Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Overcoming Obstacles

Totem for Overcoming Obstacles (photo by Lorna Stevens)

Totem for Overcoming Obstacles: Tap the ball gently toward the goal.  Smash through walls.  Unlock the door.  Or simply fly over it all. 

Materials:  Antique Japanese croquet mallet, merino wool, kid mohair, feathers, rusted barbed wire and key. 

This creation came at an interesting time in my life.  Have been feeling stuck, unsure of what comes next.  Creating this piece left me feeling very free and open.  Without going into unnecessary detail, I've decided to enroll in a Certified Yoga Therapist program that starts next January.  I firmly believe that my work these last years in the art and craft of felting is significantly responsible for opening me to this next stage in my journey, while at the same time yoga has been essential in tapping into a deeper, more mindful creative consciousness.

I also feel confident that I will likely find a way to combine felting and yoga therapy.  The practice of yoga and a creative outlet like felting are a perfect fit.  With your hands in the wool and soapy suds, or with the needle and a pile of raw locks, you lose yourself in that eternal present moment.  In the same way that felting brings all the different fibers together into a coherent and beautiful whole, so can the practice of art and yoga be a means to bring together all the various fibers of your life experience.

Exciting journey ahead!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wire as Fiber Part 2

I work in San Francisco's Presidio, the old military base snuggled up against the bay, with the Golden Gate Bridge looming in the sky like a silent, immutable god.  Walking around on my lunch break is always inspiring. Recently my gaze has shifted from the splendor to the places of detritus and disrepair.

In my previous post I showed a few of the first experimental pieces incorporating rusty barbed wire.  I have no idea how successful some of my ideas in this vein will turn out when I finally get time to work on them in the coming months, and that's what's so exciting about this new unknown creative territory for me.  In the meantime, going back over some of my lunch hour cell-phone snapshots, I realized that the inspiration photos are interesting in and of themselves. 

Here's a few of the seeds that started me seeing a rust colored world, and barbed wire as just a really intense form of fiber:

Spiderweb, various fiber, rusty barbed wire

Clouds as tufts of wool, wire floating in the sky

Rusty bits lying about.  Watch your tires while driving in the Presidio!

Decaying human structures and nature's fiber artist, the spider. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Wire as Fiber

These are some beginning bits of ideas I have to incorporate rusty barbed wire as a type of fiber combined with wool.  Inspiration came from photos I took this summer of spider webs and other random bits of detritus caught up in barbed wire here and there throughout the Presidio in San Francisco. 

Much more in this vein to come.

Cobweb felt and barbed wire

Kid Mohair, rusty barbed wire, drift wood

Burned &stained wood, rusty barbed wire, merino felt

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Summer Vacation

Summer vacation.  Music festivals.  Friends.  Parties. Travel.  Became an uncle.  Broke a foot. Neglected this blog.  Blah blah.  Not feeling wordy.  Lots of stuff in the works.   In the mean time, here's a couple things that were fun to make:

Custom request, Eye of Horus felted micro wall hanging.

Abstract design, merino locks, inspired by sea life. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Crow Medicine

Felted raw wool tapestry, feather, shell, tea stained bone bead, wood

Crow.  Magic.  Sacred law.  Shape shifting.  Manifesting change in the physical world.  Protection.  Communication.  

There is a medicine story that tells of Crow’s fascination with her own shadow. She kept looking at it, scratching it, pecking at it, until her shadow woke up and became alive. Then Crow’s shadow ate her. Crow is Dead Crow now.
Jamie Sams & David Carson, Medicine Cards, p.133

That little hint of a medicine story, it's more Jungian shadow work.  Not to reject your dark side, but to integrate it with your light into a healthy whole.  It is a warning, though, of obsession with your shadow self.  It can become the dominant self if you don't interact with it in a healthy way. 


Here's a great article, "6 Terrifying Ways Crows Are Way Smarter Than You Think."  It talks, for instance about language and crows having regional dialects. 

So regarding language, indulge an old English major a non-sequitur.  One of the things I used to embellish this crow tapestry is a "Tea Stained Bone Bead."  I love the sound of those two pounding spondaic feet, so reminiscent of the brutal sounds of Old English that it brought to my mind the text of Beowulf.  For my amusement, and possibly your enjoyment, here is a grim and musically gorgeous passage from the classic tale:

"His fatal departure was regretted by no-one who witnessed his trail, the ignominious marks of his flight where he'd skulked away, exhausted in spirit and beaten in battle, bloodying the path, hauling his doom to the demon's mere. The bloodshot water wallowed and surged, there were loathsome upthrows and overturnings of waves and gore and wound-slurry. With his death upon him, he had dived deep into his marsh-den, drowned out his life and his heathen soul: hell claimed him there."--excerpt from Beowulf

Tapestry, partially complete

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Spirit Animals

Needle felted "spirit animals" inspired by Huichol yarn painting and bead masks

Have you ever had a dream where you were visited by an animal and felt an intense connection or unspoken communication passed between you and that animal?  Are there animals you have a particularly strong attraction to, or seem to coincidentally encounter often in nature?  

