At the workshop Sculpture in wool with Paula Obenius

Workshop report: KreaTov, Sweden – August 2016

I’m delighted to be able to report on the KreaTov felt event which took place on the island of Gotland this August. It was the first time I had attended and, making the most of my trip, I stayed in the medieval, walled town of Visby an extra night at the beginning and end of my stay. This historic town has many historic buildings and features with many fascinating stories of how ancient invaders were kept out of the town.

The felt event was held in Hemse, an hour’s drive south of Visby. We stayed in a dorm at a type of boarding school. It had good working rooms and delicious food served three times a day – plus regular coffee breaks!

On the evening of our arrival we all got to meet our teachers for half an hour to prepare for the following day. We then enjoyed watching a new film from Gotland called “Strings of Wool”. It was very poetic and beautiful with specially composed background music.

The first series of workshops were run by:

  • Renate Kraus (from Lithuania) “Watercolour painting with wool”,
  • Gunilla Östbom (from Sweden) “Shibori in felt” and
  • Yulia Badian (from U.K.) with “Luminaries”.

I went to Renate’s workshop. Initially I thought I would use the technique to create a background for an embroidery – how wrong I was! The pictures we made were complete in themselves. Using all kinds of shades of corridale wool to colour the picture the key learning was to go from a light color to a darker one – that way we made sure we got the right depth in the picture.

From the workshop ”Watercolor painting in wool” with Renata Kraus
From the workshop ”Watercolor painting in wool” with Renata Kraus

The shibori felters used mostly needle felt to fold and tie and colour, using big jars to wrap the felt around. Some made the colouring twice and got a fantastic pattern of squares out of their work.

The luminarie felters made their sculptures transparent in places and added long curly fibers as an additional effect. After they were dried, they put a small lamp bulb inside so the felt got” illuminated”. They looked very beautiful and special.

From the workshop ”Luminaries"
From the workshop ”Luminaries”

At lunch time on the second day we went on an excursion. A group called “Textile Gotland” had an exhibition at the beautiful Kings Mansion in Roma. A few of the KreaTov participants were represented at the exhibition so they could tell us a little more about both their work and some of the other exhibitors. There was a mixture of felt, embroidery and art quilt.

After this we went to a “wool cleaner” factory which was just about to open for business. There were tons of wool in storage, just waiting for work to start. Operations began just a week after our visit. I saw a clip of it on Facebook on my return home. An enthusiastic couple operated it had brought the machinery to Gotland from abroad. The man fell in love with this special machine as he felt it “looked like a dance” when the wool was put through the catching arms and in and out of the water!

Next we saw a very interesting exhibition at the Art Museum in Visby where textile and ceramics were brought together. From the Dr TexLers Beauty Institute (Ler= clay in Swedish) it brilliantly displayed the work of Erik Torstensson and Karin Sutareas.

Erik Torstensson presents some of his work at the exhibition Dr TexLers beauty institute.
Erik Torstensson presents some of his work at the exhibition Dr TexLers beauty institute.

Over the next two days there was again a choice of workshops al run by Swedish feltmakers:

  • Erik Torstensson ”Animals and figures”
  • Vera Frederiksen Zhotkevich ”Costume Design for felt” and,
  • Paula Obenius ”Sculpture in wool”

I attended the first workshop with animals made on a wire thread skeleton with wool around it. Many interesting creatures saw the light of day here.

From the workshop ”Animals and figures” with Erik Torstensson.
From the workshop ”Animals and figures” with Erik Torstensson.

The costume designers were a very busy group, many worked late into the evening on their projects. In the sculpture group there were many ideas developed including a full bodied torso to a birch stem to a sculptured house with windows.

Vessel from the workshop ”Sculpture in wool” with Paula Obenius
Vessel from the workshop ”Sculpture in wool” with Paula Obenius

On the other evenings we had the pleasure of hearing Vera Fredriksen Zhotkevich and Paula Obenius tell us more about their work, thoughts and experiences. We also saw a film, taken by Paula’s husband, at a felt symposium in Kirgizstan some years ago.

We all thoroughly enjoyed a week of creativity and inspiration in a most beautiful setting.

There will not be another KreaTov in 2018 but we hope to see you all in Landskrona in the south of Sweden for the IFA AGM 2018 and then hopefully on Gotland for KreaTov 2020!

Sophie Holmblad

(images by Anneli Rickardsson)

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