Lucy Lean

Exhibition Update



We opened our Z Twist exhibition at the Pink Cabbage Gallery in Stroud on Saturday 31st May. It was a great relief to finally see the work in situ’ and the long wall I used, created exactly the right effect. It was amazing to see how each of us had used a dominant grey  and even though our work was very different, the greys created a strong connection between us, which really seemed to pull the whole exhibition together.




Opening day

Opening day


'Revolutions 1 & 2'

‘Revolutions 1 & 2’



The following is from my information panel at the exhibition:

” Z Twist has meant a Stroud residency for Lucy, an area and town previously unknown to her and therefore an exciting opportunity for a new voyage of discovery. She quickly ascertained Stroud’s rich woollen heritage and began experimenting with methods of felting starting with locally sourced fleeces. Her industry partner WSP, who manufacture high quality billiard table and tennis ball cloth, have been a key influence in her work for Z Twist. Through guided visits to their mills at Cam and Stroud and supplying the materials for the project, Lucy says “their support has been brilliant”. As a way of expressing her merging ideas she has created an experimental group of objects related to a theme based around the idea of cogs, wheels, war and industry. The theme has been developed through making observations, collecting information about the woollen industry in Stroud and Somerset, and investigation into the processes and methods of felting. The forms she has created are characteristically organic and careful use has been of the strong colours from her industry partner.”

'Archive 1 &2'

‘Archive 1 &2’




Stroud Blog Update 10

I have been considering how to display my clay pieces which have held together remarkably well. It would be great to use the red cloth because of its significance to Stroud’s cloth industry and its strong military connection, so I have been experimenting with a few ideas.

IMG_7002Stitching through the holes put me in mind of stitching on buttons although it was also necessary to secure the edges due to the weight of the clay. I thought about the insignia stitched in place on military uniforms and the fact that the clay, a grey monotone, is a visual opposite to the decorative appearance of these motifs. Perhaps an insignia of clay could be seen as more appropriate as we commemorate the centenary of World War 1 and remember the mud and horror of the trenches.



To begin with I cut out accurate squares of fabric 15cm x 15cm and played around with various formations. The edges were too neat but not neat enough. I thought the straight edges of the cloth square, juxtaposed with the random clay shapes would work best but felt I should test this thought by experimenting with torn fabric pieces. I wondered if a torn edge would suggest a remnant from a garment but I didn’t like the visual effect the ragged edges of the cloth had on the clay. It seemed to lessen and diminish the visual impact of both materials.

Recalling historical fields of  drying, red cloth stretched onto tenterhooks, I thought about using a similar method to display the clay and cloth sample pieces. This worked on individual boards but exhibiting these next to my other work, which is also made up of individual pieces, I had a feeling it would all look too bitty.

The notion of stretched red cloth seemed like a good avenue to follow and using a large frame I cut out and stretched a piece of fabric to fit.



This was more successful. Nothing detracted from the clay carvings and the colours worked beautifully together. However I still have decisions to make and continue to try out ideas. I have been keen to use the luggage labels that we saw used  for archiving at the industry partners and heritage centre, but I am not happy yet with the example below and will try to find a better solution.



Stroud Blog update 9



I decided that I wanted to try some new experiments and have had a couple of ideas on my mind. The first involved using some of the finished coloured cloths from WSP. The use of these fabrics has been tricky due to the nature of their strong colours. How to manage the contrast next to the muted natural tones of the other  work, has been the question? However for this experiment I decided to ignore the colours and consider instead the qualities of the cloth and how I could manipulate it. Also I thought I would like to experiment a bit more with the fullers earth clay and maybe this would be an opportunity to combine the materials in a different way.



I began by creating a hand stitched sample using billiard table and tennis ball cloth, then pressed it into wet clay. I felt the result was interesting enough to pursue and continued to make a larger scale version.

It was a lengthy process that included machine stitching strips of green onto yellow cloth length ways and then cutting short horizontal strips. These were hand stitched together to form a long length that was finally wound into a spiral and hand stitched together, top and bottom to secure and prevent it from unraveling.

Spiral after being pressed into clay

Spiral after being pressed into clay and modified

I then pressed the whole spiral into a bed of muddy clay. To get an interesting effect was a difficult task. The spiral became clogged as I had made the clay too thick and much of the detail was lost. However with the help of a brush and knife I managed regain some detail and the results were decidedly fossil-like. The pattern left in the tray was  interesting too.




I tried printing the spiral onto yellow cloth but this was unsuccessful. In the end I decided to wash off the clay completely and am now waiting for it to dry before deciding what to do next.


