Denise Lithgow’s Sculptured Felt Vessels
Based on the landscape, and a strong awareness of color and design, I react to what feels intuitively right as I create my work.
Born on a sheep property, I’ve grown up with wool so it is not surprising that felting is the process I use to create my vessels.
After studying fashion design and creating my own label I changed direction after being inspired by an Australian Textile Art & Surface Design Association (ATASDA) textile exhibition which gave me that “wow” moment.
Once I was introduced to felt I was captivated by its tactile qualities, rich range of colors and the magical meshing of fibers which can be manipulated into forms and shapes to create vessels. Felt is a non-woven cloth produced by matting, condensing and pressing woolen fibers. I particularly like to use felt as it’s an ecological, sustainable product.
My large vessels are simplistic in form and the inspiration comes from the landscape as I feel a strong connection to the earth. I travel a lot teaching felt workshops so I use a journal to record ideas and subjects which relate to my work. I use these references when I’m back in the studio. They can appear in an abstract way or as representation of the landscape as seen in “Pebbles”, the white with black circular shapes, and “Cracked Earth” a red/brown vessel. My symbols are also universal, for instance in “Spiral”, using the spiral form.
The process of creating a large vessel begins with the experienced visual ideas which get translated in the studio. I use merino and coreidale wool. Layering many fine layers in different directions around an inert resist, which is approximately a third larger to allow for shrinkage. The last layer involves working in the design. This may include adding in felted spikes that are created first, as in “Sea Anemone”. The wetting down process with a little soap is started around the edge of the resist to keep the wool on the resist and to prevent ridges forming. Rubbing with thin plastic over the wet wool follows. After this process the rolling occurs. Then a mould is used to help shape the vessels and finally a Derivan matt varnish is painted on the inside while still wet to stiffen the vessels. These vessels can be 50cm to 75cm in height.
I exhibit my work internationally and throughout Australia and have won many sculptural prizes. My work has currently been selected in the Ukraine Scythia Fibre Art 8th International Biennial Exhibition and I have been a finalist in the World of Threads Festival in Canada. I am programmed in teaching Large Sculpture Felt vessels in Portugal www.artinthealgarve.com and London,UK, International Feltmakers Association.
Vessels are a very early utilitarian art form. However, I regard my felted vessels as a pure art because they lack any utilitarian function. I create them because I enjoy them visually and at the same time know that they are part of a long history of development.