Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rising to the Occasion

Do you ever set yourself up for a challenge? I'm pretty challenge-averse, in fact, I'm somewhat of a coward.  But somehow, this fall, I've committed myself--sequentially--to four new activities, and taken together, they amount to a great big challenge.  So I'm carrying around a great big load of nervous.  

All shall be well, I keep telling myself, and I know it will.

Meanwhile, let me tell you what I'm up to.

For starters, I'm still teaching felting at Hartford's Chrysalis Center, and it's going great:  well-received, and therefore rewarding.

These students are working on copyright-free images taken from a design book CD  and printed on raw silk.

Please note that I'm only taking photos of peoples' hands.  And I'm not giving their names.  Though I know all their names.

In addition to teaching felting at the Chrysalis Center, this month I've taken on a new gig there with my friend Carol:  teaching sewing and quilting. Yes.  That class has just begun, and today I was flying solo because Carol had another commitment.

It was a little draining, because I was the only teacher, but the vibe was great, and people had fun.  They were really getting off on the technique in the book Crazy with Cotton by Diana Leone.  This is one of my favorites and an excellent start for a new quilter.

This student is showing the first quilt square she ever made...and all of it today!

We do have one guy in this class, and here he is, tattoos and all, working on a Halloween-themed piece.

Fortunately, some folks in the class already know how to use a sewing machine, so that's a good thing.

The sewing class at Chrysalis is the first of the new endeavors I've taken on this fall.  The second was teaching The Felted Landscape at the West Hartford Art League.  That happened on Sunday October 16, from 10 am to 4 pm, and I have to say, it was so compelling that all students worked straight through that entire time, skipping lunch. 

So I'm happy to say that went well, and I hope I can say the same of my next upcoming gig:  teaching kids at the New Britain Museum of American Art. 

I've certainly worked with kids informally, so it should be fine.  But still, it's new to me as a paid gig.  And the museum is so august.  I mean, the students are going to be drawing their inspiration from paintings in the museum's own collection, like this one:

This is a view of New Haven's West Rock by the American painter Frederick Edwin Church.  West Rock is a trap rock ridge, one of many in the state, collectively known as the Metacomet Range.  As a New Haven native, I appreciate its history, especially in its capacity as shelter for three judges who signed a death warrant against King Charles I in the mid-1600s.  There's a stunning view from the top, especially at night, especially on Saturday nights.  I'm still wrapping my head around my transformation from from someone who views West Rock historically and recreationally to someone who teaches in an institution that owns its image.
Teaching  at the New Britain Museum is challenge number three of the fall, and it hasn't happened yet.  Neither has challenge four, Open Studio Hartford, which will occur on November 12 and 13.

This event takes place in several different venues all over town, but I'll be showing in the Connecticut Historical Society. (By "showing," I mean showing my art quilts). The Historical Society is a pretty august venue.

Image result for ct historical society

That  means two august venues for me and my art this fall.  
I'm sure it will all be fine, but meanwhile, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. And I'm planning on rising to the occasion.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Do We Know How to Have Fun or What?

 Do we know how to have fun or what?

People who take up needle felting tend to fall in love with this gentlest and most portable of mediums.

Today, October 16, 2016, I taught needle felting at West Hartford Art League.  The participants had no problem with taking up that soft wool and sitting there chatting for hours--in most cases, six hours, to be exact.

Here we are in the clubhouse classroom at the West Hartford Art League

None of the participants in this class had ever done this before.  Needle felting a landscape involves using wool as if it were paint or crayon or marker, and using those colors to create an image, real or imagined.  The student above is inspired by a scene from one of the West Hartford reservoirs.

The student above is focusing on a woods and water and island scene.

Here's Karen, who came all the way from Naugatuck for this class, working on a scene from Cape Cod.

Erica stayed the whole six hours and look what she did--the first time she ever picked up a felting needle.

Anne Marie used yarn to get dimension in the tree trunk.

And look what Karen did. Look at that sky.

 This was Karen's first experience with felting.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Deconstructing the Felted Landscape

The Felted Landscape?

That's the name of a one-day workshop I'll be giving at West Hartford Art League on Sunday, October 16, from 10 to 4.

Maybe some people are interested but hesitant because they can't picture what they would be doing.  So I wrote this blog post to show the steps.

Start with a landscape, real or imaginary.  I'm using this image of the Farmington Valley taken from Penwood State Park.  Class participants can use their own photos (preferably 8 x 10) or one of mine. Alternatively, people can refer to an imagined or remembered landscape.

You'll get out a light box and put the photo on it.  I'll have at least two light boxes for class participants to use.  There are also abundant windows in the classroom.

Here's the light box, lit up, with the photo on it.

Next, you'll layer a piece of raw silk on the photo.  It will be provided.

 Raw silk has a lot of nubs, which is why it works for needle felting.   I hope you can see the nubs in this image:

When you turn on the light box, you'll see the photo showing through the silk.  You may trace as many or as few details as you like onto the silk.  Or skip this step and create your image freehand.

Once the silk has the markings on it, it's layered with a piece of wool quilt batting and placed on a dense foam mat.  All these materials will be provided.

So here's where you get to play.  How about this stormy shade of blue merino roving for the sky?

The roving should be pulled into wisps.  I tell my students to get it so wispy that if it were a sound, it would be a whisper.

