Follow this link to vote for my design: http://goo.gl/MLaR2d

This if for the "People's Choice" Award. Here is a picture of the gown that I have entered.

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I am competing in the MIT Media Lab's Descience Fashion Design Competition. Descience is a project in which the world of scientific discovery offers inspiration for the innovative minds of fashion designers. Descience creates collaborations between designers and scientists and brings scientific research to the runway, providing a platform for the creative collaboration between scientists and designers. The competition culminates with a runway fashion show in Cambridge at the MIT Media Lab on September 29th 2014.

amanda's flowery field cropped.jpgFor this competition, I was paired with Amanda James, a PhD student in environmental sciences at the University of California. Amanda researches plant species that are successfully competing and destroying native ecosystems in Southern California. Plants introduced in the early 18th century by Spanish explorers have slowly replaced the native coastal sage shrub land with plants that choke and kill the lovely native flowering plants. The invasive species are fast growing and fast dying, leaving a sea of dead plant material.

Descience Collage v6.jpgThe artistic collaboration between Amanda and me began with a series of coast to coast Skype conversations. Right from the start, we were of the same mind - designing a garment that transformed from the golden yellow flowers that decorated the California landscape in the past, to the killing grey invasive species that are now seen across the California landscape.

I started with drawings that envisioned my model walking down the runway in a flowered gown with a towering headdress of spikey vines and beautiful yellow flowers. The garment's bodice and skirt would be festooned in yellow and orange flowers and a train of flowering vines. At the end of the runway, the model transforms the garment by lifting the overskirt to her shoulders to cover and choke the flowering plants. By covering the native plants, the model animates the effects of the invasive species. Both perspectives on the landscape effected by the invasive species are beautifully depicted in the gown.

The many components of the garment created an engineering challenge. Barbara created a scaled version of the dress to work out the structural problems. She hand dyed the silk for the dress using a modified Shibori technique known as Arashi. All the flowers and vines were individually created by felting merino wool. The flowers were dyed twice, once for the dark colors and the second time for the lighter shades. In total the project took 2 people 3 weeks of work using 15 pounds of merino wool, six yards of silk, 4 spools of thread, 5 machine needles, one lamp shade, 10 yards of wire, 2 days of dyeing and 3 days of photographing.Thumbnail image for 01 20140627_DanielMathieu_23-Edit.jpg

Currently the designs of all 50 contestants are in a "People's Choice" competition on the Decience website. Fifteen of the designers will be chosen to participate in the runway show. You can vote for Barbara Poole's design by sending a text to 313131 and typing the word "gown" in your message box. You will get a return message immediately with a link to the Descience voting page, where you can vote for Barbara and Amanda's garment.

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Life is too short to wear boring clothes

Here I am getting ready to open my studio at Western Avenue Studios for First Friday.  This morning I decided "life is too short to wear boring clothes"!
I hope to see you in Lowell...   Please drop by.

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A summer of shows and classes

As I'm sure it has for most of you it has certainly been a busy summer, both professionally and personally. Professionally it was all about the shows and classes. In July and August I had two big shows back to back - the first the Bellevue Arts Council show the last weekend in July at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Seattle, the second the American Crafts Council show at the Festival Pavilion in San Francisco the first weekend in August. The below photo shows me at my booth at the Seattle show.

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Both are beautiful shows but from my point of view, they could not have been more different. The ladies in San Francisco are definitely 'my people'; self-confident and more than happy to dress outside the norm - in fact, they positively want to do so. My vests were a big hit in San Francisco and I sold all my remaining dresses and shawls. In Seattle however if it had not been for one lady who bought four of my dresses, and another lady who bought two more, I would have made a loss. 

The below shot shows Chip (my husband) and me on the Golden Gate Bridge.

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I have also been doing a great deal of teaching. I made my first international teaching trip up to Picton, Canada, where I taught three classes one on scarves, one on flowers and one on dresses. I had such fun and I am utterly grateful to Linda Swaine owner of the Rose Haven Farm Store for organizing this event. Here one of my class participants, Donna Tropp, making and then wearing the dress she made in the class.

