Thursday, March 26, 2020

Wreath of Love & Hope

Maker. Creator. Artist...maybe escape artist? As this is what doing things with my hands helps me to do. Normally I accomplish this by teaching, guiding students to release their inner "muse", or helping patients forget about their problems for a little while by expressing their creativity. I immerse myself in my students and their journeys in my classes, as I am caught up in helping them to bloom and grow in their artistic expression. In doing this, which I love, I'm able to forget about my own problems for a little while.

But now we're all called upon to stay home to "flatten the curve" of this nasty coronavirus wreaking havoc around the world, and I'm challenged to find an escape, a peaceful dwelling place within myself. And so I start work on a project requested by a special family member for her new home, a simple wreath made up of berries and leaves. I have all the supplies I need: a wreath form I found at Fancy Gap Pottery, wire covered with a moss-like substance. I only needed the small inner circle with wire extensions, and I was helped by a man at a local church who used bolt-cutters to cut away the 2 larger circles.

 This was the original wreath, and the 2 outer circles were cut away.

Close-up of the textured moss-like finish on the wire. Pretty but a bit messy.

 I used regular wire-cutters to cut off the wire extensions on the larger circles, and added them to my smaller wreath, wrapping the ends around the circle and gluing them in place with tacky glue. I also separated the original wire extensions so that there were "stems" on the inner and outer circle.

Then I began cutting out the leaves. I drew the basic leaf pattern, and traced 10 leaves onto the paper side of freezer paper. I used 2 shades of Woolfelt my family friend had chosen: Reet's Relish and Shady Grove. I ironed the waxy side of the leaves to the Woolfelt with a dry iron and cut out 10 leaves, cutting more of the darker hue (Reet's Relish) than the lighter. Removing the freezer paper to use again, I gently pressed each leaf in half to simulate a "vein", leaving the tip unpressed. I then unfolded the leaf slightly, preserving some of the dimension.

I continued to cut out leaves in sets of 10, reusing the freezer paper leaves again and again, and cutting roughly twice as many of the darker leaves than lighter ones. As I cut and pressed, I began to arrange them on the wreath form and wire extensions, alternating shades of green, filling in space, gently bending the wire "stems" to bring a nice curved flow to the piece. Very methodical, rhythmic, soothing. Nothing that demanded too much thought, yet required just enough concentration to take me away from worrying about my kids health, my elderly mom, my pregnant dil who's a nurse in the intensive care unit of her hospital, my bills getting paid, and how long is this going to go The leaves have my attention for a little while. Cut, press, arrange, glue. Repeat. I open the door and listen to the birdsong as I work. My mind is caught up in creating something harmonious and beautiful, wonderful therapy. Cut, press, place, glue. I'm in another world for a little while.

(The beginning...)

I also began to felt the white berries. I used 100% wool fibers in a natural white color, shaping several loose fiber balls at a time so that the size would be consistent. Then I patiently wet-felted them into small firm round berries. This can't be rushed, or you can get cracks and crevices in the surface. We use this technique in my wool bead earrings and necklace classes, and I always tell my students this is their social time to chat, and not look too closely at their felting. I felt a few berries at a time, trying to keep the size and shape all the same.

 I felt 20+ berries, setting them aside to dry before gluing them into place. I alternate felting with cutting so my hands don't get too tired. Back to cutting leaves. It's a nice shape, but needs more.

So I add more wires, more leaves. Start adding the berries. Finally I'm happy with it, and am almost sad to be done. Art as therapy, I was able to escape this strange-like-a-bad-dream world for a little while. The wreath reminds me a bit of mistletoe, symbolic of "divine love and healing, harmony and goodwill". Kind of like art. It's helped me once again. Today I shipped the wreath to its new home, my cousin's daughter. I sent it on its way with the wish of infusing their home and family with the same feeling of peace and hope it helped me find. We will get through this, tomorrow is another day.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Silk Scarf-dyeing at SECU house

I always enjoy visiting SECU house and sharing my skills with the out-of-town patients and their caregivers there. They are so appreciative of the opportunity to do something creative with others and escape into an artsy environment for just a little while. And it's truly a wake-up call for me, my problems pale in comparison to what some of them are going through. Silk scarf-dyeing is one of our favorite activities, too, it's so much fun, fast and easy! I love seeing what my students create, you never know how the scarves are going to turn out. Last time there we had a fellow who dyed a scarf for his wife, and came out with butterflies! So proud of all of my students, here is some of their gorgeous work.
 This artist was so happy with her beautiful ocean hues!
 I love how some of the colors separate in the dyeing process, what a nice surprise!
 This artist dyed this vibrant scarf for his wife, and got a bevy of beautiful butterflies!

