Saturday, February 22, 2014

First Felt Play mat of 2014

Welcome Spring!

As bits of green are peaking through dormant grasses and Snowdrops appear in unexpected places, a few Robins pass through eating left over berries in the hedge....the first whisperings of Spring cheer our hearts and minds...

These times are inspiring and a good time to make things while it is still cold and Winter has not left but we are filled with anticipation of the  changing seasons. The play mat I have just finished was made with the momentum of Spring thoughts, and childhood memories of playing out of doors in woodland meadows and our large heavily planted yard with ponds. 

This play mat has more three dimensional things, the mossy tree stump, the mushrooms, two ponds, than any other I have made. The pond water is home dyed silk and the thick felt mat base and most of the wool parts are also home dyed, giving this mat a harmony and richness that is unique.

Making felt play mats, for me, is like painting with wool.  I feel it is not unlike impressionistic art where the flow of color  creates forms and impressions of objects.  It is relaxing and fun work. It does take some time, some parts I glue and then sew, and then use the large felting needles for initial application of wool and prefelt and then go back with finer needles to complete the integration. 

In the beginning, I gather the materials I want to use and sometimes use kind of lay them out on the wool felt base. Ideas usually come along as this process progresses. I also draw on my own memories of spending time in mossy forests and woods and the sense of beauty and awe with the things I saw, wild sweet violets, forget-me-nots, glorious moss and toad stools, etc.

As these things come together, the final magic is bringing in the wee folk and playing Make -Believe, but then , who is to say this is not very real ?!

Another lovely dimension is to add a home to the mat or homes. This brings the focus of Play Mat play to a new level and all the more fun!

In the near future, I hope to do a Felt Play Mat tutorial to add to Willodel pages.  I encourage others to do such projects as they are fun, satisfying and an especially wonderful way to inspire and encourage the imaginations of our children as they play.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Finding beautiful wood and working with it.

Some Lovely Houses

It seems that I have been fortunate in finding pieces of wood full of possibility and beauty in recent weeks.  This is not always the case, even though I have had a long stretch of them in my shop. Many times I have found myself making "something from not much" ,drawing deeply on my creativity. Finding wood that leads the way, full of character and ideas is very enjoyable indeed. What I see in the wood is something I would call lyrical,  I see a rhythm and flow in it that sets me to work finding other parts and pieces that resonate with the primary piece of wood.  This is a process that can send me looking for the "right" branch or piece of wood for as long as an hour !  While this is perhaps an extravagant use of time for one small piece of wood, it is what makes the harmonious and beautiful end result.
I am going to picture here some of the last few houses that display this wonderful character.
This lovely little lodge has the natural openings in the wood that I make into doors.

 Usually the grain is pretty around these  natural openings, giving the wood great character. Without fail, the wood that is the prettiest wood, the most interesting, is the wood that has "struggled" in some way, was bent by the snow, had limbs broken off, had to overcome an insect invasion or many of the other things trees face in life.  These things make a tree with "character" . I always think this is not unlike people.

 This beautiful and unusual house, an "apartment" to be exact, is something I rarely make. This is for two reasons...first, it is not too often I find a piece of wood suitable for it, and two, it is difficult to engineer and make. This one was particularly pretty I thought, in the wood grain and it was also quite large.

 This striking house shows the use of a natural "scar" in a tree, where a limb once was and where the tree healed itself over.  This kind of scar is perfect to make a "closed door" out of and in the beginning I made them into "The Gnome is not Home " houses.  They simpley required a roof! Now days I usually hollow them out and make an open door in the back for play.  Note that under the roof overhang there is a second "closed door"( a utility closet perhaps?!) making the house extra rare!

This lovely house is a unique design I came up with that many people like. The wood is nice and light and the roof supports a nice contrast. The thick and shaped roof is made from Sugar Pine, a fine grained wood that smells wonderful and is hard to find.  I am able to get this from a local person with a saw mill. The nice knot hole over the door is where a small limb was.

I think we have all been fortunate that I have had such nice finds in the wood for the last copule months, it is a real joy to work with these finds.