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I loved teaching the classes there so much that I may teach a coat class there in April/May 2013. Stay tuned!

Following on from my successful Felted Slippers class on September 8th & 9th I shall be back at A Place to Weave in Waltham MA this Saturday, September 15th from 10am- 4pm for a class on Felted Hats.  

Then in October I'm participating in Lowell Open Studios on Columbus Day weekend - Saturday Oct 6th & Sunday Oct 7th - 10am-6pm. Both my studio and my loft will be open. My previous seasons' felt work will be priced at 40% off. I will be selling my paintings at $0.75c a square inch plus the frame ($100). 

And last but not least I'm looking for an intern - two days a week - actual hours negotiable.

Western Avenue Studios - Home at Last!

First things first, I've moved! Yes, it's still ongoing, but the most important piece is over - we're now in our space. We have more things arriving and I don't know how they're going to fit, but that's another story!

Here are a few shots of our new space at Western Avenue Studios. The main entrance to the work/living space is just beyond the red car on the right. The taller building with the many smaller windows straight ahead contains the artists' (smaller) studio spaces.

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The live/work spaces are in the building on the right. This shows the north-facing side. Our space is on the other side - being south-facing.

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The photo above shows me outside in the parking lot with our three communal planters! 

The photo  below shows our space. We will shortly begin work building into it. 

At the moment, from the windows, the layout starts with our living room and the study space, then our bedroom (currently in the place where the spare bedroom will be located), the studio space and the dining room/kitchen. Behind this shot is the front door and to the left (also out of shot) is the kitchen and bathroom.

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Above shows a close-up of my studio space as it is at present - it will be a room all of its own once we have finished building. Behind the yellow wall, far left, is the bathroom. I cannot tell you what a difference having lots of light about me all the time has made to me. I'll never work in a lightless basement again!

Second round of voting and then the floors.

 

Some of you may know that I am competing in a contest to win the spot on the cover of the magazine The Craft Report" it is an industry magazine devoted to all business concerning art and craft shows and it is distributed throughout the USA. The voting is being conducted through Facebook in elimination rounds and I won in my "heat" with (drum roll) 491 LIKES!!!!! The next round of elimination voting is tomorrow. for 24 hours the polls are open and if I win, I will go on to be one of the four finalists competing for the cover. This whole experience has given me a little insight into what it takes to get elected. It is not enough to have friends, you have to have friends who vote and who are willing to help you win by sharing your message with their friends. The sharing is key. Not all friends will vote, but by sharing you can get other peoples' friends to vote and hopefully create a tsunami, a ground swell of support to push you to the top. I have been humbled and I am grateful for all the support I have received thus far and I hope you will continue to support me by going to the link www.facebook.com/CraftsReport. Tomorrow Friday, June 29,  after 11 am and "Liking" and "Sharing".  Look for my image, of my lovely aMonica Red Micro Coa.jpgssistant Monica in the Red Micro Coat. 

This is a seamless nuno felted, coat, hat and gauntlets. I used vintage silks and silk chiffon. The collar is a piece of lace from the lingerie designer Damaris Evans.



LOWELL LOFT UPDATE

In a recent conversation with daughter, who lives in Montana, I was discussing the trials and tribulations of loft living, my daughter chastised me, "Mom, ( be sure to draw the syllable out when repeating) you were supposed to experiment with the bohemian life style when you were young, brilliant and energetic" To which I responded, "I know, now I am doing it when I am old, bordering senility, and exhausted" Yes, there is a reason for youth.  Despite the constant feeling of living in the midst of a yard sale, I am making progress and making felt.   The image on the left is two new shawls drying on top of my new felting table, complete with a gutter to drain excess water. The table was created by Andrew Courtney of Red Hammer Builders. I love it and it is working very well.


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Upon moving into our new loft it became apparent quickly that something had to be done to the floors. They are in deplorable condition and an endless source of rusty dust! It gets on and into everything. Though we were assured that the floors were sealed, it seems that washing and vacuuming accomplishes nothing. SO we begin the saga of "How do you refinish concrete floors?" Not cheaply it seems.

