Big Ink Workshop – Tutor F Duthie Reporter M van Zuilen

Big Ink – Surface Design + Garment Construction

FeltWEST started its 2019 program with a truly creative bang.

Big Ink – Surface Design + Garment Construction (January 31-February 3) was a 4-day workshop hosted by FeltWEST with the amazing felt artist and tutor extraordinaire Fiona Duthie. The workshop filled almost instantly when it opened for enrolments back in October, and we were totally not surprised.

Fiona is a Canadian felt maker recognised globally for her dynamic and narrative surface design. She creates seamless sculpture for the body, art objects and outdoor felt installations, with surfaces built up through fabric manipulation, stratified textiles and imagery exploring biography and individual perspective (

Fiona’s workshop was preceded by her artist talk on January 30, where almost 50(!) attendees were treated to insights into Fiona’s artistic journey; starting in garment construction before venturing into Felt some 23 years ago. It included an all-important shift from creating production-based craft items sold at craft shows to nourishing more fully the possibilities of exploring ‘the art of one’s craft’: meaningful, narrative making, refining skills, and the creation of one-off garments, artworks, outdoor installations and more. It was a most insightful and thoroughly well-presented talk which set the scene for the workshop that followed.

Things were quickly in full creative swing on Day 1, as Fiona introduced her method of sumi-e ink drawing on silk fabrics for depth and line. This was followed by each participant making  several specific pre-felts which would later be used as features in their garments.

The afternoon saw participants fully immersed in designing their pattern for individual and fitted garments. The choice and possibilities seemed endless; one could make either a dress, vest, tunic, skirt or short jacket. The buzz of inspiration was in the air and the day finished with inking pre-felts and a session on Design in the cool shade of a tree adjacent to the hall.


Day 2 was dedicated to finishing patterns & resists, laying out wool, silk fabrics, and additions with all manner of creativity! Fiona expertly covered the creative possibilities; encompassing colour, form and fit, plus resist additions for additional shaping and individual fit. As ideas expanded, the floor fans were twirling!

Day 3 was another excellent and inspiring day – participants added final surface design features, followed by the start of felting their works. Each work took up almost two tables (Stacey even brought in a third) so there was lots of gentle rubbing to do. And then some rolling to get it to the pre-felt stage.


And just when we thought we couldn’t do any more rolling, Justine’s daughter Camille arrived at 7pm with cold cider and chocolates for all who stayed on to keep felting. Yeah!






On the final day, everyone finished felting their garment and with Fiona’s expertise in pattern making and fitting, the final shaping and fulling was applied. While the garments dried, Fiona provided a comprehensive review of the workshop.


Applying the sumi-e ink to the finished garments was another one of the truly ‘sweet spot’ moment of this workshop and the only way to celebrate was with champagne and lots and lots of photos (and much joy) in the adjacent park.








Big Ink – Surface Design + Garment Construction promised to be all about creating bold dramatic surfaces on seamless garments with designs that celebrates life and movement. And it delivered on all of that, and so much more.

The garments created were all so diverse and elegant, and suited each person perfectly.

While a workshop in January can present the risk of hot weather, Craft House once again proved to be a most suitable venue with plentiful tables and space. Homemade refreshments and fruits were plentiful and the evaporative air coolers and floor fans that participants brought along managed to keep the outside hot temperatures at bay throughout.

Fiona Duthie is a truly generous, knowledgeable, unflappable, supportive and inspiring tutor, sharing her skills and ideas freely and giving so much of her time to her students while guiding them to expand the creative possibilities in Felt. Thank you and thank you again Fiona for being in our midst and for sharing so generously your skill and passion. FeltWEST could not have asked for a better way to kick off the year.

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-report and pictures by Martien van Zuilen