Nuno felting and its infinite possibilities
For many years I was a fine art photographer and worked at a university doing visual communications. I grew increasingly tired of sitting at a computer day and night and felt the need to create with my hands using natural materials. Earlier in my life I had been a weaver and oriental rug restorer and knew the quiet joys of working with textiles.
It was at this time that I discovered the wonderful world of handmade felt and hand dyeing of fabric. I had previously thought of felt as being something stiff and scratchy but soon learned that by using the right kind of wool or fiber I could make something luxuriously soft and sensuous.
I got, and remain, very excited about the technique of nuno felting, where a fabric, usually silk or cotton, is combined with wool, alpaca or other exotic fibers. There are infinite possibilities with this process. The final piece can have a wonderful drape and be semi-transparent or solid and stiff. I love working with the various kinds of silk and wool to create different effects. Silk crepe and gauze have a very matte finish while habotai and margilan silk have a wonderful sheen. Depending on the weight of the silk or fabric it will sink into the wool (thin fabric) and will hardly be distinguishable from the wool itself or it will create a ruching effect (heavier fabric) where there is wonderful bubbly texture. When combining shibori dyed, hand painted or patterned fabric with the wool even more design possibilities appear. The fabric and colored wool work together to create subtle or dramatic shapes and transitions by the way the wool is laid out in a pattern over the silk.
I have always loved the textiles of Japan and Africa. In particular I am jazzed by the multi-layering of pattern with embellishment. On the America front, a number of years ago I saw an exhibit by a woman named Judith James who created art with textile materials. Her art, to me, was quietly profound and inspirational.
In my own work I had been sticking with making accessories since I began working with felt. Numerous times people would say to me “these are so beautiful you could hang them on a wall”. With the inspiration of James’ and others work, including abstract painters, I decided to try my hand at making art pieces specifically to be hung on the wall. This has been an exciting venture! To the felting I have added embroidery- hand and free motion done on a machine. I am trying to let myself be very free and intuitive when making these pieces which is a bit scary for me, but I believe this approach is an avenue to moving to a deeper place with my creativity.
Coming full circle after wanting to be away from technology, I have found my iPad to be a wonderful tool in designing. I am able use a drawing program with layers where I can try out different patterns and colors before committing them to the piece. I’ll work on the piece for a bit, then take a photo of it which will be imported into the drawing program on the iPad, then I’ll start adding layers where I can try out various colors and embroidery patterns. I’ll then move back to the piece to try out some of these design elements. Usually things will change a bit as I’m interacting with the piece itself. Then I’ll start the process over again.
To learn more visit www.judithmdaniels.com.