Residency

ISLANDS IN FELT

HVAF artist Connie Flynn works in textiles and glass. Recently Connie wrote an article on Island Felting after a residency in Shetland April 2010. The International Feltmakers Association magazine featured Connie's work on the front cover and published an article inside the magazine.

BUZZING with inspiration from the IFA AGM 2009, I headed North to Shetland, where I planned to spend April. Fascinated by islands, I was looking forward to this residency being my temporary home and place of work. My fleece and materials were sent up ahead of my arrival: the box was tightly packed with fleece in a variety of rich browns, shades of green and tonal greys plus small pieces of silk, fabrics, needles and thread for stitch work. I also planned to use local fleece and wool. While unpacking I sorted the colours of fleece into groups. This became my floor rug, which disappeared over time as I used it.

My residency base was in a small fishing village overlooking the harbour. The views from the window were both inspiring and distracting: beautiful landscape, birds, seals swimming, small and large fishing boats, the island fire serviced training, not to mention the fantastic changing light and weather. Some of my days were spent walking and gathering information through drawing and photography. Wherever I looked I saw rich interesting earthy landscapes. Back in the studio I would experiment with colour, texture and form. It was to be my time and space to play with my 2-D and 3-D ideas. The landscape textile designs used structures and shapes inspired by the research collected on my walks. When the residency came to an end, I was pleased with my collection of felts. They were all packed up to be sent back home, no longer fleece but a box full of landscape felts.

While on Shetland I heard there was a yurt project happening on the Isle of Wight. The previous IFA coordinator for our region, Delia Blackman, was there and was involved in the Medina Yurt Project which was co-ordinated by Chris Lines. So in May I travelled to the Isle of Wight and spent four days finding out about it. Delia, keen local workers and I worked long days felting rather a large yurt roof panel in a local alpaca farm barn. Our panel design was based on the Yarmouth Festival and featured traditional sail boats called ‘gaffers.’ It was a grand project, using local fleece that had been dyed for the design.

Working in layers we built up sky, Solent waters, birds, gaffers, people and coded flags. We worked hard, learnt through the process and had a lot of fun. It was good to meet with Delia and see what was happening in the way of felting on the Isle of Wight. When I went North to Shetland in April I never realised that a month later I would be on the southern-most island. The experience brought my interest and passion for small islands and felting together. As I write I think of how links between islands and felting could develop in the future.

Connie Flynn is a teacher, art therapist and practising artist who works in stained glass and textiles. www.hvaf.org.uk/Connie-Flynn/gallery. Connie will be opening her studio this year as part of the HVAF Open Studios.

See www.feltmakers.com, under Felt Matters. March 2010.

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