Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaching Fiber Arts at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation

The new Winter term of classes has begun at KAF and I am one busy teacher! Now that classes have begun I will bring you updates on my sutdents progress as the term unfolds....

Fiber is really catching on in Bermuda after three years of success with the annual Bermuda Fibre Festival event. Enthusiasts are developing in both children and adults. My class schedule is proof enough that our efforts are paying off and we are creating interest in this wonderful artform! I am teaching five classes this term!

The term began with an adult "play date" which is scheduled for twice a month over the three month term. The classroom is busting to capacity with women who had never done any fiber arts until they attended one of our festivals. Two are the exception, a handspinner whose schedule has each year prevented her from participating and another who missed our events but loves any artform and was looking for a class to fit her schedule.

These sessions are intended to allow us to gather, create, share and mentor each other in a supportive environment. We all lead busy lives and often find it difficult to make time for ourselves to do what WE like to do, and this seems to be providing that space. There was a mix of projects going on that included wet felting placemats, a three dimensional fish which had been learned at fiber fest, and two newbies followed my instructions as I created a prototype of a bowl for a future class. The newbies were thrilled! They could not get over how successful they were and how pleased they were with their creations. They can't wait to return! The phot above is a vessel made by a first time felter. Nice work!

There was some tough love learning going on as well. One woman is working on felt samples of various fibers to help her decide what fiber she wants to use to ultimately create a felted quilt. She is a new felter and purchased samples of various wool fibers to experiment with. She learned some hard lessons that day.

Lesson # 1. Smaller samples are best - By the time I noticed what she was up to, she had layed out a two foot square; agressive for any sample and a new felter. It turned out in the end, that the fiber would not felt! I regret to say I don't remember what breed it was but it was a coarser fleece and though in the beginning it looked like it was doing ok, the surface had formed a skin but once she began the fulling process the layers just wouldn't bond.

Lesson # 2. felt a ball from the fiber first - I recommend if you have a fiber that you would like to felt something out of and no experience or information about it's ability to felt, begin by felting a small ball. In just a few short minutes, you will see whether or not the fiber felts in the first place and move on from there.

Lesson # 3. A little research can save time and money. Refer to a micron count chart or fiber charts available in many felting books as a guide. Finer fibers tend to felt quicker and give a softer finished product. Felting books will tell you what fibers they are using in their projects and the list is not that long. Certaily there are many wools that can be used but the most popular ones and easiest to buy are most commonly used. Additionally, a search on the web for a specific breed of wool and felting (IE: dorset & felting) will give you a pretty good indication of the felting qualities of a breed. Often you might only find reference to needle felting. This is your clue that it may not be the best bet for wet felting.

I left my camera at school so have no pictures to show but will add one as soon as I can!

Watch for new posts on class projects with both children and adults coming soon!

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