This summer, I've been quite busy working on some really touching projects. I'd like to share these with you over the next few blog posts, so you can catch a glimpse of how my creativity works!
I was approached by a customer, who also happens to be a local art teacher, about a commissioned piece for her mom. We started talking about what she was dreaming up, and I asked her to describe what she had in mind. She told me about a place that was nestled in the hills of northeastern Iowa, a place pure and wild and serene. A place where the honeysuckle grew on fence lines and sheep grazed the grassy hills. Where a bubbling creek ran alongside a gravel road, where the happy peals of laughter of children running barefoot through the woods rang out against the clear blue skies. A place where home was good cooking, served around a table of love, in a farmhouse built from the ground up.
She gave me a batt of wool raised from that very farm, undoubtedly housed in an attic for a good many years, waiting for the right project to come along. It was tied in twine, and wrapped in brown craft paper. As I opened it up, and unrolled the lofty vanilla colored wool, I pondered what stories that fleece held. It was now up to me to let the wool tell its story.
I asked if she had any pictures of the farmstead. She did not; however, she had a watercolor she did based only on her mother's recollections, as there were no known photographs.
I had an idea of what I wanted to create, so I started in on the background. This was not hard- a few hills, a clear blue skies, a road. I used her wool as the base, and then started adding merino wool on the surface. I used silk hankies as clouds, which turned out to be a stunning choice. Yarns, Lincoln wool locks and wool neps were used in the road and grasses at the base of the piece. I designed and wet felted it in one evening.
The next thing, which intimidated me, was the house. I chose to needle felt it on so I could get the detail of every little window pane, nook and cranny. Feeling quite jubilant so far, I took it to the sewing machine to thread paint some depth into the landscape.
So there it sat for a few weeks while I mulled over the honeysuckle. I wanted to truly make one feel as though they were walking along a road, when all of a sudden the scent of honeysuckles struck them and took their memories back to another place, and another time.
Then it came to me! I needed to make it dimensional and all of a sudden, in a flurry, it started to come together. Flowers and leaves were felted using prefelts and some thread painting and the fence posts were wet felted. I sewed them on after meticulous placement, then sewed in a spacer to the back to give depth. Yes! This was precisely what my mind had imagined. What a joyous moment when concept gives way to conception that leads to creativity and completion.
The last finishing touch was the wire for the fence. I rooted through my stash for a antique looking fine gauge wire, and plyed it on my spindle to achieve the correct scale. That got wrapped and added, and now my fence line had some worn wire fences for the honeysuckle to trail along.
As I work on projects, I get many curious customers who get a sneak peak of the process. This leads to great idea cultivation, many good suggestions and sometimes, downright brilliance. Such was my conversation with Jodi, who stopped in for some fibers and stayed to hear about my piece. She was drawn to the honeysuckles right away and exclaimed that her company, Natural Refinery, makes a honeysuckle perfume that smells just like passing by wild honeysuckles on a warm Spring day. She said how much it reminds people of their scents of childhood and takes their memories back. All this was without even telling her about how my customer had earlier mentioned scenting the piece with honeysuckle! She kindly offered to bring some out so I could include it with the piece as a gift.
I remember listening to John Denver's "Country Roads" while working on the piece and thinking how important it is that we take time to send out roots deep into the place we call home. Everyone deserves a place that makes them flourish while surrounded by love, joy and security. In the harsh world we live in, sometimes we have to search and wander until we find that home. Sometimes its just a place in our hearts, or in our dreams. It might even be our heavenly home in the skies of glory.
I'm so happy to be able to transform memories into art. It's a delicate and precious calling that I feel blessed to be a part of. As the stories are told to new generations, I hope this special place will captivate their hearts as well.