Fine Felted Friends

Dis­cov­er­ing this sim­ple yet ver­sa­tile pas­time

Our Canada - - Crafty Canadians - by Adri­enne Assinewai, Sud­bury

Grow­ing up on beau­ti­ful Man­i­toulin Is­land, I was sur­rounded by the works of many artists in the area, in­clud­ing fam­ily mem­bers. My cousin did beau­ti­ful bead­work, while my grand­mother cre­ated ev­ery­thing from quill­boxes to ca­noes. It was also not un­com­mon for me to see paint­ings by Le­land Bell (an Amer­i­can painter) and carv­ings by First Na­tions artist Gor­don Wain­dubence.

Some of my first mem­o­ries are of cre­at­ing art. I was for­ever draw­ing an­i­mals that I loved— there would in­vari­ably be horses or some kind of big cat sprint­ing across the pages of my school work­books and any scraps of pa­per I could get my hands on.

I car­ried this pas­sion with me and, as I grew, my meth­ods and medi­ums evolved. Now, I love to cre­ate in pen­cil, paints and wool. I be­gan nee­dle felt­ing, which is ba­si­cally sculpt­ing wool with spe­cial, barbed nee­dles, about three years ago. I wanted a lit­tle wool cre­ation of my cat and, af­ter fail­ing to track down another artist to make one, I went about gath­er­ing sup­plies such as wool, felt­ing nee­dles and pro­tec­tive gear. The gear in­cludes foam to felt on to pro­tect sur­faces and pre­vent nee­dles from snap­ping, as well as sil­i­cone or leather fin­ger guards to pro­tect your­self from the barbed nee­dles. Af­ter try­ing nee­dle felt­ing for my­self, I fell in love with the craft.

Nee­dle felt­ing is such a ver­sa­tile fi­bre art. It can be used to cre­ate so many things, in­clud­ing or­na­ments, por­traits or sculp­tures. What makes it so en­joy­able is that the ma­te­ri­als are fairly easy to ob­tain and the meth­ods are pretty straight­for­ward. All you do is take a bit of wool and ei­ther “punch” it through a piece of fab­ric with the nee­dle, or use the nee­dle to knot and form a chunk of wool into shapes. It is a very repet­i­tive mo­tion but the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. I still love draw­ing and paint­ing; how­ever, work­ing with wool has opened up new cre­ative op­por­tu­ni­ties for me. I’ve had the hon­our of mak­ing sev­eral pet por­traits and sculp­tures of peo­ple’s cur­rent furry fam­ily mem­bers as well as their beloved pets that have passed on. Of­ten I am able to in­clude a tiny tuft of the pet’s hair to make these me­men­tos even more per­sonal. I have also be­gun ex­plor­ing my roots through my nee­dle felted work. I’ve be­gun cre­at­ing pieces in the “wood­land style,” which is part of my Anishi­naabe her­itage on my dad’s side. It has al­lowed me to sto­ry­tell in a dif­fer­ent way, in ad­di­tion to work­ing with a whole other pal­ette of colour com­bi­na­tions than I nor­mally do when work­ing on pet por­traits or other an­i­mals. My first pieces are made solely of wool, but I have a few new ex­cit­ing medium com­bi­na­tions that I have be­gun ex­per­i­ment­ing with and hope to be able to share in the near fu­ture. Be­ing able to work with my hands and cre­ate all of these dif­fer­ent pieces has been such a gift. It has al­lowed me to work with oth­ers in my com­mu­nity and build not only pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ships but friend­ships as well. Most of all, I en­joy how it has given my mother and I a spe­cial ac­tiv­ity to bond over—i trea­sure my “art vis­its” with her. I look for­ward to cre­at­ing many more pieces and can­not wait to see what di­rec­tion my work will take next. n

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