Hard clay pieces found in bags of Fullers Earth

Hard clay pieces found in bags of Fullers Earth

I have found some hard clay pieces within the wet clay and have wanted to use them in some way. It seems they are  compact layers and I wondered how they would respond to carving.

Worked clay pieces

Worked clay pieces


I really like these little carvings, they reminiscent of unearthed primitive artefacts. Unfortunately as they dry out they are showing signs of cracking, so I don’t yet know if they will survive for long.

Idea using labels

Idea using labels

Stroud Blog Update 8

Old mill photos lodgemore.003

From, ‘Song to the Men of England’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley 1839.


The seed ye sow, another reaps;

The wealth ye find, another keeps;

The robes ye weave, another wears;

The arms ye forge, another bears.

Sow seed – but let no tyrant reap:

Find wealth – let no imposter heap:

Weave robes let not the idle wear:

Forge arms – in your defence to bear.

Workers, labourers, cloth and arms are all drawn together in the concepts behind my work. Individual ‘cogs’ reference individuals within a whole, some, highly coloured, could suggest higher equality. As well as its historical use in woollen production and its presence on the battle field, the clay may serve as a reminder of our dependence on the soil.

This week I have been experimenting with other ways to cover the brown metal ‘cogs’ and attempting to adapt some failed experiments.

I am not as pleased with the metal cog sculptures. It may be because I am dealing with straight, hard lines rather than organic curves. They seem more contrived and unnatural and have certainly caused me more problems. However they do provide a contrast which may contribute interest in the final installation of the work.

Above centre is an experiment that had not worked as an object within the group due to the wrapped scorched cloth I had used.  I have now painted the cloth with clay and the ‘cog’ is threaded giving a spiders web effect. The white thread seems to work quite well against the metal and is a delicate contrast to the solid colours.

The group of ‘cogs’ are slowly growing and becoming evermore varied. How do I know when to stop?  That is a difficult question but I’m not there yet. I think I will  build on some of the methods that have been most successful and develop some smaller pieces. As I make more sculptures I will have to consider  the  proportion of yellow ‘cogs’ and increase these as necessary. At the moment I feel I may need one or two very small pieces to add to the mix.


Stroud Blog Update 7



My work seems to be gathering its own momentum at the moment and although I am making decisions and physically creating the objects through my own labour, I don’t really feel in control. It is an odd but strangely familiar feeling and one common to many artists I’m sure.

I am still experimenting with each object I make. The piece below is one I made several weeks ago but couldn’t decide what to do with it. It is a different shape and larger than all the other sculptures therefore the yellow was too much. I decided to give it a similar treatment to the other yellow pieces and hide much of the surface by painting with fullers earth. If it went wrong it wouldn’t matter because I couldn’t use it as it was. There is something quite subversive and enjoyable about painting such a brightly finished fabric with mud.


The contrast between the yellow and the clay is striking. I really like the finished pattern and it sits much better with the other sculptures now.



For this piece I used a quilting technique so that the white sections are raised above the clay lines. It was time consuming but I think it has worked well. I make the felt fabric in round shapes and I have been keen not to cut a regular circle and to keep the shape as natural as possible. It has been fun inventing solutions for the edges that conveys a suggestion of cog teeth.



I have discovered the sculptural possibilities of needle felting onto fabric and have used a couple of my original, soft sculptured cogs made with raw billiard table cloth, as a base. Using my  washed fleece fibres, I needle felted directly onto these bases with exciting results. The softly stuffed cog shapes became firmer, more solid and I found that I could change the shape of the curves by increasing the action of the needles.  I am delighted with these two pieces of work and am keen to do more.




I have also been busy with my make-shift forge again this week drilling and fixing metal strips and turning them into more hairy cogs.

Stroud Blog Update 6

Having cut my metal strips to size I needed to drill holes in order to fix them together. This task was not easy as the metal appears to be sprung steel. Apparently exposing it to a very high temperature i.e. a blow torch would help to change its composition and make it easier to drill.

Using a blow torch to heat the metal strips.

Using a blow torch to heat the metal strips.

It worked, but I have to admit to being a bit scared and tentative with the flame to begin with and initially the process was very slow.  Gradually I got braver and more efficient, learning how much heat to apply to make drilling easier.

These are a few experiments using the metal strips as a base for the cogs. The ones that work best for me are where I have used materials that  contrast most with the metal. For example, top centre, the thread is web-like and looks lacy. Bottom, the frayed, fabric strips have been woven around the metal creating a soft cushion. I don’t like the brown colour of the metal showing and did start to burn it off with the blow torch but this took too long. On reflection I am now  considering methods of concealing it instead.

