Monday, August 13, 2012
On Sunday, I taught a felt painting lesson to a lovely lady, Anna, who kindly sent in these iphone photos of her project in-progress. For this, her first-ever felt painting, she was inspired to recreate her grandfather’s painting of these latern-like yellow & purple flowers.
I was so glad to be on board as a coach & teacher, helping her to navigate these new waters: guiding her through the basic techniques of painting in wool roving, the twists & turns of wet felting, the many currents of artistic decisions that one encounters on the way. I have to say that I am so proud of her & how beautifully the piece turned out. There is nothing quite as heart-warming as being part of someone’s journey as they embark on a new creative direction.
Friday, August 3, 2012
photo: Moja Ma’at; Felt Dresses by Jenne Giles; Styling by Angelica Garde; MUA by Kenya of Ruby Envy; Hair by Diana Regua; Models: Monika & Sara
Here is the original material for FilzFun 35 by Marion Kaesmayr & myself. It was such a fun interview to respond to and Marion did a marvelous job translating, editing, and laying out the text with images from a photoshoot we did in North Beach for the printed magazine (which is beeea-utiful!). As is natural, some lovely bits were cut from the final printed article in the interest of space. Without further ado, here is the full text.
Who is Jenne?
(tell us something about your life and work and so on…)
Spiritually, I am a bit of an avant-gardist that likes to make unexpected things of beauty. I relish that genuine moment of surprise, both in myself and in others.
Where in the world are you living?
When did you decide to become a artist?
The art bug bit me early in life. Through difficult periods, it has always been a safe place where I could go for refuge & growth. I was fortunate to be accepted into a Magnet Arts High School in 1990, where studying visual art became the foundation of my learning and personal development. It was wonderful to be in a place where one was appreciated for one’s individuality and not harassed for being different. Since then, I have been dedicated to the arts throughout my adult life in one form or another,
What made you choose the materials that you work with?
What other materials would you like to work with in?
For my fine art work, I am currently exploring felt and its relationship to painting. I have a strong desire to pursue more sculptural ideas and hope that my path will send me in that direction soon.
Which technics do you prefer?
Where do you get your inspiration from?
To me, this artistic process is about sensory awakening: being open to the world through your senses by truly seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or touching. When your mind is open and your senses are fully engaged, you can experience the world as it is: rich with variation, mystery and surprise. Felting is an excellent way to embrace the unexpected and to move through the creative process from inspiration to discovery (and back again).
Personally, I am inspired by geometry, color, form, structure, design, surprise, poetry, nature, perception, and the irresistible impulse to interact with the great big mess of it all.
What motivates you?
Do you create your work in a studio or a home base?
In 2007, I moved into a studio space. My husband and I built it ourselves, putting up walls and shelves and installing doors and sinks. I even overcame my personal phobia of plumbing- a big triumph! It is nice to have a space of my own where I can go to be creative. It has also been very important to have the dedicated space for running my business in an organized way….or at least as organized as creative spaces can be.
Crafts in the 21th Century, what does it means to you?
I believe that craft offers an antidote to much of what we are experiencing in the 21st Century. This era is identified as being the Information Age, with the internet tying us all together and allowing us access to infinite information. The plus side of this is that there is vast wisdom now available to most people; the downside is that it can be an intellectual-overload where we become lost in the sheer volume of information.
Many hours can be spent in front of a computer screen absorbing information, but it is not until we apply that information through doing that we truly learn it. In fact, one could argue that we learn so much more in the doing of things (using our hands, minds and senses in concentrated effort), than we could ever learn through reading/studying alone. After all, as humans we are the “tool-makers” who learn by working with our hands—this is how we build skills, learn, express ourselves, think creatively, and develop as individual people.
Craft is inclusive and it brings us together. Everyone can master a craft. Everyone has something to contribute to craft. So, individually, craft offers us new ways to learn, to be productive, to be involved, and to appreciate the work of others. Combined with the internet, craft allows people to interact and form communities, both locally and internationally. Therefore, being involved with a craft is an antidote to the separation and loneliness that many experience in the Information Age. So on a larger level, craft empowers people, creates community, generates economies, and generally makes this a more peaceful and respectful world.
