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Lifelong learning

By: Deb Tewell Saturday July 26, 2014 comments Tags: A Felters Toolbox, Learn to Felt, nuno felting, wet felting, milkweed designs

Black-Rust I-12

When I took my first class in felt making I thought that was it. Now that I knew how to make felt; I knew felting. How wrong I was! Had I been listening closely to my instructor, I would have heard really heard and understood--when she said, "There are as many ways to make felt as there are felt makers." The longer I felt, the more felt makers I meet, or come into contact with, the more I understand the truth of her statement.

I can't remember my second felting class, but I certainly remember that first one--and the most recent classes I completed with Pat Spark in April. In our class discussions with Pat we learned much about the history of felting and about processes from around the world, then how to adapt them to our modern pieces. Pat reiterated the idea that to be a felter means you should know something about the history of the craft. This thought grounds me and I feel connected.

I have logged many classroom hours, even more studio hours, with many instructors, processes, techniques, trials, and errors in between that first class and my most recent one. Some techniques I embraced and adopted--or even adapted--and others were just not my style so I let them go. Others I loved then left, moving on to another favorite process, only to grow weary of that one and move on again.

As a naturalist friend of mine once said about the natural world, "there is always something new to discover," and I've come to learn that the same is true of felting. Some of the felting techniques we are "discovering" nowadays are techniques that were used in the past, went by the wayside, and like high fashion, have come back around. Others are born of the imagination and creativity of using different fibers, tools, equipment, and new ways of thinking about felt making. It is impossible to keep track of all the wonderful things that are happening in the world of felt nowadays. Instead of being frustrating, aren't all these new techniques delightful and amazing and just bubbling with energy!

Social media has connected the world, and so, the world of felting. I accept any friend request from anyone in the world if our common friends are my felting buddies. It has opened up a wonderful book to me, one filled with beautiful felted images, all types of fiber arts, intriguing felting questions, and photos of enviable completed projects. Ignore the fact that I might not be able to understand the language of the post or that Google Translate doesn't make that much sense sometimes; I can understand the language of the felter and I feel connected. I have become part of the history of felting; part of that continuum that began thousands of years ago--it connects me to people I have never met; to long-departed craftspeople who asked the same questions I am asking. Yes, this thought grounds me and, moreover, makes me look at my work in a different light--as something more important.

Because I consider Pat one of the grande dames of felting in the United States, I was surprised to learn that she still takes courses, herself. But of course she would; Pat is a lifelong learner! As our tribe grows, the methods and processes expand exponentially and "there definitely IS always something new to discover!"

Black-Rust I-11

Deb Tewell

About the Author: Deb Tewell

When other little girls were taking piano and dance lessons I was wandering through fields, climbing the neighborhood hill, catching grasshoppers or exploring the creek. My indoor activities were based on art and “making things.” I always had a paintbrush or pencil in my hand and have enjoyed drawing and creating for as long as I can remember. 

Both these activities have been big parts of who I am. My love of the out-of-doors determined interpretive naturalist career, and now felt-making describes the artistic side, both are important parts of me.