You can read more than you ever wanted to about me and my work in this interview I did recently for the World of Threads Festival upcoming exhibition. http://www.worldofthreadsfestival.com/artist_interviews/075_sheila_thompson_12.html
As a geographer and ecologist, I was trained to interpret landscapes as layers of pattern, process, landform and habitat. As an artist, I layer wool, silk and natural found objects to reimagine and convey the complex texture and colour of the surface of the land. I hope to provide a fresh perspective on my subjects by recasting them as felt and in turn drawing out the beauty and versatility of felt.
Each of my feltings is uniquely made by layering wools, silks and organic materials in a design and then hand felting them together using a wet felting method. I pull out my dozens of coloured wools and spun yarns, silks, leaf skeletons, cocoons, and barks then layer, position, and paint with them to create my designs. I use lovely smelling soapy solutions to wet the layers then begin the process of rolling and felting my creations on the table in my backyard.
The feltings have been shown at several galleries and establishments in the Toronto area, and have been sold to raise funds for breast cancer research and HIV/AIDS not for profit organizations. I exhibit twice yearly with the Beach Studio Tour. I was also a regular contributor to the Shadowbox auction for the Textile Museum of Canada as well as an active member of the volunteer association. I am on the board of the Artists Network of Riverdale.
My work is also available at the OCC Guild shop in Toronto and in the Artistswalk shop in Burlington.
I am looking forward to exhibiting two of my pieces in the World of Threads Festival. Joshua Creek Heritage Arts Centre, Oakville, Ontario, Canada, De rerum natura (On The Nature of Things), World of Threads Festival, a Common Thread International exhibition, Curated by Gareth Bate, Nov 2 - 18, 2012.
Special thanks to photographers Rod Trider(advancedimages.ca) and Shawna Eberle (contrast-photo.com) for the great images of my work. Heartfelt thanks to my brother Brian Thompson for design and development of my website and for his wonderful guidance, patience and friendship as we explored the big landscapes of the west. May he rest in peace.
Felt making is an ancient technique with some of the earliest artifacts over 2500 years old. Wet felting is the process of matting unspun wool usually through the addition of hot soapy water and application of pressure and agitation. I use a similar technique but create my unique look at the design stage. I embed organic materials that I have found. All barks for example are picked from dead trees or the ground - I do not harvest it. Leaf skeletons are found buried at the base of trees. I have a large collection of fibres and materials that I use to effect in creating impressions of various natural objects.
I create my felt vignettes in my home studio in Toronto. My materials are dyed wool and silk roving, found organic materials such as leaf skeletons and bark, and spun fibres – wool, silk, linens etc. I lay out the entire design of the piece then I felt it together by wetting it down with hot soapy water and rolling it many times in a bamboo mat outside in my backyard. I make a point of not gluing, sewing or embellishing my pieces at the end but rather depend on my skill as a felt maker to ensure that the entire piece holds together with all of its organics and complex surface texture intact.
I begin by layering wool, organic materials and silks essentially “painting” with my materials until I have the right surface texture and design that expresses what I am thinking about. I mentally deconstruct the land into layers and built them back up as I make felt. The piece is then felted such that the finished product is a luxurious soft colourful felt with a silk sheen on the surface. The unique look and feel of my felts is achieved by the selection of special wools and silks as well as by my creative additions of organics and fibres.