Tanis Alexis Laird


Felter Skelter - your essential needle felting column from Mr X Stitch!

This month Felter Skelter has a visit with Canadian textile and mixed-media artist Tanis Alexis Laird.

With a combination of techniques and materials (including wet felting, stitchery, painting, screen printing and more) and a passion for compassion, sustainability, and exploration, Tanis’ work can be playful, comforting, and challenging as well as beautiful.

What attracted you to fiber art in general and felt-making specifically?
Well, to be completely honest. It was the affordability. Wool isn’t particularily expensive, thank goodness, and in terms of wet felting all you need is wool + water + friction/time = felt. With such a simple equation it made the alchemy of producing my own natural textiles even more magical and empowering!

Once I became hooked to those sorts of thrills, I began to realise how versatile and experimental of a medium it is, and that took me to a whole other level and continues to do so.

Tanis Alexis Laird - By My Side

 

Can you tell us a little about your process? How do you take a mixed media concept from spark to completion? When do you decide what materials you need to express your ideas?

I think my process varies greatly depending on what I’m working on. There’s a lot of experimenting, which is where I retain my interest in making things. I do know myself enough that I have to keep the process loose and improvisational, so my mind doesn’t create traps for me, or expectations I can’t fufill. I try to maintain my focus on the bigger goal, but if it’s light and experimental along the way, I can feel as though the energy is fresh and interesting.

I have written some ‘rules’ for myself that I try to follow while I’m in the zone. Such as:

  • Always sketch thumbnails before executing a large idea.
  • Unsure of an idea or material? experiment and always give yourself room to play.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Trust yourself.
  • Time is never wasted.
  • When it gets difficult, push. When it gets uncomfortable pushing, push a little harder.
  • Take your time.
  • Walk away and come back with fresh eyes.

What kind of fiber do you like to work with the best? Why?

Superfine merino is the filet of fiber to me. I do believe it is what clouds are made of.

I use a lot of undyed white polwarth batts for my large pieces (especially if I am printing or using mixed media) because it’s like a fibery canvas or blank page in my eyes.

One of the themes in your work seems to me to be about connectivity. What does being connected mean to you?

I like to think that everything is connected, right down to a quantum level. There’s a lot of magic going on around us, that we don’t always see with our eyes. I also like to think that this place or level is responsible for the manifestation of ideas.

Tanis Alexis Laird - Rabbit Wall Hanging Close Up

 

What can you tell us about thought bubbles?

I think this is in the same realm of connectivity. What do peoples’ dreams, ideas, hopes, wishes, prayers, and thoughts look like? I think we all have some sort of thought bubble over our head, don’t we?

Do you have any examples of your work that demonstrate a statement you are trying to express to the viewer? How about one that embodies a question/concept you’re exploring with the viewer?

With my process being what it is, I’d like to think that the majority of my work is a concept I explore alongside the viewer, but surely that’s not always true.

Here’s one example of expressing a feeling to the viewer:

Tanis Alexis Laird - Patiently Waiting

Feelings of anticipation, curiosity, excitement, hope and wanderlust. These were all places I was visiting with myself during a pivotal time in my life. That same year I married my best friend.

The ‘we shall live here‘ series is a great example of exploring with the audience. What is a home?

The answer is subjective to the viewer.

Tanis Alexis Laird - We Shall Live Here #9

Additionally, as I continue to work with the concept, the meaning of ‘home’ continues to transform with society. Elevated interest is geared towards urban farming and homesteads, unconventional handmade housing, green living, self-sufficiency, tiny homes, nomadic living and even off-grid or slow living! So I’m gathering more and more dynamic variations on what a home is. I also gather a lot of input from the audience, I’ve made a few custom pieces for people who want a physical representation of their dream home. It’s all been really inspiring to me.

Have you ever been surprised by or had an epiphany from, your own work?

I am always learning, that’s kind of like little epiphanies in my world.

I took a painting course at the beginning of this year. It was great to get back into the painters seat after taking a break from it for the last few years, creating textiles and mixed media pieces. Throughout the whole class I kept experiencing a lot of surprises about my style that I hadn’t consciously realised through producing mixed media work. I realised that a lot of it translates to the other work.

It was like a bright light coming on, after being in darkness. Or a hard slap in the face from a loving friend.

Do you have any thoughts/frustrations/wisdom about fighting fear/lizard brain while working creatively?

Did you know that most brains nowadays come equipped with a really cool feature?? Yeah! Sometimes, it’s hard to find in there with all that stuff going on, but when you luck out, you’ll stumble upon a shiny volume knob. Use that to turn down the suck, as the kids say these days. Filter the bullshit, as I say. It can take time and a bit of work to find it some days. But it’s in there. I find that it works for a lot of other things in life.

I use have a bunch of various strategies that have worked for me in the past. Like I mentioned before, in regards to my process, some days it just takes tricking myself into creating art.

Other fiber artists that you are inspired by?

Here are just a few of the fiber art (and artists) that I admire, there are so many amazing pieces of work, I can find myself often getting lost viewing work from around the world online: tiny toadstoolcocoon designs, bennylove, beatjuice

What excites you about your future creative life?

Infinite Possibilities.

What’s next?

I have a art exhibit of my “we shall live here” series opening this month at the Port Moody Arts Centre. I’m getting a bit excited by it all now, and looking forward to seeing all the pieces together in one happy family.

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Moxie is an artist, fiber pusher and genuine human being. She likes you very much indeed.

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Moxie Lieberman
Moxie Lieberman is an American artist based in Seattle, Washington. Her primary medium is needle felting, but Moxie expresses ideas with embroidery, cross stitch, e-textiles and more.
Moxie Lieberman

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