For this month’s column, I interviewed fellow wool sculptor Shana Kohnstamm. I got to know Shana online and although we have never met in person, I’ve had the pleasure of learning more about her background and techniques over video chat. I’m always impressed by how much I learn from our conversations and I’m thrilled to share her creations with you now. Read on for the interview and photos!
How did you discover needle felting?
After taking a wet-felting workshop in August 2010, I was looking for roving at the local yarn shop. The clerk there suggested needle-felting, claiming it was “so much easier” than wet-felting. I checked out a couple of books from the library the cutesy projects failed to resonate with me. Also, I was still painting regularly and unsure how I would incorporate felting into my daily practice. Finally the next February I had a needle-felting artist come over to my house and demonstrate. I watched her for all of 5 minutes and it clicked.
What inspires your artwork?
“Inspiration” is a tricky word. Usually, I don’t get geeked about a piece until after I start and it takes on a life of its own. I suppose you could say I’m inspired by process. Biological forms from plants, sea life, and microorganisms are fascinating to me and they show up often in my work.
My favorite thing is being able to work in a non-studio environment. I was a painting major in college and have been chained to an easel ever since. There is really nothing like curling up on the couch and making sculpture knowing that you’re not going to ruin the furniture…or the floor…or your clothes…
My least favorite thing is the scale. The largest sculpture I’ve made to date is nearly 2 feet tall. HUGE by needle-felting standards, but I’d love to work even bigger.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out? (with fiber, or with art in general)
Make what you love and don’t worry about pleasing anyone but yourself.
Find a friend or colleague who you trust to be honest about your work when you’re ready to receive constructive criticism.
Know that it takes a while to get good at something. See Ira Glass’s video (he says it better than me): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI23U7U2aUY
L’innamorato exhibit at Potter’s Wife Gallery in Fort Wayne, IN – Opens 9/20/13.
You can also watch Shana and me (and fellow needle-felter Karen Engelbretson, who I wrote about here), in our recent Google+ Hangout On Air! We chatted for about an hour about some of the questions people frequently ask about our work and about needle felting in general. The recording can be found at http://youtu.be/rzs_TOFU6E4.
Zoe Williams creates needle felt sculptures based on dreams and visions. She lives and works in New York City.