 

After many meetings, and back forth e-mails between tenants, the consensus, was scrub with a wire brush, till your back and arms ache, add water, wet-vac, and then paint or stain using an acrylic product. You then stand back and watch patches detach themselves, because you didn't get up all the grit. The good news is that the peeling paint lifts the grit and the subsequent touch up holds up nicely.

 

I decided to use a pale gray, to brighten up the space, as the only light source is from the windows at the front of the space. I love the color, it is called Arctic white and it is a Behr product. Our space is very large a little of 1600 sq ft. and because we have to move all our stuff around to accomplish the herculean task, we broke it up into thirds. Of course, most people would have logically started with the area that was furthest from the door and go forward from there, but remember I am bordering on senility, so naturally we started with the third that is closest to the door, the kitchen area.


A weekend of scrubbing, two coats of paint and suddenly I realized that this gorgeous light color was a dirt and stain magnet. Rather than totally repaint I thought I would try my hand at a little decorative painting.Kitchen floor.jpg I got the idea from my good friend Andrea Garr who owns a delightful store in the south end of Boston, Bead + Fiber. This look is accomplished by taking a painting roller and wrapping duct tape at intermittent intervals. I am rather pleased with the result, but I am going to confine the technique to just the kitchen area as I will be putting out area rugs in most other areas, with the exception of my studio, where I work with water, I will leave the floor as is.

 

Thank you to all who read this blog and thank you to all who vote tomorrow.

Happy Felting.



A friend has a fridge magnet inscribed with Einstein's wonderful quote 'In the midst of difficulty lies opportunity'. I've been thinking about that a great deal. My studio move has been put on hold (for a few days) as the management company deals with last minute permit wrangling. 

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As my business is currently in boxes (I moved out of my old studio last week and will post about my new studio space next week) I am bereft of work. I have discovered I do not like this, that it is very distracting. I fill my days with what I regard as my non-productive activities, trying not to get frustrated. I have done the ironing, gone to the cinema, stayed up late, got up late but despite my best efforts feel only agitated as a result. I've also been looking back over some recent work, images of which are posted throughout this blog, modeled by Rachel Worrall.

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BUT I have not forgotten my Einstein, the bits I can understand anyway! Not working physically has given me a chance to do some thinking about my work going forward. It's time to talk about inspiration. 

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Here is a thrown together list of felt artists to whom I look for inspiration -

Ricarda A�mann - Ricarda has wonderful photos of her resist dyeing work and is incredibly experimental and prolific.

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Elina Saari - Elina uses mostly pre-felt, she does not use a great deal of roving and she does some sewing. Her work is hugely inventive.

Thomas Horst - Thomas used (he is no longer felting) all wool in his amazing work, and very thin wool at that. He uses the washing machine method of felting. His practice was to begin with white wool and to dye everything when the piece or pieces were completed.

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And off the top of my head, other fiber artists -

Nick Cave - I love his whacky and outrageous work!

Andrea Graham is a fiber artist who I much admire.

Sheila Hicks has just had a retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Philadelphia - wonderful stuff.

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In general I love the whimsical and avant-garde - Carol Eckert, Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy. I am also deeply inspired by nature, for example, when I look through Seeds: Time Capsules of Life by Rob Kessler and Wolfgang Stuppy, all I see is felt. In terms of color, my go-to is Van Gogh.

For great inspiration closer to home, Chrissie Day and Nicola Brown have just published a wonderful felting e-book - called simply Felting E-book. The book is available for download on Blurb and if you wish for patterns the authors will supply you with them via email.

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The authors met through the cyber-sphere via their own (independent) blogs, Chrissie being British and Nicola, American. The book is organized into two parts with each author taking one half to outline their work and methods.

 It is always interesting to see different approaches to felting, (there really do seem to be as many ways to felt as there are felters) the book is filled with beautiful photos that filled my mind with wonderful ideas.