It is no surprise that animals tell us much about ourselves considering all the myriad creatures that walk this earth have come from a single source, whatever you believe that source to be.  As empathic creatures we recognize ourselves in others, but we also recognize something of ourselves in the animal kingdom as well.  Spiritual traditions all over the world have long recognized this, from the concept of shamanic animal guides to the yogis who adapted many postures from the observation of our animal kin. 

Following are some brief thoughts on each of the animals I have created so far in this series of "Spirit Animals" inspired by Huichol yarn paintings and Mayan bead masks.  These initial four were selected in part because they each strongly represent a different classical element and direction.

 Rabbits (East, Air) are sometimes thought to represent fear, nervousness or caution, but if you have ever read Richard Adam's brilliant story about these creatures in the classic "Watership Down," you know what noble and amazing animals these are. 

My earliest memory of rabbits are actually from Bugs Bunny cartoons, where Warner Brothers so wonderfully represented the Rabbit-as-Trickster.  The rabbit also represents swiftness and communication (the way they thump their back leg to warn others of danger) and because of this, they could be considered a kindred archetypal spirit to the Greek god Hermes, who also represents swiftness and communication, and who was also a Trickster archetype. 

 Lizard (South, Fire).  As a fan of laying on the beach and soaking up the sun, I feel a special affinity for this creature.  They can look like they are asleep, but if you move close to one they quickly dart into nearby shadow beneath a rock or bush.  Simultaneously asleep and awake, they represent existing both in consensus reality, and that place of dreams, that place of deep symbolic reality underlying the world around us.

Frog (West, Water) is a creature of transformation, regeneration and rebirth, having made the journey from one form to another, from tadpole to frog.

The frog makes its journey of transformation as solely a water dweller (tadpole) to land by growing legs.

I think of frogs and their beautiful chorus with other frogs in the water.  So sing a song, take a bath, go swimming, as a way to transform. . .not necessarily the big life transformations, but as a way to change from a dark mood to a bright one, as a way to get back on your feet and moving forward, making your way onto the solid ground again.

Turtle (North, Earth) is a fitting juxtaposition to the Rabbit, that age old race between the tortoise and the hare.  Slow and steady.  But more than that, think of how it carries its house with it everywhere, it is the very picture of self-sufficiency.  It is also a wonderful icon for introspection, going inside its own shell, a safe place. 

I love the expression "It's turtles all the way down."  I don't remember what tradition that comes from, but its the idea of what holds the earth up.  According to one myth, it is a turtle. But then that begs the question, what is that turtle standing on?  Well, obviously, another turtle.  It's an expression that summarizes the idea of "infinite regress."  How you can just keep asking why, over and over, to every answer.  And how perfect is that for a creature that represents going inside, introspection?  It's cautionary. . . don't spend so much time going inside yourself in introspection, questioning everything so much that it turns into an infinite regress.  Go inside when you need to, but otherwise, poke that head out, munch some healthy greens, and move slowly and steadily forward in your life.


 This mask that hangs on the wall in my studio space is an example of Mayan bead art.  I picked it up years ago on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, and it's funny how it finally crept its way into my own creations.  Be careful what you hang on your walls!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Experiments and Test Patches

This spring has been a flurry of activity for me, with weddings, out of town guests, other social engagements, and travel.  Keeping up with this blog had to take a back seat for a bit, as well as larger felting projects.  So, I've used the few spare moments of creative time here and there recently to study more felting techniques and to experiment with wet felting different kinds of wool in different ways. 

It's all been very simple, basic beginner stuff, but it's refreshing and liberating to experiment freely with no hopes or expectations regarding the outcome. 

Many of the "sculptural tapestries" I've done have started with simple wet felted backgrounds, but those take forever.  For that reason, and for the joy of creative challenge, I'm interested in creating images solely through wet felting.  Most of the felt art that I'm seeing lately that blows my mind is in the world of wet felting, rather than needle felting, and it's left me inspired to see if I can learn and adapt techniques to my own little world inspired by primitivism, pop culture,surrealism and esoterica. 

 It's not the aim of this post to break down the experiments by wool type and result.  Most of these experiments were "test patches," making simple little images with different kinds of wool I had around the house.  Fine, merino wool has the most pleasing to work with, and shrinks a LOT.  Different percentages of shrinkage was an issue, especially when combining different kinds of wool in the layering process. 

