Thursday, September 29, 2011

Featured Artist: Michael Dennis

From September 10, to November 5th, we present "Felt So Good" during which we'll focus on individual artists here on our blog.  Today, we're pleased to introduce to you: Michael Dennis

Avian Algebra

A bird in the hand is worth what? Mathematically, if the two in the bush are equal to the one in the hand, then we may freely substitute a bush full of birds wherever one appears in our mitts. Thus, Avian Algebra.
But from the fabric geek point of view, this piece is about exploring the limits of needle felting. Popular theory holds that felting requires 75% wool to succeed. That’s true of wet felting, surely, but how is acrylic felt made? with a needle. So if we’re needle felting, we may ignore that rule. The hand is 100% acrylic, from recycled fibers.

Avian Algebra, side view

 Needle felting requires a core or a support. Or not: two layers of the hand were formed over starch foam. The core was then washed out and a third layer of felt needled down on what is now a shell of felt. It wouldn’t hold its shape when attached to the bush (it needed another layer of felt, probably), so it ended up stuffed with wool, but free-standing shells of unlimited complexity are now possible.
The bush was inspired by formal topiary. It is four layers of felt stiffened by appliqué. Again, the form was a bit too sensitive to deformation, so to keep it ball-like, a wire core was collapsed, inserted in the shell, and then expanded to form the branches.

The birds are almost an anticlimax. They are embroidered and assembled with a blanket stitch, and stuffed with wool. Birds called for a bird cage, and that was the inspiration for the stand.
It became a project driven by the sheer joy of tinkering.

Michael Dennis has been a freelance graphic artist since 2002, doing business as MDIM. He graduated in 2010 from Pennsylvania College of Art & Design with a major in Illustration, and may eventually get a diploma.

Previous shows and commissions:

2010 Note card commission, Children’s Choir of Lancaster
Six vignettes in paper depicting “kids and music”. To be released in Fall 2011.

2010 Amtrak Station, Lancaster, PA
“Twins” railroad-inspired art commissioned by CH&E Construction. Reproduced on a construction barrier during renovations through 2011/ early 2012.

2011 Size Matters at Some Things Looming, Reading, PA
“A Whale’s Life” series, depicting 19th–century whaling from a whale’s point of view. Works in this show were limited to 12” in each dimension.

2011 Community Art Show at Lancaster Museum of Art
“A Whale’s Life” series.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Featured Artist: Janna Carrozza

From September 10, to November 5th, we present "Felt So Good" during which we'll focus on individual artists here on our blog.  Today, we're pleased to introduce to you: Janna Carrozza 

  Weaving with respect for the environment has been my passion for many years. The adventure started in college with organic cotton, hemp, linen, and recycled denim. My fiber selection now includes tencel, soy, corn, and banana silk. Soy silk comes from the by-product of the tofu manufacturing process; tencel comes from wood pulp and the trees are grown on land that cannot be used for any other purpose. Tencel produces almost no waste and the little bit can be recycled. All cellulose fibers, including banana and corn, are also completely biodegradable. Banana silk is not only created from the stalks of the banana tree, but the fiber is also recycled from clothing previously made from banana silk. The fiber I weave is not only eco-friendly, but pesticide free. The natural dyes used in my weaving are harvested from my garden whenever possible. The colors are as carefully chosen and blended together. The colors and patterns are uniquely woven together like paint on a canvas. Each weaving is both one-of-a-kind, carefully rendered and designed.

Creating eco art is imperative to the philosophy of consciously thinking about the environment as a part of the inspiration. As all organic things in nature each one is unique, I never repeat a design pattern in my weavings. I choose to invent something new each time I begin to weave. Nature is a huge part of my thoughts, and is when I am at my best.. The weaving process is a beautiful experience that takes an enormous amount of time to complete. Each inch that is woven is larboard as well as thought out. The process of my art making is peaceful and reminds me of how I feel when I am doing yoga. I feel centered, focused and relaxed.  I am peace with the world and myself when I weave. The best part of the whole process is cutting off the fibers and admiring the texture and drape of a finished weaving that did not deplete, or harm the earth to create.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Featured Artist: Joanne Strehle Bast

From September 10, to November 5th, we present "Felt So Good" during which we'll focus on individual artists here on our blog.  Today, we're pleased to introduce to you: Joanne Strehle Bast


         As a child, I did a lot of number paintings, but I never followed the lines, and embroidery kits, but I never read the instructions.  When it came time for college, I believed I must put away childish things and study something serious. After pursuing several scientific degrees, I rediscovered stitchery as an art form.

