Welcome to eMbroidery, a series of interviews with male embroiderers. This month, Gary Schmitt.
Name: Gary Schmitt
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Main medium: Needle felted wool
Noteworthy projects or pieces: A commission for the collection of the Eugene Glick Eye Institute, Indianapolis, IN
How did you come to be a needle felter? A couple of years ago I was making small animals as gifts and then I got the idea that I could sculpt other things with wool, too.
What does it mean to you? Working with wool has been great for me –it stimulates my senses which has opened up my creativity.
Where do you like to work? I have a small studio at the Lawrence Art Center in Indianapoils. It’s a great atmosphere for me.
How do people respond to you as a male needle felter? People respond very favorably. Maybe it’s not too difficult for me since my subject matter is not primarily associated with being female. That’s one of the aspects of the creative process with wool and needle felting that makes things interesting to me –that I can do work that deals with a wide subject matter, content, and concept.
Who inspires you? Jim Dine, Robert Rauschenberg, Moxie, Rob De Mar, Gal Weinstein, Meredith Setser, Stacey Holloway, Stephanie Metz
How or where did you learn you learn how to stitch or sew? My mom and sister worked with fabrics when I was growing up and much later sometimes I would sew –mostly fabric kites I had designed. It probably also helped that I had a required home ec (economics) class in seventh grade. We made shop aprons and gym bags with draw strings.
Are your current images new ones or have you used them before? I’ve used them for portfolios and grant applications but not on the web other than facebook.
How has your life shaped or influenced your work? What I’m doing now is probably due to combining many of my on-going interests. There also seems to be some comfort for me to touch wool fiber. Art-wise, I’ve been some category of artist all my life. It’s been a lot of years of making art but always I’ve found something new in art to be excited about.
What are or were some of the strongest currents from your influences you had to absorb before you understood your own work? That is a tough question. I don’t know that I completely understand my own work. The main influences may be that I like objects and tactile surfaces. As for forms, although I may start with some kind of plan, but tends to build intuitively from there. Mostly I am not paying a lot of attention to the usually expected types of needle felted wool pieces. I am excited and feel a great deal of creative freedom to explore ideas through the medium.
Do formal concerns, such as perspective and art history, interest you? Yes. I like art history as well as looking at current artists. I like old things and I like new things. Viewpoint seems to be important to me. I also like to discuss art with my son who is an artist and an art history fanatic.
What do your choice of images mean to you? I like the opportunity to choose and make up situations and spaces. It’s like a little bit of storytelling each time.
Do you look at your work with an eye toward it like what can and can’t be visually quoted? In other words what you will or won’t cut out? I would take that also to mean “cropping” –space and meaning. Parts of some pieces would still make sense but I do like the relationships that build up within the pieces.
Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us? Not that I know of at this time.
How do you hope history treats your work? My work seems unique right now but then there’s a lot of unique artwork out there! It will be interesting to see what happens –how fiber sculpting evolves. Who knows, it could be kept in a box and disappear at any second.
Where can we find you and your work? Currently I have pieces at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, in their museum shop. Also currently I have a piece in the Harper College (Illinois) “Small Works” exhibit. And, I don’t have a website that’s up right now but I’m working on it. I can be reached through email: schmittdesign[at]ymail.com
eMbroidery was created with the support and wisdom of the magnificent Bascom Hogue.
The Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery. Committed to changing the way the world thinks about needlecraft.