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International Feltmakers Conference in Bath

Being a relatively new member of the IFA, this year’s AGM and Conference was my first experience of the international feltmaking community, and what a wonderfully warm experience it was too.

Entirely self-taught, I have – up until now – worked pretty much in isolation from other feltmakers so it was a real treat to have a 4-day conference take place on my doorstep (about 12 miles from home), indulge in no holds barred woolly chat and attend some very inspirational workshops.

Among the highlights were Yule Somme’s ‘Felt Feet’ activity, which gave the perfect excuse to explore the grounds and woodland just outside of it. After an hour-long wander with feet clad in soapy wet Blue Faced Leicester, plastic bags and walking boots,

I had magically produced a pair of perfect, delicate looking felt casts of my feet, which are now taking pride of place on my wall at home. Yule’s activity really brought home to me the history of felt and the myths and legends associated with it. It was a perfect way to start the conference and a good talking point to help break the ice when spotting others out & about with similar
soggy feet!

I relished the chance to learn from the experts, and enrolled in a series of workshops, which included screen printing on silk fabric with Carole Waller at Bath Spa University (to be used as a base for nuno felt), and Sheila Smith’s ‘Texture in Nuno felt’ workshop. But my favourite workshop was artist Chris Lines’ ‘Pre-felts for Design’ session.

I work with pre-felts quite a lot myself and, having seen Chris’ beautiful work on display during the conference, I couldn’t wait to hear more about her approach. After an introduction to some of her work and techniques, and a short session on the principles of design, Chris demonstrated how she makes multi-coloured, multi-layered pre-felts incorporating fabrics, which are then felted onto a loose fibre background and enhanced with more layers and fabrics. Although slightly worse for wear because of the wine and lack of sleep the previous night, I particularly enjoyed the experimental aspect of this workshop and had great fun cutting out shapes, layering and trying to anticipate the possible effect of placement within the design. Chris is an excellent teacher and I found I could really relate to her background as a painter as well.

A special little moment occurred when I popped into see the felt exhibition that had been put on by Bath Spa University to coincide with the conference. The exhibition featured a range of felt or felt inspired work, and one of the pieces was made by Tra Watts, a former workshop participant of mine, who went on to study for a BA in Creative Art (mixed media textiles/art).

The whole conference has left me very, very, very inspired and I have so many ideas I almost don’t know where to start!

Yule Somme felt feet activity my finished pairYule Somme’s felt feet activity – my finished casts

Sheila Smith 'textures in nuno felt' workshop - sheila's samplesSamples from Sheila Smith’s nuno felt workshop

Designing with pre-felts during Chris Lines' workshopDesigning with pre-felts during workshop with Chris Lines

Sue (glasgow) in zebra maskSue Horsburgh’s punk zebra mask!

Felt Exhibition Bath Spa UniFelt Exhibition at Bath Spa Uni, work by Tra Wats

Chris Lines Leaving your mark Work by Chris Lines

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