Sunday, February 10, 2008

moral fiber

I spent many hours last semester experimenting with felt. Lou took me to a sheep farm outside of Utica, and I left there with an enormous garbage bag full of colorful wool. Making felt from raw wool is a time consuming process. Some days LW would come over and we'd sit in the kitchen drinking tea and make felt balls all day, like little old ladies. And then some days were less ladylike, when I'd move the furniture and cover the kitchen floor with a tarp so I could make a big wet woolly mess.

I have been fairly interested in felt since going to Mongolia and seeing the gers (yurts) that are commonly lived in there. I found gers to be remarkably comfortable. The walls are of felt, which is made by laying out swathes of wool, wetting it, rolling it up tightly in canvas and pulling it with horses. The friction helps the fibers mesh together. It's a similar effect to what happens when you wash a wool sweater in hot water. Some of the felt work is pretty basic, but at times complex decorative patterns are used. The dense layers of wool make for a relatively good insulation, and the transportable aspect of the materials is what makes it so useful in nomadic culture. Just take it apart, roll it up and set it on the roof of your jeep and move on the the next good pasture land. Watch a video of Mongolian felt making here.

Several websites show some highly entertaining examples of felt work. Lately I've become obsessed with, which is an online marketplace for artists and crafters. Etsy is a great way to support small businesses, for those of us who want our money to go to something less empirical than Wal-mart. The quality ranges from the ridiculously playful to the exquisite, and you can find anything; woodwork, jewelry, games and toys, clothing, paper crafts, and fiber arts, to name a few. Here are a few samples of felt that can be found there:

(click for larger images)

Some other interesting felt artists I've come across on the internet: Blythe Church has some wonderfully whimsical everyday objects made out of felt, including the typewriter pictured here. Horst is a Cleveland based artist who makes some incredibly intricate felt clothing. After the many hours it took me to make one felt coat, I can appreciate how much work this guy must have put into each of his pieces.

For other worthwhile needle crafts, check out the radically political knitting of Lisa Anne Auerbach at Steal this Sweater, the hip embroidery at Sublime Stitching, and examples of truly horrendous knitting at the hilarious You Knit What? .

PS. Speaking of crafts, my brother's handmade arch-top guitars, mandolins, woodwork, knives, and archery equipment can be viewed here, here, and also on here. Also look at Carrie's lovely jewelry here.

1 comment: