This spring Tel Aviv had their annual art fair: Fresh Paint with a main pavilion and satellite galleries all over the city. My exhibit “We’re All in the Same Boat” was exhibited at Kuchinate, African Women’s Refugee Collective, curated by Tamar Lamdan and Carmite Shine of Two Curators.
Kuchinate was founded by Dr. Diddy Mymin Kahn and Sister Aziza Kidane to provide a community of support, employment and guidance for these women. Kuchinate makes beautiful woven, handmade baskets to sell and they are adding more handmade items to their collection. http://www.kuchinate.com
My life-sized boat and ten life-sized dolls greatly impacted the viewers; the scale of the piece helped the audience relate to the refugees and their situation. I also believe that we’re not used to seeing “dolls” sad or suffering or life-sized rather small, delicate and beautiful; large dolls were also a shocking sight which helped convey the plight of refugees. The 2.5 meter long row boat was made from cardboard, wood and duct tape, the refugee dolls were needle felted from wool; the project took 2.5 months to create. The refugees were depicted from many different countries and different periods in time. Many viewers shared their own stories of displacement and hardship, making us realize that all of us are at risk for one reason or another.
The only doll in the boat that I didn’t leave for the audience to decide for themselves the ethnicity or situation of the refugee doll was the young Polish refugee girl. The only real interaction and deep understanding of a personal situation with a refugee I’ve ever had is my mother-in-law, Sida Beck Levitas. Sida was a hidden child during WWII, because of her big blue eyes and very blond hair she passed as a Christian during the Holocaust. Most of the stories we know about her from this time period are from her brother, Arther Beck who was also a hidden child. Sida doesn’t like to talk about this time in her life because it gives her nightmares for weeks. We’ve seen how the refugee situation she endured affected the rest of her life and I’m sure all refugees suffer similar long lasting effects. Sida is 92 and lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The life-sized dolls were needle felted over a wire and wood armature, the larger dolls used a wooden-easel method to help them sit sturdily. The sculptures have glass doll eyes and polymer-clay teeth.
I wanted to represent various situations in the boat, depression, seriousness, fear and even hope. One of the big questions I had was what do the children do during these long, dangerous journeys, do they run about, peer over the sides of the boat or play with other children? I was told by one of the African refugees that the smugglers would yell at anyone talking or making noise. Everyone including the children would be hit with a stick to keep them in line.
I know that many of the refugees around the world are religious, so I made the praying boy at the front of the boat as a sign of hope.
I do a lot of different commission work in needle felting, it’s usually a doll or a mask or a beloved pet. I’ve made puppets for educational aides in the past but recently I was asked to do a bust of a multi-ethnic young girl; the customer wanted the doll’s mouth to be able to open and close and her tongue to be movable. The customer is a speech therapist who thinks that demonstrating how to move and place your tongue will help her young patients to better follow her instructions. I tried to stay away from the ventriloquist-look as much as possible because I think ventriloquist dolls are scary looking. The very unique thing about this therapy doll is that you can place the tongue in different areas in the mouth to show children more easily how to make specific sounds:)
From the commentary I’ve received concerning this bust, the speech therapist is onto something!
Bęc Smith I’m a speech pathologist and think this is so cool!
We recently adopted a dog and because of my new experiences with our dog I’ve been paying closer attention to dog issues. I’ve read about the dog meat festival in Yulin, China, to the challenges that animal rescuers and shelters deal with world wide and the dog fighting industry. I had no idea how many dogs and cats are purposely abused till I started to follow a few animal rescue sites. I also had no idea about the dog fighting industry, which is of a concern to me now because of the breed of our new puppy. Dog fighters prey on the bully breed of dogs, our dog Louie belongs to this breed; the dog fighting industry specifically contributes to the demonization of the Pit Bull/Bully breed of dogs which in turn leads to the glut of Pit bulls in shelters and rescue centers.
