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Article in Felt Matters

The December 2012 issue of the International Feltmakers Association’s quarterly journal Felt Matters contains a 2-page article on my headdresses.

It charts my feltmaking journey, which started in 2005 when I bought a fleece straight off the sheep during a visit to a sheep farm with my daughter. After trying spinning & knitting and not being particularly adept at either, I turned to feltmaking. Library book in hand, my first try was a tea cosy of moderate success. I was intrigued by the process, but soon after became a mother for the second time and had little time to get the grips with the technique.

As my youngest grew, so did my desire to go back to felt and, via experiments with toys, hand puppets and other items I finally arrived at the headdresses. Even at the start of my felt journey I knew one day I would be making larger pieces, so it came almost as a relief to finally get stuck in.

The article describes how I moved from my first attempt at a mask in early 2011 (image 1), to a full headdress in the form of Raven I (image 2), which was made of local Alpaca, Shetland and Hebridean fleece. This had its first public outing at the ball at the IFA conference in Bath this year, but I quickly discovered the short comings of the design (mainly that I couldn’t see or breathe very well), so when I came home I cut it up and incorporated parts of it into Raven II (image3).

Since then I have been making a range of headdresses, animal and otherwise. I really love the textural and painterly effects that can be achieved by blending different wools, and each piece provides me with a new opportunity to stand back and see what happens.

Through experimentation, I have learned about working with complex resist shapes. I treat each piece as an opportunity to try out new techniques and to build on what I learned from making the previous ones. All the headdresses start life around a flat resist, before being felted to a pre-felt stage (this is the point when the fibres are just beginning to bind together). At this stage I remove the resist and start sculpting it into a three dimensional shape. I shape the mask around my own head, which also helps me to decide where to position the eye openings. I have recently acquired a second hand spin dryer, which has revolutionised the trying-on stage!

First attempt at a mask 2011 First attempt at a mask, 2011.

Headdress no1 Raven I headdress in progress Raven I headdress in progress.

Headdress no 2 Raven II - A marked improvement Headdress no. 2 Raven II – a marked improvement.

Headdress no 3 Seagull Seagull Headdress.

Headdress no 4 Owl Owl headdress

Metamorphosis headdress Metamorphosis headdress.

Ram's horns headdress Ram’s horns headdress.

Parrot headdress Grey parrot headdress (commission).

  1. Hi Gladys
    your site is amazing! I’m even more amazed to learn that you only started feltmaking in 2005 and from a library book! Good luck with it…I hope you get some great clients.
    Happy Easter
    See you in April
    Love Fiona

    Reply

  2. Curious what it’d cost for the rams head. It would make a wicked Wizards cap for LARPing.

    Reply

    • Now there’s an idea! I had to look up LARPing though, it looks like fun. Have a look at my shop page on my site for a rough indication of prices.

      Reply

  3. Hi – I am a relatively advanced felting artist and have a question:
    When you add horns to your masks, are you felting the horns separately, and leaving the base unfelted to attach to the main body after the body is also prefelted?
    OR
    Are you felting the entire thing all in one piece with a complex resist where the horns and body are of a single resist?

    Thank you so much for your help. I know you are very busy! I have been doing both for awhile now, and both take quite a bit of time.

    Barbara Attwell
    Austin Texas

    Reply

    • Hi Barbara,

      I have to admit I giggled a little at the last sentence of your message. You’re right, both methods take quite a bit of time. There is no way around that I’m afraid… believe me I tried! Apart from a few exceptions, I tend to felt the entire thing all in one piece with a complex resist. This is just a personal preference. I find that way I can achieve better colour progression on to all the different parts and therefore create a more ‘seamless’ whole, but yes it’s a lot of work laying the wool around all the different parts of the resist, and it can be hard to predict beforehand where the horns are actually going to end up by the time the mask has assumed its 3-dimensional shape. This is just a matter of practice.

      As far as I’m concerned, there is no right or wrong way. The main thing is to use the method that you feel most comfortable and happy with. It sounds to me like you’re doing just great!

      Reply

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