Sunday, 7 August 2016

Cultivating lace and felt bulbs

  . .  Somnium sublacerum (she dreamt of growing antique lace)

I love felt and use it as a base for much of my embroideries. It is a pleasure to stitch into and I love the steady sturdy feel. I often eco dye pieces of felt with flowers and leaves or rust.

When entering a piece for the curated Feltmakers Ireland exhibition ‘Kaleidoscope’ I decided to make 3D felt pods. The exhibition was to celebration the changing shape of felt and the constant inspiration from the natural world. As the venue was to be National Botanic Gardens Dublin I took my inspiration from the bulbs and plants in the majestic vintage greenhouses. Their exotic structures are almost alien and the roots especially interesting and lace-like.

I made both felt pods using natural fiber shades and a large plastic resist sandwiched inside the fiber layers. I gained some valuable lessons in this 3D felt adventure.
(1) It takes a lot of rubbing and rolling.
(2) Best to use strong plastic that can be easily pulled out of the pod.
(3) The opening hole you cut will get a lot lot bigger before pod is finished.

I made a large pod shape and then when finally felted I manipulated the felt into a bulb shape by sewed ridges all around. 

I then made a second smaller ‘younger’ bulb with layered shades of brown and grey felt. 

I wanted lots and lots of felted roots . . . and that took lots and lots of rolling ! The olive soap made my hands the softest and cleanest in Ireland by the time I had made them all !

To dirty the end of each root I first tried rust water but it was too hard on my hands.
So then I tried tea - but the colour was too yellow - so in the end I mixed some watercolour paint in the perfect shade of earth/soil brown and dipped my roots in one at a time.

I made holes in the pods and attached the roots all around.

Next I made the folds of felt to make up the layers in the pods. They had to be soft curved shapes - as natural as possible. ( I used onions and flower bulbs as my reference. )

The leaves were the only green in the bulbs and I shaped them to stand up inside each. 

I imagine my bulbs producing a constant supply of antique lace - how great would that be !! So I added some wonderful 120 year old antique lace scraps onto the larger pod and inside the folds of the bulbs.

Larger flat sections of felt wrapped on a canvas were my ‘soil’ base and I embroidered here and there added ‘stones’ and a little more antique lace.

It was a fun and very interesting project and one I really wish could actually grow me some lace . . .  . but like the name it is a dream ! (thanks you to my scientific sister for the lovely title.)

I was thrilled to have my finished piece chosen to be part of the fantastic Feltmakers Ireland exhibition in the Botanic Gardens in August 2016.

These are a few images from the venue.

Somnium sublacerum
. . . she dreamt of growing antique lace.

It is delightful to imagine a hybrid species that could produce
120 year old antique lace from the natural folds of felted bulbs,
to snip off little pieces from your own personal textile terrarium.