The Felted Firebird was made by pupils from years 2 and 3 at Wirksworth Infant and Junior Schools.

The Felted Firebird project started with a phone call from the organisers of Wirksworth Arts Festival. I was invited to work with pupils at Wirksworth Primary school to help make the transition from year 2 to 3 easier. Working together the children got to know each other and also made an impressive piece of art. To start the project we went to visit The Bookshop to get a look at the window where our art was to be exhibited. We met Richard Barrett the bookshop owner and started to get excited about being part of the prestigious Wirksworth Arts Festival 2008. I took some inspiration from the slightly mysterious lettering on the window, "It's not only fine feathers that make fine birds". We wondered if the shop had previously been a butchers shop? (A year later I found out that the lettering was actually the remains of a previous art installation!)

We had lots of sounds and images to get us going. I played some music from Stravinsky's Firebird ballet. We chatted about firebirds from various cultures and, not surprisingly the phoenix in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire too.

I took in books with pictures of all sorts of birds and the pupils got thinking off all things birdlike. They drew the most fantastic and imaginative drawings of firebirds in all sorts of situations. I was so thrilled by these that I scanned them all in, resized them to uniform size and compiled them into this fantastic zig-zag book.

Making magic felted balls is a great introduction to felting as they are really quick to make and the 'magic' moment of cutting them open to reveal the symmetrical swirly pattern is always exciting. We decided that we could use the felted balls to make the small magical creatures that are in Kashchei's kingdom in the Firebird ballet. They took ages to hang up in the bookshop window display but were really effective.

In the following sessions we made various parts of the firebird. We started by making wing pieces (feathers) in reds, mauves and purples. Then in the following session we made red and golden tail feathers. I showed the children how to add sparkly yarns and fabrics so the firebird's tail would be even more shimmery and impressive.

Later we made felted feet, a large piece of felt with shimmery breast feathers and even felted eyes. The final construction of the bird involved a body of chickenwire and willow.
In our five half-day sessions we also had time to use the technique of nuno felting to make a felted fire for our firebird to rise from. After the festival was over the Firebird returned to Wirksworth Junior school so the year 2 pupils had a big feathered friend to welcome them when they moved up to year 3.