Marty Elkin wandered into our world last year as a vendor at Fiber College. She and her partner Mary Ann sell many products from their farm but the most fascinating to me are the “tile kits” Marty has created using wool they grow, process and dye on their hundred acres in Sumner Maine. With a kit from Marty, your needlefelting will be a certain success because she has a talent for blending colors and making the subject pop off the background.
Customizing her kits one step further, Marty is teaching a class in Pet Portraits during this year’s FC on Sunday. Nine lucky students (at the moment I’m writing this, there are still 4 seats available) will be able to send the portrait of their choice to Marty and she’ll plan the project kit…a one of a kind art project based on your favorite animal.
We asked Marty a few interview questions, and this is what she told us:
Presumably you’ve been an artist all your life…when and how did you decide to label yourself as one?
I started with oil painting in the 1970’s and have tried out many mediums since then including sewing, quilting, tole painting, watercolors, embroidery, needlepoint, knitting and needlefelting I have only called myself an artist for about 5 years. In these five years I have become proficient in dyeing wool and creating designs for needlefelting.
If your life were a box of paints…would you be pastel colors, jewel tones, flesh tones or black, white and shades of gray?
If my life were a box of hand dyed wool I would include all of the colors except flesh tones, including black, white and gray. In creating needle felting designs I find I need the contrast available only when using intense colors in contrast with pastels, and almost every designs uses some black and white. My life is full of the same variety as I put in my designs.
If you could have any mode of transportation in the world…how would you get from place to place?
If I could use any mode of transportation in the world I would ride in a wagon or a sleigh pulled by a draft horse. I realize this would take longer, and this would offer me the opportunity to see the world up close along the way.
What is your preferred environment when you’re in a creative mood?
My preferred environment when I am in a creative mood changes daily. I like to have creative people around me and I am energized by conversations with the people I meet. I also can lose myself in a project when I am alone.
It is very hard to imagine giving up the use of wool, my favorite medium so far, but If I had to I might paint murals such as one I did of sunflowers inside a privy, or painting wooden cutouts of animals or flowers to mount on buildings or large walls. I also might choose weaving using natural fibers.
Name five adjectives that best describe you at your best.
Five adjectives that describe me at my best are: Kind, Loving, Generous, Patient, Genuine
One of my current favorite quotes: Live Simply, Speak kindly, Love Generously
Are you currently working in “the perfect” studio? What does your perfect creative space look like? What would we find in the drawers and cabinets?
I have the perfect studio. Last year we built a new building called the Tesseract, which has a fully equipped dye kitchen large enough for classes, yet organized to be efficient. The cabinets are full of large pots and pans, dyes and natural dyestuff, basins, and utensils for dyeing wool. This is adjacent to an open room with table and chairs, windows for natural lighting, and space for picking, carding, and spinning wool. The cedar closet is full of washed fleeces from our sheep and hand dyed roving and yarn. On the wall is a rack of yarns dyed many colors, each one with the formula attached using the 3 primary colors that were used to make them. The walls are decorated with pictures of our sheep. There is a rack of washed wool laid out to dry. The front of the building is our farm store full of products made with wool from our animals and jars of maple syrup. The walls have needle felted framed pictures. There is a rack of hundreds of little balls of hand dyed roving in a rainbow of colors, hand dyed and natural colored wool yarn. There are angora lined hat kits, and felted mitten kits. Our most luxurious yarn is 20 to 25% angora from our neighbor’s angora rabbits.
If I could go anywhere and study with anyone I would go to Prescott Ontario and study with Trudy Van Stralen, the author of a book called Indigo, Madder and Marigold. In this book she describes classes she has taught in which students go home with a portfolio fo colors from natural dyes. The images in her book are what I imagine I would like to have here at the farm, including a wood burning stove and giant pots, and clothes lines to hang big skeins of plant dyed yarn on. I will be coming close to this dream by having Joli Greene work with me to do a workshop on natural dyeing of wool with indigo, staghorn sumac, goldenrod, and lichen.
When was the last time you laughed at yourself?
This morning as I sat down to respond to these questions.
How many projects do you generally have going at one time? Let me see, I have a sweater I have been knitting for several years, an afghan (I am on the 6th square, each with a different color of natural dyed wool, several designs for my needlefelting designs including a puffin, a draft horse, birds, sheep portraits, and baby farm animals, and nearly finished 10×20 needle felting of a ewe defending her twins from a border collie. That is probably not everything, but what came to my mind first.