Generally speaking, there is a fantastic sense of community & encouragement among feltmakers, and a willingness to share techniques and ideas. Self-taught myself, I first embraced the opportunity to attend a workshop last year. Although there are many benefits to working in isolation (not least developing your own style and arsenal of techniques), to commit yourself to learning from the best around opens you up to new possibilities and keeps your work fresh.
So, one fine Friday in May I made my way to Friesland, a province in the North of Holland, together with UK feltmaking friends Pearl, Pat & Janine.
For me, the main attraction of the event was Hungarian feltmaker Judit Pócs. She has been a bit of a felt heroine of mine ever since I saw her short animated film of feltmaking. Judit learned to make felt as a young girl, and over the years developed her own very distinct, magical and fantastical style. She is known for her elaborate hats and I was very excited to obtain a place on her 3-day master class ‘Fantasy Hats’.
All in all, FeltFull attracted 38 women from 12 different countries, who gathered on the opening night in Truus Huijbregts’s huge felt studio (a converted cow barn) for the opening activity led by felt veteran Inge Evers.
The studio is nestled in a typically Dutch (flat) landscape predominantly made up of fields of Friesian cows, crisscrossed with drainage channels (‘sloten’) and punctuated on the horizon with the church spires of small villages. Having been born in this region of Holland made it all the more special for me to spend a week here.
With the studio cleverly divided into smaller spaces, each group had their own self contained space in which to work, but many a participant could be found wandering around the building to get a glimpse of the different techniques taught elsewhere, furiously taking mental notes.
We were kept pretty busy at Judit’s workshop however: one ‘simple’ hat was planned for the first day and a more ambitious fantasy hat for the remaining two days. I only just about managed to finish my fantasy hat, which was designed to go with a nuno felt collar I already had, and I learned a huge amount in the process – not least the ‘double hood’ method. I am forever looking at ways in which I can improve and streamline the process of making my headdresses, and Judit’s very generous teachings gave me a lot to think about and apply back home. I particularly appreciated her technical precision, methodical approach and her passion for a strong and high quality finish.
In almost direct contrast, my choice of second master class with Lithuanian feltmaker Vilte Kazlauskaite was a liberating exercise in letting go of pre-conceived ideas. Vilte has been making a name for herself in the world of fibre art with her very textural and organic nuno felt garments. In her workshop, we spent the first day making samples of nuno felt using raw wool fibres and lever sculptural techniques. On day two we were encouraged to create a wearable accessory using our favourite techniques. I really enjoyed just ‘playing’ with fibres and allowing spontaneous things to happen, without being too concerned about controlling the process – always a challenge for me.
Back in the UK, I still feel in a bit of a bubble. I keep finding my mind drifting back in time to go over the experience, assimilating all the information, ideas and impressions.
I have managed to make a start on some commissions and I have noticed how much my technical approach has changed as a direct result of my week in Holland, resulting in work I am much happier with. I wonder what workshop I can sign up for next?