In the beginning of the series, "Dawning", I had experimented a little with needle sculpting the wool into more 3D forms. I liked how it diverged from traditional 2D wall art, but because it was more cumbersome in terms of storage and shipping, I decided to put needle sculpting on the back burner. Recently, I decided again to give it a go and "Portal" was born. Below are some images from the development stages.
For the basic form, I'm using a very coarse wool, which has almost no other good use because it's so rough. That roughness, however, makes it perfect for quickly building up shapes by needle felting. On the left, the white spot is where I substituted a natural-colored wool in the welt felting process in order to conserve my colored wool, since I knew it was going to be covered up in the end. On the right, I'm preparing my blended wool palette to cover the brown wool.
Once the portal was completely covered over, it was time to figure out the center and the human forms. The center presented difficulties, since the 3D nature of the area created an unusual lighting situation. The center always seemed to be either too light or too dark. The entire piece gave me difficulties in that regard, I think because I used a decent amount of viscose, which reflects light. If the lighting was good, the piece shown. If the lighting was bad, it just looked like a dark expanse. On overcast days, I was often forced to turn on lights during the day, in order to see the results of my work with these darker colors. Frankly, it was tricky, and if I were to do it again, I would lighten the color palette a little.
I also had to make two sets of figures, as the first set turned out to be too high contrast. Some of the rejects ended up "trapped" in the portal (look around the edges).
Then, I gave them a path to walk on, and needed to determine how to connect the eye of the portal to this path. I added a network of silk threads, which entangle and draw them in toward the entrance. These intersections were anchored by glass beads. The figure at the center of the portal is in a web of these threads, as if already past a barrier, beyond which there is no return.
New and old version of "Observation"
Every artistic medium requires a deep familiarity with the materials, which is only acquired though experience working with them. When I switched mediums from quilting with fabric to felting with wool, I was playing in a different sandbox, for sure! I struggled (and still struggle) with this medium. One of the challenges is that every action is slow to complete, and only once it's completed can you see whether you've made a mistake or not. Unfortunately, if you've made a mistake, it's a little heartbreaking and physically challenging to undo that mistake. My tendency is to continue to add elements in an attempt to balance out what I see as unsuitable. Sometimes it leads to the correct solution, but just as often, it leads to more work and frustration. Eventually, after staring at a piece for weeks or months, I'm ready to declare it done, just to get it out of my way and off my mind.
That sense of finality can help to clear up my thoughts, but ultimately, every time I see the picture, I'm still haunted by a nagging feeling that the work isn't right. Luckily, after some time has passed, I have the energy again to sort it out, rip out hours of work, and start fresh. Also, with time and experience, new materials and new techniques have been discovered, which might just provide the solution to the problem I had encountered so long ago.
So it was with "Observation". From the very beginning, something wasn't working for me. Maybe it's the composition (once laid down, so hard to change), definitely it's the color palette, so unusual for me. I also had a limited range of colors at that time, and was challenged to make them work together. It was a piece whose primary goal was to experiment with the sculptural possibilities of wool. I was feeling nostalgic for the precision and beauty of quilting, and wanted to unlock the potential of wool, something which could not be matched by quilting. In what sphere could wool stand on its own, I asked myself. I understood that it is in its ability to be molded, to form a relief. I set out to exploit that in this piece. I'm happy with the results of that exploration, the achieved texture, but everything else felt like a mess. Even though I knew everything was off, eventually I just needed to be done with it.
I don't know what finally pushed me to unpack this artwork and start ripping everything off it, but I'm glad the inspiration came. I replaced all the figures with soft and subtle versions made from beads. They have a light airiness to them, and a faint sparkle. They seem there, yet not there, as opposed to the heavy, solid figures of the first version. The primary figure at once recedes and captures one's attention, as opposed to .... I don't quite know what, but it wasn't effective. Also, when I made that piece, I hadn't yet discovered how to blend wool and apply it to create variegated foregrounds. In this piece, the ground appeared splotchy and in spots too high contrast and in others too low. I overlaid a piece of silk organza to give a more consistent appearance, as I didn't want to completely cover and restitch the ground. That really would have felt like starting from scratch. If I had the equipment to dye fabrics, I would have created a more customized color, but instead I had to use what was available to me.
So, I have to say that, while this process and results are not perfect, I'm pretty satisfied with the improvements, and I'm glad that I made them. Now I have an eye to other earlier artworks that can be tweaked :)
After many months, and a bit of agonizing, I finally made something happen with this background that I had felted last summer. I was in a bind, as my initial idea seemed too intimidating, and I needed to come up with a new concept which would fit the dimensions of this background. I was in a state of hesitation for a while, a bit scared to move forward, especially after what felt like quite a long hiatus.
But then something which at first seemed negative, turned into a positive aid. In March, my Etsy shop was suspended, along with all shops in Russia. I was bummed, to say the least. For the last several months, I had been engrossed in making products and planning new ones. I always had something to keep my hands busy, so it was one more excuse for not focusing on fine art. As soon as that was put on the back burner, and my hands were threatened with idleness (!!!), I got down to business and began work on this piece.
Blending wool is one of my favorite aspects of the work. I love the layers of color which simultaneously add such motion to the design.
Once the wool is laid down and secured, it's time for it to be stitched down with silk thread. This part is tricky in the sense that there will always be a trace of the stitch, a texture, so I have to decide what impression I want the stitches to make - flowing, static, linear. For this piece I chose a combination of groups of flowing stitches, separated by groups of x's to stop the movement of the eye.
After forming the shapes of all of my human figures, it was time to start arranging them, followed by stitching in place.
The shadows at the end gave me a lot to pause, think about, redo. It was a bit of unexpected trickiness, to be honest. But anyway, it's done!
It's fun to see an idea come to fruition, from this....to this....
If you enjoy this piece or other work of mine, feel free to share on social media! I am unable to use Facebook and Instagram at this time, so I would really appreciate any help on spreading the work