Soft Sculptures For the Hard Hearted

Needle Felting

Tinker, Tailor, Felter, Sigh

My good friend Sarah Scherer is not only an enormously talented hair stylist, but also a gifted fine artist whose subject matter usually centers around teeth, abstracted female genitalia, and naturalistic tree knot formations.

So for Sarah’s birthday this year I thought I’d make her an artsy sculpture out of hair (aka wool roving) using some of the thematic elements she loves so much.

Orificial Artifice

2012

Needle felted Corriedale and Merino wool

Approximately 4.5 x 5 x 3.5″ (?)

———————————-

I spent some time working on the piece with one of my favorite needle felting artists and personalities, Moxie, when she held a needle felting Tinkering Studio session at an event called Open Make at San Francisco’s Exploratorium.

Moxie felting with the masses (Photo courtesy Made By Moxie Flickr page)

I was honored to be felting alongside one of my heroes in the field! Watching Moxie patiently instruct both children and adults on the basics of the craft was really interesting, and everyone seemed to be having a great time stabbing wool into shapes. She even turned me on to her environmentally friendly felting foam (available for sale here), a nice departure from the sticky Clover brush mat I usually employ.

Moxie’s eco-friendly foam. (Courtesy www.etsy.com/shop/hifiberkits)

During the making of Orificial Artifice I found myself working more quickly than I had before, using blending brushes for the first time to mix most of the colors (with the exception of the teeth), and beginning to further explore making wrinkles, nooks and crannies within the sculpture that lent themselves to crisper dimensions.

But, perhaps most importantly… I got to put a smile on someone’s face.

(Frightening photo courtesy Karen Wilkinson/The Exploratorium)


Crochetin’ in Blood

I think I speak from experience when I say twisted minds sometimes have too much time on their hands… especially if those hands happen to be attached to the arms of a Slayer fan. (NSFW video evidence here!)

Well, you know what they say… if thine arm offends thee, slice it off.

Uhhh… don’t worry dude, I’m pretty sure it’ll grow back!

This once-menacing hand gesture of “HAIL SATAN” has been unfortunately morphed into the ultra lame, mom-like “YAY! THIS ROCKS!” over recent years.

Needle felted arm carving? Those crazy kids! What’ll they think up next?

DAMN! My favorite bracelet! I knew I forgot something at the show last night!

Available for sale in the Croshame Etsy store here!


Painful Lessons in Needle Felting

Some of you may recall me expressing jubilance over starting my first needle felted project early last year.

Yes, it looked fairly decent then, back when it was still a work in progress. It took me 6 months of hard work, finger stabbing and arm pain to complete it, but unfortunately the final piece came out looking very different than I had originally planned, leaving me so disappointed in the end result that I never showed it to anyone. I’ll admit, it was an ambitious first project and I got in a bit over my head (as well as my neck, shoulder and elbow). But even though my once-graceful swan lady turned out more pockmarked than Edward James Olmos and took donkey’s years to finish, I masochistically dove into another needle felted sculpture directly afterward, determined to learn from my mistakes and create a final product I was happier with.

Titled “A Scent”, this second piece is part of my mixed media series Pink Period (which can be viewed here).

There were several important things I learned between my first and second needle felted pieces, and although I still consider myself an amateur felter with much to learn, I thought I would pass along some of my recent revelations and pointers to other interested beginners. Careful, though — needle felting tips are pretty sharp.  *snort*

#1. Needle felt the wool into a solid shape BEFORE adding it to the work. This may seem to be a huge “DUH” for needle-felters-in-the-know, but it took me a while to truly figure out. Trying to felt something into submission while it’s on the piece just ends up pushing it into the work instead of adding on to it.

#2. For larger pieces, USE A MULTI-NEEDLE TOOL INSTEAD OF JUST A SINGLE NEEDLE. I put this in shouty-style capitals because, like a complete dumbshit, I only used a single needle on my first piece — which was over 12″ tall and had a wire armature inside — leading to more frustration than was necessary. I’ve found single needles to be better for felting tiny things, making details, and attaching pieces.

#3. Needle felt only for as long as you can. Stop when you start hurting, or preferably, before that. This is a very hard thing for me to do, as I often get so rapt with sculpting that I can sit for 10-12 hours at a time without leaving the art. This works fine for clay, but not so much for felting. (My ulna agrees.)

#4. Have patience. Unless you’re making a small, simple piece, needle felting takes a long time. Hell, even small and simple can take a while.

#5. Stabbing yourself with a barbed needle only hurts slightly less than everyday life. Don’t be scared to bleed for your art. In fact, welcome it. Then thank your lucky scars you’re not felting in the 19th century.

Felting Machine from 1880


#6. If you can squish it with your fingers, it’s probably not done. The more solid the work, the better. Of course, this is merely my own personal preference and opinion; depending on what you’re making, you may want to leave your felting as hard or soft as you desire. That is, until the NFTF (Needle Felting Task Force) is formed… then you should be worried.

#7. Lastly, wooden felting tools make great blood absorbers.


Needle felting update

This is shaping up to be one of the longest projects I have ever worked on! Although it’s very rewarding, it’s also extremely frustrating seeing as I usually like to get things over and done with pretty quickly. Plus, there’s that very un-fun arm pain that comes along with it. Needle felting is pretty unpredictable as a medium — the sculpture keeps changing my original design slightly with each session. And I’m still only a litte over halfway done! For my next piece I’m pretty sure I will do part clay and part needle felting to save me some time and bouts of manic hair pulling (aka Trichotillomania).


Never Felt Better!!

Well, that title may not be completely accurate, but it fits the post.

In mid-February I had the amazing chance to learn the art of needle felting from one of the medium’s most innovative and impressive artists, Stephanie Metz (http://stephaniemetz.com). I recently came across Metz’s work quite by accident, and was immediately impressed with her content and style. I had previously seen other needle felted animals and more primitive-looking felted objects before, but what Metz had done with the medium opened up a range of doors I didn’t think were possible. While perusing her site, I noted that she was teaching a needle felting workshop at my alma mater, CCA, so I jumped at the opportunity to learn this intriguing art form from this master fiber artist.

An image of Stephanie Metz at work. Courtesy http://stephaniemetz.com

The workshop was small; there were only 4 other students (all female) in the class, which kept it really friendly and gave it a “Felting Bee” type atmosphere. The participants were all already artists and sculptors, so that lent itself to some really impressive and spectacular first-time projects. Stephanie was very easy to listen to and incredibly open, answering all the questions people had for her with great honesty and candor. She showed slides of other fiber artists as well as her own art, and even brought some of her pieces to show to people, including one of her “Overbred” creatures, an abstract piece, a teddy bear skull, and some teddy embryos in jars. The work is even more impressive in person, and after learning the basics of the medium, doubly so! She even let the students touch and hold her work, which helped us get a sense of the density and texture of what a finished piece should look like.

I am really excited about where I will go in the future with this new skill under my belt, and will be trying to do as much as my BCT (Burgeoning Carpal Tendonitis) will allow for. (Who’d have thought stabbing hair into shapes would be so labor intensive?) I’m looking forward to combining my more cartoony antigurumis with some more realistic, sculptural needle felting and taking my fiber art to another level.

Ever since the workshop I have been on the lookout for other talented needle felters, and am starting a new link section to showcase their sites. Please check out these wonderful artists work under the sidebar section “Needle Felting Artists.”

Here are some pictures of me in action, working on my current (grandiose) first project — I will hopefully be updating as the work progresses.