Saturday, 19 October 2013

Jimmy Sparks the Dragonfly

Felt and willow sculpture

Over the past six weeks I have been working on a project to make a dragonfly sculpture. Prism Arts were commissioned by Tullie House and The Solway Wetlands Project to create 3 sculptures of wildlife found in the Solway wetlands. We chose to make a natterjack toad, a common hawker dragonfly and a lapwing. I worked with my textiles group up at The Heathlands Project  as well as the other artists working on the project.

Felt sample
It has been a really fun project to work on and a great chance for the guys I've been working with to experiment with different felting techniques and for me to improve my willow weaving skills. Unfortunately we were on quite a tight time scale so we did not have as much chance to experiment as I would have liked but the guys worked incredibly hard and have produced a great piece of work.

Willow wing frame

The guys started off by making drawings and some felt samples after looking at lots of pictures of the common hawker. I worked with the other artists on the project creating the frame for the dragonfly. It was great working together as we were able to help each other out find solutions for the problems we encountered.

Body frame

Head and thorax
We made the felt for the head and body first, using merino tops and lots of graft! For some of the people on this project it was the first time they had made felt and the pieces they produced are really high quality. We added lots of sparkly fibres as well so that the finished pieces would catch the light and shimmer, like a real dragonfly.

Laying out the body felt

Laying out the body felt

For the felt for the eyes we added lots of circles of net and organza to look like the many lenses of an insect eye.

Eye felt with net and organza circles

The next step was making the wings. For this we tried nuno felting. This involves using a sheer fabric as a base and then felting the wool fibres through it. Using the fabric as a base allowed us to create a piece of felt that was strong enough to use for the wings but still light and  semi transparent. We used silk chiffon as a base and lots of the sparkly fibres to create a shimmery, wing like fabric. Everyone worked together on one big piece and it was a real team effort.

Nuno felting

Nuno felting

I then worked with one of the guys one to one to embroider the wings using metallic thread and machine embroidery. We used pictures of the wings as a reference and worked section by section to build the pattern up.

Embroidery in progress

To add the bright spots of colour onto the dragonfly and to create the details on his face we used needle felting. This involves using a barbed needle to push and pull the fibres through each other to felt them.

Needle felting the body spots

Needle felting the face


With all the pieces of felt made and embellished and the frame made the final step was putting it all together. I used strong thread and a few curse words to securely sew all the felt pieces together and onto the willow frame. When I took the finished sculpture back to the guys they were really happy with it and decided to call him Jimmy Sparks.

Face detail

The underneath

Wing detail


Along with the toad and the lapwing Jimmy was delivered to Tullie House this week where they will soon be displayed.

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