VIDEO | Mieke Werners' Felt Technique

It's been awhile since I've posted something. We've been sick a lot this past Winter. But Spring has finally arrived and the birds are singing. It's still cold outside, but the leaves are showing and the blossoms are about to pop.

Today I bumped into a video on my Facebook Timeline about the felting techniques of Dutch artist Mieke Werners. I love watching other artists at work and learning from them. This video is just a short one (I wish I could watch her work for a whole day!) but gives a good impression of the technique and material that I also work with.

Enjoy!

 

Depression and gobelin weaving

This morning this video of The Getty Center about The Art of Tapestry showed up on my Facebook news feed. It's a fabulous video about the immense and timeconsuming process of making a tapestry, from designing the image, coloring the wool, warping the loom to the actual weaving. Have a look, I guarantee you'll feel less stressful afterwards. Maybe that's why in the 1970s Amsterdam had a project of gobelin weaving for psychiatric patients...

In 1977 my mother was trying to recover from a severe and ongoing depression. She participated in the weaving project at Sociale Werkplaats De Blauwbrug. There is not much that I can find online and I doubt my mother kept any photos from that period, but I do remember the huge loom we had in our kitchen and my mother sitting behind it. To me it looked incredibly complicated what she was doing, but she seemed to be in her element.

 Photo by Kors van Bennekom

Photo by Kors van Bennekom

Sometimes she took me to the studio, where more people like her were working. Young as I was, I was told there was something wrong with them, but all I remember is a group of very friendly and even happy people working together on huge tapestries.

 Photo by Kors van Bennekom

Photo by Kors van Bennekom

My mother gave up weaving when my stepfather had a heart attack and he needed her to nurse him. She just didn't have the time to warp the loom and weave the wool anymore. It is such a shame that he didn't see she needed that time to heal herself. She never fully recovered from her depression the way she could have.

Anyway, that's all water under the bridge now. I am happy I bumped into the video today that made me search for the gobelin project and that allowed me to actually find my mother on the internet. My beautiful and talented mama...

Collection | Embellishments

Flowers are to a door what butter is to a baguette. Does that make sense?

We found this little greenhouse in the garden of Chateau de la Rue in the Loire region. There were potted blooms in abundance around the Orangerie where we had the pleasure to spend a couple of nights.

IMG_1984.jpg

From tamed bushes to roses gone wild.

Especially in dark alleys it pays off to hang some flowers by the door.

The geranium is one of the most popular flowers found around the house.

And when pots break, flowering herbs appear.

Then the mosses take over.

And the ferns start growing on the doorstep.

Collection | Green

Oops, I skipped a week. Which doesn't seem to matter, because nobody sees my blog anyway. But for my own sake I would like to keep browsing through my collection of doors and group them together. 

This week the theme is GREEN, reflecting the climate summit in Paris. I wish I would live more sustainable, but as it stands now we drive, we fly, we shower every day, we put our laundry in a dryer and produce a lot of waste. In the Summer we always go to France where we camp and try to reduce our footprint a little bit.

These doors have nothing to do with the climate, but they're so pretty.

Although they do show that when we don't take care of our home, they fall apart. 

I so hope this little boy - my lovely son - and his children will have a healthy earth to live on.

Collection | Details

Welcome!

Today I'll be sharing details of doors that I photographed in France over the past years.

At every brocante I am looking for a door knocker like this hand but no luck so far. Then I bumped into this ogre! Very welcoming. Not sure I would want it on my door...

Lovely crocheting on display in this door. I am still figuring out the pattern.

Detail of one of the many carved doors at Azay-le-Rideau.

I think my stepfather once told me these hands were chopped off disobedient girls. I found that not hard to believe at all. 

I thought I'd be at the end of my collection by now, but I actually have many more doors to share. Hope you enjoy.

 

Collection | French doors in blue

Some people were interested in more photos of French doors, so here you are. This time I chose only pictures with a lot of blue in it.

DSC_0270.JPG.JPG

This one is a bit out of focus, yet I couldn't resist sharing it.

No blue doors here, but don't you love the fuchsia plastic flower garlands against the deep blue sky? It was very hot that day in August...