Louie was 9 months old when we met him, by chance my husband and I saw a young man walking a white Bull Terrier (you know, the dog that looks like a pig, Spuds Mackenzie or the Target dog!). I excitedly urged my husband to go talk to the young man to ask him about his dog because we had always wanted a Bull Terrier since our beloved Quill died (Quill was a Chow Chow who was with us for 19 years). We read reports that Bull Terriers were friendly dogs that make good pets. The man immediately asked my husband if he wanted the dog, as he was moving to Australia and couldn’t take the dog with him. All of the young man’s friends and family already had dogs and Louie was on his way to the dog shelter if he couldn’t find him a home soon. Chances are Louie would have soon been adopted at the shelter because he’s rare and prestigious here, but chances were just as good that someone would have adopted him for dog fighting.
We brought Louie home the next day to see how we all got along; Louie LOVES people and dogs as well, he’s even made friends with our smallest cat Runty who accompanies us on walks (the rest of the cats are afraid of him). The moment we brought him into our apartment, he chased Kitty upstairs, jumped on the couches, knocked me down, ran around in circles and bit his tail till it bled; big, strong, untrained Louie was an adorable “hand-full”. It was up to me to decide if we would keep Louie as I would be the one with him most of the time; I cried the first day I was with this sweet, super strong, big puppy because I didn’t know if I could handle him but at the same time I couldn’t bear to let him go to the dog shelter. I said I’d give it my best shot and Louie became a new member of our family, much to the dismay of our 4 rescue cats who had the run of the house up until this time.
Louie is really funny and he’s a cuddler, he loves to be near us, he especially loves to lie on top of us! He talks to us with a voice that sounds to me kind of like a “dinosaur” and I know when he’s been bad (peed on the floor or chewed something to pieces) by the look on his face. He is STRONG and very athletic; it has been a joy to watch him run and play.
The second day we had Louie I received a $200 ticket at 7 a.m on our morning walk because he wasn’t wearing a muzzle; apparently in Israel he is considered a “dangerous breed” and needs to be neutered, chipped and wear a muzzle at all times. We found out quickly that people believe that many of the Bully breeds are aggressive and very dangerous, the most dangerous thing about Louie is his fast-wagging tail. Just let me say that quite a few unmuzzled dogs-large and small- have snapped at us on our walks; Louie always startles and quickly continues on his way; he doesn’t snap back! We soon noticed that people would cross the street when we were walking Louie, they gave us dirty looks and some even make hateful comments to us. Many dogs have attacked Louie, many dogs don’t like him because he is an alpha-type of dog.
A muzzled dog makes people weary of him, it does not help a situation when you’re trying to socialize your dog; people often ask me why Louie has on a muzzle. Dogs and people go out of their way to show us that they don’t approve of us; I now feel as if I’m wearing a fur coat made from puppies while walking my pet alligator down the street, I feel like an outcast. Owners of Bully breeds often stop to chat and lament at how badly others treat them and their dogs. Louie’s previous owner had socialized him well; the entire dog park community knew and loved Louie when they knew him as a puppy.
We soon found out as Louie was now growing older and didn’t look like a puppy any more that the dog park was a terrible place for him; he was attacked twice (needed stitches from the unmuzzled dogs and was once attacked by a woman who kicked our muzzled-Louie repeatedly till my husband pulled her off him). Most Louie-haters assume he is a Pit Bull, they knowingly inform me that “he is a weapon“. It has become very clear to me that most people are extremely uneducated about dogs in general and especially about the Bully breeds (I was part of this group before Louie even though I grew up with and have always had a dog). I think Ceasar Milan’s t.v. show- Ceasar’s Way– about training dogs and his son Calvin’s new dog show for children on Nickelodeon-Mutt and Stuff– are having a very positive impact (in America) on dog education; GO CEASAR!
In my research I found out that the Bully Breeds (American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Boxer, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, French Bulldog, Olde English Bulldogge, Victorian Bulldog ) have a bad reputation because organized crime and street thugs use certain “pit bull” dogs for dog fighting; Dog fighting is a highly profitable blood sport.
