Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A felt wallhanging for the Mercat Centre

Today I have been working at the Mercat Centre in the village of Milton, near Invergordon in Ross-shire.   This was the second of 5 days where various members of the community have been working together under my supervision and tutoring to make a large felt wallhanging for their hall.

This project has been made possible with funding arranged through Highland Council.  We have three aims.  We need a large wallhanging to help with absorbing some of the noise in the hall and reduce the echoing.  We want a picture of some of the landmark buildings of the village and surrounding area.  And we want to help people learn a new skill by working together.  

We have people ranging in age from 10 to 90 working on this huge project.  I created the design from taking lots of photographs of the area and then selecting those with the most interesting features and character to produce a montage.   The first day was spent making pieces of half-felt - some in various shades of green that could be used for depicting trees and others in various soft earth tones from which we cut out the shapes of the various buildings.    By the end of the day we had a huge pile of shapes to depict everything from Balnagowan Castle down through the village to the church at Logie Easter and an oil rig on the Cromarty Firth.

Today we spent the morning making the background for our design, laying down fleece and wetting it with soapy water, covering this with bubblewrap and then rubbing to ensure that it was all wet.   By lunchtime we were ready to start working out where all the pieces went - like a giant felt jigsaw. 

Once everything was in place, a bit more soapy water was added, the whole thing covered again in bubblewrap and then it was a question of rubbing...... and rubbing........and rubbing - for three hours.  At the moment the piece measures 9.5 metres long and 1.1m deep and looks rather like an impressionist painting.  By the time we have finished we should have managed to shrink it down to about 7m so that it can fit along the end wall above the windows.   By the end of the day we were satisfied that everything was joined together and we were able to simply cover it back up with the bubblewrap and leave it overnight.

In the morning we will turn it over and rub on the back for a few hours and then we will be able to start the fun bit of adding lots of detail with needle-felting.  We expect to spend about a day and a half adding all the detail and then comes the back-breaking work of rolling and milling the felt.

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