Friday, January 9, 2009

walking in wool

Yesterday, three of us spent a very happy few hours making 'felt feet' by walking in wool, using a method being promoted as an artistic activity by Dartmoor-based felt-maker Yuli Somme.

The idea came about on a long walk I took with her in Norway in 2004, following her father 's account of his escape across the mountains from the coast to neutral Sweden during the war, having been arrested for photographing a torpedo station for the resistance movement. Yuli cared for her feet on the rough walk by placing small pieces of wool fleece inside her boots, wrapping the toes to protect them from each other. She was intrigued and delighted (as a textile artist) to discover at the end of each day that the action of compression, damp, heat, had felted the wool into little molds of her toes.

Since then she has experimented with wrapping the whole foot, and created a sequence of her own felt feet. She planted them on Dartmoor at the midwinter solstice 2007, and is now documenting their return to the land. As she says: 'Wool is born of the land we live in and will ultimately return without trace, to feed the soil and in turn provide nourishment for the sheep and wildlife'. It's worth getting one of her 'feet felt' kits in order to not only get the instructions and fleece you need to do it yourself, but also to watch the inspiring film she's made of her project, and the wool feet, furred with frost, walking their eerie parade across the moor as the sun rises.

The method is simple but important to get right. And it's good to have a friend to 'dress' your feet rather than trying to do it yourself. It's a sensuous experience despite the cold drips, the smell of lanolin. You cover the wet wool in plastic, put on your boots and take a walk. When you come back you slip off the most beautiful moulds of your feet, highly personal, and strangely beautiful artefacts.


Tousled Raven said...

They're beautiful! I can imagine how amazing a collection must look on Dartmoor. As wool is virtually worthless I think I'll see if my brother has any left from the last clipping and give this a go. I wonder if the soft hair from my hairy lurcher would be good if mixed in too?

landgirl said...

I have done some felting, but the idea of felted feet is quite intriguing. I'm going to have to add it to my list of things to try.

Sarah Hymas said...

I love this idea. Since I read this blog I've been metaphysically walking in wool whenever I've been out on the fells. thanks for the image