Dog fighting is a breeding ground for the exchange of illegal drugs, gambling and the desensitization of young children who are often present at these Roman coliseum type family events. There are different levels of dog fighting from dog street fights run by gangs to professional level fights where dogs are “professionally” trained and taught to fight. Much of the abuse of dog fighting befalls the bait dog (often stolen dogs), the smaller or more timid dog used to train the stronger dogs to attack and kill. Bait dogs are often the dogs found maimed and scarred at dog shelters. Dogs and the communities where the fights are held are both losers in this “game”. I also feel that the media takes delight in demonizing the Bully breeds as they did German Shepards, Doberman Pincers and Rottweilers in previous years.
We never go to dog parks any more, we try to keep Louie away from bad situations. We moved from Tel Aviv, Israel to Jaffa (just 5 minutes away) a few weeks ago; the dog situation is worse in Jaffa. We’ve learned of the deaths of 6 dogs in our immediate area by poisoning in a month’s time, four of these cases happened in a nearby dog park. Louie must always wear his muzzle now not just because it’s the law here but so he doesn’t snatch and eat poisoned food off the street, no exceptions. We’re deeply saddened that Louie’s life and so many other dogs like him are fraught by hate and ignorance.
It’s important to properly train a dog, it makes all of our lives easier when everyone’s dog mind their manners! We learned that the best training comes from positive reinforcement, teaching your dog to want to behave in a certain way because it benefits him. We wanted to send Louie to dog training camp and receive back a well trained dog but we learned from our dog trainer that that’s not how it works. Keeping your dog well trained is an on-going process, you must consistently reinforce positive behaviors in your dog even after he’s learned the behavior. Please note: any dog can be aggressive especially if they’re not properly trained and socialized. Dog owners have a responsibility for their dog’s behavior and a dog owner can easily be the reason a dog is deemed dangerous or actually is dangerous. NOTE: please keep your dog leashed! Even if your dog is obedient and well behaved he may curiously wander over to a dog who does not like other dogs and this will result in a bad situation!
I’ve been needle felting dogs for several years now but recently I decided to try to educate and promote as much awareness as I can with my art. I’m donating the sales of specific felted dogs (Bully breeds) to a few dog shelters and dog rescuers that have won my heart with their bravery and kind hearts. There are so many dogs (and cats) in need, I can’t felt fast enough…….
It is a MYTH that Pit Bulls and Bully breed dogs have locking jaws!
Needle felting is the art of sculpting wool with special, barbed needles. Stabbing the wool over and over again meshes the wool fibers together, creating a firm, textile object. I started needle felting in 2004 to make toys, puppets and dolls; I’ve since added fine art sculpture to my repertoire. I love needle felting, it’s a versatile medium and it doesn’t take much space to needle felt or to store your wool.
The Origin of Needle Felting: Felt is typically very strong and industrial, needle felted- felt is used in a variety of ways. From the 1950’s, needle felting (needle punch) was originally used to make felt for industrial purposes, for use with musical instruments and as building materials. Industrial felt is made with large plates filled with special barbed felting needles that are mechanically moved up and down to felt wool and other materials together such as polyester or nylon. Industrial felt is used as a damper; it’s placed between car parts to damp the vibrations between panels and to prevent dirt from entering some joints.
Felt is also used on the underside of a car bra to protect the car body. Felt is used extensively for musical instruments; it is used on drum cymbal stands, it is used to wrap bass drum and timpani mallets. In pianos, piano hammers are made of wooden core, wrapped in wool felt. Industrially made felt is placed under the piano keys and it is used in accordions and as ukulele picks.
There are many uses for industrial felt in home construction such as: weather protection in roofing felt and a moisture absorbing layer for floor layouts. Recently, the clean white scraps of felt from industrial uses are ground up, colored and put in an aerosol cans and sold as spray to cover up bald spots!
