Photographing the bear

January 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

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I took my bear hat, a fire torch, a cloak and a couple of friends to a dark Bristolian park the other day to take some pictures.

I wanted to try bringing the work to life, turning it into a character when before it was an accessory, just an inanimate object. I want to start telling a story, though I’m not sure what the story should be…

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Thanks to Claire Polly for taking the picture, and Marcus Williams for wearing the mask

I can bearly contain my excitement…

January 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope everyone out there is having a wonderful 2015 already. So far the first week of it has been very promising.

I have finally got round to making something I have been planning and preparing for a long time!

As a theatre designer, I have always had a love of masks and sculptural head-gear. One of my university projects was performing with animal masks that I had made, and it was one of my favourite art projects that I’ve done. I have seen a few fantastic examples of felt animal masks which have really inspired me to try making some of my own.

As I have a lot of brown wool from the free Jacobs, I decided to make a grizzly bear hat first, as an experiment. I used a real mix of wools. Jacobs and Shetlands in the wet felting stage, then merino for the detail on top. I have so far spent 3 days on it, and it is not quite finished, but as an experiment it has been really successful.

I have some photos of the process here –

the stages of wet felting:

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adding the first layer of wool to the resist

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The first layer of wool

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Starting on the other side

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Rolling the felt in towels (on the dining room floor as I have nowhere else to do it)

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The completed wet felting stage

The Jacobs that I used had been washed twice and then carded with dog brushes, but I could not get all of the vegetable matter out. The fleece was in quite a state when I got it, and full of hay, and as a result the felt is also full of hay. I figured this was OK for experimental work, but I need to source VM free fleece for future projects. I have a lot of Jacobs left to play with, and this is good as if projects go wrong then at least the materials haven’t cost me anything!

Also, hand carding large quantities of wool is tiring and not time efficient, so one day soon I want to invest in a drum carder! Then I will be able to card large quantities of wool without hurting my already fragile wrists (I have to be careful when rolling felt not to strain my wrist as I have lingering RSI)

The next stage was adding detail with needle felting, which was very time consuming, as I had to change the shape of the base quite a lot and add lots more wool to get the shape as right as possible. I looked at reference images of bears whilst doing this. My bear has turned out a little more goofy looking than a real bear (I’m not sure how to not make my felt things look goofy, that’s something I need to work on)

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bear before eyes

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bear once basic eyes have been added.

The almost finished bear sits on the head almost like a baseball cap. It obscures the vision quite dramatically, but then I didn’t make it to be practical.

Here’s my glamorous assistant modeling the nearly complete bear!

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I do want to take proper photos of it once it is complete, incorporate it into a costume and take it to a pretty environment. I may do this when I have a few more hats to photograph.

I have already started preparing the wool to make a fox hat – I’m going to use all Jacobs this time, so I have been washing and dyeing large quantities of the least hay filled fleece that I have. I hope it will work as I have not made a 100% Jacobs felt before. I also want to try and felt some fleece without carding it, just to see how it turns out!

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