And breathe...

So, my first workshop seemed to go well. I arrived with enough time to have potter round Bath - (didn't do the
Roman Baths, as too expensive for me, at nearly £13 entrance fee). I did enjoy the spectacular Regency streets and people watching.

Found a little market shop with, oh, look, ribbons! (Well, of course I bought one or two little bits...)

I stayed in a lovely house with super hosts - Lynne and Michael, who make exquisite collectors dolls - and was given the top room with views over the city - that large lit up building is Bath Abbey.

The view in the morning - Bath Abbey just viewable to the left above the foliage, if you right click. (Need I add that in a house filled wonderful toys, old and new, I was in my element!)

We travelled to another house for the actual workshop. I had nine well experienced crafters to oversee - they are all highly competent in their own fields, so didn't need bottle feeding. However, just to get them warmed up, I did set them my elementary challenge, which was to make a sphere - more difficult that it seems. Biscuits were necessary. Only one or two needles were broken.

After that, although I had my ducky design ready for anyone who wanted to try it, nearly everyone was keen to do their own ideas - something I very much encouraged, as I wanted them to discover their own needle felting 'voice', rather than simply copy something of mine. And by mid morning, a happy silence had descended, broken only by the sound of a multitude of needles poking wool.

The view from the room we were working in was incredible - with a canal and a train track disappearing into the distance. Somewhere in the distance, the
Westbury white horse is visible but my camera couldn't quite pick it out. (Nor could my bad eyes!)

I prowled around, on hand if anyone needed help. But on the whole, everyone was in their own happy little needle felting world.

One thing which was noticeable was the dawning realisation that it is a v.e.r.y s.l.o.w process. It can literally take hours for a small piece, depending on how finished the artist wants it. I did have a little '
welcome to my world' moment. But, by the end of the first day, many had finished their projects.

Here we are on the second day and my toys have been joined by a wonderful dodo. Meggy goose looks somewhat startled, Kitty Blue is leaning closer to get a better look, and Mrs Mouse is so flustered by all the excitement that she has decided to concentrate on mixing up her cake.

Sally, who kindly hosted the workshop is the dodo creator and her second piece was to be an elephant. During our lunch break, she showed us videos of her charity in Zimbabwe - who's vision is, to quote - "to prove that wildlife can live in harmony with people in communal farming areas. In doing so we want to improve, through wildlife conservation and tourism, their impoverished life of subsistence farming".

Once a year the camp holds an 'eco- education camp' for the best achieving school children from the four schools that they are involved with - one of the most cherished prizes is a book. Watc
hing the joy and reverence of the lucky prize winner, as they looked through their book, brought tears to my eyes - a salutory reminder of how lucky we in the western world are, no matter how poor we think ourselves. I was very glad that some of the proceeds of our workshop went to this charity and will be keeping my eye open for the official website - meanwhile, even basic school equipment such as a jiffy bag of pencils, pens, erasers, rulers, geometry equipment etc, are in short supply and are always welcome. (If you'd like to send something directly please contact me. I will definitely be sending something out.

Carolyn here is making a giraffe and was a very fast worker - by the end of the day she'd almost finished and got a nice, smooth finish.

On the second day, Heather volunteered to try my duckling. Heather is a highly skilled professional beader and bought some of her intricate, beautiful work to show us - she also writes books about beading and has a lovely site selling kits, beads, her books and news of workshops, which can be
found here. And she has a blog too, always nice to meet another blogger in person.

It was, all in all, a lovely two day session. As will happen when you get several women together, we put the world to rights several times and there was a pleasant buzz of conversation, much laughter and the occasional intense debate - no wonder quilters call them 'bees', with the hum of chat and industrious hands.

Between the two host's houses, there were nine cats, and everyone was a cat lover. Here is Merlin, a noble Abyssinian, inspecting Meggy goose and investigating biscuit plates.

'Class of January 2012' with their work - didn't they do well?

I was so proud of them all. Even those who had started off with little or no needle felting experience had created their own design, a little wool sculpture unique to them and everything looking recognisable - even two little duckys in there.

I had marvellous time and was treated superbly, but I have to admit that I am a homebody and it was wonderful to be picked up from the train station and whisked back home to our small but tidy cottage, (well done Andy!) dozing cats, the woodburner toasty hot and my favourite meal ready for me, with a bottle of chilled cider. There is nowhere quite like home, is there?


tut-tut said...

Wow! a trip to Bath, a virtual needle-felting lesson, and links to all parts of the world. And I didn't leave my computer. Great, Gretel!

Janet Metzger, Artist said...

Oh Gretel...I am so thrilled that your first workshop was such a success. I knew it would be, even if you had doubts. Love that I saw Gretel's assigned seat next to Janet ;->

Great results by all and I loved that view!!

Welcome home
janet xox

Jess said...

Well done Gretel! What a beautiful setting to work in too. I do love the landscape around Bath. You must have been exhausted in all ways when you arrived home and what a lovely welcome you had. Very well deserved! :)
Jess xx

Deborah Flint said...