In the 1980’s, David and Eleanor Stanwood bought a Sampling machine for needle punching; it’s a 12″ wide industrial loom that factories used for running small test samples. Eleanor, a wool artist, used it to inlay colored wool onto her dyed batts for a striking effect. During a quiet winter in the 1980’s David figured out that he could take a single felting needle and by hand he could use it to make shapes from loose wool. Ayala Talpai, a family friend was taught the technique one winter (they were making Christmas ornaments) and she further developed it into the single, needle felting craft technique we know today. Ms. Talpai wrote the book: The Felting Needle, from factory to fantasy.
David Stanwood’s website: http://stanwoodpiano.com
The basic tools of a needle felter are wool, a sponge used as a felting surface and felting needles. Eleanor’s website: Eleanor’s website: http://artfelts.com/history.html
Wool: Different types of sheep yield different types of wool(Merino, New Zealans, Lincoln, Romney, Drysdale, Rambouillet to name a few); there are many types of wool available, but not all of it is good for needle felting. The finer the wool, the softer it is; fine wool such as merino is used in the clothing industry and a coarse wool such as Karakul is used to make carpets. I prefer to felt with medium-coarse wool (Sheltland, Bershaft, New Zealand or wools marked short haired felting batts). These coarse wools felt quickly and easily, a fine wool (such as merino) takes much more time to felt and the needle marks are easily visible; I like to use merino wool for doll hair.
Felting Surface: I buy my sponge from industrial upholstery shops; I buy large squares and cut them into smaller square (depending on the size of the project I’m working on). I prefer to buy upholstery sponge because I can get very thick pieces; I always needle felt on a piece of sponge 2″ to 5″ thick. I find that the small, relatively thin sponge offered in craft stores for needle felting wears out very quickly and I often stab through to the table when I’m working with one of these craft sponges.
Needle felting Lingo: The farther back you go in the wool process, the more wool lingo you’ll need to understand, for example if you want to buy your wool from the source (sheep farmer) you’ll need to know what a fleece is (sheared wool directly from the sheep without any processing), what kind of wool you want (depends on what you want to do with it) and whether you want your wool carded (brushing the wool with special paddles to get out tangles and dirt). If you buy a fleece, you’ll receive the sheered wool from a sheep in one big, dirty lump of wool, you should wash it several times. See this blog post about raw fleece . Wool roving is wool that is rolled up in thin (about 5″ wide) strips and wool batting is wool that is rolled up in sheets (about 20″ wide) and is a little fluffy.
Felting Needles are the key to great needle felting; there are quite a few gauges and they all felt a little differently. Felting needles are usually three sided, with barbs on the side for meshing the wool together and super sharp. It’s a good idea to mark your needles by color coding them; dip the top of each needle into a bottle of nail polish to color the handle and make a chart of what color corresponds to which size.
Needle Felting Needle
Gauge Triangle – very fine-for surface finishing work 40 Gauge Triangle – fine-for surface finishing work 38 Gauge Star – less surface area than standard, with an extra corner of barbs, for quicker felting-for shaping a piece and attaching pieces together 38 Gauge Triangle – standard-for shaping a piece, for shaping a piece and attaching pieces together 36 Gauge Triangle – medium-for shaping a piece, pushes chunks of wool 36 Gauge Crown Tip – one barb on each corner set 1/8″ from the tip, for shallow surface work – coarse Reverse needle – pulls the wool out instead of pushing it in. This needle is good for blending colors or inserting special hair (like mohair) into a felted piece.
