FELT FROM THE HEART

Templeton Primary School

Templeton

Christchurch

South Island New Zealand

Contact: Penny Jackson

Penny_Jackson@hotmail.com

 

Sunrise over Brighton Beach, Christchurch by Dave Lane

 

Chasing the night over the Pacific Ocean, I arrived with the sunrise into New Zealand on June 9th, two days after I set off and into the cool, grey light of winter. For someone who usually enjoys the winter months, it has been quite a shock to my system after the dry heat of Colorado.

The cycles of the Northern hemisphere are so ingrained into my life that I have been having trouble remembering that it is June, not December! Other fascinating Southern differences that may seem obvious but have got me thinking, have been to watch the moon lie upside down in a night sky filled with different star constellations. I also noticed that the sun and the moon, whilst still rising in the east and setting in the west, travel in the opposite direction across the sky! The cold polar circle lying to the south of the country means the heat comes from the north, all is opposite to that which I have grown up with and taken for granted for so long!

MAORI LEGEND

There are many beautiful Maori legends about the islands and the creatures that live in New Zealand. I have only touched on them here and hope to bring more into the North Island’s project.

On the flight south from Aukland to Christchurch I noticed that the islands were covered in several layers of cloud. It was only later that I learned of the Maori name for the islands; Aotearoa, "Land of the long white cloud".

"To the Maori the South Island was Te Wai Pounamu, "The waters of Greenstone", a reference to West Coast rivers that contained boulders of the highly prized greenstone [or Jade]." Craig Potton publishing, New Zealand’s South Island.

"I’m deaf, I live in Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand…there is lots of room to sleep, peace and country. The Maori were here first and the English came second." [Herbie]

It is supposed that humans inhabited the islands only since 750 AD. Prior to humans there were no predators to the native species, of mainly birds, on the islands. For this reason they didn’t need to fly, resulting in many birds losing their ability for flight and leaving them vulnerable to the arrival of humans and later introduced species of carnivore.

"I chose a Kiwi for the big panel because it is native to New Zealand. They are very endangered. The Kiwi is a flightless bird so it can’t escape from predators that easily." [Kristy]

"There are not many dangerous creatures for humans …the dangerous creatures are locked up in zoos." [Andy]

"I have lived in New Zealand my whole life and I think it a cool place to live. There’s lots of native animals and trees in forests, I think more people should live in NZ." [Matthew R]

THE LAND

To help get inspiration for the panel and my orientation of the area around Christchurch, I visited museums and was also taken on a cable car trip up the Port Hills that border the city.

"I like living in Christchurch as there is a Gondola which you can go on and see some scenes of Christchurch." [Raelene]

The estuary and Christchurch beyond, by Dave Lane

Christchurch lies on the eastern coast approximately two thirds of the way up the coastline.

"I really like living in New Zealand because it’s a really friendly place and it has wicked beaches and nice warm summer, and really it’s just country." [Sophie]

"It has good scenery and good fishing." [Tim]

Looking back on Christchurch and the Canterbury plains surrounding the city, it is easy to see how the land was originally swampy wetlands, shaped by the wind, water, ice and debris from the surrounding mountains and sea.

"Living in Christchurch is great, the air is fresh, the sun’s always shining and the mountains have snow on them." [Kristy]

The ridge of mountains known as the Southern Alps were formed millions of years ago by the collision of the earth’s crust. A fault line runs underneath the islands leaving them susceptible to earthquakes. The Port Hills themselves are remnants of an extinct volcano, forming the ridge of a now flooded crater; Lyttelton Harbour.

Lyttelton Harbour thanks to Dave Lane

The harbour is well established in its natural setting and was one of the first colonial footholds on greater Canterbury.

SHEEP

New Zealand has a reputation for cattle, sheep and wool growing, which was originally inspired by the Australians. In 1853 there were almost 130,000 sheep grazing the land stretching from Canterbury to the north of the South Island.

