Art students had a day-long workshop producing their own felt art pictures and sculptures under the guidance of local artist Nikki Wheatley. She introduced them to the ancient art of felt-making, where wool is built up in layers, moistened and rolled so that the individual fibres produce a strong bonded fabric. The students made trial pieces first before moving on to larger scale flat pictures and, finally, three-dimensional sculpted bowls.
Mrs Wheatley led the workshop with seven students from Year 10, 11 and 13. Teacher Ms Watts said: ‘The technique is hundreds of years old. Nikki has gone through the process of how to knit the felt together to create solid felt pieces based on the students' own designs.’
Year 10 student Zoe Bezzina said: ‘I based mine around a picture on my mood board for my GCSE Art. The first one was very difficult because the detail wasn’t as easy to accomplish on a small scale but the bigger one was much easier.’
Sixth Former Tabatah Egbetamah said: ‘I found it really fun and fast-paced. It wasn’t really hard to get the hang of so it was quite fun. I have never done this before; it was really interesting.’
Sophie Scoular said: ‘I have been basing mine on feathers and wings because that is what I am focusing on for my exam. It is really handy to have the 3D art in school so we can learn more 3D techniques as well as being able to use different materials. I did parts of this in GCSE but nothing as complicated like making felt into 3D objects. During this session I have created peacock feather and angel wing artwork.'
Artist Nikki Wheatley said: 'I started doing felting about three or four years ago. My youngest daughter was doing her GCSE so we got a lot of fabrics and buttons together and made a brooch and I went to a craft fair, saw somebody felting and was addicted straight away.
'You lay the wool out then wet it with soap and water, roll it very intensively and finally throw it to bond the fibres together. Wool fibres have cuticles like hair. The warm water, soap and rubbing causes the cuticles to open up so they hold onto each other. Throwing makes them contract so that they become solid rather than pulling apart. The finished article will be between 30 and 70 per cent smaller than its original size.
'I do workshops and if people want to see more of my work it is available on Little Eccentric on Facebook. Felt is a really versatile material, you can make bowls, handbags, ipad and phone cases, brooches, slippers, hats and scarves. The students today have been great and a couple of them are naturals at making felt pictures.’