries Wolverhampton Art Gallery is keen to be involved with groups in the community.

St Chad’s Art and Craft Group were the perfect group for this project.

These ladies (about 18 members at present) have been meeting once a week for 8 years. They work on projects together, share ideas and encourage each other. Most of the members are retired and most of them had working careers where their artistic ambitions had to take second place; they had jobs and families to look after.

One of the things that is so interesting about the members of this group is their commitment and professionalism. Although they have lots of fun, these ladies are keen to learn and progress their skills so they have worked out ways of raising money to pay for room hire and tuition from Wolverhampton Adult Education Service.

One successful way that they have found to raise money is by designing and printing their own calendar..... featuring their own art of course!

This entrepreneurial sprit wasn’t the only thing that I fell in love with about these ladies. I especially loved their warmth, friendship and enthusiasm. Working with St Chad’s Arts and Crafts Group was one of my best experiences of 2010.

As a starting point for What Shaped Us the group visited the Jann Haworth retrospective exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Using a group photo that was taken in the gallery and inspired by Jann Haworth’s soft sculpture they started to work with their tutor Bev Dedicoat. Here are a couple of their stitched portraits.

Iris's soft stitched portrait reminds me of Beryl Cook illustrations.

One of Molly's stitched pictures.

My brief was to introduce the ladies to some art techniques other than the more usual painting and drawing ones.

I was also able to have a session where I took in some of my own art and spoke about my own inspirations and how I have drawn on these. This was really helpful for me too as I took in some older work (going back 13 years) as well as more recent Frillip Moolog sculptures. It reminded me how far my own practice has come.

We got familiar with working with wool fibres by making some felted flowers.

Which I wasn’t at all surprised to see several of them wearing when they arrived at the next session!

There is a lot of talent in this group so from felted flowers we leapt straight into felted portraits!

Jean's interest in pop art showed in her approach to the felted portrait.

Even though we took two sessions to build up the portraits the pace was fast!

While I was demonstrating on my own portrait I could feel the adrenalin rushing round my body. There’s nothing like having to work in the spotlight to focus you.

Muriel's love of texture shows in her portrait.

It was lovely to show how we can paint with fibres, yarns and scraps of lace. There was so much energy in the room. It really was exciting!

Above: Molly's portrait in progress.
Below: Molly pictured with her finished portrait (second from right).

A hive of industry!

In the last two weeks of the project we took inspiration from Flore Gardner. I was very grateful to Rosie James who e mailed me the details of Flore’s exhibition at Derby Art Gallery and also thanks to Derby Art Gallery for putting together such a good resource pack.

I also showed the group Mauizio Anzeri’s stitched photograph work which was featured in the May/June 2010 Crafts Magazine. It was good to contrast these two artists’ different approaches to stitching into photographs.

Iris has very strong memories of her lovely long hair being cut off by her Nan.

Brenda getting stuck in with needle and gold lame thread.

Avril's very happy memories of this day show through.

The ladies personalities started to come out in the stitching. It wasn’t about tracing outlines with coloured threads. Rather, it was about choosing the picture, their memories associated with the picture and what story they wanted to tell.

Jan was smiling so much of the time that it is no surprise that the photo that she chose to stitch majored on a big grin and rosy cheeks.

It was a different way of working, less spontaneous than mixing wool fibres to make a portrait but this exercise really got them thinking about what they wanted to say.

Bev was delighted not only because it it was obviously going to have an impact in their approach to sketchbooks in the future but also because of her love of text in images too.

Gillian combined a school photo of herself with a photo of her as a mother taking her own son to school. She made her stitched image tell stories on several levels. Literally drawing together threads of memories from different times in her life.

I was just so delighted that the ladies had been so ‘up for it’. They were happy to have an adventure with me.

The absolute icing on the cake was when Wolverhampton Art Gallery exhibited the work that the group made during the Threads of our Lives; what shaped us project in the Art Gallery itself.

They have every right to be proud

The show has now moved to its second venue:

Wolverhampton Adult Education Service

City Learning Quarter

Old Hall Street



Tel: 01902 558164

The exhibition is open to the public and continues here until 2nd Jan 2011.

To contact the group and to buy a calendar (only £5.99 each) e mail

Take inspiration from these talented ladies . Try a new medium today.... Felting is always a good place to start.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Surrounded by Felted Flowers and Mixed Media Sculptures at the Erasmus Darwin House, Lichfield

How exciting; a chance for me to wear both of my artistic hats (Frillip Moolog and AllSensesArt) at once.
This summer I exhibited six of my Frillip Moolog sculptures in the beautiful and unique setting of the Erasmus Darwin House.

