Monday, February 23, 2015

How to Create a Wool Fireplace for Wall Hanging or Doll Play

This wool fireplace was created as a needle felt book illustration for Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist, by Jewel Kats. I am the illustrator.

Fiber Art Illustration by Claudia Marie Lenart

The fireplace was an enjoyable challenge. The background walls were created with a pressed wool technique. I added thin layers of Romney wool onto a piece of felt, then covered with a sheet of glass and pressed down. Leave the glass on the wool for a day, if time allows. The edges were needle felted. 

I began the hearth by finding images of fireplace designs. Once I settled on a design I drew the outline of the design on the wool with thin yarn. Then I filled in with a dark taupe wool. I needle felted a black arch in the hearth to create depth.

The rocks were made with a variety of wool, whatever I had handy in rock colors. Many of the grey rocks are a natural merino. I rolled the wool into a loose ball and needle felted with a few light pokes to keep it together. This was followed by placing the rocks in a sink filled with warm, soapy water. I wet-felted the rocks by rolling them in my hand, one by one, until they felt dense enough. After I squeezed out the excess water, I placed them in a pillowcase and put them in the clothes dryer. 

Next, start placing the rocks onto the fireplace and felt just around the edges. 
Create a mantle with a sheet of wool felt in a tan color. Measure the felt so it is the same width as the fireplace.  Roll the felt into a log shape and place the mantle above the rocks. Felt along the edges. Fill the ends of the log with some tan wool.  Continue adding rocks until finished. 

To create the fire in the hearth, I added some more black wool horizontally across the bottom. The fire was created with thin wisps of orange and yellow Blue-Faced Leicester wool, which has a natural sheen. 
Miniature fireplace made of wool stones.

You can decorate the fireplace with a tiny painting and props. To make tiny logs, roll a piece of tan wool tightly into a log shape, then roll a layer of darker brown over it. Needle felt until the log is very dense. With sharp scizzors cut off the ends or you can "split" the wood. 
Miniature needle felted logs made of wool.

If you decide to make a fireplace, I would love to see the results. You can share it on my Facebook page, Claudia Marie Felt.

Hansel & Gretel fairy tale illustrated in fiber art
Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Needle Felt Book Illustration — The Next Big Thing

When I first embarked on this journey to illustrate a book in needle felt, I did a Google search to see if anyone else was doing this. After searching with a few different terms, the only illustrators I found were Cozy Classics.
The Cozy Classics author/illustrator team of Jack and Holman Wang created a series of board books for little children, based on classics like War &  Peace and Jane Eyre. Each book has just 12 words, and endearing needle felted characters posed both outdoors and in miniature settings.

I wanted to illustrate a book for author Jewel Kats almost completely in wool with wool backgrounds and characters. It was uncharted territory. Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist is the second book I illustrated for Jewel. Loving Healing Press will publish the first later this year.  And, the third book is in progress. I am still in awe of Jewel who saw my needle felt animals in my Etsy shop and surmised that I could illustrate her book. 

Hansel & Gretel Illustrated by Fiber Artist Claudia Marie Lenart
Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

This week, I was thrilled to see some needle felt illustration make its way into the mainstream with the announcement of the Caldecott Medal Winners.  Caldecott Honor Winner 2015 Yuyi Morales includes some needle felted characters in her book Viva Frida. Morales, who is an innovative illustrator and accomplished artist, uses a variety of media to tell the story of artist Frida Kahlo. 

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

I was also delighted to discover that Viva Frida and Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist  have something in common. Both books include a needle felted deer.

Needle felt book illustration by Claudia Marie Lenart

Another wonderful surprise this week, was the Google Doodle. While working in my Chrome browser, I noticed the doodle and immediately recognized that it was needle felt. The Google Doodle celebrating Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 148th birthday was created by Cozy Classics. What a thrill! The Doodle page also has a nice explanation of how the characters were created, which is similar to how I created mine. 

I was speaking to Loving Healing Press Publisher Victor Volkman about the trend of needle felt illustration this week and he had an interesting perspective. It's all about the 21st century revolt against mass-produced products and return to the handmade ethos,” he said.

The needle felt characters have a special quality. I think creating with fiber gifts from animals gives life to the characters.

Illustrating with needle felt is a slow process. Hours go into creating each character. The backgrounds I created are akin to creating little movie sets. When it’s all done, the photography is quite a project. More hours go into posing each character perfectly, a slight twist of the head can change a smile into a frown. But the process is invigorating and be sure you will see more from me.

And a side note: Cozy Classics is working on a Star Wars series with Lucas Films/Disney. Looking forward to that!