Then you'll start using a felting needle to turn the blue roving into the sky.  In this piece, I also added a form of sheep wool called curly locks to make the texture in the clouds:

Is it going to be fun to use these green curly locks to make the foliage?  What do you think?

Here's how my piece looked after about two hours' work, which is half the time allotted for the workshop.

Here's another example of a felted landscape.  This one is a sunset scene in a park, based on a photograph by my daughter's friend Khay:

Or how about this little wonder, below?  For this one, I just printed an aerial image of the Connecticut River directly onto fabric, and my teenage neighbor Grace felted it.  She just needled the wool directly into the printed image.

This is the absolute easiest way to make a felted landscape, and I'll have this image available, printed on fabric, for anyone who wants to get their feet wet by trying this most user-friendly of methods.

I hope this little photo essay shines some light on what may have been a mysterious subject for people.  Try it!  It's fun.

Sunday October 16, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., West Hartford Art League, 37 Buena Vista Rd., West Hartford, CT 06107

THE FELTED LANDSCAPE Diane Cadrain 1 day workshop
Working from a scenic photograph as a reference, participants in this class will learn to use the softest of materials, wool roving, as if it were paint, and manipulate a special barbed needle to create a felted landscape on a backing of raw silk.
Please bring a simple landscape photo to copy (preferably 8x10).The instructor will also have photos available if you don’t have one.
Visit: to see more of Diane’s Work.
DC125 | Sunday, October 16th, 10:00am – 4:00pm
Clubhouse Classroom
Fee: Member $84 Non Member $109
*Please bring $15 for materials

Friday, September 30, 2016

Hands-On Felting: Hands-Only Photos

I'm still teaching needle felting at Hartford's Chrysalis Center, which helps those who live in poverty cope with mental illness, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, release from incarceration and homelessness.

As of about a month ago, I'm under a new injunction to recognize the confidentiality of Chrysalis clients.  Thus: hands-only photos of the folks who are learning needle felting there.

This guy took an image of an eagle (which I'd copied onto raw silk), started applying eagle-colored roving, and went with it.  I'll show you a more-completed piece next time I go to Chrysalis.  He did an amazing job.

Speaking of amazing, this woman worked for months on a faithful and dedicated felted version of Van Gogh's Starry Night.  When she finally finished, I took it home with me to mount with batting and backing and turn it into the work of art it deserves to be.  She wanted to do a unicorn next, so I copied one onto raw silk for her, and that's her current project. 

This guy has been my most consistent student from the start.  His first image: his pit bull, Tank.  Next, a beach scene, an attempt at Monet's water lilies, and his latest:  a panda.  I'm encouraging him to apply grayish roving to get the shadows along the right and left sides of the panda's chin.
This gal also shows up almost every week.  I love her playful sense of color.  This one was inspired by a snow scene on a holiday card.  Look at the great job she did with that tree!

Here's a tiny view of the Connecticut River, completed by a guy who had never picked up a felting needle before:

And in other fiber art news, my buddy Carol is now joining me to teach quilting down at Chrysalis!  Yes!  This new venture required inventorying and buying supplies for the Center's four Janome Magnolias, and Carol's been a mensch!  So look for more hands-only photos as that adventure gets under way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Layers, Literally

So there's this art quilt exhibition, a juried show themed "Layered Voices," which is sponsored by the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), and which challenges quilters to think about layers, from physical layers like those of the earth's surface and those we wear in cold weather, to abstract layers such as those in literature and puns.

I took the theme and ran with it.  I made a nine-patch, 40 x 40 wonder, centering on...what else?  A hen with an egg.  A layer.  Heh heh.

This one was felted first and then embroidered. When that was done the hen figure was padded with extra batting and the background was quilted.

The other eight squares  around the central layer are all double puns on the concept of layer.  For example, each of the eight squares itself contains a layered stack of smaller layers: a silken padded layer on the bottom, a piece of handmade silk paper next, followed by smaller, padded and pieced layer, a felted layer intended to look like geological layers, then a final layer of hand pin-weaving.  On the top of each layered stack:  a photo of something layered.  Like a lasagne.  Yeah.

For this I learned to make my own silk paper:

I also pulled out the pin loom on which my grandmother taught me to weave:

My neighbor Grace was so inspired by  my chicken as I worked on it that she made one of her own:

The deadline for the completed piece is September 30, 2016, and I still wasn't done when Joe and I left for our Cape Cod vacation on September 18. I had intended to get it done at home so that Joe could photograph it at home, and I could send in my electronic entry from home, and I could put the whole thing behind me and enjoy my vacation.

In the days before we left for Cape Cod, Joe saw me working nonstop on it, and worrying out loud about it.  So he decided that it might not be so bad if he were forced to bring his photographic equipment here on our vacation.  On my part, I was glad to take a little time pressure off myself.

So we brought the sewing machine here, and I worked on the quilt for four days, and finished it, and Joe set up an impromptu photo studio in the attic of the cottage we're renting.


WHAT A GUY, huh?

Then he spent a lot of time editing his photos.  He decided that he's not happy with the quality of his work, problems caused by the dimensionality of the piece and the unevenness of the lighting.

So now, with the time clock ticking, he's trying to locate a commercial photographer here on Cape Cod who can do a better job. We went to Orleans Photo and Video, where a man named Dick did a great job for a reasonable price. 

I put quite a bit of time into deciding what to call this piece.

The final decision:

"Layers, Literally."