Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Two Felting Books - 500 Felt Objects and Filz Experiment.

The summer is drawing to a close and I am beginning to look forward to felting classes with the Art League School again. I thought I'd search out some new inspiration and found myself drawn to Amazon.com and Amazon.de. I was disappointed to find that my search for "felting" on Amazon.com mainly brought up books with kitschy projects made of craft felt. There was also the odd needle felting digest. Then, looking more specifically for "wet felting" I was shown a more interesting, but not particularly lengthy list of offerings. The pages offered on Amazon are misleading. There are said to be at least 9 pages of wet felting books, but after page two, the subject becomes diluted by knitting, needle felting and books with the word "felt" (i.e. Heart Felt) in the title. The meatiest book was an encyclopedia of sheep, breaking down the breeds by wool consistency. It looked interesting as a reference, but was not going to inspire new projects from me. As I scanned down the list, the most attractive book to me was a coffee table book called 500 Felt Objects by Lark Crafts. Now *that* sounded like creative fodder.

When my order came, I delved immediately into the collection. The book is 420 pages long and is printed in luxurious color. There is a short forward by the author, Susan Brown, but otherwise there are just pictures, credits, and materials descriptions. The book is divided into five sections: "Garments, Wraps and Headwear", "Accessories and Adornment", "Two-Dimensional Design", "Sculptural Forms and Installations", and "Furniture and Home Decor." My first stop was the sculpture section. Having been sad to forego the Felters' Fling Bamboo Sculpture Class, I was itching for some new examples of sculpture. I saw the familiar objects d'art - pods by Anna Gunnesdottir. I loved the mixture of felt and natural wood in Liberation Captivas by Andrea Graham. A more industrial feel was put forth with the field of heartlike figures (felt hearts on steel rods) by Hermine Gold. The height of industry was represented in the housewares section, where industrial felt is used to the greatest extent - for rugs, furniture and decorations. This felt also shows up in other sections, such as Embracement by Vanderbos in headwear. Other styles in the clothing section include nuno-felted coats, shawls, and dresses. A nod out to Renate Maile-Moskowitz, my felting teacher - I could identify the basic techniques used in most of the items featured in this book - this after only one year at the Art League School.

When I gave up on a far reaching felting book collection on Amazon.com, I decided to puddle-jump over the ocean and explore the German Amazon.de - My felting teacher is German and always has a good number of German language felting books at class, and I happen to speak the language. Surely I'd hit the mother load here. Well, my experience was mixed. There were still a remarkable number of kitschy books dealing with craft felt. By the same token, there were more "learn how to wet felt" books on Amazon.de than on Amazon US. The authors were mainly German, but also reached into Scandinavia, Britain and Italy (if I recall correctly), among others. The drawback of the learn-how books was that I already had experienced the basic techniques. I was delighted by the title "Crazy Filz", but decided to get serious with Filz Experiment by Annette Quentin-Stoll and Robert Quentin.

In Filz Experiment, a series of felting techniques are explored, in 192 pages, where thread is sewn in patterns through pre-felts to make troughs, hills, valleys and bubbles. The strings are pulled tight and the items are then felted solid. Then the strings are removed, revealing the goal of making organic, life inspired textural patterns mimicking such things as snakeskin, sea urchins, a field of flowers and a puddle being hit with drops of water. I have not yet tried any techniques (except for the bubble technique which I learned a bit differently in class), but the book is clearly written and the graphics provide enough information to make the projects seem clear. I believe my first project will be an urchin, using the hedgehog technique. The only drawback to me about this book is that the techniques are heavy with required hand-stitching. Unfortunately, this was not apparent through the provided information on Amazon. I'm not the best seamstress. Still, with patience, I'm sure I'll persevere. I will be interested to talk with Renate about this book, because some of the steps indicated in making the prefelts seem a bit contradictory to what I've been taught. Still, a pre-felt is a pre-felt, so I supposed however it's made is fine. Fun experience with this book: I finally determined how to say "resist" in German: Schablone. I did end up ordering this book over Amazon.com through an international reseller. The price including shipping was the same as on Amazon.de, but the delivery time was much quicker.

Both books have proven to be inspirational for me and have gotten me thinking in the right direction until late September when I will once again find myself elbow-deep in wool at the Madison Annex. One book is great to sit around for all to thumb through and the other explores texture and technique. One thing is for sure though. When I see Renate again, I am going to ask her where she's gotten her wide selection of felting books from.