I started making what I call “fabric relief” pieces in about 1980. At that time, I made a conscious decision to present my sculptural fiber work in a frame, so that it would have a better chance of being recognized as art.
What type of work do you do - abstract/realist/representational...? What styles or techniques do you use?
I’m interested in creating work that surprises, delights and draws people into a narrative that connects on an emotional level. My artwork resembles miniature, shallow stage sets, with scenery, props and characters telling a story. I embroider, wrap, appliqué and paint different materials and found objects to create scenes in relief, with figures imposed on an embellished fabric backdrop inside a shadow-box frame. Wool felt is feature prominently and everything is hand stitched. I illustrate universal, playful situations having to do with human connections and the natural world. My original artwork is photographed and reproduced in children’s books, cards and posters. I’ve also written how-to books of projects, including Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures.
|Pocketful of Posies, 2010, children’s book cover|
Are you working on a particular theme or series now? Tell us more about it.
For the past year, I’ve been making pieces that contain collections of miniature human characters, each one portrayed as a head and shoulders, peeking out of a cameo shaped opening. The pieces address themes of history, time, fashion and social customs. “Whiskers” depicts dozens of bearded men from diverse times and places, all inside a large flowing felt patchwork beard. Right now, I’m working on its female counterpart, “Cover Up”, which will include a whole array of women in head coverings. The piece will show the contrast between different cultures’ notions about hiding and exposing females.
|Whiskers, 2015, 24” x 30”|
What is your studio like and when do you like to work?
I have a fairly large studio, filled to the brim with materials and supplies and do my best to keep like
things together in boxes and baskets. When using found objects, you have to have a large supply to choose from. Thread takes up very little space, but felt, fabric and misc. objects are stored in every place I can find. I try to arrange furniture and containers in an aesthetically pleasing way. Piles are fine, as long as materials can be accessed and the mess is part of the creative process. Super neat, white spaces with everything lined up on shelves or hidden behind cabinet doors turns me off. I prefer spending time in a space that has evidence of activity.
I start each day with an hour of group exercise or dance at a local gym. My work is very sedentary and moving like this helps me stay healthy in mind and body. Then, I usually engage in the business and promotional end of things; writing and answering e-mails, filling Etsy orders, blogging and posting on social media and organizing art exhibits. I try to limit my time on the computer, but always seem to get sucked in more than I want. By late morning, I may get going on my artwork and then continue working after lunch. I take a break to cook and have dinner with my husband. In the evening, I go back to my studio and work until bedtime. Weekdays and weekends are the same, unless we go to a social event.
My husband teases that except for eating and sleeping, I can be found working in my studio.
What are your goals or aspirations for your art?
At this stage in my career, I’d like to follow where my art is leading me in a more cognizant way. And it seems like my muse is directing me away from children’s book illustration and how-to books, toward more personal expression. I’m interested in exploring ideas of human and animal connections, fashion and cultural history, and the passage of time. My most recent pieces are larger (24” x 30”) and since I hand stitch, they take from 4 to 6 months to complete. At this rate, it will take a few years to amass enough new work to exhibit together. I’m not sure where this path will lead, but I feel confident that whatever I create, my primary tool and material will be needle and thread.
|Birds of Beebe Woods, 2012, 24” x 30”|
How do you work? Give us some insight into your design process?
When I’m stitching and the process is going well, I almost feel transported into the world I’m creating.
It’s a refuge from the stresses around me and a way to gain control of something in my life, even if for a short while. Through the repetitive, tactile process, I find a calm satisfaction that helps lead to effective problem solving. I would rather do something over than have it not come out the way I want. Each piece requires figuring out something new, so I need time to work things out. Since I know from the start that it will take a long while to complete each project, I’m realistic about planning enough time and persist until it’s finished.
For me, the creative process involves a constant jockeying between the intuitive and the pragmatic parts of my nature. My imagination is full of colors, shapes and emotions that hover, ready to come alive through my fingertips. I find drawing useful for sketching out ideas and designing layouts, but I
discovered a long time ago that I need a more tactile experience to authentically express myself.
Manipulating materials and stitching with a needle and thread by hand helps me communicate what I’m seeing and feeling inside.
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