Thinking like an engineer


Felting is like engineering to me.

I was an English major, never an engineer and not once took a course even remotely related to engineering. So I really should say felting is like what I perceive engineering to be! It includes thinking inside out, upside down, and devising ways to join which part to what other part in order to make the final result match the imagined piece. Yep; that’s engineering.

The Icelandic felter, Anna Gunnarsdottir, has an amazing engineer’s brain; her pieces reflect the fact that they are thoroughly thought-through. Not only are they thought-through, the engineering of flat shapes and angles, that turn into joints tells me she spends hours figuring out how fibers might felt and change shape to yield the final form she envisioned. In one of her classes, we students followed her instructions and every of us created amazing sculptural felt. Since then I have thought a lot about different shapes of 3-dimensional felt, which may have just been the point of her lesson.

Also check out the work of Annette Quentin-Stoll, a German woman with a playful side who fully understands how felt can be manipulated. Her fantastically textured samples can be adapted to be felted as larger pieces or as small accents on another piece. Her creativity is truly inspiring.

While visiting a friend recently, I was thumbing through her felting library and came across a book that I was sure was misfiled—something to do with geometry. When I mentioned it to her and she explained that this is where she kept it so she would be reminded to tie together geometry and felt making. And, I continue her thought, if I could make a dimensional star out of paper and tape, I could felt a hollow sea star and embellish it!

Just when I thought that turning over checkbook-balancing to my husband meant I could concentrate on felt making instead of math, I find that I just might need to venture back into that recurrent love-hate relationship!

Now I get it and I think I like it. Still scary, but not quite as much as before, thanks to felting buddies and wonderful instructors!

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