St.Lukes – felted wall hanging

This piece I started as part of a live demonstration at Paint the Town – St. Lukes Hospital’s annual benefit in late September. I demonstrated wet-felting, as most people probably haven’t seen this done, or know anything about it. The initial idea was to finish a piece at the benefit, but even with a lot of prep work, it just wasn’t feasible.

The main shape was wet-felted, which was completed at the benefit. The pink dots were blended into the back of the piece with a felting machine, or embellisher. Originally, I was going to just put pink dots on each of the sections, but I added the stitching for contrast and texture. I sort of tried to come up with a name for it, but I always thought of it as the “St. Lukes piece,” so might as well leave it at that. It’s approximately 24″ accross.

St.Lukes - hand-dyed shetland wool wall hanging
St.Lukes detail
Machine needle-felted spots and metallic stitching

This is also backed with a commercial felt for hanging on the wall.

The colors are hand-dyed from Shetland wool. I have a thing for hot pink and (especially) purple lately, which might sound bizarre to those who have known me for years. What can I say? I have no logical answer for you. It does not stem from K-State (those who know me well should know that!). I avoided purple for years due to my anti-sport and superfluous school spirit policies.

Glacial – Felt/Ceramic Wall Hanging

I finished this in October, but I’ve been bad at blogging lately. I’ve been having problems getting accurate photographs of the fiber work.

The main section of Glacial features natural colored fleeces from the farm, wet-felted. The “buttons” are pit-fired earthenware with amorphous, needle-felted wool attached to each. It is backed with a commercial felt fabric (ie., not craft felt) to hang on a wall. It’s about 18-20″ across.

Glacial wall hanging
Natural colors in Shetland wool
Glacial wallhanging detail
Pit-fired buttons with amorphous wool "nubs" (I don't really know what to call them).

Carding my brain away…

This weekend I was down at the farm. I dyed a batch of purple wool and spent many, many hours carding. So much so that when I drove home after sunset Sunday night, the clouds in the sky looked exactly like the bits of fleece I had been carding. Like exactly, down to the “crimp.”  Rembember hair crimping in the eighties? Pretty much looks like that but it occurs naturally to a degree is some fleeces.

For non-fibers folks: Carding is a process that gets all the fibers going in the same direction, which must be done before wool (or any fiber really) can be spun into yarn and then into textiles. I am a lucky duck and have access to an electric drum carder (or du-da-duh, Supercarder!), as  seen below. Each batch is called a “batt.” So over the weekend, I carded something like 17 batts, which doesn’t sound like alot, but then again, some batts have to be carded up to 4 times each if I’m blending with another fiber. I was blending some angora bunny into the purple this weekend, for example. It also takes much longer if  I’ve over-agitated the wool in the washing and dyeing process, which tangles the fibers. Apparently I have a problem with that.

I cannot even imagine doing this with a non-electric carder or god-forbid, old-fashioned hand carders. That would simply not happen. Anyways, I know I had promised a blog on the carding process, but this is all you get right now! Deadlines loom!

drum carder
Supercarder or medieval torture device? Well, I have had a few bleeders when unattentively poking fingertips with the metal spines.

Bub Vase

This is a walnut vase I turned on my Delta Midi Lathe and carved channels into with the idea to inlay a mixture of crushed glass and resin. However, I did a test of the inlay and a person who I trust for their candid opinion said that it looked like someone threw up glass, so that idea got put on hold . So it sat on a shelf for several years just waiting to be finished. So here comes the felt! This is a functional vase with a glass test tube insert.

Bub Vase - turned walnut w/ mohair & shetland wool

The wool is a mix of mohair and shetland. The nubs were initially needled felted to strips of cotton, which were then affixed to the carved channels. Then additional needle felting took place, carefully working to get symmetry.

Pit Firing Process

On May 29th I tried pit firing ceramics for the first time down at the family farm. It was during an annual family celebration, so we made a thing of it. A few of the cleaned-up, waxed pieces can be seen in the next blog below.

