Sarafina Fiber Art

Sarafina Fiber Art

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

We Need a Tree Skirt

Setting up shop for a show or event is one of my favorite things to do, especially around Christmas.   Bringing out trees, lights, shiny anything, and ornaments erases away the cold and dark and rushes in the warm and cozy.

This year as we prepared for our open house, I realized that we had no tree skirt so I added it to my shopping list.  The base of the tree needs to be cozy too.  Suddenly I realized that I could make one before I would have time to go shopping; handmade is better anyway, and I am impatient, so to work I went!

I started with one full sheet of Dark Prefelt, since I was working with a dark top layer.  I folded it onto 1/4s and cut the edge rounded so that when opened it became a circle (more or less with me since I am an impatient non-perfectionist.)

I used our big carder to create a few large batts in the midnighty color I was going for.  At first it was too purple/witchy so I re-carded.carded with more gray and aqua.   I used almost two 4oz batts but in hindsight, it was a bit too much wool.  (4-6 oz total would probably be plenty to create two thin layers.   Fiber Art Batts, Landscape Batts, Pelts, and any Top Coat or Merino will work well.).  I was going for two layers of wool on top of the Prefelt.  I find batts easier on these large pieces because you can stretch out and arrange larger amounts at a time than pulling from thinner roving.

This is the Witchy Before.  I tried to arrange the batts somewhat crisscrossed and fanned around the edges.

I treated the edges with some locks that we had that were somewhat felted together.  I laid them over the prefelt a bit and under the edge of the top batts a bit so that they would wet felt into place.  Some other edge options would be carefully arranged long locks, cut into the desired shape after felting and trim with stitching or trim, natural felted edge, needle felted fluffed lock "furry" edge, etc.

The hardest part of this project was finding a big enough wet felting set up.  I used two pieces of our blue Pool Cover from our Wet Felting Kit with a supporting piece of Gortex underneath.  Anything that can get wet and help support the Pool Cover when you roll it up will work.  I had some large pieces of netting that my friend saved from a house she was cleaning out to use for the top (Yay to pack rats!).  I also used one full length pool noodle; you could find a broom handle, pvc pipe, or any long skinny household item. 

First I wet the whole thing down outside and gently made soapy circles with my hands to begin setting the wool.  You can feel it become less squishy under your hands after 5 minutes or so.

Then I rolled up the layers around the pool noodle and tied it off.  I then decided to work on a table.  I rolled 100 times from all four directions for a total of 400.

Next I rinsed hot and cold.  Back and forth several times, smooshing and banging it along the way, until all of the soap was out.

After the piece dried I began needle felting.  First I used a layer of White Top Coat to establish the basic shapes of my design.  Then I used Snow White Batt to cover the white and create the snowflakes (which by the way were a test of my commitment to the whole thing.)  I used about 2 oz of white and less than 1 oz of Snow White for this design.  I had to needle felt the lock edges in a few places.

Laying in the white shapes

At any point after felting and drying you can cut the slit and tree hole.  Fold into 1/4s again and cut of the center tip.  Start small, you can always cut more if it's not large enough.  Then decide where you want to slit to be - perhaps find a less perfect part of the skirt so it will be towards the back.

When all of the needle felting was done,  I ironed the entire skirt on high heat with steam to flatten and soften it.  Our tree was cozy and pretty outfitted with this Winter Night Tree Skirt.

Anything goes!  Any color, texture, design, even shape!  Needle felt, quilt, embroider, bead, trim, embellish your project anyway that you can.

I have ideas for a second and also stockings!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why Buy Handmade: Because We Were Meant To

Purchasing a handmade item or piece of art is an intimate experience connecting people to people and people to Earth.  Long ago, the needs of people were met by what the Earth provided.  I need a bed – gather leaves.  I need food - gather nuts and berries.  I need medicine – gather herbs.   Then people traded and sold items that they made and perhaps in which they had a specialization. I need my wheat ground – go and trade with the Millers. I need my horse shod  – go and see the Smiths.  Spanning time and cultures, humans also saw beauty in the world and replicated it in adornment and creations that existed for the sole purpose of being admired, not to be used at all - art. Whether born out of necessity or just for the beauty, handmade is our history.  

In the modern world we have become distanced from our purchases.  Materials are far removed from their source, in distance and in processing, and the buyer is far removed from the creator.  Technology and engineering have streamlined creation to make millions of the same thing.  Don't get me wrong, I prefer a mattress to leaves and I would be up shit creek without Imodium, but I want explain why I seek out a world created by hands.

I am not interested in drawing a line between craft and art so I will just be referring to the entire spectrum as “handmade” or “creation.”   A handmade item has been inspired.  Inspiration can come from need, color, a feeling, a moment, a technique, nature, a memory, a medium, a discovery, and the list goes on and on for eternity. 

The creator uses his/her skill and chosen medium to take the inspiration and create an object. He or she is thinking about why that particular color, texture, or material will work just right, and making thousands of tiny decisions that shape the creation into something that only that one person could make and could probably only make one time – never again the same.

The buyer/admirer is attracted to the handmade item.  The buyer sees in the item something that speaks to him/her.  It says, “I am your favorite color (texture, shape, subject, etc)  and you are intrigued by the decisions that were made to create me. You see in me a reflection of yourself!” 

Therefore, the buyer is connecting not only to the item but also to the creator.  They have now shared the experience of the creation.  The buyer can further connect by giving the creation as a gift.  Now the recipient of the handmade item can admire the creation, love the giver, and connect with the creator.  I mean really, how much more connecting can you get?  Well, there is more….

... all involved, creator, buyer/admirer, and recipient are experiencing a connection to the Earth’s beauty, inspiration, and materials.   We have no handmade without materials.  We have no inspiration without experiencing our world.  We have no beauty without the sight of our Earth.

My shop is currently full of creations born from the Earth's gifts; wood, fiber, clay, leather, stones, metal, gourds, and more.  Shaped by creators and ready to be admired, possibly purchased, possibly given, but definitely appreciated.

It's hard to pick a favorite  (No it's not, I have started a small pile.), but one is a live edge dark walnut serving board harvested locally and made with care by a long-time friend. It is so simple, a single piece of wood.  But it celebrates the beauty that occurs without fuss.  A reflection of me?  Not me exactly, but what I love most in this world. 

Shop handmade this year.  Shop local.  Shop small business.  Create your world.