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What a woolly blur summer has been!

September 26, 2019
by Elise Kyllo

My last blog was long on philosophy of fiber and environmental concerns and short on photos and felting work.  So this month I will share a sweet story about the creation of the local Felted Forest Project and a photographic summary of the many felting experiences I’ve enjoyed over the last two months.  Hopefully the photos will hold a 1,000 words. If I were to attempt to describe each class, mentor opportunity or summer camp, I would be writing for days.  

Summer fun at North House Folk ​School

Summer Felting Camp, Adventurous Felting.  A 5 day class where we made natural dyes, processed wool, made felted geodes and slippers.

 

Summer Felting Camp, Fairytale Felting.  A 5 day class where we made puppets, sculptures and a background for their Diorama story.  

 

A social weekend as the NHFS Artist in Residency

 

 

Finger puppet class

 

Classes

Natural Dye print class with Tasha Miller Griffith.  She has done years of experimentation and research in this unique art and shares all of her knowledge with great enthusiasm. 

 

My bees and lichen prints on silk, to be experimented with in nuno felting.  

 

Printed silk laid out on wool, yet to be felted. 

 

Nuno scarf and felted jewelry making with Flora Carlile-Kovacs.  Two really enjoyable classes, learning new techniques and fully inspired by color and Flora’s style.  

 

Flora's jewelry samples

 

My fall color collage scarf made in Flora’s Nuno class.

 

Felted Forest

The Felted Forest welcome sign made by Kay Rosenthal

 

For those of you who have no idea of what the Felted Forest is, imagine walking through the woods and being surprised to discover a wooly owl swooping over your head, a nest of colorful eggs in the crook of a tree, a rainbow colored nest of hornets buzzing about, a wool creation hiding around every turn!  Here is a summary of the project and a handful of photos of this delightful and extremely well received project.

 

Finn the Wooly Troll welcomes visitors to the new outdoor classroom and the Felted Forest at the Cook County Elementary School.

 

A luna moth made by Karen Kobey

 

The seed for the Felted Forest project was planted when Karin Flatoy Svarstad came to NHFS as guest instructor from Norway in February of 2019.  About 10 members of the Northwoods Fiber Guild signed up for her felted sculptural and felted bags and hats classes. She challenged all of us to make really well felted items.  So well felted, that our work could endure living outside in the elements of the north woods.

 

Extremely well felted bird sculptures by all of the students in Karin’s class.

 

She shared a project that she had organized years earlier in which she invited about 12 experienced felting artists to submit an art piece for an outdoor exhibit.  I think many of us were intrigued by the idea of placing felted wool art into the forest, but we didn’t ask for many details at the time, because we didn’t yet know we would be creating our own outdoor felted project in Grand Marais just a few months from then. 

 

Marlys Johnson was the grant writer and organizer extraordinaire for the Felted Forest Project.  Thank her if you see her!

 

Because we have an active felting group in Grand Marais, thanks to Mary MacDonald’s organizing, we began to dream about the possibility of our own local project.  A group of 5 felters came together to consider what it would be, where it could be, who would participate and how we would accomplish the task. Marlys Johnson, a wonderful organizer and felter, stepped up and agreed to write a Great Place Grant to secure funding for the project.  Suddenly we had funding for supplies and a July 15th installation deadline.

 

Flying Owl by Marlys Johnson ​

 

I invited a handful of kids from last year summer felting camp to make a piece for the Felted Forest.  They came to my studio, brainstormed the project, designed and felted the piece collaboratively. Look for additions to be added into the felted tree in the future! ​

 

North House Folk School offered space for wet felting during our usual Monday felting gatherings and we began to get busy dreaming about what we would like to make for the outdoor space.  Over a few months, we gathered, felted, worked, schemed and had fun together, preparing for the installation of the Felted Forest. With the help of the art teacher Mila Horak at Cook County Elementary School, we settled on a place to install the exhibit.  It would be located in a patch of woods in front of the Arrowhead Center for the Arts and the school. We liked the idea that our felted pieces would encourage people to spend time in the woods, to explore and search for the curious and beautiful sculptures.   It was important to us that it was accessible to the public, but not so public that it was dangerously exposed. The school seemed like a great location that would make the project available to local children and residents. We had many conversations about this being an art project that was vulnerable to the elements and  also to vandalizing or mysterious disappearance of beautiful items. We accepted the risks and embraced the idea of this being ephemeral art and hoped for the best.  

With great creative effort from about 10 artists, including a community opportunity for many visitors at the Grand Marais Art Festival booth to make felted flowers and vines for the project, we now have a wonderfully entertaining, enticing and playful Felted Forest that is always open.  

It is hard to imagine that 6 months ago, there was barely a trail through the forest and now there are well defined paths and places for sitting and meeting, of course on logs and stumps that are cushioned with felted sit upons.  For those who are curious to see what lives in the woods, there is a photographic list of items to be discovered in the new Timberframe Outdoor Classroom. Most importantly, the forest is now full of curious children and visitors of all ages, wandering about in pleasure and awe.  It is an inviting place of quiet, where one can enjoy the discovery of colorful wooly, lizards, birds, hornets, gnomes and so much more, made by the hands of many local fiber artists. I hope you will visit the forest and enjoy observing how life in the elements changes the wool. I have noticed that a squirrel preparing for winter has been pulling at the wool and likely making a nest of it!  

Related to the Felted Forest, I have been dreaming about making sculptural wool pieces with school kids that would be installed along a walking trail in the woods behind the school.  With this successful example of the Felted Forest in front of the school, I am encouraged to approach the school with a proposal for a Felted Forest Walking Trail. The details are stewing in my head and the timing and location are unknown, but the possibilities are exciting and endless…...a bit like the nature of wool, exciting and endless possibilities!  More on this later, hopefully.

 

Re-evaluate My Closet Project

My old wallet and new wallet

 

My old key chain and my new key chain (pretty boring but an improvement)

 

 

 In each blog, I will end with a few photos from the  Re-evaluate My Closet Project (July blog) which I am attempting to replace numerous things I use in my life that are made with fibers of questionable health or origin, fibers that contain or are made in a way that are harmful to the environment and people, or items of mine that are just ugly or falling apart.  I will replace these items with things I have felted with natural wool. It is an attempt to use more of my felted items and to surround myself with handmade things of functional beauty. This is a common goal of many craftspeople, but like the shoe maker who wears holey shoes, craftspeople painstakingly search for the time it takes to accomplish this.  You may notice that I am beginning with small items and hope to move towards larger items.   

 

Cast iron pan cozies 

 

Cup cozies

 

Bath scrubbies

 

Cell phone Pouches

 

My first felted dress.  I love it and I look forward to making more wearable wool!