Thanks to Dave Lane!

"The best thing about New Zealand is that there are a lot of sheep farms." [Matthew V]

"In Christchurch the air is clean and fresh. We have a lot of sheep in New Zealand." [Todd]

"I came to New Zealand last year from Korea. NZ has not many people but there are good places to live in NZ. I chose ‘cow’ for the panel because cow is big and cheap in NZ." [Jun]

"It’s cool living in Christchurch because every year we have ‘the show’, where there’s horses and farming goods, just about anything. In town there’s lots of goods shops and malls too." [Andrea]

Although over-grazing can cause problems of it own it must be said that the wool in New Zealand is of excellent quality.

I must extend a HUGE thank you to Roger O’Brien from Chargeurs Wool (NZ) Ltd who donated enough top quality Merino wool in carded tops for both New Zealand projects. A second HUGE thank you goes out to the group of women in the Timaru and Geraldine areas who donated their time, expertise and energy into dyeing the wool in the most amazing shades and colours. Thank you Alison Hurley, Gwenneth Loomes, Joan McLauchlan and Bruce and Ellen Anderson for the natural colours. Without their help the project would not have happened so vibrantly!

"Well I like living in New Zealand because it is clean and it has friendly people." [Amy-Leigh]

"Christchurch is a great place to live because it’s a healthy environment to live in, we have a lot of very friendly people." [Louisa]

FELTMAKING

My work with Penny Jackson’s class of 27, eleven and twelve year olds, could just be fitted into the last 3 weeks of term before their winter break. It is a difficult time as there is often a lot of work to be finished off before the holidays! This meant that I had the personal challenge of working to a tight timetable whereas I’d been spoilt previously with the flexibility of looser schedules. I also had to use the normal classroom with small desks and a carpeted floor; scary prospect for wet feltmaking!

Not having a separate room meant that a lot of time was spent setting up the class with the children rather than my having the class already prepared for them. These were all new and good lessons for me to learn! Still, with Penny’s excellent help we managed to complete everything within the time, but without any extra curriculum activities such as singing or playing!

I decided to try some different felting techniques with this class, partly because I know and trusted the easy felting ability of the Merino wool. I also know that certain things are easier made using the long lengths of carded ‘tops’.

What makes wool felt?

"The wool needs moisture, friction, soap and a rubbing motion which makes the wool hook together." [Louisa]

"When you rub the wool on the bubble wrap it squashes the wool together and it can’t come undone." [Kristy]

"The fibres shrink together and become tight." [Tim]

Felting photos thanks to Penny Jackson

"With Alana we have made a snake which we made from wool. We picked 2 colours, we split the smallest bit in half and wrapped the 3 bits around each other. Then we felted them together." [Ethan]

"I made a snake. We used 2 colours and twisted them together. Another colour was put on the head. I made it in a funny shape so it looked like it was moving." [Kasey]

"We rolled wool with water sprinkling on it until it turns into a snake." [Matthew R]

"What I’ve made so far is a snake. It looks great. It’ll look good for a child’s bedroom." [Herbie]

Unfortunately at the moment I have no picture of the finished snakes!

The snakes were good preparation for the next project; Puppets. The children could use the techniques they learnt through snake making for hair or arms on their puppet. They also cut out semi-felted designs and used spun mohair to decorate the puppet; preparing them for decorating the big panel.

We used a thin plastic template to make the puppets on, wrap wool around and stop the 2 sides of the puppet from felting together.

"We have also made a puppet. We picked 3 colours and laid them on a thin piece of paper. We felted that side and then did the same on the other side. After this we cut out decorations from a piece of semi felted wool. Then we could pull out the paper and our puppets were done." [ Ethan]

"We have made a puppet. We put the 3 layers on, then felted that side. We turned it over and felted that side. We put the decorations on and then felted them into the puppet." [Raelene].