The show Inventions of the Mind was a wonderful opportunity for me to exhibit my sculptures here in my home town of Lichfield. It was also a fantastic opportunity to run lots of outreach

The project was organised by 52 Weeks of Art and was made possible thanks to funding from Tesco PLC. Inventions of the Mind ran from 31st Jul – 23rd Aug but the highpoint was the Celebration Day on Saturday 21st Aug.

Peter Walker from 52weeks of art organised Life the Universe and Darwin to show off all the work that had been made throughout several 52 Weeks of Art projects.

So here I am surrounded by felted flowers all made by participants in my AllSensesArt workshops at Erasmus Darwin House.

There are 60 flowers here and absolutely no two are the same.
During my sessions I worked with people of all ages and from all walks of life. This was so exciting!

No one had made felt before and many had never been to the Erasmus Darwin House either. So this was their chance to learn about this colourful character from the 18th century and also the magic of feltmaking.

Erasmus Darwin was interested in so many things and is often described as the 18th century’s most famous polymath. Amongst other things he was a doctor, an inventor, a scientist and a poet. He did ground breaking research on plants, recognising the importance of photosynthesis.

He also wrote a hugely long poem Loves of the Plants. It was very popular in its time and is said to have had a significant influence on the Romantic Poets: Shelley, Coleridge and Wordsworth. So it seemed perfect that I should run some felted flower

So one basic method and what different results.
Here we can see Sylvia and Avril’s flowers. These ladies from the beacon Park Retirement Village were so much fun.

Sylvia proudly shows off her freshly felted flower.
Avril plans to wear her felted flower on a special hat and Sylvia seemed a natural at felting. I wouldn’t be surprised if she isn’t teaching classes of her own soon!
It’s never too late to learn a new skill and felting is one that can be taught to all ages.
One of the ladies in that session piped up that she was the oldest in the class. She was ninety… and had just learnt how to felt!

I also worked with some young ladies from Lichfield Young Embroiders Group. As the sessions progressed (there were 10 people in each session) flowers styles also developed.
This one made by Jo, one of the school teachers who came for a fun afternoon of felting, proved to be quite inspirational.
She decided not to cut the petals, and instead left lovely organic wavy edges. You can see the halo effect of using pre-felt made from two colours here.

In her busy career she doesn’t have much time for relaxing craft sessions. This was a perfect school holiday de-stressor for her!

Jo's flower with halo effect, leaf and stamens.

Some of the flowers were made by some adults from the Nuffield Centre a centre which supports people with mental health difficulties and also physical disabilities. I was so proud of their flowers and yes, Christine and Kerry left the session with some wool fibres to make more at home. That’s a success!

Erasmus Darwin was a prolific inventor inventing, a steering axle for carriages, a horizontal windmill, a copying machine and a speaking machine amongst other things. Back in the 18th century there wasn’t the same division between natural sciences and engineering.

Anneka French’s essay about Inventions of the Mind talks about the similarities between Erasmus Darwin and me; like him I take inspiration from all aspects of life and enjoy using unusual combinations of materials when making my sculptures.

'Stan' in particular incorporates a downpipe from a bus station and also a bulbous nuno felted vessel “body”.

'Stan'. A conversation piece between these waxwork figures of Erasmus Darwin and Matthew Bolton.
I also ran some Children’s Sculpture Workshops. (Several parents made their own sculptures too!)
This workshop was in two parts: First learning how to make a magic felted ball (which we then cut it in half to reveal the swirly pattern inside).

Then I loaded up the table with a lovely array of materials. Some with interesting sculptural shapes like kitchen funnels, sieves and latex muffin cases and others with gorgeous tactile qualities like, sponges, pan scourers and feathers.

'Batty' made by Charlie (aged 6).

I told the children that I actually call my sculptures ‘beings’ rather than sculptures and that I sometimes make up stories about them. Suddenly we had even more creativity in the room!

By Maddy Sadler

Origin: South America
Favourite Music: Blues and Reggae
Favourite Hobby: Dancing and carnivals
Plays: Bongos and Guitar
Dream Holiday: Amazon rainforest or the Himalayas (with her friend Kevin)
Likes: Cowboys, parrots, pandas, sequins, cream soda and candy floss
Dislikes: Ribbons, jellied eels, rotten coconuts and dentists
Profession: Philosopher (florist on the weekends)
Enjoys watching: wrestling and nature documentaries

Here's Maddy while making 'Samanka'. See what she wrote about him above.

The display on the celebration day on 21st Aug was really fantastic and it was so exciting for all the participants and their families to come and see their own creations exhibited in Life the Universe and Darwin. For me this was a perfect opportunity to show off my own sculptures, to talk about the Frillip Moolog beings (sculptures) and to encourage people not only to think more about art but to actually make some of their own.

It was a lovely combination to be able to exhibit my work, teach skills and empower creativity and to then also exhibit the outreach work in a way that emphasises that everyone’s creation was worthy.

We were winners all round!