Teachers, good ones, have an invaluable impact. I have had many invaluable teachers in my life. A few days ago one of them passed away.
Dr. Charles Bergengren was a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art. I could write more on that, but his obit sums up the details of his life better than I ever will. I am personally indebted to his off topic rants and exclamatory notes in red pen while he was my professor of Folk Art and BFA thesis adviser.
My memories of him are wild, inspiring, dark, and funny. Him analyzing the surprisingly supportive and cathartic world of mosh pits. Him regaling us with extensive slideshows of Puritan headstones and Vodun altars. His regular recommendation of the Wisconsin Death Trip, which I finally bought last year and still kinda freaks me out. Him leading us through the woods, or as close to woods as East Cleveland can get, in search of a rock covered with magical symbols. Him staunchly supporting my thesis presentation on the ethics and spiritual symbolism of hunting, while a vegetarian girl in the audience cried. Yup, that happened.
He was full of wonderful stories and strange ideas, which of course are where great art hides.
Just weeks before his death he was awarded the Viktor Shrekengost Teaching Award at CIA. His last speech to his students and the timeless lessons therein were posted on the institute's YouTube channel:
My favorite quote is, "The connections are there. You will see them." That proved true in my artistic search as a student at CIA and reminds me even now to keep looking. Thank you for all that you taught me intentionally and unintentionally.
Pinterest recently led me to a tutorial for needle felting onto shirts from the website Honestly WTF. In their post they felted onto a wool garment. Great for fall or winter, but so not so fun in June. I wondered can it be done on a cotton t-shirt? With my Fiber and Material Studies background I knew wool/apalca/angora fibers don't really felt all that well to cotton (or any plant or synthetic fibers for that matter), but where there's a will there's a way!
1. Gather 1 cotton tee, a couple felting needles, 1 pink styrofoam block (I have a bunch cut down from a huge sheet at Home Depot), 2 small squares of pre-felted wool, plenty of colorful fleece, paper, scissors, and 1 colored pencil that contrasts with your t shirt. Later you'll need soap, water and an iron.
2. Decide on the shape(s) you want to add to your t-shirt. Create a paper template, keeping both the cut out shape and the left over stencil. Play around with the placement of the design with the cut out piece of paper, then trace it with your colored pencil when you find the right spot.
2. Next place 1 square of pre-felted wool on the underside of your design. Make sure it is a little larger than the design you are felting. This will give the fibers you needle into the shirt something to truly felt into, since cotton won't hold them on its own.
3. Pull apart some small tufts of fleece, whether it be wool, apalca, or baby buffalo down. Use the pencil outline and the left over stencil paper to maintain the size and contours of the design. Felt several layers, until you can no longer see the tee underneath and wispy/stray fibers are packed tight.
4.Remove the stencil and create a crisp outline by twisting tufts of fiber into "threads" and needle felting the outline of the design.
5. Repeat on the other side. Or all over. Or until you feel you've added all the needle felted flair you can handle!
6. Pull the needle felted areas off the pink Styrofoam block. It should look like a fuzzy, mirror image of the outer t-shirt. Carefully trim off the excess pre-felted fibers, so you don't cut into the shirt.
7.Dampen the felted sections of the t-shirt and add a drop of dish soap onto the design. Lather up the area with your fingers for about 5 minutes. This will strengthen the felting process and help lay wispy/stray fibers down. Once dry, iron the felted parts of the shirt on the wool setting.
8. VOILA! An already cute shirt looking a little extra special :)
1. Felting needles are very painful when you stab yourself (believe me!). Avoid going off into la la land as your felting.
2. Hand wash or dry clean felted t-shirts. Cotton and wool both shrink when mixed with water, high and low temperatures and friction. However they don't shrink at the same rate. Beware...or experiment with the outcomes :)
3. Wool is itchy. You may want to add some iron- on cloth material to felted areas that would be touching your skin or wear a tank underneath.
There is also a video about the show. As an art teacher, I love that a young boy talks about our piece! Watch around 3:46. The following segment with RoCo executive director Bleu Cease has a clearer shot of the crayon piece over his shoulder while he discusses it as well. This just makes my day!
6x6 at Rochester Contemporary Art Center from Rochester Contemporary (RoCo) on Vimeo.