Winter is lingering here in Central Oregon. Skies are gray, snow is falling, and temperatures are hovering around 30 degrees. Warm layers and outerwear are still the required clothing, so wool jewelry is a perfect accessory. Using natural, cream-colored alpaca wool roving and yarn, I made a wrist cuff, earrings, rings, and necklace by combining the processes of wet felting, needle felting, and hand stitching. Minimal, modern, and monochromatic – this set of wool jewelry adds a gesture of warmth to the winter wardrobe. Some items are available in my Etsy shop.
The frequency and intensity of inspiration may vary from day to day, but I rarely am empty of ideas. And I am grateful for this flow. The challenge for me is to find time to attend to all of the ideas – which is, of course, impossible. If I am not already working on a project, a new idea becomes my next focus. Otherwise, I write them down as they come; recorded for some future date when I need inspiration.
About a month ago, I was hiking around Dillon Falls with my daughters and picked a single willow branch from the river’s edge. I’ve never worked with willow, but as I played with bending a twisting the branch, I was inspired to make a dream catcher. When we got home, I used hemp cord to wrap the branch into a circle-ish shape. And then life got in the way. A couple weeks later, I started weaving the dream catcher, adding wooden and hand felted beads at random intervals in the process. The weaving took several days; much longer than I anticipated. Life again required me to put the project aside.
I lost the flow. I’d stare at the dream catcher day after day and wonder how I would ever finish it. I had vague ideas, but nothing connected. Another week passed. Then, right before I had to leave for a day long gathering, inspiration struck. Worried that I would again lose the flow, I gathered all the materials together and photographed them in a pile. I needed to record my inspiration.
And then again, life got in the way. Or maybe I just again lost the flow. It took several more days before I literally forced myself to act. Just one act on the dream weaver that would hopefully push me forward. I took the old sheets, ripped them into strips, and tied them onto the woven branch. Then I cut and tied lengths of t-shirt yarn and wool yarn. The flow returned as I braided yarn. I decided to keep the colors of the dream catcher tail monochromatic. And when it was finished, I decided it was my “inspiration catcher;” for those ideas that I am not ready to use, but also not ready to release.
I first came across the art of spirit dolls as a child, using corn husks, bits of fabric, yarn, and beads to create a spirit of the fall harvest. Spirit Dolls can be elaborate works of art, imbued with intention and inspiration of the maker. They are made as expressions of Peace, Hope, Healing, Wisdom, Mother Earth, the Wild Woman, a Goddess, a particular ancestor, etc. Created intuitively using found materials, these Spirit Dolls can serve as messengers to us, from ourselves about a quality or virtue we would like to increase or explore.
I gathered aspen twigs from around my home, took a nature walk with my 5 year old to collect seeds, leaves and other interesting bits, and gathered other various materials from my craft bins. Most challenging for me was sculpting the face out of clay, inspired by the terra cotta faces made by artist Lyn Belisle. I wanted my spirit’s face to express a calm happiness, but I am not experienced with sculpting, so I struggled to get the expression and proportions to be ‘good enough.’ Although not perfect (as most of my making is beautifully flawed) my Golden Light Fire Spirit is a work of art. She reminds me to stay alert to the creative spirit and joy – that bright light – within myself.
After making several of these felted mats with integral bowls (I can’t come up with a name that isn’t just a description), I was inspired to make a similar design as a wall hanging. Although I meant for the bowl to be more of a pocket, it is tilted upwards just enough to be able to hold moss and an air plant. The piece is secured to the wall using simple thumbtacks that are covered with leftover felt. I will keep making these and playing with the bowl shape and angle. I envision a whole grid of them on a wall in varying natural alpaca colors.
Back to the name dilemma. What would you call this piece? Maybe just a real name, like Susan? Or a made up name like cars models – The AVRA. Anyway, I will consider any and all suggestions. In the meantime, this item is for sale on Etsy
It is unusual for me to make anything more than once. New inspiration combined with an insatiable desire to experiment with new materials and techniques means I often make one and am done. But these felted vessels have held my interest. They are challenging yet can be made in a few hours. The process is familiar but little variations create interesting surprises. And of course, I just love wet felting. For this piece, I used black alpaca roving for the mat, but included a couple layers of white roving to cover the inclusion (a large Easter egg) before covering the whole piece again with more black roving. During the felting process, the white roving started to blend with the black making the vessel a dark gray. Once the inclusion was removed, the white was exposed on the inside of the vessel, creating a nice contrast with the black mat.