Skip to content
January 25, 2023 / weavingschool

Get in Line

This is the instillation piece I am working on for an exhibit at Rangsit University in Bangkok called “Get in Line”. While watching the reviews of 2022 on tv at the end of the year, it occurred to me that there is a big difference between “get in line” and “fall in line.” In the current political world, to fall in line is the last thing I wish for anyone in the New Year. The folks in this line are off to some great adventure where everyone is an individual and each is happy and accepted for who they are. There are press switches in the hands of the people that turn on LED lights in different places on their bodies. I will ask viewers to join hands with the people and light up the world. 

Advertisement
January 21, 2023 / weavingschool

2022 Daily Weaving

I frequently take time on my daily walks to sit in the woods and enjoy the view. Recently, I was struck by how much the linear nature of the trees reminded me of the strips of my daily weavings. These pictures are of the twelve months of 2022’s daily weavings hanging in my woods. It was much harder to photograph the impact of the strips in the trees than I imagined. Best to come sit in the woods with me to contemplate their beauty and perhaps some of life’s meanings.

For the past several years, especially during the pandemic, I have begun placing each subsequent month on top of the others. Each year covers up the last literally and symbolically as memories fade.

August 12, 2022 / weavingschool

Convergence

Convergence: It Happened
July 15 – 21, 2022
Knovxille Convention Center

After nearly four years of planning, cancellations, planning again, making show entries, planning for five days of teaching felting classes, and setting up seven off site exhibits, it finally happened. And what a fabulous ride it was.

The official HGA Convergence opened with a fashion show that exceeded all expectations. I had two entries accepted for the show. The programed turn signal lights on my bicycle vest worked perfectly with the dependable Lily Pad in control. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then the biggest surprise of all were the two first place ribbons in the Yardage and Mixed Media exhibits.

June 9, 2022 / weavingschool

Weaving for Felt

This is an article for Felt Matters, the International Feltmakers Association

Weaving for Felt

Whenever I think I’ve made one of everything, felting continues to prove me wrong. Combining color and texture is painting with wool and cloth. Shaping garments and vessels by selective shrinking or utilizing differential shrinkage is sculpture.

Felting came as a natural progression in my love affair with all things fiber. Like many of us, my grandmother taught me to knit, crochet, and sew. In elementary school, we would have a day off to attend the county fair. My mother would take us directly to the petting zoo where we would pet sheep.  “This is where your blanket comes from.” I never forgot her telling us that. I couldn’t imagine how that rough smelly wool would turn into the blanket on my bed and never imagined how the properties of wool would inform many years of fascination with wool and everything it can do.

More years ago than I’d like to admit, I did a collaboration piece with an artist friend who wanted to embed rocks into felt. After months of research and experimenting with making heavy weight felt, I finally succeeded. When the project was completed, I decided to change directions and see what was the lightest weight felt I could make. That began my exploration of nuno felting. In nuno felting, scarves can be sculpted by laying wool in different directions and garments can be shaped, without darts, by shrinking some areas more than others.

Lately, my explorations with weaving for felting have played a prominent role in my ever-expanding toolbox of techniques. I love weaving yarns in non-traditional ways and then watch the fibers attach, distorting the patterns. (image 1) The differential shrinkage between the heavier woven sections and the lighter shingled sections offers great potential for shaping vessels. As a teaching artist, I created a “Weaving for Felting” class. Even though the textures and color combinations are limitless, I’m always surprised by the creativity the process engenders.

In 2019 I was awarded a three month residency at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in the mountains of Tennessee as part of their Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellowship. I’d first taken a weaving class at Arrowmont after my freshman year at the University of Tennessee, so long ago that the school, founded in 1912, was still called by its original name, the Phi Beta Pi Phi Craft Workshop. Although I admire and respect straight selvedges and traditional patterning, weaving perfect yardage had never been my strong suit, and I hadn’t thought of myself as a traditional Appalachian artist. However, the lure of a three-month residency at a beloved craft school was worth the risk of rejection. When I was actually accepted into the program, I decided to concentrate on weaving some traditional patterns then using them as the base for nuno felting. Combining weaving and felting became the starting place for my residency.  I had just taken a natural dye workshop so armed with those yarns, an antique overshot coverlet, and merino fleece in all its glorious colors, I headed off to Arrowmont to see what would develop. The naturally dyed yarns were quite heavy so the different shrinkage of each created endless opportunities to sculpt.

Arrowmont teaches a number of traditional crafts. During my stay, I was fascinated by shapes created in the clay classes using slabs of clay to hand build vessels. I challenged myself to see if I could create vessels using heavy weight felt whose properties seemed so similar to the clay slabs. (image 2) Instead of using resists, I began by laying out flat rectangles combining heavy weaving sections with lighter shingled sections of merino wool. Once everything was stabilized, I connected the ends to make the vessel. The differential shrinkage between the sections allowed me to structure the vessels. (images 3 and 4)

During the pandemic, I took many on line felting classes. Although I’d been making vessels for many years, book resists and overlapping resists offered a new opportunity to create shapes that can’t be made with a single flat resist. Class projects ranged from lightweight to heavy pieces suitable for rugs. My knowledge base expanded and confirmed that there is no bottom to felting.

