Saturday, 3 September 2011

Heart & Hand: Fibre arts with Wendo Van Essen

Midwinter Sunrise
Wendo Van Essen works with fibres, cashmere, wool and mohair, bringing to life a variety of interesting and fanciful creatures and creations.  We asked her a few questions about how she started working in the field of fibre art and what keeps her hooked.

What was your introduction to fibre arts and felting? 
I travelled around the world working in animation and while I was in Berlin, Germany, I discovered there is a huge Mongolian refugee population there and since they are credited with the beginnings of felt making 5000 years ago, there is a lot of felt work in galleries there.  When I came home, I took a one week felt making course at the Mississippi Mills School of the Arts in Almonte, Ontario.  I became completely obsessed with felting, especially needle felting. 

What is it about working with fibres that is most appealing to you?
I've always worked with my hands...whenever I move to work on another animation project, I take local crafting courses: batik making in Thailand, silk thread work in Seoul, Korea, clay sculpting in Phoenix, AZ. As soon as I found needle felting and felt making, I was hooked.

Dragon Head Trophy
What inspires your creations? 
I love whimsy. I try to make creatures that make people smile or laugh out loud. I think my animation background has really helped me in the creation of my goofy animal head trophies...


What's next for you, any projects in the works?
This is a very busy time for me...I do a craft show or workshop every weekend until Christmas so I go crazy making stock.  I'm also working on getting samples together for a chance at attending the Westminster Dog Show in NYC in February.  I do pet portraits and I'm really excited to think I may end up at one of the most famous dog shows in the world.

If I wanted to make felt art where should I start?
For one of my animal head trophy sculptures, I start with a wire armature.  I then wrap this in wool and gradually build up the bulk of the head with the felting needle, poking and compacting as I go.  As soon as I'm happy with the figure, I do the eyes.  They are the most important part of any portrait, be it a crazy zebra head or a gorgeous Persian cat.  This comes from my work in animation.  The eyes are what give a character life.

Come say hello to Wendo, Sept. 24, 2011 at Joseph Schneider Haus and join in the fun!
Visit Wendo online!
Watch the feature on Wendo from TVCogeco’s The Source.

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