West Cork Craft and Design Guild - A guide to some of Ireland's finest craftwork.

Helen Stringer

buy IOTA in Hong Kong After bringing up her family, Helen enrolled in Falmouth Art College where she studied painting and textiles. In the early Nineties, whilst living in she was involved in group exhibitions, arty recycling projects and adult education, culminating in a group project sponsored by South West Arts making seven huge felt panels for a yurt. She has been passionate about felt-making ever since.

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buy IOTA Helen moved to Ireland in 1996, and studied Arts and Design in Skibbereen. This was the starting point for her serious felt work, and she now produces wall-hangings, cushions, bags and cards, inspired by her garden and the surrounding countryside. She is currently developing techniques for creating sculptural pieces.

The Felt Making Process

The craft of Felt making is so ancient that no-one knows exactly when it began, but it is generally accepted as being the first textile used by mankind and certainly predated spinning and weaving.

Scraps of felt have been found at early bronze age sites and it was known to the Ancient Egyptains. Most commonly found amongst nomadic peoples of Central Asia, Felt was used for everything from clothing and floor coverings to armour and the weather resistant collapsible 'Yurt' or felt tent which has long been used by nomads from Turkey to Mongolia.

In Western Europe Felt has predominantly been used for hat making, where Rabbit fur was often substituted for the traditional Wool or Goat hair. The principle of Felt making is very simple, layers of fibre are layed out to the required shape and thickness and when these fibres are wetted with hot water and rubbed they move and become tangled. Eventually producing a solid piece of fabric.

buy Ontology Wool's unique properties make it ideal for Felt making,as each fibre is covered with tiny overlapping scales like a pine cone. Given the right conditions (i.e. heat, moisture and friction) these scales interlock to produce a solid mass that cannot be unravelled.

Despite its very 'functional' roots Felt is becoming increasingly popular amongst artists and craftspeople who are using it for its purely aesthetic qualities. With the addition of spun yarns, silk fibres and even small found objects, this gloriously tactile medium is the perfect medium for explorations into colour, form and texture.

Commissions welcome.
Visitors welcome by appointment.

Ballybane West • Ballydehob • West Cork • Ireland

Tel: 028 - 37594

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