This week's blog post was written by Ammi Brooks of Ammi's Art.
I have been felting for about seven years now. I started with pushing a felting needle through shrunken wool to make designs for a Kindle cover. I have gone in many different directions since then, and today I want to show you what can be done with needle felting. If you are interested at all in making art with fiber, take a class (I am giving some introduction to felting classes in February and March at Artistic Portland), buy a book or peruse the many YouTube videos.
Needle felting is the art of sculpting wool with special, barbed needles. Stabbing the wool over and over again meshes the wool fibers together, creating a firm, textile object.
The Origin of Needle Felting: Felt is typically very strong and industrial, needle felted- felt is used in a variety of ways. From the 1950s, needle felting (needle punch) was originally used to make felt for industrial purposes, for use with musical instruments and as building materials. Industrial felt is made with large plates filled with special barbed felting needles that are mechanically moved up and down to felt wool and other materials together such as polyester or nylon.
Different types of sheep yield different types of wool (Merino, New Zealand, Lincoln, Romney,
Drysdale, Rambouillet to name a few); there are many types of wool available, but not all of it is
good for needle felting. The finer the wool, the softer it is; fine wool such as merino is used in the clothing industry.
Hundreds of the needles are used in the industrial made felt. Here we use one needle to create dogs, dragon and dolls.
For this blog entry, I would like to share the experience I had as an artist-in-residence, the reasons behind participating in an artist residency, and the process.
What is an artist-in-residence?
It is a place where an artist can stay and work temporarily usually having a work plan based on the art that the artist already does at his/her studio. This opportunity offers conditions that are conducive to creativity and provides their guest with resources, such as working facilities, connections, audience, etc..
Conditions and selections
Usually the art centers that offer an artist in residence program have a preselection program. They will ask you for your type of work and why you want to participate in their program, i.e., why this specific center or this country? Usually there is a cost for the residency. It may include a room, meals, and studio space. You have to find out what exactly what is included in the residency, so you can plan ahead just in case.
Most artist-in-residence opportunities offer an application procedure which is open to artists from all nations, with or without deadlines. Usually the artists are asked to send in documentation, a curriculum vitae, and a project proposal. Each institute has its own policy and usually participation is planned a long time ahead from six months to years ahead.
My residency was at the Sanskriti Foundation, at Delhi, India. I used my time at the Sanskriti Foundation to focus on extracting the real flavor of Indian culture; for us (foreigners) many of the elements that are a part of daily life in India are quite different from our own culture. In my paintings I tried to represent things like the simple “paan leaves” that people in India have and enjoy in most of the cities; or the “chai” that is so steeped in tradition. My other subjects were the beautiful festivals that India has all year long and give life and color to it.
During the four weeks’ residency period I did a Series of 10 oil paintings. My schedule was split on taking photographs of the subjects to be painted and then working in the Studio for a longer period of time. For example I had a one-day photography tour around the city, followed by three or four days of Studio time depending on the creation of the artwork.
It was a very good experience for me not only for my art, where it gave me the opportunity to explore more in painting and having the time to being more creative with no distractions, but I also met wonderful people that now I consider part of my family.
I create mosaic jewelry. I recently finished participating in a spat of shows, which I must say, is a lot of work but great fun. Given my work is very small and detailed, customers at shows often ask me questions in regards to working small scale. I often hear comments such as, “you must be very patient,” or “you must have good eyesight and a steady hand.” While those statements are accurate, I will add that I also have great tools! It’s really all about the tools. Well, the tools and materials.
I work with tiny Moroccan ceramic tiles that I actually import directly from Morocco…with some difficulty I might add. I have sourced small tiles from other manufacturers without success. The tiles I use have great depth and variation in color. They are not perfect and that suits me. Though detailed, my aesthetic is not polished. I prefer an organic, somewhat rustic look, so these tiles fit the bill perfectly. I often have to further manipulate the already small tiles in order to create my mosaics.
I also love mixing materials. For instance, I create jewelry that incorporates tiles as well as a material called filato, which is made from smalti that has been heated and stretched into thin noodles. The noodles can be flat or round are around 6mm wide and 1-2mm thick. They come in a range of colors, as do the Moroccan tiles. My studio is like a candy store! So many colors, textures and shapes!
I also work with a material called mosaic gold. As with filato, I like to combine mosaic gold in pieces that are predominantly tile based. Mosaic gold is comprised of a thin layer of 24-carat gold leaf that is placed on top of poured glass, and then another layer of molten glass is poured on top. The resulting tile is absolutely gorgeous! Mosaic gold can be tricky to work with and is understandably expensive; therefore, I use it sparingly and I’m careful with my cuts. Mosaic gold comes in a variety of colors. Currently, I’m partial to “acid green” and bright orange!
