Today three APs (not Aged Parents) went to John and Maggie’s to hear about studio pots and learn how to make felt. After a cup of tea and a delicious home cooked lemon drizzle cake, John told us how the Studio Pottery movement began. John began by explaining how different types of clay are fired to produce characteristic effects. During the firing process, materials such as salt can be thrown into the kiln to change the appearance of the pots. In addition, how the pots are placed in the kiln can have a marked effect on the final outcome, causing the ash used to create diverse patterns and textures on the surface of the pots. Throughout, we were able to see and handle the pots to appreciate this for ourselves.
Then it was time to experience the alchemy of felt making for the first time. Maggie showed us how to tease apart the fibres of the white wool before pulling on the end to obtain a section which we placed on the rectangle of bubblewrap in front of us. Further sections were added next to it, then a layer of the same wool was placed on top of it with the fibres running at right angles to the bottom layer.
Then the creative process began in earnest. We were invited to help ourselves from the fabulous array of vibrant and subtly coloured hanks of wool to design our own panel. Maggie demonstrated how, by teasing them apart or compressing the fibres together it was possible to overlay the colours to create different effects. When done correctly, this can give the impression of chalk pastels. Once we were satisfied with our pictures, soapy water was drizzled onto the wool in sufficient quantity to moisten the fibres before an additional piece of bubble wrap was placed over them and rubbed down in a circular motion to cause the microscopic hooks on the wool to latch onto each other and make the felt. Then it was turned over and the process repeated.
To complete the felting process, each panel was rolled loosely in a bamboo mat and worked back and forth, rather like rolling out pastry. The bamboo mats aren’t essential, but they speed things up considerably. All that remained to be done was to rinse out the soapy water to stop the panels from smelling. It was quite alarming to see how the felted panels could be crushed under the tap and squeezed out, but even the finest wisps didn’t become detached as you might think. Maggie warned us to make sure the panels were left to dry flat, and we went home having learned a new skill and proud of what we had designed and made in a short space of time.