Add to all of this that craft is historically related to the small-scale production of goods, and this makes modern-day crafting a good remedy for living in the global, big-business world where our day is filled with fast-moving, anxious advertising to buy the latest must-have item from generic, impersonal box stores. Craft is a way to make things that allows us the option to contribute in a personal way rather than to consume. It is an opportunity to slow down and enjoy, making life more satisfying.
In my opinion, the more craft we have in the world, the better the 21st Century world will be.
How do you sell and promote your work?
After that, I showed at many of the national craft shows in the US. This allowed me to practice my craft at a more professional level. Each year has offered new and changing opportunities for growth. I win some, I lose some, but the most important thing is being out there. By doing shows, I meet new people and visit new places. By having an online presence, I can meet people all over the world and can be easier to find.
My advice would be to try different things and keep challenging yourself. If the goal was just to sell a lot, there are many better business models for doing that. For me, running a small craft-based business allows me to pursue the goals of personal and artistic growth coupled with the opportunity for new experiences. These goals have a value that cannot be measured in money alone. I believe that a big secret of marketing is that you will discover your market and your message through the process of discovering yourself.
What’s your typical working day like?
First off, I get up and make a strong espresso.
Next, I drive or take the train from Oakland to my studio in San Francisco. When I am in the studio, the first thing I do is turn on my electric kettles and music. I take care of any office stuff that needs doing or any packaging and shipping that should go out. Then I can start felting.
When I am making creative pieces, I am venturing into new territories and playing with the wool and colors in new combinations. This I do to design new production pieces or to make unique items for art projects, whether it is a dress, a painting or a sculpture. When I do production, I am repeating the same steps to make a particular design over and over again. This can have a nice Zen to it, as I get lost in the rhythm of making. Both are very interesting ways of working and have their own state of being and ways of interacting with materials and tools. Perhaps each process uses different parts of the brain….all I know is that I make a mess when I try to do both on the same day.
What is your working style?
3 words of advice for an Textile Artist?
Do you have a colour you love most?
Who is your favourite artist?
Which artist do you want to meet?
What music do you listen to?
Three likes and dislikes?
warm, fuzzy, dry socks
spending time with family & friends
What do you do to relax?
Do you plan a exhibition, book-project or something like this?
In 2010, I published a book called Felt Fashion: Couture Projects from Garments to Accessories with the help of a production team from Los Angeles. When the producers first asked me to write a book, I did a lot of soul-searching about whether I had something worthwhile to contribute, especially when there are so many great felting books already available. At the time, I was learning much about pattern-making, couture sewing & garment construction and I felt there were many unexplored opportunities to combine these techniques with feltmaking. At the very least, the Felt Fashion book could bridge two disciplines: sewing for feltmakers and feltmaking for sewers. To this end, I took a wide range of feltmaking skills (basic to advanced) and sewing/patternmaking skills and blended them together to make 24 different projects, each designed to teach specific skills. I also added techniques and tools for making jewelry and hat-making so that readers could experience those traditions as well. My hope is that readers would have a comprehensive set of feltmaking and sewing skills once they had tried all the projects and that they could then combine these skills to make personalized pieces.
Often, in books or in classes, it seems to me as though one must choose a technical approach or a creative one. I tried to balance the 2, as I really appreciate technical know-how and skill-building but also enjoy a book when it inspires or encourages my creativity. Further, I wanted to appeal to both a craft-aesthetic of exuberant self-expression and to a fashion-aesthetic that can be more about subtlety, materials, details, and finishing. I hope that readers will feel it addresses both.
I believe that good learners make good teachers and I learned very much about feltmaking by writing Felt Fashion.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I am on pins and needles waiting for the release of the next FilzFun magazine out of Germany. Harlequin Feltworks will be in there!
This is a stellar magazine with an un-paralled passion for felting in all of its forms. Family-run, the team behind this publication has an immense dedication to serving the latest trends in feltmaking from across the world and it has been a real joy to work with them preparing the article.
It was tough to keep things “under wraps” for these past few months, but it was worth it: the article serves up some fresh ideas, both visually and in the insightful interview.
