Carolyn Michaels at work in her studio

3-D Studio Demonstrating Artist Carolyn Michaels

Carolyn Michaels will be in the 3-D Studio demonstrating needle felting March 17-18.

You will surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish and how far you can take a skill if you just stay dedicated and don’t get discouraged with the actual learning process.

– Carolyn Michaels

Olivia Davies: What will your demonstration at the DAM look like? What can visitors expect?

Carolyn Michaels: Through various techniques, I’ll demonstrate how to transform loose wool fibers (AKA roving) into a larger, fully felted plush form. I will have the core of a sculpture completed prior to the event, as well as finished versions of all of the individual pieces that I’ll need to finish the sculpture. First I’ll break down each individual technique so you can see how it’s done, and then I’ll apply my pre-made version to the larger piece. That way I’ll be able to have the larger scope of the project come together quickly and save the majority of the time for the method. Saturday will be spent on wool blending and creating the core shape of the piece. Sunday will be focused on the finishing details.

These techniques will include:

  • Creating a core: making a base made out of "core wool," which is untreated, natural fiber.
  • Adding appendages & armatures: using wire for added sturdiness and flexibility, and attaching smaller pieces to the core.
  • Color blending: creating batting – a large piece of loosely connected wool fibers – using a carder. This big, bristled machine is used to blend different colored fibers together. I'll create a few custom mixes to demonstrate.
  • Applying the top layer: using different sized needles to secure the ultimate "skin" of the piece.
  • Adding final details: attaching small finishing touches to the outside of the piece, as well as creating realistic hair by attaching roving with a seam technique.

felted moths by Carolyn Michaels

OD: How did you first get started with felting?

CM: I’m happiest when I’m working with my hands, and ever since I was a kid I’ve been a fan of craft kits to learn new techniques. A local store was carrying kits to felt woodland creatures and I made a little fox for my first project. It just clicked! I quickly realized I wanted to make more plush projects that I couldn’t find in a box – so I went online and discovered videos and tutorials so I could execute my own visions. I’ve been teaching myself ever since, using each project to discover something new about the form. It’s been years now and I still feel like there is still so much to learn!

OD: What is your favorite thing about this process?

CM: Felting is exploratory. It’s so simple to get started – just get some wool and start stabbing. It’s easy to dive in and try techniques without feeling intimidated. I’m always surprised with the way certain aspects turn out differently than I originally expected, but inspire some of my favorite unique shapes and color blends. It’s also super portable in its simplicity, so I can take pieces of my projects with me to a coffee shop, to the park, or even poolside in the summer!

OD: What is one thing about your art, or art in general, that you want people to know?

CM: You will surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish and how far you can take a skill if you just stay dedicated and don’t get discouraged with the actual learning process. Everything you create will lead to a new insight that will make your next project a little easier, or more innovative, or more technical. Too many people look at the greatest artists and never consider that they had to start somewhere. So go find something that brings you joy when you do it, and see where it can take you.

felted snakes by Carolyn Michaels

Olivia Davies is a studio and artist programs intern in the department of learning and engagement at the Denver Art Museum.

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