Lampeter on a Wing & a Prayer

This month we meet Sue Powell showing us her Wet Felt Techniques & we take a Snapshot of her local Market Town of Lampeter.

On a Wing and a Prayer - Sue Powell

Lampeter : 
Motoring in from Carmarthen direction you will enter the Town by crossing the bridge over the river at Pont Steffan.  You have also just found the answer to that Trivia question; "What is the longest river solely in Wales?" It is the 75 mile long River Teifi. A great salmon river which has wound its way past Strata Florida on its way to the sea at Aberteifi. (Cardigan) I would recommend parking at the Co-op by the bridge, top up on supplies & then wander into the town.

The Teifi floods the fields across the road from the car park after heavy rain & last year after a particularly wet period it put the car park & the Co-op under water. 
The old railway bridge over the river still stands but the last train to Aberystwyth from Carmarthen via Tregaron & Lampeter ran during Beatlemania.

The Teifi floods the Co-op - Dawn Flude

Rather than walking up the hill into the town, walk around the side of the Co-op & up the side road for 100 yards & follow the stream into the town through the University Grounds. (Can be muddy) That same side road is the route out to our featured Artists house. It passes Nant Felin Pottery on-route so an opportunity to drive a couple of miles out to their gift shop.
We like Lampeter. Like all town centres, it struggles to maintain trade but has managed to keep its independent cafes rather than the usual franchises & its good to find that money is being invested in the old coaching houses that dominate the main street. I love places that don't conform. In one establishment I requested my usual, a skinny decaf cappuccino, only to be put in my place by a young face peering through the serving hatch.
"You can have coffee or milky coffee."
 I think that's great, let's start ignoring the fancy coffee names. Go & ask for "frothy, low-lactose, solvent treated coffee" in Starbucks.
Even the sole major supermarket, Sainsbury's, is hidden from plain view & only accessible by car around the backstreets with the aid of a local guide. Walk under the Town Hall  archway to find it.
The Town Hall Clock still chimes. I say "chimes," it reminds me more of the sound of my Mate's Morris Traveller bottom end hitting the side of the engine block when we were halfway up the Horseshoe Pass! We sadly left the car to be rebuilt by a local garage & bused it back to the Midlands. It was my first experiece of Rural Welsh bus services & I remember vividly a lady getting on in the next village with a piglet in her arms. The Morris was saved & the following year we squeezed it onto the Isle of Wight Ferry to see Jimi & Joan.***
The 1882 Town Hall building originally housed the Law Courts. Now the Welsh Quilt Centre, the Court was attended by Dylan Thomas in connection with the infamous Captain William Killick incident. The motion picture 'The Edge of Love' tells all.  I feel that the moral of that story is: If you are going to upset a jealous husband then make sure that he's not a professional soldier with a machine gun!
Lampeter has a great number of Places of Worship & pubs. In these times of long-distance commuting, it's sobering to think that locals could get drunk, be dragged into the lovely Stone-Built Police Station, get hauled before the Town Magistrate & finally pray for redemption - All within 5 minutes walk of home.

To park in the town centre take a left turn down any of the streets after passing the Co-op on your right. These will lead you into the town square which is just a large car park. Try the Methodist Church there for Tuesday morning coffee & conversation. It is also the hub of an amazing piece of local community support & artwork. The Ladies of Lampeter knit six-inch squares into blankets which are then donated to the Salvation Army in Carmarthen. They are now over half way to their first 100 blankets, that will be 3,500 squares!  The scale of the enterprise is amazing with many local Groups supporting the scheme.
Around the Town is a Heritage Trail & a Museum which is open in the Summer.

Let's meet Sue Powell:

Following a career in teaching, Sue bought her 3-acre smallholding with husband, Brian, in 2011. They fatten up pigs in Summer. Their first job was to clear the land! She initially got into local art by making & selling lamps. She showed us some of her range of handmade gifts; clocks, greetings cards, mugs & doorstops. Materials included fossils, feathers, pebbles & driftwood from Cardigan Bay Beaches.

Their smallholding would be described, I'm sure, by any local estate agent as being on a gentle slope. It certainly wouldn't flood! Strangely, I got to thinking of WW2 fighter pilot, Douglas Bader, who famously flew with false legs after a low flying accident before the war.  Douglas took up golf after his crash and found that he fell over every time he hit a drive. Not to be beaten, he had one leg made longer than the other & that solved the problem, he could go round the Greens & stay upright.  Now I think having one leg longer than the other would be a great help in negotiating your way around Sue's paddocks.

Do we inherit life skills? Well, Sue is an example of someone who certainly picked up the painting techniques of her Mother & Grandmother. She showed us a lovely watercolour that she had prepared as a basis for the latest feltwork which she calls 'On a Wing and a Prayer.'
The red kite opposite is another fine example of her feltwork.

This got me thinking. How many famous Welsh Artists can you think of who siblings or children also gained International Status in the same field? Here's one to start you off: Augustus Edwin John & Gwendolen Mary John. 

The inspiration for Sue's new creation, called "On a Wing & a Prayer.". was a 3-day visit to Skomer Island National Nature Reserve to get really close to the puffins.  She said you have to take everything with you & bring everything back. That reminded me of  Douglas Adam's Magrathea, let's hope not!

Sue kindly takes us through the various stages of the wet felt process. She explains that felt artists differ in how they work, this is her way. It was a delight to see the piece come together. Sue says that felt is actually 'stressed wool' & she uses dyed Merino fleece. During the process, the material shrinks by about a third so it's important to start with an oversize foam board. Like all competent artists, she says that wet felting is very easy & that "anyone can do it.' We suspect that there is a bit more to it than that & a bit of black magic along the way. 

We follow her through the process of applying the felt figure & felt surf to the background. Hot water with olive oil soap is applied & then pressed out under a piece of net curtain material. The pressing out, which is in different directions, can take her half an hour.
Sue says that this rubbing process enables her to feel how much the material is felting & she watches how the colours blend, as the process progresses, to maintain the natural look.
What's her most popular design - Puffins!
Here are two more examples of her feltwork.

Sue will be the artist of the month at Aberaeron TIC in June ( 25th May to Ist August)
Her other exhibitions this year are:
Llanfair Clydogau 25 -28 July
Cardigan               22nd July - 3rd Aug. …
Art at Waunifor, End of Summer Exhibition...Sat 24th Aug - Sun 1st Sept 10-5 daily

Where to next on the Art Trail?
Why not dig the old Raleigh out & pedal from Lampeter to Aberystwyth. Follow the River Teifi to Tregaron on side roads. Then use the Ystwyth Trail cycleway to Aberystwyth using off-road tracks & the disused Aberystwyth to Carmarthen railway through Cors Caron Nature Reserve, which includes wonderful waterfowl.

Link Blankets: https://www.tynantuchaf.com/blankets
***Hendrix & Baez
Credits:  Story & Photos - Paul Flude at Dawn's Happy Paintings - Bethania - Ceredigion