Casting "shells" for pit firing. After sitting for a while, the plaster absorbs water from the slip. The longer it sits, the thicker the piece. The excess slip is then poured into a bucket. After some handwork to clean and smooth the pieces, they are left to dry and then fired in an electric kiln. This will prevent breaking during the eventual pit firing.
Slip casting shells – slip is just a liquid clay body formulated for casting. After sitting for a while, the plaster absorbs water from the slip. The longer it sits, the thicker the piece. The excess slip is then poured into a bucket. After some handwork to clean and smooth the pieces, they are left to dry and then fired in an electric kiln. This will prevent breaking during the eventual pit firing.
After all the hard work of digging the pit (I had massive help there; no way I could have gotten through all that ridiculous bedrock), it’s time to load the pit with various materials while a nephew supervises.
The bed of the pit has been lined with sawdust, newspaper and straw. Some of the straw had been previously soaked in salt brine and then dried. You can see that a few of the pieces have been wrapped in burlap (also soaked in salt and dried) and copper wire. Different chemicals and techniques have different results in term of color, so I’m just experimenting with different things.
Before filling up the pit with the rest of the filler materials, I spread a few chemicals around. Here I’m sprinkling red iron oxide – for reds obviously, copper carbonate for green, cobalt oxide for blue, and manganese dioxide for purple. Rock salt was sprinkeld throughout as well as my nephew tracks my progress.
Finally time to get the party started.
Everyone loves fire.
You let the fire burn out, and hope things go well as you have to wait overnight or longer until the work is cool enough to pull out. I was initially disappointed as we had a ventilation problem, but some pieces still came out really well after being cleaned up and polished. The next round of pit firing was immediately scheduled for July 4th so we could try a change in the design.

See this post for the initial results polished up:

Work in Progress: Results of First Pit Firing


Pit-fired shell form
work in progress - pit-fired shell form - felting will be used to complete piece

Here are a few of my favorite results from my first attempt at pit firing ceramics. As experiments, they are all fairly small, the longest of these is about six inches. Not everything came out on the first try, but the best ones almost look like stones. I hope to have some images of the pit firing event itself soonish. For context, these “shells” (they are hollow or cup-like) are intended to be the bases of sorts for felting sculpture. Or so the idea currently stands…

Process: All pieces are slip-cast earthenware. Various surface techniques, such as burnishing, buffing, oiling, and terra siglatta were used in the greenware stage. They were then bisque fired in an electric kiln. Some pieces then received additional surface work. For the pit firing, various chemicals were added on and near the pieces for coloration, including rock salt, red iron oxide, copper carbonate, manganese dioxide, and cobalt oxide. The speckling in these pieces are a result of the various chemicals.

pit-fired shell form
work in progress - ceramic pit-fired shell form
one of my favorites - slip cast pit-fired earthenware
the other side of image above - "shellhorn"


pit-fired "onion shell"
I call these Onion Shells

New Work – Translation: I will never understand.

Hand-dyed and needle-felted Shetland wool. 10’L x 12″H x 1.75″D  This piece covers an entire wall, so sizeable length makes it difficult to show online. Thus, the detail shot and I will put a higher resolution shot on the website. Individual “letters” are three-dimensional felted objects, each pinned to the wall. Each shade of blue was dyed separately and color gradations were carefully created in the needle felting process.

The “letters” do not have direct meanings or pronunciations, though the phrasing was carefully chosen through extensive writing /sketching. Though I am usually Google Image-happy, I purposefully avoided researching languages, as I wanted to let the shapes be influenced only by my  pre-existing references, subconscious or otherwise. Frankly, I’m not certain why that was so important, but it was. I guess a thought would be that I should make another after taking a look at world languages and see how the additional visual references get assimilated.

See website for larger image.

Translation: I will never understand.
Translation: I will never understand.

Translation Detail

Detail of Translation: I will never understand.

Work in Progress – morning drawing

Here’s the start of a new drawing I’m working on in the mornings. The shiny surface that you see is a layer of masking to help protect the black background while I’m working. “Riff” is the working title, though that may change. I went to a jazz concert at the Folly Theater about two weeks ago and sometimes these shapes look like jazz to me.

Riff (working title): colored pencil on illustration board

Fabric Sample #1 from Surface Design class at KC Art Institute

dying technique of Japanese shibori on rayon


Some of you may or may not know, I am taking a 6-wk surface design course at the Art Institute. The class focuses on dying techniques for cellulose fibers, which opens up new techniques and processes for me as thus far, I’ve only dyed protein fibers (i.e. wool). The sample here was my first attempt at a certain type of Japanese shibori using a nylon rope to resist the dye. The result was not what I was going for, but I still like the landscape effect it produced. Sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. Fun stuff! I’ll be posting more samples…