Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Contemporary Take on an Ancient Theme: Felt

                                   "A little bit of Seamus" (pronounced Shay-mus)
                                       IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

Hello Again,

Do you remember that ambiguous "stuff" we all used to use in kindergarten crafts?  That thick, somewhat soft, fluffy, man made fabric (lord knows what it was made of) that every "Blue Bird", "Brownie", "Girl Scout", and "Campfire Girl" (...sorry, not able to resist the color reminders) couldn't wait to get her hands on for those "badge-earning" projects?  Well, I for one sure do...and I am "absotively, possilutely" sure that you gals out there are grinning ear to ear, nodding your heads, vigorously, up and down, and groaning at the same time! Ha!  Gotcha on that one, Girls.  Nostalgic, isn't it?

Okay, I'll stop torturing you with vintage memories, but the fact of the matter is that way back then, we were all, subliminally, in love with an ancient piece of history [the history of creating felt] (wool cloth) by hand with wool fleece, water, soap and friction.

See!  You didn't even know it, but the art of creating wool by hand is at least 8,000 years old, maybe even 9,000.  It dates back to the days of Genghis Khan and the warring  nomads who created felt for their tented homes (yurts), their clothing and saddle padding (for maximum comfort) when riding their horses across the Steppes.  They could ride, sleep and practically, live in the saddle for days on end.  The comfort and insulation from the numbing cold, which felt (wool cloth) afforded the Mongols, made them the most feared and respected adversaries of their time.  Pretty advanced thinking for a so-called "primitive" people.

Today, preserving this ancient and significant craft is becoming a phenomenon.  I first discovered it over twelve years ago, and am absolutely "hooked" on the new, emerging art form that encapsulates this unforgettable history.  It feels so natural and "right", that I should be able to take raw wool fleeces and combed fiber through a series of steps that give me a handmade, sustainable cloth in the end results.

That description sounds a bit convoluted (even to my own ears), because there is no accurate way to describe what it feels like to create this "miracle" of sorts.  Although thought of as the mere "basics of life" by the nomads, (like breathing in and out for them), this surprising process captures my attention, and touches the initial core of my being, when I am deep in the manipulation of the fiber and its creations.  To be able to preserve such an ancient, evolutionary part of mankind is indescribable to me.  I love the fact that I am a part of the past, as well as a creator of the modern adaptation of this art form.  After all, my surname is Shepard, a variation on the word, shepherd.  I have always been a lover of sheep, especially the little ones.  (I throw a few goats in there, too, just for good measure.)  Again, how "natural and right" this venue of expression is for me.  Shepard and sheep.  They go together like wool and fleece.

Whew!  I hope that makes sense to you all.  It is a difficult thing to capture in a few words...the emotional high that one experiences while in the process.  I believe that the creation and, subsequent, embellishment of wool cloth (felt) has held the same fascination for woman and man alike, for eons.  Oh Boy...I'd better stop.  I am getting all wound up!  As I said, "It is an emotional high that defies description (well, simplification, anyway)...the, exclusively, "handmade" creation of wool cloth from raw fiber (without the assistance or usage of knitting, weaving, spinning or mechanical manipulation)."

So, in the words of Miss Geraldine Jones (as played by the not so hirsute comedian, Flip Wilson), "Wooo!  Don't Fight the Feeling!"  The feeling of free form felt forged by feminine hands...That would be me, "Pia", as in Pia Zza!  Fierce!

Feeling free form felt forged by feminine hands.  "Felting with feeling"...Fabulous!

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