I am so pleased it went well, and either your pupils were already part trained, or you are a very good teacher!

I love the fact that such wonderful variety, at such high quality and with great imagination was produced in a short space of time by people just starting out in needlefelting. To me, that's the sign of truly great teaching. Too often you see a whole class all producing copies of their teacher's work...

Nice one, Gretel, and yes, home is a very sweet place to come back to :-)

Nancy said...

I'm so happy it turned out so well! And Bath is someplace I'd like to revisit it looks beautiful.

So many happy felters! And what a beautiful place in which to teach!

Frances said...

Congratulations to you on this workshop debut! The room with that marvelous round table really seems to be a beautifully lit perfect workshop, with a view to inspire everyone, too.

It's interesting to see what a variety of sculptures were created, and how quickly your pupils caught on to a new technique. Of course, they had a fine teacher!

I know what you mean about the immeasurable joy of finally returning home. xo

Catherine Hayward said...

It sounds like a great workshop! I think it must be very satisfying to be able to pass on the knowledge of how to do something and see other people trying it out. They're all very good first attempts I think :)

Bath looks very nice - I'd love to go there some time. Thanks for sharing your photos!

Dartford Warbler said...

I love walking around Bath. Thank you for posting your photos. The views from your friend`s house are stunning, by day and by hight.

So pleased that your workshop went well. There is something very good about the industrious buzz of a group all working quietly on their handicrafts.

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

A resounding success, and some really stellar pieces. I enjoyed seeing bits of Bath, the street scene especailly. A very top notch place for your first teaching

ted and bunny said...

indeed, there is nowhere like home and sometimes its worth being away just to come back!

Cathy Holtom said...

Looks like everyone had a good time and the final results are great (good teacher). I love the elephant with long legs!

Charlotte said...

What an amazing workshop, I am envious, I would have loved to have been there. And that ribbon shop...drooling as I type.

What lovely work you all had at the end.

Periannath said...

If being home is wonderful then coming home is sweeter still....

BumbleVee said...

Welcome home! But, what a great time it was away... lovely views from both places and wow... pretty nice teaching spot... and hey... I think a round table ..or two... are the way to go. I have always hated sitting at a long rectangle table in any classes I've been to over the years ... for anything. You are constantly craning your neck to see anything ..but, with a round... you can all see and chat easily...perfect.

Didn't they all do wonderful little pieces? ... and yes.... it is pretty darned satisfying when others learn just how long and tedious the procedure is in order to construct our little felties....

ellen said...

What a wonderful experience for all.
I love looking at what everyone made, and the beautiful scenery too.
There really is nowhere quite like home. You had a wonderful welcome.
Well done, Andy for certain.

Karen said...

Well done Gretel. A wonderful experience for those ladies and yourself. A lovely setting too in Bath. :)

jerilanders said...

What a wonderful little menagerie of new creatures.Good company, biscuits, a great location and all that lovely colored wool to work with... it must have been a lot of fun.

rossichka said...

Oh, Gretel, what a wonderful experience you've had! It's so nice to be among creative people who understand you "from one word" and WANT to do the things that have gathered you! It seems that you've spent two splendid days together, in a friendly atmosphere, in this beautiful town of Bath. And the felted toys are so sweet! Good for you, Gretel!:)
Thanks for this virtual journey - I saw so much, I'm impressed!
It must have been exciting and a little bit weird to live/sleep in a house full of such beautiful dolls!

Claire said...

Bath, Bath, beautiful Bath........love the pics, wonderful view from your window.
I doubt I could've concentrated much if I was at your workshop Gretel. I would've sat for hours gazing out the window and gotten very little done...
So glad all went well and every one enjoyed it.

Wonderful creations, I'm sure all the participants will have a new appreciation for what you do too.

Claire :}

Rowan said...

Glad that your workshop was successful, your students made some lovely things. Bath is a lovely place to have held it too.

mimi k said...

WoW! Lucky you to get to stay with the Roche's! Sounds like it all went really well- I would have loved to be there :')

Sally Plummer said...

Thank you so much for a wonderful workshop, Gretel. We were so happy to be your first one and I was amazed to produce a Dodo (another one for the collection!) and to be encouraged to do an imaginative elephant - you were an excellent tutor. Merlin enjoyed all the attention too! Thanks for mentioning the Ambuya Foundation - the group made a handsome donation to our fund to finish the health clinic building at Garura Village in Zimbabwe. It will save lives.

Gigi said...

Oh how I wish I lived in your part of the world. I would love to have been able to attend your workshop! Such sweet little feltie things everyone made. I've just bought needle felting supplies but haven't worked up the nerve to try it yet.
And buying ribbons in Bath? Sounds so very Jane Austen-ish ;).

Vintage Jane said...

Just catching up with your blog ... so glad you had a successful time in Bath and the ladies certainly looked very pleased with their sweet little creations. Glad you got to have a little exploring time too. Have a great week. M x

Angela said...

This looks like a blast! I would love to do something like this one day!