Jump into a new hobby that is easy and fun and even utilitarian. Anyone who has ever owned a felted coat or mittens knows how soft and warm they are. Many shaped hats are felt, and nowadays colorful hats that are more freeform are all the rage. Artist Jo Thompson will introduce students to felt making in a one day workshop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 at Fuller Lodge Art Center.
Felt has been used for producing headwear for many centuries and is perhaps the oldest textile material. Archaeological evidence shows that from very early on, people discovered the tendency for fibers to mat together when warm and damp, many years before they learned how to spin and weave yarn.
Felt is made by a process called wet felting, where natural wool fibers, stimulated by friction and lubricated by moisture (usually soapy water) build into cloth. Felting leads to a fabric with no set grains, so it can be molded into forms or sewn without concern for edges raveling.
Felt maker Jo Thompson’s enthusiasm for making felt “magic” began when she learned that felt is believed to be the earliest form of textile making. She headed for Konya, Turkey to study the traditional wet felt method with Master Mehmet Girgic in 2008, and subsequently studied with American Master Horst who influenced the development of her free form.
“Listening to the wool speak its mind allows me to turn off mine,” Thompson said.
To prepare for creating her one-of-a-kind felt pieces and for the “Felt What We Feel” class she offers, Thompson hand dyes fine Australian merino fleece and then moves into her passion, coordinating colors and textures.
“My versatile creations come alive as unstructured, original softness, delicious to look at and comfy to wear, with undulating edges and spontaneous tendrils of whimsy,” Thompson said. “I encourage freedom to wear each piece however one feels. There’s no front, no back, no right or wrong way. The beauty of free choice ─ it’s what I felt.”
Thompson focuses on hats and scarves inspired by New Mexico’s spacious beauty and incredible colors, be it sunset, wild fire or random desert delight. She has recently included her Heartfelt Medicine Cards, expressions of appreciation, condolence, healing care and holiday cheer, in the Fuller Lodge Art Center Gallery Shop. Her heartfelt original wet felt designs, incorporating other fibers with merino wool, grace the front of each card.
Students in Thompson’s class will learn both traditional and contemporary methods. Participants will make a hat and a “practice technique” item to be determined. Dress prepared to stand and splash and bring your lunch.
The class is limited to eight participants. In order to ensure that the class is held, register before the end of January. The cost is $60, plus a $30 materials fee.
Stop by Fuller Lodge Art Center at 2132 Central Ave., to register, or call 505.662.1635 to register by phone with a credit card. The Art Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.