One of the many abandoned houses in the old city center of Montluçon (Allier, Auvergne).

I don't remember where I took this picture, but it was somewhere south of Paris and north of Marseilles. 

Next time I'll show you the rest of my door collection.

A commission turned down and around

A while ago an anonymous lady contacted me through Etsy to request a custom order. She replied to this listing and asked if I could make a textile collage for her. 

At first I thought I had sold the collage and I was really happy about that. I thought I would never get rid of it ;-) But our conversation went like this:

Hi.
What information do you need for a custom order?

Also I don't need it attached to canvas. 
Would the price be the same? I also have a specific size.

Have a happy day.

T.

I answered :

Thank you for your inquiry!

What is it you're looking for exactly? 
Colors, size, topic?

Once I know this I could determine a prize. 

Lovely to hear from you :-)

This is what I got back:

Thank you for replying.  

I am looking for a teenage girl with shoulder length curly girl wearing a beanny hat walking with her dog (black dog that is larger then)..

Details: The girl wears worn blue jeans, a red tshirt with initials GG and black checkered sneakers. She has curly shoulder length hair and wears a purple beany. You can use a black pitt pen to indicate curly hair.

Our dog is almost bigger then her. Is black and has no tail. Like a Rottweiler. Has a blue bow around his neck. 

She walks in the forest. It could be one tree or three. Leaves are not important.

Oval size no bigger the an index card, 3 X 5. She enjoys distressed fabrics so an off white or
tea stain color fabric would work.  

I have provided details but the important thing is the colors.

Would this be too much?

I attached a drawing.

Regards

T.

At this point I freaked out. The description of the custom order was so incredibly specific, I knew for sure I would never be able to meet T.'s expectations. Nor my own. The way I work in any artistic discipline is that I never really know exactly where I am going. The whole point is to get out of my head and into my hands. Most of my work just happens. And I like it that way.

What I also like is to make money, so to turn down a job because it doesn't feel right is hard for me to do. Part of feeling justified to choose the path of the artist is that I sell some of my work. But I am not just an artist, I am also a financial manager and I am used to assess proposals and judge potential clients.  I always use my sixth sense when making quotes and I often get the job. In this case something was telling me I would probably put in a lot of time to make a collage  - with a topic not of my choosing - and not get paid in the end.

So this is what I replied:

Thank you for your reply, T.

I am afraid I won't be able to help you. Your request is too specific for me and when it comes to my textile collages, that is not the way I work unfortunately. 

I take a feeling, a color, and take my work from there. I kind of let the image come to me as I go.

You've helped me realize I should remove the custom option from my textile collages.

I am really sorry and hope you can find an artist that will meet your needs. 

A few days later T. replied - not too happy:

Your email mentioned you needed color size and topic.

I furnished that.

I furnished the details because I thought that is what you
wanted.

I did not know that you take a feeling, a color and go with it.

Hot dog, instead of removing the custom button just add, psychi fabric collage.

Yes, please remove the custom from your page.

Thank you for taking my joy.

A very, very sad girl.

A psychi fabric collage - Taking my joy - A very, very sad girl... Those words were screaming at me, and my first instinct was to scream right back. But I didn't. I just didn't want to feel like I failed to please a customer and I didn't want to give anyone the power to upset me. So after a day or so I wrote back:

I am very sorry you feel this way, T. 

Since you put so much of your heart into your idea, may I suggest you try to make the collage yourself?

I found much inspiration in the work of artists like Cathy Cullis and Viv Hens Teeth. I believe anyone can make art, it's just very difficult to make something that exists in someone else's head.

I wish you a joyful day and thank you again for stopping by in my Etsy store.

Of course I never got a reply and that's okay, I wasn't expecting one. Writing this answer did give me a sense of (self-)respect and relief though. I hope this sad girl is now working on her own collage and discovering a whole new skill.

It's a beginning

My most successful dolls were these. After I listed them on Etsy, they got sold pretty much right away and I had to send them all the way to Seattle. They only thing left are the - fuzzy - pictures I took.

Since then I thought I should make a new series of the same kind of cute dolls, but my hands were more inclined to make sad portraits or decapitated dolls...

