I had several ideas for how I could turn a giant piece of felt into a structure. My first idea was to felt it over a mold the size I wanted the structure to be. My second idea was to dig a hole the size I wanted the structure to be and felt the whole thing in the hole, an inverted mold. Both of these ideas seemed overly complicated by the time I actually got to the production stage.
My third idea was to cut a slit halfway into the felt and roll it up like a giant cone. I was hoping the felt would be stiff enough to stand on its own, but it was too floppy. Doubled over it could stand, but one layer wasn’t stiff enough. I decided it made sense to go the way of my Mongolian cousins and give it a simple wood and bark frame.
I located the structure on the edge of the woods alongside a pasture. Starting with a center post, I placed some bark on the top of the branch to keep it from puncturing the wool.
I then found three branches I could use as cross bars or “ribs”. One of these went across the back of the shelter, the others across the front, creating support for the doorway. My first attempts at placing the felt were pretty lopsided and wobbly, but I found that doubling the felt over from the front to the center pole, so that there were two layers in that area, made the shelter much sturdier.
What does this tell me about what I would have to do to make a freestanding felt structure? That it would have to be even larger so that the felt could be doubled over, or with thicker felt. That said, if you did happen to be in the woods with a pile of wool and needed shelter, wool has such great water-resistant and insulative properties that just sleeping curled up in a pile of it would probably do you a lot of good in a pinch.
Being inside felt nice and cozy, especially lying down. Unlike the other two structures, lying down felt like the thing to do in this one. Maybe just because the cieling was lower, or maybe because it felt more like a pillow-and-blanket fort than the others. It felt kind of like being curled up in a giant sweater. Inside was noticeably warmer than outside, pretty much immediately. The light shown through the wool in a stunning way.
This was the first structure I was working on and encountered other people. A few runners and bicyclists and walkers passed by on the farm road. Only about 5 of them saw me in the trees. I heard one bicyclist say to another “You never know what you’ll see in the woods around here!” Two girls stopped and asked what I was doing, one of them took a picture for me. One other girl said she was heading to the farm because she’d never seen a sheep! I also had a close encounter with a redtail hawk. Beautiful.
I stayed out until it began to get dark. Around that time I started hearing dogs in the woods, and the gunshots. I tried to tell myself it must be sound carrying from the firing range, and that no one would hunt on the border of a farm, but part of me began to wonder if some weird animal was in season in the spring. Eventually I decided better safe than sorry and broke camp.
Those of you who make it to my final show will get to meet the giant felt! I decided not to leave it in the woods so that I could have it to show people.