The thing I enjoyed most was working on "spider web" felting, which as you would guess, is the process of creating thin, web-like felt.  Also, created some spider-web felt in conjunction with chunky, hand spun yarn as part of the structure.  It seems like there is a much creative potential for the future with that technique.

I'm not feeling overly wordy today, so. . . just some pictures of my favorite "test patches."

Used clothes pins during drying to "sculpt" facial features

Abstract test patch, merino
Eye of Horus, unknown wool (created poor quality felt.)

Spider-web felt mini-hanging, with hand spun yarn


Sunday, February 10, 2013


Spent my little free time this hectic January working on "Clownhide" --felted wool on canvas (20"x20").  Funny, it wasn't what I intended to start the year with but I found an old piece of six pointed wet-felted fabric I'd made last year and decided to play with it.  I don't generally think to document the stages a piece goes through, but I do have a few phone pics to share as this one came along.

Generally when working with wool, it is dyed first.  This was the second time I've experimented with combining wet and dry felting in this way, all in white, and then "steam dying" it after the sculptural work is completed.  You can see the points, except the chin are left flat and that is what the whole wet-felted background originally looked like.  Then I begin building up the 2.5D/3D facial features in the center. This is another example of what I like to do with raw wool, right off the sheep, minimally processed and uncombed.  The effect is non-realistic, slightly surreal and leaves intact an essence of the sheep that makes these pieces seem more animalistic and alive. 

The wool starts out very loose and on a piece this size, to make all the detail work sculptural and dense takes a LOT of hours with the felting needles.  This third picture, still in white finds all the detail coming together, including the eyelide and eyebrow work that overlay the full 3D orbs of the eyeballs.  One gory little trick to note is that the eyebrows are not only full locks of wool, but they still have sheep shit in them.  The crustier parts of the sheep, I'd need to comb that stuff out, but by only gently cleaning the locks with detergent and boiling hot water and not combing or agitating them, the tips still are crusty and stiff with sheep shit. Sure, it's sterile after the cleaning process, but it might gross out the squeemish to know that it is an intentional part of the sculpture.  The reason why is that it gives a texture and character that looks really cool.  And also, those particular crusty locks will take the dye in a more complex and interesting way.  The eyelashes are my favorite part of this piece.

A bath to neutralize the PH
OK, I didn't photograph every stage.  The actual dyeing process I would have needed someone else to shoot because I'm all gloved up and under the clock.  After the piece was sculpted I soaked it in a mordant and then suspended it above a steam bath I made out of a large aluminum turkey pan on the stove.  Then all the dying is hand drizzled.  This is a lot harder than just making the piece out of different colored wool in the first place, but I love the effect.  After I'm done dyeing and the colors have set, the piece has to have the PH neutralized, so the clown gets a bath in the sink.

Finally, I sewed the dried piece to canvas painted with acrylic.  I'm not certain how successful aesthetically this is, but there was a reason.  I did a similar type of 2.5D wool "hide" piece called "Baphomet" and it was nailed to wood, reminiscent of animal hide nailed to the side of a barn.  I'm not sure why I'm fascinated by this practice. . .it must be something I saw as a kid.  So, in this instance with "Clownhide" it seemed that canvas could be made into a visual and tactile representation of the big top circus tent.  Where else would you hang the hide of an evil clown?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Got Goat?

Trivia: Did you know there's a plant called "Horny Goat Weed?"
"I need a goat head as soon as possible, and I immediately thought of you." 

What a great compliment!  But, uhm, yeah.  Does something about me scream goat boy?  I've never done this sort of realism before, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to live up to the expectation.

This was a gift request I got on December 23, and I sat down and finished it the same day.  It's a tiny (2 1/2") goat head of merino wool mounted on ink stained wood. His furry little ears feel AWESOME!

The one "goat like" thing I have done previously was a flat sculptural tapestry of baphomet.  Like that one, the thing I appreciate here is the idea of taking the hair of an animal associated with "herd" and fashioning a creature associated with stubborn individuality.  That whole "unity out of duality" thing again.

It seems like that is the essential American dilemma, maximising and celebrating our individuality while still balancing a sense of belonging to a community, to a greater group to which we have some basic social obligations.  Like at the very least, chipping in our membership fees (taxes), not pitching recyclables into the trash bin, and having a little empathy for all the other individuals in society (i.e. not being a dick.)

Insert loud goat noise here. . .(there's no onomatopoeia for it in English since I know you were wondering.) 

Happy New Year!

Finishing up here on the old felting pad.


Here's some Bonus Fun With Numbers!  A goat creates a natural 5 pointed star via it's chin, two ears, and two horns.  The request for this goat was received on the 23rd.  2+3=5.  However, 2÷3=.666.  Trippy, yeah?