Redefining Felt, Part 2

Part 2 from felt artist Janice Arnold


Finding inspiration:
Trying to describe inspiration is complex! It begins with embracing every moment of the present with a sense of wonder and innocence.  In this mental state I find inspiration in unexpected places. Sometimes it is a literal thing I see- like a pattern created by light or shadow, a stone, tree bark covered with moss or the black and white lines on a map. But it can also be something odd like peeling paint, an ancient wall or cracked cement! Sometimes it stems from a challenge, a response to an emotion or as part of the process of solving a problem.

The inspiration for Chroma Passage was both literal and obtuse. I was looking for a way to find a personal understanding of color.  In the quest and quandary of exploring this direction, I saw this sunset outside my studio. Sunsets happen every day, whether we see them or not. They can be invisible or overt and frequently inspiring, dramatic and very different based on environmental conditions or our global position. This inspired the entire direction of the CHROMA Passage!

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Nature simply has a way with color! It was the perfect guide. I started trying to understand color and chroma in a very basic sense. I delved into the study of color. As part of that process, this evolved:

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After reading, writing, thinking and drawing, I moved into working in a color progression in raw merino wool and then started adding lyocell. With these steps complete, and colors in a physical form the whole concept for the installation started to take shape in my mind. Once this happens it begins to take on a life of it’s own…

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WARNING: Just because an idea lives in your mind doesn’t mean it is going to be easy to bring to life. This is where it is very easy to run into trouble. Ideas are cheap, follow-through is a very difficult uphill journey that is not for the weak of heart.

On location at Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts:
Working with a festival or conference as a featured artist is always an honor. The best results emerge from a collaborative process with the organizers of the event. In the case of the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts, I was lucky to live near enough to make a site visit, meet with the conference committee, tour the facility and the location where the exhibition and my presentation would take place. These first steps are critical. I learned the details of the festival first hand, the goals, mission, scale, who attends, the physical space and budget. Through this lens I was able to decide what I might be able to do…made some notes, and then let the ideas percolate in my design mind. 

I take an ontological approach to design, meaning inspiration is in part the byproduct of my mindset and physical environment. It requires being open to a dynamic state of curiosity and wonder. The Festival Committee has been wonderful to work with and with such an open receptive group I couldn’t resist asking if I could create a statement on the entrance of the building in addition to creating an immersive piece in the exhibition. (It was love at first sight when I saw the architecture  and the 4 gorgeous colonial columns gracing the entrance!) This installation is titled “Wrapping LOFA” ( Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts). 

How this installation idea evolved into reality is a longer story than I can blog now. In a nutshell, the committee was thrilled with idea and gave me the go ahead. It was the answer to a long- term dream of doing more installations outside!  After several months of technical, logistical and artistic considerations I decided against using my handmade Felt and switched to silk dupioni in a delicious LIME GREEN color. 

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It is always fascinating how large textiles can take on totally different characteristics based on the space, the light and the way I choose to hang them. It is like a puzzle that reveals itself in the process of putting the pieces together. This installation was no exception. 

All in all in order to do something like this you have to walk into them with an open mind, an open heart, ( plus nerve), a tool bag of tricks to be ready for anything, and a lot of confidence in your ability to speak the language of the fabric so you can strike the balance between what you want it to look like and what the fabric wants to do!  It is through a lot of experience in being flexible yet tenacious that I have gained the bravery to do things on this scale. 

I am grateful to the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts for their trust and cooperation in finding support, ladders, and brave souls to climb them with me so this vision could become a reality. None of this can happen without a group of supporting team members, from my assistant and dear friend who came from Olympia, to the brave and willing rock climber who also just happened to also be a college graduate with a degree in architecture!  He braved the 16’ ladders to attach the dupioni and never showed a sign of fatigue when I asked him to make just one more adjustment! BRAVO to each and every person who lent a hand.

My interior installation and featured installation of the Festival Exhibition, is titled “CHROMA Passage: Dissected” . I refer to it as dissected because the 100’ of handmade Felt on display is only about 25% of the original installation. This is the first time it has been installed since the unveiling of CHROMA Passage at Grand Rapids Art Museum (Grand Rapids Michigan) in 2010. The images above in my discussion about inspiration will come to life when you see and experience  this installation in person. 

Here is a sneak peek in the final phases of hanging the Felt. 

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After my lecture/presentation on Friday June 26 at 5pm at the Lakewood Center for the Arts Mainstage, I will being doing a walk-through in this installation. Bring your questions about process, design, theory and the logistics of installation work, I’ll do my best to answer them!  
Here is the link to get your tickets:
https://www.lakewood-center.org/pages/lakewood-Festival-2015-Overview