"I have also made a puppet. First I rubbed the wool and chose colours and then rubbed it a bit more. I decorated my puppet by using templates to cut out shapes and placing them where I wanted and rubbed." [Amy-Leigh]

"For my puppet I gave it a flower on its stomach, some green eyes and a pink mouth. I gave it a big boof of blue hair and a piece of wool shaped in a spiral in the middle of the flower." [Andrea]

"I put different colours in and a fish on my puppet." [Andy]

"My puppet is like a monster and big." [Jun]

 

 

 

 

 

PREPARING THE PANEL

We really tried to focus on the South Island features for this panel as one will be made in the North Island as well. We talked about the scenery and creatures that should be included. The children provided most of the ideas and the landscape around Lyttelton harbour gave good inspiration. We had to try and fit a lot of different images in together using artistic license as to the accuracy of where we were placing everything!

"With its mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, forests and fiords the South Island is renowned for its magnificent scenery and the pristine condition of its wild landscapes." [Craig Potton Publishing, New Zealand’s South Island back cover.]

Once we had agreed on a scene, we split into groups to share responsibility and focus in on a section of the panel.

"I chose the Takehe because it’s South Island’s bird. A few years ago people thought the Takehe was extinct, but a man found it again. It looks like a Pukeko; red nose, green on the back, light purple on body, brown on legs, 2 feet and brown eyes. It eats herbs, tussock and insects. It lives in New Zealand (only in NZ) it lives in the South Island." [Herbie]

"The Albatross is native to New Zealand. They eat fish…live on the cliffs by the sea. It has black wings and a white body." [Andy]

"I drew a tree and decorated it with green and very dark brown. I also drew and felted a palm tree." [Kimberley]

"I chose a whale because it is native to New Zealand. They live in Kaikoura. They eat fish and other stuff. I haven’t seen one but you can go whale watching in Kaikoura." [Raelene]

"The whale eats plankton, krill and fish…it is huge. It is important to look after it so it doesn’t die." [Mata]

"At a zoo in north Christchurch there is an enclosure where Kiwis live. The Kiwis are very shy and they love to make burrows. They never come out in the light – that makes them very hard to spot." [Ethan]

I remember when I saw a Kiwi I got to touch it. Its feathers were very soft. It did not smell like anything and it didn’t move." [Kasey]

"The lizard like Tuatara, the world’s most ancient reptile, is often called a living fossil. Its pedigree can be traced back beyond the age of the dinosaurs. Rats and dogs exterminated it on the mainland and it now survives only on offshore islands." [Maurice Shadbolt, Readers Digest Guide to New Zealand p.15]

The top border group chose to use the Maori names for South Island and New Zealand. They used the traditional colours of red, black and white. They also put a ‘Koru’ design on the border Koru designs are spirals representing the new life as seen with the unfolding of a fern. The silver fern is New Zealand’s national plant symbol.

Photo thanks to Dave Lane

"I chose a penguin and a seal. I chose them because they are to do with the Antarctic and we chose that because we are close to it." [Sophie]

"I drew a dolphin and a seal. I picked them because we have the Antarctic Centre and it’s the world’s largest Antarctic attraction and we are close to the Antarctic." [Amy-Leigh]

"I drew a picture of a penguin because New Zealand is close to Antarctica and there are seals and penguins there. I have never seen one but I’ve seen pictures of them." [Andrea]

Seals, dolphins and penguins are all native to New Zealand as well! These pictures were all put on the bottom border.

Once the drawings were all finished the children cut them out as templates and pinned them to semi felted pieces of the colour they needed.

"Our flag has four stars and they are from the Southern Cross Southern hemisphere star constellation. Our flag has the Union Jack on it, it’s on it because we’re a part of the Common Wealth." [Matthew R]

When we had all the shapes ready we could begin to lay out the work in wool. Once again this was done upside down to help keep all the detail in place when we began to felt it. The children had no experience of this as we couldn’t felt the puppets upside down or inside out and still get the ‘mad’ hair styles! It is always a bit confusing at first but I find it is actually less intimidating by not seeing exactly what it’ll look like until the end!