I have had a  productive week and made some real progress regarding decision making.

The work had begun to look  dull and I knew as soon as I saw it all together that something needed  changing.


After removing the cogs with burnt brown edges and the metal cog with burnt wrapped fabric I threw  two circles of tennis ball cloth into the mix. It instantly lifted whole group of sculptures.  I love the combination of the acid yellow and the neutral greys, it brings life, energy and establishes a contemporary feel to the work. So far I have made two yellow cog sculptures and will make careful decisions about the final quantity as I think accents of colour will work best.


I am also reconsidering my idea for the final installation of the work because we have less time to hang than we thought. Having reflected on and discussed ideas at a creative review yesterday I think the sculptures will be wall hung rather than suspended. This will definitely be less problematic and may create a better result in the long run.

Making and painting the soft cog sculptures is a slow process. I like to use simple hand stitching wherever possible because I find it meditative and feel it conveys a natural authenticity to the work. Each ‘cog’ is individually designed and painted by using a paper pattern as a mask.


Stroud Blog Update 5

My work this week has centred around creating a soft sculptured ball pattern and getting my metal bands cut to size. I have also continued to work on my felt cog objects which are beginning to take on a life of their own.

Ball Pattern see diagram below

Draw 2x circles the same size, 2nd circle should be 2/3 of its diameter away from 1st.

Join both circles edge to edge then narrow neck part of diagram by 1/4 diameter of circle top and bottom. Now ignore outer lines as they are for reference only.

Using inner lines as a guide to make final template round the inner corners.

Draw a dotted line around the outside of your shape allowing 1/4″ seam allowance = cutting line


The idea for this piece of work emerged as I contemplated  and compared the devastation and chaos war causes with the order and uniformity of war grave cemeteries. The beautifully crafted, pre-dyed white billiard cloth has given me the opportunity to express this notion while its shape is a suggestion of its original intended industrial use.  While hand sewing the final gap used for stuffing, thoughts of sewing up a body floated into my head and I decided that rather than trying to hide the stitching I would use it as part of the narrative. I wanted to make three sculptures and strangely I have just enough material for three.   I felt it was important to make this work as near life-size as possible and researched the headstones dimensions on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. Obviously the dimensions aren’t exact due to the shape and materials used.  I rather like the applied decorated felt piece but haven’t made any firm decisions about this yet. It echoes carved inscriptions on white headstones and the embossed embroidery suggests a similar method used for insignia on military uniforms.

Lucy, workshop technician at Somerset College, had agreed to try to help me cut my waste metal bands, and kindly arranged a parking spot for me for ease of transport.  The machine I had to use for cutting was noisy but great fun. After inserting the metal strip I had to jump on the foot bar to exert enough pressure to cut the metal. It was a good workout! Drilling was a little more difficult. Lucy had managed to drill a hole but I did not. It seemed that I would need more strength than I had to do the job. I have been advised that if I heat the metal with a blow torch enough to break down the steel I will find drilling much easier. So I have bought a blow torch and am looking forward to having a go at this with gloves and a bucket of water at the ready.

I am really pleased that the felt cog sculptures are developing into such organic forms. The wet painted clay seems to cling to the fibres and when dry remains fairly flexible and doesn’t crack. Surprisingly I am able to stitch and stuff the fabric once the clay is dry without any detrimental effect to the painted surface.

Stroud Blog update 4

At the end of last week I arranged with Estelle and Bethan a second visit to the Heritage Centre to look at anything they had  relating to the cultivation of teasels in Somerset. Teasels were grown specifically for the woollen industry and Somerset was, historically, a major producer. The collection was small but intriguingly personal.

Cultivated teasels.

Cultivated teasels.

Interestingly the seed heads were longer than any I had seen in the wild and more uniform in size. The difference I guess is cultivation, and longer seed heads would be better fit for purpose.

Teasel knives

Teasel knives

The little knives would fit in the palm of a hand and were for cutting the stems.

Protective glove for use when cutting teasels.

Protective glove for use when cutting teasels.

One extremely battered and well used leather glove, the only evidence of protection against the spiky teasels.

Left a dibber for planting.      Right a teasel splitter.

Left a dibber for planting. Right a teasel splitter.

This dibber and splitter were lovely, rustic, hand made tools. It made me think about how people would have used what was available and immediately to hand. I imagine  someone  found a suitable branch, cut it down and then went to the blacksmith for the metal work. A far cry from a trip to Wicks or B&Q!

