Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Unit 1 Part A: extend your own arts practice

Felted mask workshop

On 11th March I attended a felted mask making workshop with Carol Mowl, a textile teacher, at her studio at Beetlefelt in Manchester. Prior to the workshop I drew a few mask designs to follow during the workshop, in which I included colours and some detail that I could base my mask designs on.

First I discussed my designs with Carol to see if it would be possible to create them in the way that I pictured them. There were mask bases with different facial features and expressions to chose from. I chose a feminine mask with subtle features for one mask and a more masculine mask for the second mask.

The process for making a felted mask is as follows. I covered the table with plastic sheeting, with a towel on top, then a layer of bubble wrap, and a piece of thin nylon material similar to fine net curtains. For the lion mask I chose a base colour of off white and covered the nylon with a thin layer of wool tops with the fibres facing horizontally I then applied another layer of the same colour this time with the fibres facing vertically, and a third layer facing horizontally again. For the fourth and final layer I added different colours to detail light and shade, eyebrows, nose and whiskers, with several strands of curly unspun wool to create the mane.

Then came the hard work. I covered the wool with another sheet of nylon, poured lukewarm water over the top, flipped it over to add more water on the back, massaged soap into both sides. Then I massaged the fibres quite vigorously on the upper and lower surface in order to felt every fibre and strand of wool into place. This process took around ten minutes and I kept checking to see if the wool was felting together and to pin point which areas needed more massaging.

The hardest part of the whole process involved rolling up the two layers of nylon including the felted piece and towel into a sausage which I then rolled backwards and forwards with a lot of pressure. I then unrolled it, turned the two nylon pieces by 90 degrees, repeating the process of rolling and turning by 90 degrees another two times until it had gone the whole 360 degrees and completely felted together.

Next came the messy part. I carefully removed the nylon sheets and put my mask into a large bowl of diluted PVA glue until it had soaked through the felting. I then placed the mask over the mask base, manipulated the material until in the right position, moulded it into the mask base shape and added details such as wrinkles, cheekbones and eyes. I pegged the wrinkles to hold them until the piece had dried which takes up to a week.

For the second mask the same process was used, but the mask was left unfinished until it had dried so that I could trim it down to size and add elastic to make it ready to wear.


  1. Wow! Demi these masks look amazing I have felted many things before but never a mask I will have to try it now. Felting is really hard work isn't it all the rolling backwards and forwards but well worth all your hard work. Were you happy with you finished mask? are they very warm to wear?
    This is a really detailed review of the mask making workshop too Demi well done :o)

  2. This review has inspired me to have a go at felting. I always thought felting would be a hard technique but although there are several steps that have to be gone through it looks like a lot of fun.

  3. Wow, these are gorgeous! A lot of work but very worth the results :)

  4. I have often wondered how things are felted and this has explained the process to me quite clearly.
    Don't think it's for me though! Not sure my wrists would stand up to all that rolling and massaging.
    Great result though - the mask looks great - well done!

  5. wow, fabulous masks Demi - I'd love to do wet felting if I had the space. You must have had great fun doing them.

  6. wow those are so inspiring i can feel my mojo returning.

  7. Wow, these are amazing! Looks like a lot of hard work has gone into them. I particularly love the lion mask. Wet felting is something I'd love to try. :o)

  8. This is an inspirational report, i'd love to try wet felting and it looks like you enjoyed it too