Until last week when a pretty little head suddenly appeared. It's just a beginning, so we'll have to see if I can give her a matching body and maybe a few sisters.


Doing what I love most

Last week was Fall break. There were so many things I wanted to do with the kids, my husband and by myself. So many fun little chores that I saved up for this week. But I got bronchitis. With a fever. So I knew I had to pace myself immediately.

While lying on the couch under a blanket of self-pity I realized I had been pushing it a little bit too hard lately. After Summer break - especially the great one we had - I expected to have enough energy to last me at least until Christmas. What I didn't realize is that taking on my husband's management is a full-time job when I combine it with the office work I was already doing for him. Add full-time motherhood, guests and a new puppy to the mix and no wonder I got a little tired and stressed out. 

Worst of all was that I couldn't find the time to do what I love most. I got more and more frustrated about that. Then I got sick and was forced to think about my health. It's amazing that you actually need a crisis to make changes. Which I did. As of this week I am giving myself two studio days and three office days. And so today I started with my wool again.

IMG_0075.JPG

Video | Needle felt and stop motion

It's Fall break in Amsterdam this week, and we're receiving guests from France today, so I'll be sharing work from someone else this time.

Needle felt and stop motion are a match made in heaven. I am really glad I bumped into this very sweet video early this morning.

Procrastination, feedback and low self esteem

It's Tuesday, not Monday. I had promised myself to write one blog every Monday and share it on Social Media, here and here and here. But I skipped a day because I was busy doing other things. Important things like making contracts and invoices (the day of the event), answering emails (that were left in my inbox for a week unanswered). Walking the dog and cleaning up after the dog (she's one messy puppy). Cooking dinner and giving attention to my children (teenagers need just as much attention as toddlers do, just a different kind). Oh and I also had a long and enlightening conversation with my dear uncle about one's self esteem. It was a productive day and yet I wasn't satisfied because I didn't write my blog.

Everywhere I go I read it is very important to be reliable and consistent in the online world. Otherwise you don't get noticed, or liked, let alone be shared. So every Monday since Summer break I sit down at my desk, think about what I want to share, sort through my pictures and try to write something that is hopefully inspiring, interesting or just beautiful. I get a real kick out of showing you the things I like and I hope they give you a little spark of happiness too.

Today I have nothing to share, because I have been procrastinating. It's a bad thing but I actually do love the word. I think I learned it from my sweet sister-in-law - an artist herself - who writes a beautiful blog here. Pro-cras-ti-na-tion. Not doing what you should be doing. Even things you actually want to be doing! Like using the wool I washed and prepared this Summer. I have so many ideas about what I want to make, but until now they have only lived in my head. In that very unproductive place filled with self doubt and low self esteem, waiting for feedback and recognition to light the fire of productiveness.

The Dutch have a saying about waiting until you weigh an ounce - losing weight would actually be an added bonus, but I just made a deal with my body not to be unhappy with it anymore in exchange for good health (cross my fingers). So while I wait, I guess I'll write and try to make some more...



Collection | French doors

When in France, there are many thing I can't resist. For example a fresh baguette with salted butter. Or a provincial market with fresh produce. Honey, garlic and olive oil. Castles, ruines and churches. And doors... I can never walk past a door and not take a picture.

This little collection has been photographed in several regions of France in over a decade.

The Périgord is one of my favorite regions.

I love city doors as much as country doors.

But I love them especially with some flowers on the side.

Let me know if you would like to see more.

Inspiration comes in many shapes

Some of the things that inspire me - to be happy, to be satisfied, to create new things, to go to work or to just be - are the littlest things.

A big latte with some crackers and a book in my favorite spot in the garden.

The North Sea (or any sea or ocean for that matter - this one happens to be near by).

The smell of white laundry drying in the sun.

Coffee and cake with my love at Mandelahuisje overlooking Het IJ.

The sea of sunflowers on Museumplein. 

Watching my son playing with water in the beautiful garden of the Rijksmuseum. One of Amsterdam's best kept secrets...

What are the things that inspire you?

Fonty in Creuse

Not only do I love wool - also cotton by the way - but I LOVE yarn. Last year, when we were in France (like we are pretty much every year), I bumped into Fonty yarn in a little store in Uzès. I discovered Fonty is based in the Creuse departement where I grew up and were we love to return to for family holidays, like this year when we were staying here.