I couldn’t wait to start playing and experimenting with all the materials and I have been busy trying out ideas. I am attempting to find some interesting formula for creating a variety of cog-like objects. I like the idea of softly stuffed fabric shapes representing hard metal machinery. It also links the notion of sand bags used in the trenches and the waste sacks at WSP. In fact the filling is the waste! I am very keen to use my fullers earth clay and have found that drying it out before breaking it up and sieving gives me a reasonably good powdery substance. This that can then  be mixed with water and used as paint or sprinkled and rubbed into the fabric. The dark wet clay dries to a interesting blue grey that looks beautiful on the felt.

Stroud blog update 3

This week I have been continuing to card wool and and make felt discs whilst waiting to collect the samples from WSP.It’s amazing how the felted wool varies.
The fibre from the Dartmoor fleece is long with beautiful curly white locks which when felted, creates a texture of wiry swirls.
The Shetland fibre’s are shorter, softer and springy creating a much closer, uneven texture when felted. The colour of the fibres vary from light grey to dark brown which makes an interesting contrast between the white Llyen and Dartmoor.

Dartmoor locks

Dartmoor locks

Felted Dartmoor

Felted Dartmoor

Felted Shetland

Felted Shetland

I have also been considering how best to present the final work for exhibition. I saw the piece of work below by Chinese American artist Beili-Liu which impressed me by it’s simplicity and stunning visual effect. The little red coil discs are probably only about 6cm in diameter. They are pierced and suspended with a needle of red thread which continues under the coil and onto the floor creating a thread drawing.

It is vital that the way I show my cog pieces imparts a sense of meaning integral to the narrative of the work. I think being able to view them them all at the height of a flower or teasel would be a really interesting solution.


I am thrilled to bits with the car full of samples I have just collected  from WSP. They have been so generous and I can’t wait to start trying things out. Apart from the beautifully finished red, green and white billiard and yellow tennis cloth,  I also have masses of unmilled white woollen cloth that will blend well with my made felt pieces. The waste metal bands photographed below I hope to use, possibly as supports for larger fabric pieces, also as a contrasting construction material. Oh, and I also have three big black bags of waste fibres for stuffing………Thank you WSP!

Meters of milled and unmilled fabric from WSP.

Meters of milled and unmilled fabric from WSP.


Waste metal bands that wrap wool bales

Stroud Blog Update 2

Washing drying and carding wool is a slow process but to see the bags of clean wool gradually accumulate is deeply satisfying. I didn’t even have to wear rubber gloves for washing because there is something natural about the feel of the wool in the soapy water that is different and rather comforting.

Carding has been a challenge. Unfortunately I have bought a pair of flat carding paddles and I think they should have been curved to make the task more efficient. Still I have persevered with the help of Utube tutorials and the results are improving.

Carding the Llyen fleece.

Carding the Llyen fleece.

The three fleeces have very different characters, particularly the Dartmoor with it’s long, hair-like locks.


Washing the long haired Dartmoor

I am now ready to really begin  making and to allow all ideas about my research to gradually develop along with this process.  It will be interesting to discover which aspects of my investigations when combined with practical applications will drive the work forward. Although I have made some preliminary decisions and created some experimental work I know it’s not until the real making process begins that a clearer path will emerge.

As I am a fairly inexperienced felt maker I am referring to online tutorials and text books for instruction so it is a bit of a journey of discovery. I  have begun by making some round felt experimental pieces, examples below:


I used Llyen wool for the white flat felt and Shetland locks for the edges and centre.

Felted Llyen decorated with Datmoor locks, hand embroidery

Felted Llyen decorated with Datmoor locks, hand embroidery


Shetland felt with Dartmoor locks

I am exploring the idea of using shapes that suggest cogs or wheels and was keen to keep a visually organic form. However these pieces are more suggestive of primitive cultures such as Celtic, Native American or Norse, not industry or war. (Possibly have a primitive shield-like appearance.) The organic elements will be present in the materials and the methods therefore does  it need to be visually present in the form? I will need to consider this point carefully when dealing with the vibrantly coloured cloth from WSP. The contrast of colours will be extreme but I am hoping to use this element in a way that will add another dimension to the work.  I am thinking; khaki uniforms/ coloured stripes, milled white un-dyed fabric/vibrant when dyed, reality of war/highly coloured embroidered greeting cards soldiers sent to loved ones.


Playing with felt cog shapes

Experimenting with thicknesses I found the Dartmoor produces a good thick, solid shape without using too much fleece.  I have decided to continue to create circular shapes in a variety of sizes using all three fleeces for now. Once made they can be worked on in different ways with a variety of materials.

I had a positive response from WSP regarding my wish list so am eagerly waiting to hear about a possible collection date.