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What does felt have to do with it? Craft workshop explores solutions for climate change

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Small pieces of colorful fabric helped illustrate how climate change is affecting our world during a recent “felting phenology” exercise hosted by Creative PEI.

The Charlottetown workshop was intended as an introduction to phenology, the study of biological life cycles and their relationship to weather and climate. Dandelions, for example, sprout in people's gardens every year, but the exact timing of their appearance can vary each year depending on the weather.

“Phenology shows us that there are not just four seasons,” says Alexis Bulman, program coordinator of Creative PEI's Climate Artists In Residence program. “Each season is made up of hundreds or thousands of miniature seasons, and I think that allows you to perceive the world in different ways.”

In an interview with Mitch Cormier of CBC's Island Morning, sHe explained how the first of two planned felting workshops led to conversations about a more climate-resilient Charlottetown.

Island Morning7:29Contributing to climate change with fabric art

In a felting workshop, participants are asked to visualise Charlottetown's climate-resilient future. We speak to Alexis Bulman and Mark Sandiford from Creative PEI

“If someone in the workshop were to felt a bat, there would be a post-it activity towards the end of the workshop where we would sort of work out or extrapolate what that bat might symbolize as a group,” she said.

“It could mean that we want to increase the bat population in Charlottetown. OK, so what actions does the city need to take to make that happen?”

A large orange background with an umbrella, flowers and a garden box.
One of the larger pieces constructed by a participant in the workshop. (Alexis Bulman/Creative PEI)

Start a conversation

Bulman said felt collages represent an accessible aesthetic for people because you don't have to be an “artist with a capital A” to create something recognizable with shapes cut out of fabric.

“As an artist, I love workshops where everyone can gather around a table with very tactile materials,” she said.

Two people look at a selection of felt sheets in different colors.
Participants created their pieces using provided materials, which then led to conversations about how climate change affects specific parts of the natural world around us. (Becca Griffin/Creative PEI)

Mark Sandiford is Managing Director of Creative PEI

“When you get into a conversation, it’s easy to get into a well-trodden path; you just repeat things you’ve heard before,” he said Island Morning. “On the other hand, when you work with your hands and a blank piece of felt, your imagination is freed and you can come up with ideas that you would not have thought of otherwise.”

He said the sticky note exercise enabled the project to collect data that could lead to policy recommendations.

Bulman said she hopes learning phenology will change the way people look at nature.

“You no longer just walk through a city or countryside. You perceive and observe the world around you,” she said.

Creative PEI is hosting its second felting session on June 6 at the Charlottetown Library Learning Centre. Registration is via Eventbrite.