Gallery 21 – Felt In Nature In Norway

Three years ago the first part of an exiting project with felt in nature started in Norway on the island Bremanger north of Bergen.

The idea with the first part of Felt in Nature was to gather felt artists from the whole world and let them each make an art piece out in the nature. We had arranged that we could work along a path up in the cliffs behind a little fisher village and the artists were asked to come with no ideas at all in their mind so they could get the inspiration directly from the nature when they were standing there.

The first thing to do when they had arrived was then to walk along the path and let the individual participant choose a place where she wanted to work and then they had a whole week to finish their art piece. The art piece should then stay there and people could come and walk on this art route and look at it.

For the artists, who came from USA, Alaska, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Scotland it was a very inspiring way of working. They got out of their studios where they used to work very isolated and they got this intense inspiration both from the nature and from the other artists.

To prevent that the art pieces were vandalised we invited the school children to come and help us and it turned out to be a good idea because they became very interested in the project and they made sure that no one damaged anything. Slowly the whole fisher town got more and more interested and at the end of the week at the opening it seemed that the whole town was there to celebrate.

Well, how has this art route developed during the 3 years of heavy storms, snow and rain? That was one of the things we had wanted to examine. We wanted to see how the felt behaved and we wanted to see it slowly join into the nature.

First of all: The children in the fisher town have looked after it very well and when one little thing had disappeared one day, it was very quickly spread in the town that it was missing and one or two days after it was back again.

Next: The little town has become known on the map because of the project and the people in the town shows it proudly to the tourists.

As for how the felt has developed during those three years, then the colours have become more and more pale, but a strange thing is that the felted things have become much harder because of the influence from the weather and some of the surfaces have even become prettier in a way. Nearly leathery.

From the start it had been our idea that the project should continue. Not the same way as the first part, because the whole idea was to use the project as a way of testing how you can see things in another way and do something that might change your point of view. I then had the idea that the next part of the project (which took place in September 2003) should be about how you can work with the fact that we as persons become more and more individualised and you can say that the artists are a very good example of that because that is their very basic point of origin.

From the start it had been our idea that the project should continue. Not the same way as the first part, because the whole idea was to use the project as a way of testing how you can see things in another way and do something that might change your point of view. I then had the idea that the next part of the project (which took place in September 2003) should be about how you can work with the fact that we as persons become more and more individualised and you can say that the artists are a very good example of that because that is their very basic point of origin.

Well, a new group of felt artists was invited to come and stay for a week and work. This time they were told that they should work together with others on one big art piece. They were told that it was an experiment they took part in and that they had to prepare themselves for the fact that many things could happen during the work with the sculpture and that it was a challenge to them.

“Strangely enough” I got very enthusiastic answers back on my invitations. The group consisted of : Heidi Greb from Germany, Dietrich Jacobs from Germany, Martin Sailer from Austria, Anne Johnsen from Norway, Karin Hvorslef fra Norge and me Birgitte Krag Hansen from Denmark.

One of the good things about this experiment was that we new that we would meet difficulties and we could even be prepared for most of them so we were ready to handle them. Our first trouble was that the area we were supposed to use (where the first part took place) suddenly was occupied by big cows with horns and we did not dare to work there, so quickly we had to find another place. A kind of park not far away was chosen even though it did not have the qualities that could be compared with felting in the nature. As it was on a flat area we could not use cliffs or anything to tighten our art piece to and we started to look for something we could use to build it on.

We went to a dumping ground for metal and found a big rusty metal stand. Now we were ready to find the inspiration . Some started to draw their ideas in their notebooks. Others just looked and thought and then we started to discuss the different ideas and in a way we worked them together and the shape of the metal stand (four sides) made us choose the four elements as idea. We were 6 people in the group and we went together two and two and started to felt on each our side. The way we split the group was completely random and I was the only one who knew the other people.

Working in these groups really gave each of us many challenges. We had different ways of felting and which one should be chosen? Some worked very precisely and slowly and some worked very quickly and intuitively, some were able to take advise, learn from them and be glad of the new possibility, but others were very used to work goal oriented with their carefully planned ideas.

It was very strange because every time there were troubles it was like you could step aside and see why it happened, and mostly the problems could be solved, but certainly not all of them.

What did we then do? A solution in one group was that the two participants split up and tried to work separately. I for my part, who give many courses, am so used to be the one who always have the solution, but here I suddenly had the freedom to be the one who also listened and it was such a relief. Well, the strange thing was, that because we knew this was an experiment we had wide limits. We also had to watch the time so we could not discuss for hours.

During the week we got a close relationship and I think we learned much about ourselves and we got a chance to watch our own reactions. I think for all of us it was tough but it was also like a gift, and the things we experienced could not have been experienced in another way.

The sculpture was finished ½ an hour before the opening and also this year the school children had assisted us and been a great help even though two from the groups used time to teach the children.

Why then should you put yourself through an experiment like this? Well I think that most of us try to get out of our isolation and this was one way.