25 May Gone Fishing: Create Felted Sea Creatures with Geri Forkner This Summer!
Geri Forkner is no stranger to the Folk School, having taught felting, weaving, and Little Middle classes for years. It’s easy to take her word, then, when she says that, “the Folk School magic is contagious. Students leave the Folk School with stars in their eyes and smiles on their faces. They can’t wait to get home to keep making with their newly learned skills, show off what they have made, and study the catalog to see what they will take next.”
Geri returns this summer to teach “Gone Fishing: Felt an Underwater World,” from August 6-12. In this class, she will help students nuno felt an underwater adventure complete with fantasy fish, coral reef pods, starfish, jellyfish—and maybe even a nudibranch! Geri’s own underwater-inspired felted creation won first place at the Handweavers Guild of America’s latest convention, and we’re thrilled she’s sharing her award-winning techniques with our students!
Read our interview below to learn more about Geri and her upcoming class. Ready to dive in and start felting your own underwater fairy tale? There are still a few spots available–register today!
JCCFS: Tell us more about your upcoming class “Gone Fishing: Felt an Underwater World.” What specific technique or process will students learn?
GF: We will start class exploring how to make textures inspired by underwater creatures and learning how to shrink the wool for proper strength for larger pieces. From there, we will use simple resists to create coral reef pods, starfish, and nudibranches. We will learn to cut realistic fish shaped resists, how to add fins, tails, protuberances, pop out eyes, and many more. Ideas will flow easily for what to do next.
JCCFS: What can students expect to leave this class with?
GF: Students will leave class able to repeat the processes taught in class. All the creatures created in this class will be arranged into one fantasy display. There will be a few surprises during the week that are not in the description.
The Folk School magic is contagious. Students leave the Folk School with stars in their eyes and smiles on their faces. They can’t wait to get home to keep making with their newly learned skills, show off what they have made, and study the catalog to see what they will take next.
Front view of Geri’s “Shoal Fish” which won first place at the Handweavers Guild of America’s convention
One of Geri’s felted fish
Geri’s felting class showing off their fabulous creations!
Another one of Geri’s felted pieces
JCCFS: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background in your medium? How did you get started?
GF: Felting was a natural next step while exploring weaving, spinning, and dyeing fibers. I started felting in the 1980’s and still haven’t found a bottom to what I can make with wet felting. For years, I concentrated on the magic of Nuno felting for garments. I made vessels and flowers frequently, each time exploring what else I could do. When the pandemic shut everything down, I took every online class I could find. Many more doors were opened for three dimensional shaping using simple flat and complicated multi-part resists.
I have been lucky enough to have recent work on the covers of Handweavers Guild of America’s Shuttle Spindle and Dyepot magazine and the International Feltmakers Association Felt Matters magazine.
JCCFS: What is your favorite aspect or part of the Folk School? What do you most look forward to when coming back to teach on our campus?
GF: Whenever I arrive at the Folk School campus, I feel that I am at my home away from home. The community feel and smiling faces created in class give me energy and inspiration. Students come up with textures and color combinations I’d never think of. Each student in every class I teach makes something different from the same directions. I always give them space to come up with their own solutions or go on a different path. It is a given that teachers learn as much from their students as they teach.
JCCFS: Where do you draw inspiration from in your work?
GF: Inspiration for my work comes from many different places. It frequently comes from a curiosity to explore and perfect a new process. After many years of making, I have a dictionary of techniques to draw from when an idea I want to explore for an exhibit comes into my mind.
Of course, being in the absolutely gorgeous environment around creative people and freed from everyday chores at the Folk School is inspiration in itself. I’m constantly photographing textures and colors on my walks around the campus and wondering how I can translate them into felted works.
JCCFS: What’s one piece you’ve made recently that you’re proud of, and why?
GF: After a surprise first place award for my “Shoal Fish” entry into the Handweavers Guild of America’s Convergence in 2022 (picture up top), I knew a fish themed project should be my next class offering. I can’t wait to pass on all the fun and unique textures and shapes of underwater creatures and the extra explorations I will get to have preparing for the class.
JCCFS: What tips would you give an aspiring craftsperson?
TS: Don’t wait until you are “ready” or have the perfect studio, just keep making. Take classes, find local fabric guilds and connect with folks that “speak your language.”
JCCFS: Where can folks find you if they want to stay up to date on your work?
Geri’s work on the cover of the Spring 2023 issue of Shuttle, Spindle, & Dyepot Magazine
Another one of Geri’s felted fish
Upcoming Class with Geri
Gone Fishing: Felt an Underwater World
August 6– 12, 2023
Nuno felt an underwater adventure complete with fantasy fish, coral reef pods, starfish, jellyfish—and maybe even a nudibranch! Look up Ernst Haeckel drawings from the 1800s and get inspired. This 3-D wet felting adventure uses resists, both simple and complex. Form your fish out of merino of many colors, and experiment with other breeds of sheep’s wool and fabrics to get desired body and textures. All levels welcome; final projects may vary with experience level.
About Geri Forkner
Geri Forkner creates woven and felted works of art from her studio in Tennessee. She studied weaving and fiber arts at Georgia State University, is a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, and is an internationally known artist and teacher to both children and adults. She cherishes the old traditions and skills while using fibers in innovative ways. Her creativity is contagious, and her students are always inspired to think outside the box.