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Frightening Fruit With Ceramic Bowl

JoAnna Pillsbury felts a piece of whimsical fruit and then glazes a ceramic fruit bowl.

Two years ago JoAnna Pillsbury, a former scuba instructor and avid sailor, saw an ad on television for a start-up needle felting kit. Inspired to try it out she ordered one and in less than a year became a sought after instructor of this very medium. She also teaches painted ceramics, which along with her needle-felted characters have become very popular among her friends and colleagues. She felts a frightening fruit piece and then paints and glazes a fruit bowl.

Fruit Materials:

8" x 11" x 2" foam pad
36-, 38- and 40-gauge felting needles
3" 2x2x2x2 38-gauge felting needle*
wool bat
fruit colored wool roving
green roving for the leaf and stem
sharp material scissors
small bits of roving:
-eye color roving
-black roving for filling in the mouth and eye
-white roving for eye and teeth
wooden skewer or cocktail straw
embroidery thread
3" to 5" doll needle
multi-needle tool - optional
*3" 2x2x2x2 38-gauge felting needle means that there are 4 sides to the needle with 2 barbs per side.

Bowl Materials:

bisque bowl
#2 pencil
various sizes of round brushes
liner brush
Mayco Stroke glazes (glazes that fire to cone 06)
Mayco C-109 clear coating glaze
drill with an attached glaze paddle (for mixing the clear coat)
Skutt programmable kiln
stilts for the kiln
sanding sponge
glass grinder with bit
safety glasses

Frightening Fruit


1. To form the core, stuff two good handfuls of wool bat or roving into the end of a nylon stocking. Pack the wool in and tie off the end so you have a wool ball inside. Tip: The more tightly you make the ball the less needling you will need to do later. Also, the larger the balls the bigger the head as the roving or wool bat will shrink. Continue forming wool balls throughout the nylon stocking until you have several balls tied in a row.

Figure C

Place the string of balls into the washing machine and wash at a high temperature. Do not add detergent your machine will have residual detergent in it already. Dry the balls on high heat in the dryer. The point is to shrink the balls to produce firm balls. Peel the nylon off the balls. You now have a core to create your whimsical fruit.

Figure D

2. Roll and tuck a 1" x 4" piece of roving wool into a small ball to form the nose. Secure the ball as you roll with a needle by simply poking straight in and out. Leave at least an inch "tail" on the ball. Position the nose in the center of the head making sure to leave room above the nose for the eyes and below for the lips. Tack down the ends and the bottom of the nose with a needle. Then tack the loose tail into the nose bridge.

3. Form the upper lip with a piece of 2-1/2" x 1-1/2" wool on the mat. Lay another piece on top of this making sure the fibers go in the same direction (up and down). Needle felt a line going from left to right all the way across this piece. Fold the piece in half. Needle felt about 1/4 inch right at the fold. Pick up anything you felt on to the foam occasionally or it will permanently felt into the foam. Spilt the piece down the center. Place the spit piece so each of the two sides goes around the nose, one on the left and the other side on the right. Tack down the sides but not the corners.

Figure E

4. Form the bottom lips (just as above) but match the edges of the lips. If you want a pouter lip, roll a bit wool (roving) on the skewer then attach.

Figure F

5. Locate the eye sockets by placing your fingers on either side of the nose and push. Punch the 36-gauge needle into the eye sockets, making them deep and round. Choose a contrasting color for the eyes and fill in the holes with the 40-gauge needle. Add a small ball of black on top of this and a smaller bit of white to the right of the black. Tip: The white provides a twinkle effect.

6. Place a wisp of black wool inside the mouth. Tack into the mouth making sure to curve the black into a smile at either side of the lip.

Figure G

7. Needle felt a wisp of white into a small rectangle on the foam. Needle felt the center to form a line. Place the center where the center of the front teeth will be positioned. Needle felt the teeth into place making sure to keep the definition of the center.

Figure H

8. Roll up a 3" x 2" piece of fruit skin wool to from the cheeks. For fat cheeks use more wool. Lay the wool on the foam and roll tightly leaving a small tail. It will look like a cocoon. Bend this slightly so it forms a C shape and place it below the left eye. Curve it around under the lip. Tack at the chin and below the eye. Tack the back side of the cheek and lightly tack around the edge of the lip. Repeat on the other side.

9. Add a chin by rolling up a 3" x 1" piece of skin colored wool. Needle felt the ends just under the bottom lip.

10. If there are any portions that are not filled in with color add small pieces at a time to fill in. Make sure there is no underlying core color showing through.

Figure I

11. Roll up a 4" x 2" piece of wool for the stem in either brown or green, onto a wooden skewer (cocktail straw), then slide it off. Needle felt the ends inside themselves and all around until a stem shape is formed. If it is too long, cut it to the desired shape with sharp scissors. Form a hole in the top of the fruit where the stem will be inserted. Carefully needle felt the stem into the hole.

Figure J

12. Form a leaf by placing two or three layers of 3" x 3" green roving on the foam pad and poke it using the multi tool until you have a small piece of felt. Tuck in the edges until it forms a leaf shape. Attach at the stem.

13. Sew a piece of embroidery thread to the fruit to use as a hanger. Tie off the ends.

Ceramic Bowl

1. Wipe the bisque bowl with a clean damp sponge.

2. Lightly sketch the design on the inside and outside of the bowl using a #2 pencil .

3. Using a glazed tile as a palette, place a small amount of glaze on the tile.

4. Starting with the inside of the bowl, paint inside the lines similar to coloring in a coloring book. Add darker colors on top of the lighter ones for more interest and blend the colors. Paint the outside of the bowl.

5. Add a small amount of water to the brush and pull it through the back glaze to make it the consistency of half and half. Outline the fruit using black glaze.

6. Stir the clear glaze using a drill with a glaze or paint mixer attachment.

Figure M

7. Carefully dip half of the bowl into the glaze. Allow the bowl to drip until the excess glaze is gone.

8. Allow the bowl to dry on stilts until dampness is eliminated. Repeat steps 7 and 8 for the other side.

9. Once the bowl is completely dry, finger sand the seam and use a sanding sponge to make sure all drip marks are eliminated.

10. Place in the kiln on metal stilts making sure that nothing is touching the bowl.

11. Set the kiln to Cone 06 on medium speed with a hold of 15 minutes. Let the kiln cook and cool. This will take about 24 hours.

12. Once the kiln is below 130 degrees open the lid and remove the bowl.

13. Put on safety glasses and grind the stilt points off the bottom.


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