After hitchhiking across the Black Isle and taking a ferry to Stornoway, I finished the last leg of the journey to the Stones of Callanish a bit crestfallen. I had imagined I would spend the longest day of the year away from noise and stupidity, marveling at these standing stones, but instead found a horde of screaming drunks puking and throwing empties and junk food wrappers at ancient monoliths. It was here I fell in love with felt.
With the beautiful, historical landmark covered in garbage and the distinct smell of urine in the air, I chose to spend my time hillwalking and wandering through fields in interminable rain. It was breathtaking. I hunched over a sterno sharing food with other campers, sat on stone fences with a mix tape blasting in my ears, woke to the sounds of rain on the tent and sheep gently bleating a few feet away. While walking along one of the stone fences talking to the sheep I made my discovery. A large chunk of white wool was caught between heavy, jagged stones and I dislodged it to find it almost all one piece. All of the locks were fused together. The appearance was remarkably attractive, the tactile quality so satisfying I was instantly obsessed. I couldn't decipher how the wool fibers had bonded like this. It wasn't a matted mess of knots, it was smooth and evenly dense. Soft, but firm. I wasn't even sure if it had mites or fleas as I knew nothing about sheep, but I chose to risk it and tore off a portion of a Tesco's plastic grocery bag, wrapped the wool in it, and shoved this new treasure into my rucksack.
It wasn't until six years later when I saw a wildly shaped scarf in a magazine made of a foreign material called "felt" and looked up its meaning that I solved my mystery. What had happened naturally to a sheep's wool had been harnessed and manipulated to favor human needs and creative desires for more than two thousand years. Clothing, rugs, linings for sarcophagi, and objects made purely for their beauty such as sculptures and wall hangings had been found in the Altai Mountains of Siberia in frozen caves that date as far back as 600 BCE. The moment I understood that I could recreate this exotic textile I'd found caught between rocks on the Hebrides, and even more, manipulate it to make virtually any shape, any texture, I became possessed. Since that realization I have been driven to test the limits of what wool can do, to master its nature, not to control, but to befriend it with the hope it will reveal its wily, ancient secrets to me.
I have worked and trained with many of the world's foremost felters including Icelandic felt sculptor/installation artist Anna Gunnarsdottir and traditional felter Annemie Koenin. I am proud of the considerable skills I have built over more than a decade, but I will continue to study and play with wool to uncover its hidden capabilities.
My enticement toward printmaking was much less dramatic. In art school I was picking courses to meet each of my college requirements. I enjoyed painting, I loved photography, but when I finally found a printmaking course that fit into my schedule, from day one, it felt like home. Etching was the strongest lure of printmaking. I loved testing how deep and inky I could make my acid grooves. I loved every meticulous detail of each and every step; the various vapors I had to protect myself from, the amber tone of the hard ground, the smell of rosin cooking, the stiff, black tarlatan. Every aspect of it was new to me and it made my fastidious heart crush hard. The crush hasn't waned. I continue to study and practice etching, relief, screen printing, and lithography, and have most recently taken multiple courses in each printmaking medium at Chicago Printmakers Collaborative and Lillstreet Arts Center for the last few years.
I have discovered that what draws me to these laborious media is a fascination with process. I love the physicality of each stage, of what becomes what I call "The Physical Mantra", meditation, clarity and peace, but not necessarily calm, brought on by physical movement. I aim to focus my mental and physical energy and manipulate my own senses and then manipulate the medium. While I hope the final product of my work alters the experience of my audience, my desire to manipulate my own senses is equally important. Whether it is hand rolling wet felt, pulling a screen, wiping a plate, or plying hand-spun yarn, it is the small detail, the hidden world within each intentional gesture that I am seeking. The secret world that is sitting with us in every detail is what I crave. I want to scratch it behind the ears and nudge that world forward into our field of vision.
I continue my education by attending regular intensive workshops and by seeking out individual instruction from experts in both printmaking and textile techniques and maintain these practices through my company/private studio Chimera Press. I have served on the board of the Chicago Printers Guild since 2015 as Assistant Director and Archivist. After 4 years of organizing, researching, collecting information, creating provenance, and building a cohesive story of the history of the CPG, I successfully found a permanent home for the print archive at the internationally acclaimed Chicago Public Library at Harold Washington Special Collections. This will be a living archive that our members will donate prints to annually and preserve our place, influence, and role as printmakers in Chicago history in perpetuity. This has been a passion project of which I am immeasurably proud. As guild archivist I promote, photograph and protect print submissions that will then be handed over to CPL to be catalogued and made available for researchers and visitors to the Chicago Public Library, and work with the other board officers to organize the annual CPG Publishers Fair, monthly visits to Chicago printmaking studios, field trips, and various print-minded artists' opportunities.
I am a Chicago-based printmaker and textiles artist focusing on large-scale interior decor, wearable art, installation pieces, and fine art prints that balance long-standing printmaker's traditions with digital manipulation and millennia old fiber practices with modern materials and dye techniques. Old with new, familiar with foreign.