Photo thanks to Mrs. Star

 

When covering it with wool, we really made use of the great selection of colours we had been given, which helped to give more depth to the finished piece. We concentrated blues over the sea and sky, greens and browns over the land.

Photo thanks to Mrs. Star

It was harder work filling in the background using the carded tops, but everyone found the patience needed and worked really well.

When there were 4 or 5 layers of really fine wool sitting on the mat we rolled it up dry, ready for felting the next day.

We took the roll outside to pour hot, soapy water into it. The day was cold with a large North west bank of cloud keeping the sun from coming through. We set up tables on the concrete so that we could felt outside and not worry about soaking the carpet when felting!

When we began felting the roll, the wool was so fine that it became loose very quickly. Carefully, we opened it up and laid it flat on the tables to enable the fun to begin!

To make the wool stay together you have to make the fibres lock together with water and soap." [Andrea]

"Soap and water keeps the wool together and rubbing helps as well." [Raelene]

"I have learned how to make felt. The rubbing action makes the fibre stick together." [Sophie]

We flattened the panel by all the rubbing, both with plastic over it to stop our hands from sticking to it and then straight onto the felt. Then when it was already semi felted from this we could roll it up again and REALLY felt it together.

Everyone had to work as a team so that they didn’t roll any faster than anyone else and kept the section in front of then really tightly rolled. Once again everyone worked very well as the felt was cold and wet and not the most appealing! It did help that we were using fast felting Merino wool as it didn’t need too much work before we could turn it over and reveal the other side.

I love this part as it is so exciting seeing it for the first time. It seems as if no one really believes it will work until they see their drawing felted into the piece!

 

We took the panel to the outside assembly on the last day of school so that all the children and teachers in the school could get to see what work ‘Room 8’ had achieved in their 3 weeks of felting.

Photo thanks to Mrs. Wright

 

See if you can spot the 2 flying Kea (large mountain parrot), flying albatross, whale tail and dolphin in the sea, cow and sheep in the middle, Takehe, Kiwi, frog and Tuatara in the foreground!

The landscape shows the high mountains, peninsulas and sea, with Moeraki boulders (spherical boulders buried in the sand), waterfall, lake and palm trees and scrub in the foreground.

The children chose a flying Kea as the challenging project for the school to keep.

I drew a Kea because the Kea is a native mountain parrot and also because of the effective colours. They live in places in open country, they are known for their antics because they wreck cars." [Kimberley]

"The Kea lives in the mountains and eats rubber and bugs." [Tim]

"I was going to the coast and we saw a Kea, it was picking at the road." [Ryan]

I decided that we could all make a feather and then split the group so that those who had missed out on the felting of the big piece through a soccer and hockey tournament, could get the chance to work on the Kea. We used pipe cleaners inside the feathers, feet and beak to give extra stiffness. I also entrusted a couple of the children to use the special hooked felting needles and cover the body of the Kea with green wool.

Photo thanks to Penny Jackson

The Kea will be strung, puppet like and hang in the school’s office or entrance hall.

We finished off the last lesson of the last day before term ended by stitching eyes and tongues into the snakes, tidying up and I also gave a carding demonstration, those that wanted a go could get a chance after school!

The children made me a huge card with all their signatures on it, a lovely reminder for me to keep. A final HUGE thank you to the Penny Jackson who looked after me so well at school and at home, to Dave Lane for opening up his home to me and sharing his photos to the school for making me welcome and of course the whole class of Room 8 for all their hard work in making the project a success.

To get in touch with the school contact:-

Penny Jackson

Penny_Jackson@hotmail.com

 

To get in touch with me contact:-

alanafelt@yahoo.co.uk

To return to the main Felt From The Heart website:-

http://www.oocities.com/alanafelt

 

 

 

 

 

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