We took a few wrong turns, but made it to the factory near Auzances. On Wednesday the factory outlet is open and sells yarn for €25 per kilo. Beautiful merino in every color and texture.

We also got an idea of the spinning mill. My kids were mesmerized by all the machines.

Big spools turn into little skeins.

Amazing space.

Pure white strings waiting to be dyed.

Spools... lots of them.

It's hard to not get greedy.

My husband is holding on to my stash.

And my son is showing how much it really is. But I know how quickly it goes when I start crocheting a blanket or a shawl. 

Un mouton au pré

In our first week in France I took a tour around our campsite, and I bumped into these. Two discarded fleeces calling out my name. "Wash me, wash me. We are getting dirty here!"

She was a little shy without her coat, and kept hiding in to shadow - hence the bad lighting in this photo - but it was also very hot, so she must have been happy kind of naked.

Beautiful white wool that I didn't want to go to waste, so I asked the owners if they had any intention with it. They didn't. The sheerer said it's bad quality. Not fit for spinning. But what about needle felting? It's always worth giving it a try.

So I started washing wool again - on my holiday! Here I am washing by the outside shower.

It was harder to clean than I had imagined. Some parts were coated with straws. I decided to take a shortcut.

So this time I tried wet felting. But as usual that didn't go so well. The wool didn't want to felt. Look at all the holes!

So I enlisted the little ones at the campsite to help me with plucking the wool again! 

I had the pleasure to take two bags of soft white wool back to the Netherlands. I am now waiting for cool weather and early evenings to transfrom the wool into sculptures.

White wool

A couple of photos of the white wool cleaning process. It was pretty dirty, but I managed to get some nice white wool out of it.

Et voila! Another bag of beautiful clean wool. I couldn't wait to get started, but first we went on holiday to France.


Raw material

This Spring I was offered some raw wool. Friends of ours have some land in North Holland with sheep they were planning to sheer. They know I am working with wool so they thought of me this time as they are not using the fleeces themselves.

I usually buy my materials here, but there is something earthy about the idea to make something from absolute scratch. No clue how to wash the wool and get it to needlefelting quality, but I thought I'd give it a try. Thank you internet with all your information!

And thank you Patrick for doing the sheering!

Luckily I have a garden, and the weather was cooperative.

I used many buckets and lots of water.

The first rinse was extremely dirty.

I had to be very careful with the temperature of the water. It's the difference in temperature that starts felting the wool.

Soap is also tricky. You need it to clean the wool, but it also adds the process of felting.

Then I had to dry it, which went fairly quickly due to the lovely weather we had in June.

And last but not least, I had to pull it all apart again as it did lump together. 

Next I'll have to look into how to get it ready for needle felting. But that is another story...





Something else

We found a wooden bench a a thrift store while biking home from a meeting. It was too far to walk, so my husband strapped it to his bike and rode home with it just like that.

I put it on top of the table to give it a good sanding. Lovely day, lovely weather.

One layer down, two more to go. I want to be able to leave it outside.

I draped my crochet baby blanket over the finished bench and was surprised to find out the blue circles match the color of wood. A bright lavender blue. My favorite color. The whole project costed not more than €30. Super happy with the result! 

 

Etsy update: Four clown busts

Just uploaded another bunch of my babies to Etsy.

I can't tell you where the inspiration came from to make these busts. They just happened.

After I made the first one, I thought he looked like a clown.

So I thought why not try to make another one.

So I did.

Rococo lady, part 2

So I made two Rococo ladies. Actually I had started with the little one back in August.

I wanted to make something quick to sell at a market.

But she didn't turn out nice at all. So I didn't sell her and took her back home where she stayed hidden in a drawer for about 6 months.

I don't remember why exactly, but at one point I pulled her out of her hiding place and decided to give her a make-over. Why not? She couldn't get any more hideous anyway.

The pearl eyes are still in there. I covered them with dark wool.

I thought it would be interesting to show the the process of reworking something that didn't turn out so well into something new. It's like recycling. And it feels good.