One of Chrissie's first projects - felting a lattice (ponge or china silk) shawl - would be fabulous for someone setting out. And one of the great things about Nicola's section is that she uses and explains how to use a sander as well as the washing machine method of creating felt. And she does so unapologetically, describing the use of these tools so you can add them to your felting kit to help solve a problem or create a sought-after effect rather than avoiding the mention of them as if they were underhand methods to apologize for ;-)!  

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A couple of practical points about the book - the suppliers' list at the back is one of the best I've seen. Despite what I've said about Chrissie's shawl, I would argue that the book is more suitable for advanced felting practitioners. Also, as both artists make use of the sewing machine you will require some knowledge in that area.

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A last note - I'm teaching at Massachusetts College of Art & Design on June 16 & 17th - Sculptural Forms in Felt. I'm sure my students, as they always do, will inspire me also! See you there!

 

Man Plans and God Laughs

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All Packed up no place to goI am sure everybody has seen those U-Haul trucks with the tag line an Adventure in Moving. Really, who wants an adventure in moving? The process of moving is one of the more stressful life events. Adventure-I don't think so. Today is the day I leave my studio for the great unknown in Lowell, my new live work studio. BUT, there is a glitch, maybe this is what they mean by adventure.




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After

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The building that my husband and I are moving into, the Western Avenue Lofts, is a converted Mill building and  has not been approved for human occupancy.There are a myriad of inspections and checkpoints that must be met before we are allowed to take possession of our space.  As with any bureaucracy, communication between the individual fiefdoms within the said bureaucracy is sorely lacking. What should have been move-in day has turned into delay-day.  So instead of moving into my light filled space I am now packing my studio and filling a "pod" in the parking lot of my new studio.  The best estimate is that next Wednesday will be the actual move day. Rather anticlimactic not to mention frustrating, emotional and exhausting, definitely not the type of "adventure" I seek.


I have to give a shout out to my wonderful movers, Henry, Gabe and Terrance from the the fantastic moving company Rare Movers . These guys are great, I changed my date three times, location twice and they never missed a beat. Rare Movers.JPG

 

Well, this means I get a week off from felting, which will make me cranky. Work is my stabilizer. I am most happy in my studio, working designing and playing with all my beautiful wool. It also will make me frantic when I finally do get in because I thought I had two week to produce the samples for my class at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, but instead I will only have a week.

 

OH!! and did I mention it is my husbands 60th birthday and I have nothing, absolutely nothing planned. Even though he says he wants to ignore the whole thing, I don't think that would be very nice. With everything going on I think the best I can manage is a nice dinner out, with a few friends. I will take him to his new favorite restaurant, Sweet Cheeks Q. I have to say, I think they have the best biscuits I have every eaten.

 

red flower clutch.jpgI did manage to make a clutch purse for a client in Pennsylvania. Her request was for something simple. Personally I think the bag is very restrained for my sensibilities, but when I announced to my assistant, "Look at this simple clutch I just made". She burst out laughing and said  "Only you would call that simple". Well I guess I don't do simple well.




I put a cell phone pocket in the inside and it closes with a snap. I made it to go with the dress the client bought. The birds of paradise dress. I think they go perfectly.

                               

Well I am off to enjoy the rest of this beautiful day Happy Feltingbird of paradise dress.jpgred clutch inside.jpg

January seems like eons ago. I can't believe that was the last time I posted. All I can say is that I've been busy, busy and yet busier. Truth to tell, I'm exhausted. And we've yet to move!

Yes, we sold our house in Charlestown (more quickly than we thought - probably to do with taking all the realtor's advice: de-cluttering and painting all the walls vanilla white). We're set to move into our new space in Lowell MA in June when my husband Chip and I will, become two of the fifty people moving into Western Avenue Studios (WAS).

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I have a feeling that moving into WAS will be a little like moving into a dormitory. At a recent planning meeting we met our fellow studio-mates-to-be. We will all be living in separate rooms, but we'll be moving into the building at the same time and sharing the same communal spaces (such as laundry). I'm excited about meeting so many new people and seeing how the community develops and comes together. 