Another material that I use often is called millefiori. Talk about fun! Millefiori translates to “thousand flowers.” It is glass imported from Murano, Italy which is cut from layered glass rods which have different colors of glass that resemble mini flowers, bullseyes, stars, etc. I can get millefiori as small as 2mm! In larger sizes, I often cut the millefiori and create a layered look. This is a good segue to tools!
How does one cut millefiori into precision shapes? Glad you asked. I use wheeled nippers when I want to cut millefiori, smalti, mosaic gold, and even my tiny ceramic tiles. I prefer a brand called Leponitt. I’ve heard mosaic artists refer to them as the best wheeled nippers in the market. They are durable and comfortable to use.
Another must-have tool for me is a good pair of fine point curved tweezers. Mine are about 5” long and they are ideal for micro-mosaic work. I also find it necessary to sometimes use reverse tweezers, especially when I need to hold on to a tiny tile while I hand grind it down on a pumice stone so that it will fit into my piece.
Another important tool that I use is a simple dental pick. Since I often use an epoxy in my work, the dental pick helps me to position each tile as well as smooth over the epoxy.
I use a myriad of other tools and materials, but these are my essentials. Oh, and I almost forgot, a magnifying lamp to help with detail is handy. Without these tools, I wouldn’t be able to create miniature mosaics. And yes, a dose of patience, a steady hand, as well as tunes on Spotify help me create wearable mosaic art!
This week's blog is brought to you by Marianne Wilson Stein of Gifts from Earth.
If you struggle with chapped lips then you know winter weather adds an extra challenge. The dry, cold air causes a number of problems. Before winter truly sets in, you can learn how to protect your lips and prevent chapping.
Daytime and Night-Time Protection
Protection is one of the best preventatives. Many lip products like lipstick and lip stain can actually cause lips to dry out. It’s important to find products that moisturize and protect. During the daytime, search for an oil-based product. At night you can try something a little heavier. One common solution is to use grape seed oil or lip products containing grape seed oil.
Brush Your Lips
You can help exfoliate your lips by brushing them lightly when you brush your teeth. This will help remove some of the exterior dry skin. It smoothes out your lips and can help prevent chapping.
Stop Licking Your Lips
Licking your lips is a habit that can be challenging to break. Try to use lip protection that is unflavored, so you’re not tempted to taste your lips. Also, make sure to stay hydrated. When you become even slightly thirsty, one of the body’s initial reactions is to start licking your lips. Constant wetting and re-wetting causes dry, cracked lips.
Check Your Products
Many products can cause allergic reactions. The result is dry, irritated, and chapped lips. Lipsticks, lip balms, and even toothpastes can cause irritated lips. The culprits are flavorings, colorings, and even seemingly helpful ingredients like oxybenzone found in sunscreen.
If you suspect a product is causing your lips problems, stop using the product for 10 to 14 days. If your lips improve, then you’ve found your answer. If they don’t improve, you can resume using the product and try eliminating something else.
Foods and Medication
Just like some common ingredients can cause lip irritation, food and medications can too. Topical medications like Retin-A can cause severe drying. Food allergies like wheat and dairy can cause lip irritation and chapping. Food begins digesting as soon as it enters your mouth. The saliva begins to break it down. If you have a food allergy or sensitivity, it can immediately affect your lips.
If you suspect a medication (including prescription medications) or a food is causing your chapped lips, consider eliminating it for a few days to see if the condition improves. If it’s a prescription that you suspect is causing the chapped lips, talk to your doctor before you stop taking your medicine.
There are ingredients in our lives that cause chapped lips. Sun, wind, and dry air are certainly challenges to having soft and supple lips. However, a little extra protection and attention can help you keep your lips comfortable all winter long.
Gifts From the Earth’s all-natural lip balm contains beeswax, organic coconut oil, cocoa butter, organic jojoba oil, meadowfoam seed oil and vitamin E.
Why these ingredients?
Beeswax: Natural environmental barrier and anti-microbial
Coconut oil: Nourishing and locks in moisture
Cocoa butter: Soothing emollient to soften skin
Jojoba oil: Closely resembles human sebum. It is good for inflamed skin, eczema, and dry skin.
Meadowfoam seed oil: Contains Vitamin E and tocopherol, both of which are known to prevent skin dehydration and make skin look younger.
Vitamin E: An oil soluble and deep moisturizing vitamin with excellent anti-oxidant properties, it acts as a natural preservative and helps prevent rancidity.
You can find Marianne on Facebook and see her full product line at Gifts From the Earth or contact her through Twitter, Pinterest or email.