Black Eyed Susans
     I worked both flat and sculpturally, eventually moving into fiber jewelry.  I became enamored with beads first to weight down fiber adornments and eventually as a medium in their own right.  I found my background in manipulating sculptural forms in thread translated well into beadwork. I have since also moved into knitting and felting. Whether working with beads or wool, my primary artistic focus is color and color shadings as well as shaping sculptural forms.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Featured Artist: Jacqueline Arbaugh

From September 10, to November 5th, we present "Felt So Good" during which we'll focus on individual artists here on our blog.  Today, we're pleased to introduce to you: Jacqueline Arbaugh

Art in My Heart

“Art in my Heart” is a sculptural creation constructed from wool felt to simulate a hanging human heart. I chose to represent a human heart because it is a significant vital organ that is commonly used to represent both life and passion. My passion for art is connected to my physical heritage. The bleeding strands that include purple colored felt are intended to symbolize the artistic qualities that run through my family and myself. The material of wool reflects the bodily nature of the subject matter. This representation emphasizes the motion of hanging and bleeding.
Art in My Heart

This piece was inspired by fiber art that I viewed at the Tate Modern in England, entitled Abakan Orange by Magdalena Abakanowicz. Because of this inspiration, I have included red fabric throughout my sculpture that I acquired while residing in England. I was inspired by the visual hanging format of Abakan Orange, but applied the simulated dripping action to a more personal context.

Art in My Heart, detail
Other artists that inspire my work include Louise Bourgeouis, Helen Chadwick, and Rebecca Horn. I am drawn to artwork that connects the human body with narrative or emotion. I typically work in various mediums, including ink and collage, and recently have found mixed media outlets of art creation. I hope to include fiber with mixed media in the future.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Foray Into Felt

I tip my hat to those fiber artists who use felt as their medium.  My limited experience with felting was enough to tell me I would not ever be one if I could help it. A felt artist, I mean.  It also gave me a huge appreciation for those who work with animal fiber, manipulating it until it becomes matted and formed into cloth.  I just don't have the patience.  Or apparently, the fortitude.

It was most likely my Fibers II course at the University of the Arts when felt and I were introduced.We were given some raw wool, which meant we had to start from the very beginning. No luxury designer, pre-dyed roving for us. Oh no, that'd be too simple.  Step one, I learned to my dismay, was to remove the dung tags from the wool (of course, I didn't know that's what they were called at the time).

There was no advantage of using a washing machine and some netted lingerie bags to wash the wool either.  I was instructed to set out several buckets with hot soapy water. The wool soaked in one bucket, then was transferred to the next and then next and the next, allowing the wool to soak for a bit in each bucket.  The dirty water was emptied and refilled and the process continued until the dirt (among other things) was gone.  Twenty years later, I can't remember how long it took, but I can honestly say, I've since learned many better and less labor intensive ways to wash wool, now that I'm a spinner. 

After which, I decided I wanted colors in my felt piece. So I dyed the wool in a very basic rainbow of hues, since my mastery of colors and dyes were rather limited at that stage of my artistic career and learning.  After transforming the plain into bright electric colors, the wool was picked and then carded into batts.  And finally, I was ready to begin felting.
I believe there are various ways to create felt, and some that I'm not even aware of, but my instructor had us use netting to hold the batts in place. I laid the batts down on my army/navy store purchased mosquito netting, layering them perpendicular to each other.  I cut out shapes from the colored batts, and laid them on top.  Sticking some cord in amongst the layers, I thought I would make some textured ridges in my felt.  I was wrong.

 I sewed loose X's throughout the length and width of the piece to keep everything in place. It seemed the process would be fairly labor intensive, all that rolling and agitating that I was told felting involved.  Thinking I was going to be using copious amounts of hot water, soap, and agitation, I decided my apartment bathtub was the best place to conduct felt making, and made the dimensions of my piece accordingly.  Rolling and unrolling, squishing, soaping, and yes, even stomping on my wool, I attempted to pound those batts into, felt.  After about ten minutes, I was weary.  After twenty, I was exhausted and annoyed.  And after an hour, I gave up.

I probably could have gone back to it the next day. I might have, I can't recall.  And I'm sure I received a less than stellar grade for it.  To this day, I'm not sure what I was thinking when I laid it all out, if I was thinking beyond my typical 20 year old attitude of  "just get this done, and get it over with." The colors were unspectacular. The design was a fail. And the wool was just barely felted.  There's more than a good chance I went about felt making the hard way, as I almost always do everything the hard way.  But then again, I wouldn't have gotten this absolutely fabu pic of me standing in my bathtub, now would I?

Me, a Bathtub and My Ugly Piece o' Felt.