Andrea Graham: Feltmaking, a spiritual experience
Andrea Graham is celebrated for her innovative use of both traditional nomadic and modern feltmaking techniques and the skill with which she applies these. In 2013 she has been named as one of the top influences in contemporary fiber art by Fiber Art Now magazine and is a 2013 Niche Award Finalist. And her considerable achievements don’t end there; three of her sculptures have recently been acquired for the Claridge Inc. corporate art collection.
Her work has been showcased in several of the world’s leading publications in this arena, including Textile Forum magazine, the German magazine Filzt Und zuge Naht, and the books 1000 Artisan Textiles and 500 Felt Objects.
Andrea uses ancient techniques in contemporary work by combining handmade felt and unusual materials to produce organic three dimensional felt artwork and installations.
We’re thrilled that an artist of such note has taken the time to have a chat with us about her fascinating process.
Felt as a multi-sensory experience
What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
It was felting, in particular that captured me. The multi-sensory experience and the versatility of the medium kept me tossing and turning at night.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
Early influences were those already in the field that demonstrated a mastery over the medium. Sharon Costello, Jorie Johnson, Jeanette Appleton, Joan Livingstone and Chad Alice Hagen were my superstars.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I have always been an artist, but at various times diverged from or embraced this path. I have little formal “arts” training, but have continued to express myself through various art forms over the years. It was at a time of grief and life transition that the commitment was made and I dedicated myself full-time in this role. The timing was vital as my experience as a business-owner, mother, confident- adult woman, made this path possible.
Versatility, diversity, dedication
Your chosen medium is felt – what techniques do you use to create your felt artwork?
The versatility of the medium of felt, the diversity, my dedication to understanding the process and materials for over 12 years has been my passion. I have combined this with glass, clay, wood and most recently, lead and other materials. Making handmade felt from wool fibre is alchemy. Magic. No matter your experience and skill, the process is a spiritual experience with something to reflect upon, if you allow.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I think my place in contemporary art is evolving. I believe I am an innovator in my field and have a unique place in my field as “felt maker”. The medium is accessible and with its organic nature allows an “in”: a starting point to begin a dialogue or present an idea or concept. It is this place that I begin and while the medium is the vehicle, my message is paramount.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I have a bit of a crazy process as I divide my art practice in so many ways. It is fragmented and compartmentalized. I teach, lecture, make, think, plan, procrastinate, parent, sleep, facebook and blog and procrastinate….I have learned to give myself permission to do all these things. I am a small business owner that often must switch gears. I am fed by ideas and news and people and love and…wine. I allow time for it all and it all seems to work itself out. Thankfully.
Inspiration in nature, science, evolution and environment
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
Nature, science, evolution, and environment are constant sources of inspiration for the felt artwork I create. There are also a few artists in my circle that are a tremendous inspiration and, at sometimes, a distraction…but in wonderful ways.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
Ghost Trees is a significant piece in that it was created for an exhibition that featured artists from several disciplines for an invitational show at a University Gallery in the U.S. The scale was a feat and it was an installation created for the space. This piece went on the be juried into a show that was a turning point for me personally and professionally.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I am looking ahead and pushing myself creatively as an artist with firm goals in sight in the contemporary art arena.
Exciting times ahead
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes?
I teach internationally and have some exciting places booked ahead…Italy, Holland, Germany, Argentina. I am also accessible by Skype for webcam instruction and consultation. I maintain a blog and website and any news is available there.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I have the next couple of years booked in textile museums and fine craft venues and will then be concentrating on expanding into other museums and contemporary galleries.
What are your top resources?
Where can readers see your work this year?
For more information about Andrea and her work visit www.andrea-graham.com