Member Reflections :: Ellen Bakker and Fiona Duthie :: Colour Collaborations Workshop (2020)

Updated: Nov 9, 2021


Recently felt :: feutre canada's former president, Fiona Duthie, teamed up with fibre artist and colour master, Ellen Bakker, to host Colour Collaborations in early March 2020, a workshop in beautiful Salt Spring Island.


The workshop featured three days of silk painting with Ellen in which participants explored silk painting using brushes, templates, stamps, and other tools. They also had the opportunity to work with transparent layers, learning about letting ink flow and making it stop.


Afterwards participants used these fabrics to create a one-of-a-kind garment with Fiona. This part of the program was devoted to exploring aesthetic composition and seamless garment design. Time was also spent on creating  custom resists for shaping and fit. Participants were free to make either a dress, vest, tunic, skirt or short jacket.


Lucky for felt :: feutre canada members Rhonda Lamb, our Secretary, and Sandra Barrett, our membership coordinator, were kind enough to share their experience at the workshop with us. It’s pretty clear from the photos it was a fabulous experience.


About the instructors

Ellen Bakker

Creativity has been the keyword in the life of Ellen Bakker from an early age. Born in 1960, she took her first steps in her mother’s sewing and teaching studio. She was always busy with all sorts of leftover-fabrics and craft materials. After her studies at the art academy, Ellen started to work as an independent graphic designer. Her current textile designs are an accumulation of her many years of experience in graphic design and her passion for textile art. The designs are characterised by a combination of graphical patterns, transparency and extraordinary colour schemes. Experimenting with colours, shapes, materials, and techniques results in fabrics with unprecedented possibilities. The wealth of colours and shapes that surround her every day are a virtually inexhaustible source of inspiration for Ellen to create new designs.


Fiona Duthie:

Fiona Duthie is a feltmaker recognized for her dynamic surface design. She loves storytelling, both in words and textiles, and starts a new piece thinking first of what story she wants to tell, and then creates tactile metaphors in form, fibre, and surface additions to best communicate that narrative.


Fiona creates sculpture for the body, art objects and outdoor felt installations. Her work uses geological surfaces built up through fabric manipulation, stratified textiles, and mapping imagery to explore biography and individual perspective. Lines of topography, tracks, trails, and traces. Each piece is created as a seamless three-dimensional form through traditional feltmaking. The only sewing is done at the end, completing the story through surface embellishment. The pieces are mostly dyed using natural plant dyes, connecting to sense of place.


Fiona’s work has been published in many international textile arts publications and she has exhibited her work in both public and private galleries in Canada, the US, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. Felting since 1996, Fiona Duthie has a full-time studio practice based on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.

Fiona and Ellen in the showroom


Colour collaborations workshop with Ellen Bakker and Fiona Duthie


Personal reflections from Sandra Barrett


“It was the first time I’d been to Salt Spring Island and I arrived with my daughter Florence, who was taking the workshops in reverse order. We’d never been to a felting or silk-painting class together before and thoroughly enjoyed Fiona and Ellen’s introduction to colour talk the evening before classes started. It was also a treat to see the Colour Collaborations exhibition, beautifully mounted on the stage in Mahon Hall, Ganges – one of the locations of the first felt :: feutre canada Symposium in 2013.


I spent the first three days with Ellen Bakker, painting 8 metres of silk as well as a 55 x 55 cm sample and 90 x 90 cm rolled hem scarf.

Rolled hem silk scarf attached to screen. After painting but before being steamed.


It was a lot of yardage to get through, but I had a plan to make a nuno-felted tunic so kept almost 6 metres in one colour palette. I love the 2 metre panel I painted in a completely different style and the vibrancy as it came out of the steamer.

The following three days were a blur of activity with Fiona Duthie. By the end of Day 1 we’d all made slopers of our body shapes, which became a resist on Day 2, layout day. Fiona guided me to stretch out of my comfort zone and add patches of bright wool to enhance the colours of the painted silk, using complementary colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel. We’d been told about this before the class started, so I was prepared — bringing a selection of extra roving.


Day 3 was felting day, but laying out the silk on both sides of the garment took me longer than expected and by the end of the class I still hadn’t finished felting. Luckily, Fiona secured the use of Mahon Hall for an additional half day. Thankfully, the bonus of extra time for those of us who could stay on allowed me to complete the project.


I’ve taken three in-person classes with Fiona before, making a dress with a long box pleat in three days, a capelet with narrative metaphors in two, and inking a skirt with more elaborate multiple pleats and pockets on the fourth day…so there was no reason to think I couldn’t finish this simple tunic style in the time available. However, the combination of extra design time required, multiple colours of wool, and three completely different silk panels to layout, plus having to leave at 4:30 promptly each day, made it more difficult than anticipated. Anyway, I’m thrilled with the result!”


Personal reflections from Rhonda Lamb

As Sandra mentioned, Salt Spring Island was a magical, inspirational location for this incredible six-day collaborative workshop. Ellen Bakker (the Netherlands), who was an instructor at the felt :: feutre canada 2018 Symposium in Nova Scotia had been working with Fiona Duthie on a “Color Collaboration” online exhibition with corresponding workshops.


Twenty four individuals participated in either the six-day workshop (resulting in a finished garment utilizing painted silks) or through two three-day workshops focusing on creating raised surfaces in felt (Fiona) and painting silk (Ellen). Both classes were able to meet at Mahon Hall each evening to continue working on pieces, share experiences/learnings with other participants, and view the exhibit which was installed there for the week.


I also participated in the six-day workshop, spending the first three days with Ellen exploring a variety of techniques to develop depth and textures through the exploration of colour theory, mark-making, stencilling, stamping, and how to control the movement of inks on silks. The variety of silk produced was stunning; each participant shared ideas of how they achieved various results and everyone investigated a range of possibilities.


As with dyeing, the true results appeared after the pieces were steamed with intense, gorgeous colours emerging from the rolled pieces to reveal the final results.


The second segment was the exploration of how to incorporate our painted silks into one of a variety of garments. This included developing a strong, draping felt that would still allow the colours/designs of the silks to emerge. Again, consideration to the impact of roving choices under the painted silks allowed for pieces of silk and felt to merge into stunning texture and depth; the incorporation of different colours of roving under sections of painted silk created subtle transitions within each section.


Fiona also provided a range of design elements to consider including a choice of combining a variety of collars, godets, layers, pockets, and so on. Participants had the option of how complex they wanted their layout to be; I naturally had to try a layered vest with double collar.


The collaborative spirit again continued as we focussed on our pieces during the three days, with participants sharing supplies and providing ideas to each other. Each piece produced is beautiful and everyone thrilled with the end results. Personally, I am very glad I challenged myself, learning much about design considerations, technical aspects of creating a complex piece and really considering colour theory throughout the silk painting into the felting process.


It was a wonderful workshop, surrounded by a terrific group of felters and led by two amazing instructors. We all created beautiful pieces that will always remind us of the special time there.

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