You can order a copy, or subscribe, at their website: FilzFun
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Monday, November 14, 2011
We’re celebrating our fourth year as the only retail store that caters specifically to feltmakers. Although roving is now available online and at a number of yarn stores, few can offer in-depth knowledge about wool characteristics and feltmaking techniques. The staff at NEFS is trained to explain details about the feltmaking process and to help customers choose the exact wool or blend for their project.
The entire store occupies the center of a 1920′s vaudeville theater in Easthampton, MA where hundreds of colorful wools are stacked from the floor to the balcony. Many fibers are sold “general store style” where you can choose whatever amount you like from barrels and bins. Other items are pre-packaged.
NEFS opened in May of 2007 when feltmaker Christine White of Massachusetts decided to divide her 7-year-old feltmaking studio business, Magpie Designs, into a separate retail store and a private art studio. White is the author of the best-selling Uniquely Felt, called “the feltmaking bible” by the Library Journal. The store has been modeled on the same principles found in the book which is to say, lots of information and plenty of examples.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Last week, I spoke to Associated Press journalist Jennifer Forker for an upcoming article on feltmaking. The article just came out today and is popping up across the country in local newspapers. How exciting! It is a lovely article and really revs my engines!!
Here is the article at ABC News
Felting Transforms Raw Material Into Work of Art
Seven years ago, Jenne Giles was a San Francisco painter and sculptor who didn’t know felting existed. Now she works almost exclusively in the medium, stretching the possibilities of felt in fashion.
There’s a soft-sculpture aspect to wet felting that is attractive to Giles, who sells her ruffled scarves in museum gift shops and online at the Artful Home. It’s tactile and hands-on, like working in clay, she says.
“It incorporates all the things that I love,” says Giles, author of “Felt Fashion: Couture Projects from Garments to Accessories” (Quarry Books, 2010).
“It’s an ancient medium,” she adds. “It’s right there at the dawn of mankind, after making clothing from leather and sinew.”
Thursday, October 20, 2011
A couple more dresses felted & finished!
Finishing the dresses (shaping, putting buttons and ties, etc) takes almost as long as the felting does but can be a great design challenge.
I am amazed at the many small leaps of faith that are possible with construction: little things like buttonholes matching up or putting in a zipper are such small miracles. They just kind of work if you do the steps right!
Some construction notes on these 2 felt dresses:
There are 2 buttons holding the front of the green felt dress closed: one at the neckline and one at the waist (in addition to the visible ties/bows at the neckline and an additional tie on the inside waist) I elongated the buttons using a small threadchain. It really helped give some extra play to the garment’s drape and prevented distorting the felt fabric, which can happen when a button is attached flat to the fabric’s surface. Plus, the threadchain made it easier to anchor the thread in the back bit of the felt fabric, so the thread is not visible on the garment’s surface. Threadchains are way cool and fun to make.
In this empire-waisted dress, I used a large rubber band to establish the straight line under the bust. Then I marked it out with a dressmaking pencil on the felt fabric. I marked the front, back and both sides and then divided it up into smaller units (1 inch units in this case) with whatever was left over going into the opening at centerfront for the bow. I used an awl to punch holes on both sides of my markings and then passed a thick silk yarn through the punched spots. This was a great way to add functionality to the dress, as it can now be easily cinched to fit the body and opened to allow for easier getting in/out.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
We’ve been invited to write an article for FilzFun. FilzFun, or verFiltzt Und zugeNåht, is a quarterly German magazine dedicated to felt and textile art. Though the magazine is written in German, FilzFun also comes with an insert with every article translated to English. I received a copy the other day and it is an extraordinary publication created with evident love and careful attention. Visit their website to learn more and to explore past issues.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I first saw the Ruth Spencer’s feltwork at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco back when I was just getting into the business.
Her exceptional sense of playful color, modern shape and refined elegance was a source of awe, leaving an indelible impression on me as a new feltmaker.
Last week, I received an email from Ruth with the sad news that she was putting her bubble wrap away and was retiring from felting.
Her creative voice will be dearly missed from the dialogue of felt fashion and design, but I know that this is the opening of a new chapter for her work.
I’ve wanted to write a post about Ruth and her work for many years now and could never find images of her neckpieces online anywhere.
I hope you will enjoy these images that she sent me and share my feelings of admiration and respect for her contribution to the art of felting.