Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Artistic stirrings with felted wool

Adele Boucher setting up art works made of buffalo fibre
The boreal forest exhibit at the Museum has inspired some though-provoking and divergent discussions. As the back drop to our livelihood in the Peace region, it’s preservation requires that we employ good stewardship practices and develop a finer appreciation for the diverse resources that make up this complex ecosystem.

For something a little unconventional, artistic expression derived from the resources of this boreal forest are on exhibit this month on the Museum’s monthly art wall. Wool and hair fibres have always been integral to human survival. Northern forest fur and hair bearing animals have been utilized by people to create objects to stay warm with like the soft woven rabbit blankets and tanned buffalo hides of the northern Cree, to the felted wool Hudson Bay Company trade blankets woven in England, the felted beaver top hats, the buffalo hide coats of the NWMP and the many carded wool quilts of the early settlers.

Creative use of the natural fibres of buffalo and sheep wool comes naturally, so to speak, to two local  fibre artists Rhonda Warren and Adele Boucher. Each have experience and knowledge working with the characteristics which buffalo down (yes, down) and merino sheep wool present to the process of wet felting, carding, spinning, weaving and knitting.

Felting, a lesser known heritage skill, compresses and entangles the scales of the wool fibre by hot water baths and energetic beating. The result is a thick, almost waterproof, fibre to sew or shape into utilitarian wear or wearable art. Between Adele and Rhonda, they have created felt insoles, vests, hats and coats (think about the boiled wool Austrian sweaters) as well as purses, necklaces or hair accessories. Adele has also on exhibit items knitted, crocheted and woven with yarns made from buffalo down.

If you cannot attend the Felting With Wool presentation on March 5th, 1pm at the Museum with Adele and Rhonda, you can still enjoy their wool fibre art on exhibit  the full month of March.

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