Needle Felting Terms
Batt: A length of pre-felt prepared commercially using a carding machine. Blending: Mixing fibers of different colours or different types together. Carders: Paddle brushes for separating wool fibers, cleaning the fiber or blending different types of colors of wool for spinning or making felt. Carders have fine wires set in leather or synthetic rubber cloth attached to a wooden base. Carding: Using carders to tease and open wool out to separate the individual fibers. Combed tops/Wool Tops: Commercially prepared fibers, combed into long loose ropes. Felt: A fabric in which wool fibers are interlocked and entangled. With the application of moisture and friction, they are transformed into a compact mass and become felt. Felting Needle: A long needle with barbs on the end. Used for hand, machine and industrial felting. The barbs on the needle hook on the fibers and interlock them with each other. Fleece: Unprocessed wool shorn from a sheep. Fulling: The process after the felt has matted and shrunk. It is rubbed on a rough surface, thrown gently and even slammed on the work surface to force the fibers to intertwine, shrink and become firmer. Inlay: Technique in felt design in which pre-felted pieces are placed on a background batt of wool fibres and the whole piece is then felted together. Merino: A breed of sheep producing fine wool that is best for making clothing from when it is felted. They are bred mainly in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa Micron: The measurement of fiber thickness. The lower the number the finer the fibre Needle felted Batts: Fine batts of carded fibres pass under a bed of barbed felting needles. As the needles pass through the fibres the lower layers are pulled up through the top layers. The continuous process produced a sheet of wool fibers that may then be wet felted. Nuno Felt: The name given to a fabric made with wool laminated to silk. The wool is laid on to the fabric and then rolled in the usual way. The fibers of the wool penetrate the silk and when the wool shrinks it gathers the silk forming beautiful decorative patterns. Pre-felt: The fibres are laid for felting but are only felted until they are matted but not yet shrunk. It is then rinsed, allowed to dry and used in a design. Rovings: A long thin rope of wool fibre which can be used for spinning or to make felt Scales: The hooks which can be see on the wool fiber under a microscope. Felt is made from the wool when these hooks interlock and tighten the fabric. Staple: The length the wool grows on the sheep. It can be long or short staple
My youngest daughter’s school, l’école Marc Chagall in Tel Aviv hosted an art fair and I was one of the guest artists to come in and teach several classes with the students. Parent and community artists came to the school to teach students their specialty medium; sculpture, oil painting, life drawing, photography, the art of video, intro. to classic movies, sculpting with clay, collage, painting with wool, pastel drawing, oil pastel drawing, fruit and veggie scultpures and drawing with words and music were all taught. All the student work was displayed at the end of the “studio period” in a wonderful art exhibit, hosted by the principal Phillipe Zarka.
The students were not familiar with working with wool, needle felting or painting with wool, so they were introduced to a new art medium and had the opportunity to practice their English all at the same time! I had the students “paint with wool” because I thought this technique would be easier than 3-D needle felting more suitable for a larger age-range of students. Painting with wool involves a piece of flat wool as a canvas, a felting needle and colored, coarse wool, such as shetland or New Zealand fast felting batts. I ordered my materials from this website (where I found great wool, a large variety of needles and great prices: http://www.esse.co.il/en
The first step to painting with wool was making wool canvases that the children would “paint” on. I laid out white, wool, tufts all in one direction, then a second layer on top of the first layer with the tufts of wool laid out in the opposite direction (laid out as you would in wet felting). I then needle felted the wool flat with a large handle with 10 needles. I turned the large wool canvas over and needle felted the other side, I did this several times. I applied a third layer of wool tufts and needle felted again. (You can also wet-felt a large wool canvas if you prefer) When the wool canvas was strong and “fabric-like”, I cut it into many squares for the children to “paint on”.
Once the wool is cut into squares, it is ready for the children to apply colored pieces of wool, felted into the wool with a felting needle. I taught the older grades (4th, 5th and 6th grades) as I felt they could deal with the sharp needles the best. I explained how to handle the needles and how not to break them. In all 3 classes only 2 people stuck themselves with needles, one of which was a teacher and only 1 needle was broken out of 50 students! Everyone enjoyed this craft and I look forward to teaching more students and a larger variety of grades at next years art fair.
By the way, for you needle felters out there, this is a great activity to do with your own children with your wool scraps.
Each child was supplied by a sponge (felting surface), a wool canvas, a felting needle and handfuls of many colors of wool. I showed the children how to outline with a strip of wool and I pointed out the graphic paintings compared to the watercolor looking paintings.