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Artist in Residence at Wild Northumbrian Tipis

19.04.16 – 22.04.16

I spent Tuesday to Friday this week in Northumbria being the artist in residence at Wild Northumbria Tipis and Yurts. My four days consisted of walking, sketching, learning, exploring and of course, making lots and lots of felt.

After more of a scenic route than I’d first anticipated (had to double back at one point as the road I was on sort of just stopped being a road) I arrived at Wild Northumbrian Tipis, about 10ish in the morning. My new home was the pole barn, a lovely wee set up with woodburning stove, squishy sofa, pull out bed and even a couple of electricity sockets for the recharging of phone/camera and to run a lamp from (brought that with me). The owner Robert, who I’d set the residency up with showed me around the kitchen block (lovely), bathroom (lovely) and what had been his fathers artist studio. His father was John Herseyand Unison Colour is still run from here, more on that later.

Car unloaded, sarnies made and walking boots on I set off to explore. What a landscape. You couldn’t come here and not be inspired. From here you’re in walking distance of vast, rolling hilly landscapes, babbling Tarset Burn and the beautiful Kielder forest.

Working plein air isn’t something that I have much experience in and it does not suit feltmaking at all, the slightest breath of wind and there goes your hard work. I had a wee doodle on one of my walks though and enjoyed it, but will probably keep taking copious photos to work from for the time being. (I promise there is a sketch on that page, the glorious sunshine has eradicated it from the photo though it would seem.)

I couldn’t wait to start on a landscape from one of the spots I’d walked to on my first morning. I love all the dry stone walls that frame each scene and wanted to have a go at working them in wool. I tend to work slow on landscapes, doing a couple of hours, leaving it, coming back, a couple more hours, etc. So I left on Friday with the piece unfinished. Here is work in progress pic and even an action shot of the laying of the fibres. I’ll post a photo of the finished piece once I’ve needle felted the details.

Something else that I was drawn to on my walks was how the colours of many of my favourite scenes were repeating; earth and grass, to moss and stone, to field and hill, to sky and cloud. I wanted a quick way to capture this in felt and started rolling wee balls of each colour. Anyone who knows me knows how I love repetition. Soon I had a swarm of little felt balls in the tones and hues of the fields. Many made by candlelight late into the evening, I got a bit obsessed. I feel a Northumbrian necklace coming along in the not too distant future.

So from felt spheres, I next wanted to do more 3D playing. I’ve never made felted vessels before and if I’d been at home, I’d have been straight on youtube. No signal up here though, so I decided to have a go at a method that I thought would work… huzzah, it did. Once the background seemed sturdy enough I started mixing and laying grey/green fibres vertically up the side of the vessel, trying to mirror the vertical trunk of the trees that I’d walked through that morning. The finished bowl is pretty rustic, but I’m pleased with it, and it’s definitely a good starting point for further 3D work.

Not only is this site surrounded by glorious views and great walking routes, but it was also home to artist John Hersey. It was here that he set up Unison Colour, and the business still flourishes and is still based right here. Between the kitchen block and bathroom there are several wood and stone buildings, from which Unison Colour chalk pastels are still mixed, rolled, dried and packaged all by hand. It’s a fascinating process and I felt very lucky to be shown how each step worked, see the pastels drying and being rolled. And of course my favourite bit, being invited to sit and use the finished pastels to draw and sketch. I happily sat in one of the workshops surrounded by the 400 odd shades that they create and doodled and worked until both me and my sketchbook were both well covered in a spectrum of chalky pastel.

All in all, I left Northumbria with a sketchbook full of sketches and doodles, an image bank bursting with gorgeous images I can’t wait to felt and a head full of ideas and plans. I would thoroughly recommend other artists get in touch with Robert and see if they might be suitable to do a residency too. The wee barn is perfect, snuggly warm with the wood burner going and with the added bonus of an electricity supply, what more could you ask for? The kitchen and bathrooms are spacious, clean and inviting. And the landscapes will speak for themselves far better than I could. Go and have an explore!

Contact Details: Email: Mobile number: 07720 053724 (the signal is intermittent, I recommend texting!) Website:

#residency #arts #Feltmaking #landscape #Northumbria #WildNorthumbrianTipisandYurts #ArtistinResidence

I send out updates, news and details of upcoming exhibitions every two or three months. I won't bombard you, but I'll keep you posted on what I'm getting up to.
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