Monday, January 7, 2013

Angora love

Pardon the blurry camera phone picture. I need to take a few more pictures with my proper camera.
I have this insatiable desire to get closer and closer to my materials. I'm not sure if it's because I want to be self reliant, or if it has something to do with the sustainable living journey we're on here. We are doing a pretty bang up job sourcing our food, and raising much of it ourselves, I should mention.  Wool is another thing altogether, though. I try, as often as possible, to get wool from folks I know.

It's not the breeds I'm used to, and it's really allowed me to branch out into other aspects of felting.  Until I can get sheep of my own (sigh), I must rely on others.   I have the acres, just not he fencing and the barn. Important (and costly) stuff, that is. However, it dawned on me that I have these three little kids happily raising rabbits for 4H. Rabbits that do not produce wool, I should mention. So, I talked the youngest Cloverbud into an angora. It didn't take much.  Brushing this little buck's wool is WAY better than any doll, that's for sure! I'm working on switching out our Holland lops for more Angoras. It's not a sheep, but it's fiber. And, it feels pretty good to know it's mine.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Felmaking class at Orion Art Center

This past weekend I had the pleasure of teaching a scarf making class to a group of really amazing beginning felters. The OAS is a terrific little center, housed in an old Victorian in the center of Lake Orion, Michigan. It's a real gem, and does a great job of showcasing local art and offering classes for children and adults.

Our class was a lot of hard work, with some thoughtful artistic decisions and laughs mixed in. My students did an excellent job, and walked away with some stunning scarves and a new skill. Well done, ladies!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Raw wool. From the beast.

There's something really magical about wool. I love the warmth of it- you can feel it heating the moment you touch it and it begins to capture your body heat. I also love the smell if the field, the bits of stray hay (not so much the bits of manure, though!).

I was able to purchase this huge fleece from a farmer I admire greatly. She runs a grass fed beef and meat farm in the Ann Arbor area. Her animals are healthy and humanely treated. I really admire her. She also happens to have sheep- mainly heritage breeds- and so I buy her wool. This fleece came from a Navajo Churro, an ancient and wild breed. It was enormous, and it was a mess. In the end though, it felted into this wonderful, shaggy, textural rug. Or throw. I'm not sure I could put it on the floor. I just want to curl up into it. Dd I mention it's that big?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eco dye scarves

As promised. Some colors from the garden. Reminds me of summer on this blustery and frosty day. The top is a close up of how the green eucalyptus changes to orange in the dye process. My favorite. Lots of goldenrod and purple basil in the second photo. It's a nuno felt scarf- a fusion of merino wool and silk. Really lovely. The first, and third photos are a length of habotai silk, with rolled hems. It's flowing, beautiful, and one of a kind. All (and a few more) can be found in my etsy shop. That's how I hold onto summer memories. What about you?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Savoring the last bits of summer

Autumn has me savoring the last bits of warm weather, considering reviving this blog, and chasing the frost from what's left of my garden. I'll give it another go here, and document, if only for myself, a record of where I am so I know where I'm going. I forget what my art meant to me at the moment of it's creation, or even how it looked. I'm terrible about remembering to take photos. And just like this past summer, those memories slip through my fingers.

To hold on, I've done a bit of eco-dying. Otherwise known as plant based dyes. I gathered some purple basil, rise leaves, annual eucalyptus, and wild golden rod, made a composition of them on wool and silk, bundled tightly, and simmered with iron. The results are beautiful, ephemeral, and translucent like late summer's ghosts.

I'll post the finished eco dyed felt and silk photographs once I take a better shot. Until then, here's some steps of the journey.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why I like farmers and neighbors

I've recently read the speech given by Wendell Berry for the 2012 Jefferson Lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Have you read it? No? Then you can do so here. Grab some tea and get comfortable. It's long and worth every word. In it, he espouses the importance and necessity of rooted living, of affection for the land, and story. It's really gotten me thinking about community, and of course, about art. I think one of the things that draws me to feltmaking is its connection to land, animals, and the lifestyle that supports it. Shepherds mean a lot to me. However, many times I have no connection to the person who raised the sheep whose wool I use. They often are in New Zealand or Australia, land of merino.
 So, in an effort to connect more to those who inhabit my community, I've made my second visit to Old Pine Farm on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. It's really a special place. They do an excellent job making sure their animals are well cared for, enjoy grass and fresh air, and are ethically treated. Kris, who owns the farm, just happens to have sheep of my favorite variety: Navajo Churro. These are such amazing beasts, sporting many, many horns and looking absolutely feral. The Navajo Churro is one of the very first sheep brought to the new world, are super hardy, and factor importantly to the Navajo people's spiritual life. They are considered"threatened" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.  I was lucky enough to have first pick of her fleeces after her animals were sheared. I have more than enough to keep me busy for the next couple months with this great long wool!