On a tour to Hungary with Flóra Carlile-Kovács, I was inspired by a visit to the Zsolnay Ceramic Museum in Pecs. I couldn’t take enough pictures of the elegant and intricately shaped vessels. Armed with all my new skills, I attempted to create vessels using the many photographs as starting points. Many of the things I do are ongoing projects and I expect to continue on this path. (image 6)

Recently, I was asked to fill in at John C. Campbell Folk School for a teacher who had to cancel at the last minute. Although I’ve been making vessels for years, I’d never taught it as a weeklong class. Making my own samples to fit the teacher’s original class description, I found yet more ways to add structure to vessels. It’s been a fascinating journey. I love passing on these hard-won skills in my classes. I gain energy from the smiles and enthusiasm students generate while working on their own creations.

Images:

  1. Scarf with mirrors detail
  2. Clay bowls with felt vessels
  3. Blue Vessel Layout
  4. Blue Vessel/ photo by Robert Batey
  5. Group of Woven Felted Vessels / photo by Robert Batey
  6. Vessels inspired by Zsolnay Museum 

December 23, 2021 / weavingschool

Workshops at Rocky Mountain Weavers Guild

November 19 – 22, 2021
Geri Forkner – “Introduction to Electronic Textiles”

By Nicki Scheurwater

When I signed up for the class, I had no idea what an “electronic textile” was, and why did I need to make one? After only a few minutes of listening to Geri, I not only became a convert, but was totally transfixed with this amazing lady.

Geri began with a detailed background of the techniques and examples of her work. Her sweet Southern accent lulled us with assurances that in fact, we could create some of the fun, unique and colorful creations we were seeing.

We started by selecting one of the colorful silk scarves, dyed merino fleece, bits of unusual fabrics and retreating to our workstations outfitted with bubble wrap, spray bottles and towels. Our instructions were to the layer the fleece and fabrics on the scarves, spray lots of water, roll them up in the bubble wrap and roll 100 times, unroll, rewrap and roll 100 again. Spray and repeat. For those of you who have done nuno felting, you can feel our pain. Next, we began to see the transformation from parts to the whole.

After our workout, Geri provided us with conductive thread, batteries, and LED lights for our scarves. Our scarves were not dry. Not wanting to mix “electricity” with wet items, we tried new electrical engineering skills sewing our lights and batteries to small felt pieces. We were careful to create a circuit, not a short circuit. I had never paid much attention to the world of electricity so this was exciting. Some students were even able to make a bracelet with lights.

I was totally blown away by the scarves that were created, with a myriad of intense colors and fabrics that worked when combined, reflecting the creative, skilled person who made it. Fun stuff that can be applied to other fiber creations!

If you have not taken a class from Geri, or just sit and talk with her, I would highly recommend it as one of those life experiences that will stay with you for quite a while.

December 2021 9
Weaving to Felt with Geri Forkner
by Donna Brown
What a great workshop. I thought I knew the plan for this workshop but it took a turn. We had so much fun. The participants brought a measured 3 yard warp and a loom ready for it. Nothing you do as a seasoned weaver applies with this technique.

Geri started the workshop by amazing us with samples of the technique and explaining how to start our weaving. We sleyed our reed with the warp front to back very loosely with wide spaces. Once warped the weaving was also outside our weaving box. No packing weft yarns in this project. We finished the weaving on day 1!

On day 2 we laid our loose weaving down and shingled roving on top in 2 directions. Then the fun began by rolling the project in plastic until the roving connected to the weaving. The magic appeared and our yardage was in one piece.

Geri was such a delight in sharing information and inspiring us for future projects. The participants all left with a creative piece.

June 14, 2021 / weavingschool

Getting Back to Normal – Gradually

At long last, I was finally able to teach felting for a full week to real live people – John C. Campbell Folk School made it happen. Everyone complied with the safety procedures without complaint. We were all just happy to be there learning and interacting with live people.

The school went to great lengths to keep us safe. Pre-recorded messages took the place of group meetings using new technology that even made it easy to share pictures between studios. And at long last, I can be two places at once! I was able to show a felting video I’d made earlier on the giant screen while helping students who weren’t watching the extra project.

I can never say enough about how wonderful the students who come to the Folk School are. They take on every challenge with enthusiasm, go away with new skills and great projects to amaze their family and friends. The staff was there to answer any questions, the food delicious and plentiful, the studios and grounds immaculate.

the Magic is back

May 7, 2021 / weavingschool

Recent Odyssey

Here is the finished project that tells the rest of the story of my recent health care odyssey, despite not having anything wrong except 70+ years of wear and tear. 