I love the soft, happy colors in this scarf this young lady dyed, gorgeous!

Wool Geode Zipper Necklace class

We had such a fun time making these Wool Geode Zipper Necklaces at Maleku Jewelry a couple of weeks ago! The students learned how to make a wooly geode, how to wet-felt the wool beads, and how to assemble this artsy necklace. They got to choose from some pre-felted items too, coordinating colors with their own felted wool beads, so that we didn't spend all day felting but much of the time creating. I love how they all turned out, and I think everyone was happy with their work too! Here are a few pictures of their gorgeous necklaces.
 Diane ready to assemble her beautiful necklace, above. Love these earthy hues she chose!
This piece will look great with black, white, or even denim!
 Ileana added a bit of bling to her hand-felted purple beads!
 Some of my favorite colors, love those teals and greens!
This artsy student added lots of bead embellishments to her gorgeous piece as well as an asymmetric look, so unique!
Beautiful shades of amethyst and plum harmonize perfectly with the wool geode here!
 In the afternoon these hard-working gals felted wallets! They did an amazing job, the pictures don't do justice to these beautiful pieces.
I really enjoyed teaching this fun group of gals! Looking forward to going back to Greenville and teaching at the shop again sometime. And a special bonus - I get to visit my son and dil while I'm there too! It's a win-win for everyone.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Felted Soap!

Felting soap is one of the easiest classes I teach and results in a pretty and practical little work of art! I like to add a few novelty fibers at the end to add a pop of color and visual texture. We had a felted soap class at Sawtooth right before Christmas, and the students enjoyed making 2-3 bars of soap for themselves and/or Christmas gifts. Not only do the fibers keep on felting around the soap, they are like a built in loofah sponge! We had a great time making these, here are a few pictures of my students' work.
 All colors and shapes, love all these happy colors!
 This one is like the planet earth, blue, green, brown, so soothing.
 The one above is like a miniature landscape with its blue sky with clouds and cliff above the sea. I can see needle-felting a couple of tiny black birds in that sky to really add a nice detail!
Love that purple!

Felted Christmas Ornaments/Dryer Balls

When I teach felting classes, I often let students choose their own fibers from my "fiber buffet" - wool fibers and embellishments spread out on tables and sorted by color and fiber content. At the end of the class is clean-up time, and there are always a lot of little bits of this or that left. Eventually I have a bag full of these colorful balls of wool fluff. So when my daughter mentioned that they might not decorate their Christmas tree this year, as they have a new kitten, I offered to felt some kitten-friendly Christmas ornaments! I felted these from my wool bits, then ran narrow ribbon through them so they could be hung or tied on their tree. I think both my daughter and the new kitty enjoyed them! And later they can also be used as dryer balls to reduce static and soften clothes in the laundry.
 I felted a bit of catnip in the large red and white ball, bet that was kitty's favorite!
These came out with pretty flower patterns felted in them, a happy accident!

Wool Beads as Art Therapy

I always enjoy visiting SECU house, our local place for out of town patients and their caregivers to stay during an extended medical stay. Sawtooth provides artistic activities for the residents here several times a month and we always have a great time! One of the classes I teach here is making jewelry or bookmarks with wool beads we felt from wool fibers. Students felt a bead or 2 in their choice of colors, then string it onto harmonizing ribbon, adding coordinating novelty beads to create a beautiful necklace. Here are a few of the students and helpers wearing their unique creations.

Silk Scarf-dyeing as Art Therapy

I'm so blessed to be a part of Sawtooth's Art & Wellness program, and I love sharing our silk scarf-dyeing class with patients and their caregivers! This is such a fun and creative class, and there's nothing like making something beautiful that you can wear to boost your spirits. Here are a few of the beautiful scarves we dyed at the cancer center last fall, everyone was thrilled with their creations, and we had a great time!