I am also apprehensive. Apart from the traumas of the final pack and the inevitable physicalities of the move, I am most worried about food! One big change for us will be that we will no longer have an outdoor space. I have not (yet!) found any community gardens in Lowell and our immediate greenery will be limited to the raised beds in the WAS parking lot ;-).

Also, Lowell may be only a 25-minute car ride away from Boston but in my head it feels as though I'm moving to the moon. I know where everything is in Boston but I don't know where to find anything in Lowell. 

In the few moments of research time I have had there however I have discovered that Lowell has the largest Cambodian population outside of Los Angeles (who knew?!) and hot on the heels of that discovery I found a fantastic Vietnamese sandwich shop Hong Cuc Sandwich Shop, 507 Dutton St Lowell, MA 01854.

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Although it doesn't feel like it now I know there will come a time when the move is done. My plan then for the rest of June is to start putting my studio together so that I lose as few workdays as possible.

I'm going to have built for me the felting table I have always wanted - a 9'x5' affair made from water-resistant marine plywood. It will sport a drain, a gutter and a hose attached to the gutter to take the water to a bucket instead of me slipping and sliding on plastic sheets and having the water go all over my floor!

I will also have my studio's walls put in (the space we have bought is wide open and we are going to build into it). One wall will be for shelving, one will be for pinning items up to dry, another will be for my desk. My goal for myself is to be teaching in my  studio by spring 2013.

Other than that, I've been filling orders from the American Craft Council

show in Baltimore MD. I made the dress pictured for The Painter's Daughter Boutique in Mount Dora, FL from silk chiffon, lace and merino wool.

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I have also been preparing for two more up-coming shows - the Bellevue Arts Fair in Seattle on July 25th and the American Craft Council Show in San Francisco, the last weekend in July). Also in July, I have my first international teaching assignment - in Canada. July 16th-20th is going to see me teaching in Picton, Ontario.

 

By the way, I'm looking for assistants to help me in Lowell so if anyone there would like to felt, get in touch!

bird of paradise dress.jpgJanuary is always a month for clean up, reflection and to begin anew. It is just six weeks before my first wholesale show, the Buyers Market in Philadelphia and seven weeks before the wholesale, retail show, The American Crafts Council Show in Baltimore so I am deep in design and production mode. One of the things I observed in my 11 shows last year was that it was my larger items that sold really well. Those being my dresses and vests and of those, it was the small sizes that sold. I have just 3 dresses left from my initial collection of 15 and they are all size 12-14 and only made 4 dresses in those sizes. In my vest collection I only have one size  12-14 wrap vest  and one large envelope vest.  I am not sure if this means anything, but it is worth noting. I will continue to create my Collage A-line dresses and I just finished one I call :Bird of paradise".

 

I don't like to go to shows with nothing new, in terms of design and styles.   I have been working on a new scarf design that I call the "Jackson" as it reminds me of the action painting s by Jackson Pollack. jackson mustard ketchup.jpgThey are skinnier than my normal scarves. I was frequently asked at my shows if I had a skinner and shorter scarf. Personally, I like scarves  that are wide and long so I can wrap up and get real cozy but there seems to be  demand for something not so overwhelming.

 

I am not trained as a clothing designer. Yeah, I know my way around a Vogue pattern, but to create one is a real challenge. Since my vests were so popular ,I am working on some new styles but I really needed help. I turned to two resources, my former intern Ashley Conchieri and a wonderful book, which I highly recommend, 

Pattern Making for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong. With little or no experience it is very easy to follow the directions. Pattern book.jpg



These two photos are of my first draping project,  my new vest design, which I call basic vest, and  basic vest, with variations. Next week I will enlarge the pattern for a size 8-10 and make a felted sample.

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By the way I am not draping full size I am using the half sized mannequins from PGM. There is wonderful dress designer Anne Hand, an artist and associate professor of fashion design at Philadelphia University, Who I read about in Threads magazine. Though her designs are amazing it was the use of the half size mannequin that intrigued me. Here was a way to work out the problems without a huge outlay in materials or time.


I am having so much fun figuring out the new patterns. It is a little like making doll clothes, which I remember doing quite fondly.


Happy Felting

 

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