I was invited to participate in an Inspiration Collage project offered by the very talented weaving artist Anastasia Azure. She guided the participants through making a collage that would be the starting place for a future project. The previously posted shifu piece was the beginning place for my collection. I only used pictures and ephemera from years of keeping things that are “too good to throw away and will be just the thing for a project one of these days”. Years as an elementary school art teacher with little or no budget for supplies and a long time use of alternate materials destined for the global scrap heap left me with no lack of materials. Pandemic house cleaning unearthed long forgotten items.

Anastasia’s collage project asked us to reflect on several aspects of our work: design elements, emotional quality, narrative subject matter among others. I’ve never worked this way, and it was definitely an eye opener. As I manipulated the things on the collage, a solution and pathway appeared as if by magic. Each piece included tells a part of the story. The boat shuttle carries the viewer through the story just as it would carry yarn across the warp. It is balancing scientific research with the resulting medicines while the Guatemala worry dolls watch and worry. Clothing price tags ask the cost of the peace of mind that should come with a healthy outcome. Antique porcelain half dolls stand as observers, patients, health care workers.  The crowded claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in the system is evident. There are many other symbols and metaphors. I ask you to find them and add your own interpretation. 

Top view showing shift woven band as a path through the maze of health care

views from all sides of the free standing collage collection commenting on the many aspects involved in diagnosis

April 30, 2021 / weavingschool

Response to a Complex Issue

I learned about Shifu, the Japanese art of paper spinning at an HGA Convergence many years ago. From time to time some paper comes along that is just too good to pass up. A recent prescription for osteoporosis drugs (trying to keep old age at bay a while longer) came four to a box each with its own LARGE paper insert. I couldn’t pass up spinning it into yarn and creating a weaving as part of a tableau I decided to create about the mysteries involved in navigating the health care system. In the weaving, all the information is still there but, decoding it would be quite a task – just like it was before I cut it up and spun it. Does anyone actually read those inserts? If they did, would they even want to risk taking a drug with that many cautions? It even comes in many languages, a tiny Rosetta Stone. 

February 27, 2021 / weavingschool

Usually I’m somewhere else

I realized why winter seems to be going on forever this year for me Covid 19 notwithstanding. I’ve been going to Thailand in Jan or Feb for the past 20 years ever since my son moved there. This year no one is going anywhere. Then Facebook keeps reminding me of my trips, fun to remember but I’m even missing that 27-hour plane flight that gets me started adapting to culture shock and the twelve-hour time change. 
I do a workshop and gallery show for the fashion design department second year students at Rangsit University every year while I’m there. It’s been a real learning curve, how to pack for a month-long visit that includes workshop supplies, a gallery show, and enough clothes for starters. Fortunately Thai winters are hot so I leave my bulky winter coat behind. I’ve been stuck without it in Knoxville a couple of times but that’s another story. These days, I am taking half of what I “needed” in the beginning. (I love the part in the movie Up in the Air where the George Clooney character makes Anna Kendrick throw out her pillow.) 
For the first several years, I just took what I’d made during the year for the gallery show in conjunction with the workshop. One year, I thought my pieces would fill the gallery, but they were overwhelmed by the huge space. Then, slowly I connected the dots realizing what a unique experience I was gifted. I started to think in terms of instillations. Now my shows require participation by the students who otherwise circle the gallery in thirty seconds, migrate to the student section and disappear. I know their teachers require them to come but still……
So for old times’ sake and to make me feel warmer, here are a few random photos of Thailand travels and shows I’ve done. Cheers and be warm.

Pictures are from shows at Rangsit University in Bangkok and around Thailand: KoYo cotton weaving village, Chinese New Year in Nakhon Sawan, Puppet Show in Bangkok, High School parade in eastern Thailand, Duck street food in Chinatown in Bangkok, mat nee silk weaving in Chonnabot
You can check out some films on Thailand here:
http://samforkner.org/linecolor.html
http://samforkner.org/nakhonsawan.html

February 21, 2021 / weavingschool

What I’ve been doing during the pandemic

I’m one of the lucky ones who has had both vaccines for Covid 19. Yes, I feel guilty, but at least I can take care of any family who (hopefully never) becomes ill. They are all science believers so are following CDC guidelines. My children grew up in Atlanta within walking distance of the CDC and were all fortunate to have an excellent science program at their high school. 
So what have I been doing during the pandemic? Some days I’m still caught by Michelle Obama’s comments when she talked about low level pandemic depression. My productivity level still comes and goes. I’ve had to change paths like so many others. Two things have helped. Being freed from commitments has allowed me make just for the sake of learning instead of continuing to make samples for teaching.
Taking on line classes is the second thing that is keeping me going. My felting techniques dictionary has greatly expanded during this time. I’ve been able to make things I’ve been trying to figure out how to do for a number of years. Now I’m in the middle of my first formal color class for weavers. I’m learning how to be more intentional in my color choices instead of pulling things from my stash just because they “look good” together. It’s definitely harder to work this way, but in the long run it will be well worth the effort. I’m already solving puzzles and understanding why some things come out less than spectacular.
Here are a few of my favorites from the many classes: