Fiber artist Amy Felske exemplifies this year’s Fiber College theme “Do It Your Way!” wholeheartedly. She uses imagination and individualism with a dose of whimsy to conjure up magnificent and unique creations. And Amy can help YOU to do the same this coming September! Have fun meeting Amy here and then go sign up for a magical class of hers at the Fiber College website.
What does this year’s Fiber College theme “Do It Your Way” mean to you from your perspective as a fiber artist and teacher?
“Do It Your Way” has always guided me in my craft. I continuously modify my techniques and materials to suit each new creation. When I use other people’s patterns, I adapt and transform them to suit my vision. My own patterns are designed to make the creatures and characters convey and bring to life my imagination. They constantly evolve as I combine materials in new and unusual ways. Searching for the right materials for each piece is a treasure hunt. Pearls, glass, and stone beads to add shine and texture to glistening dragon’s hides; fine silks adorn elegant woodland elves; and frayed denims clothe wandering garden gnomes. By incorporating vintage fabrics, lace, and buttons into my work, I try to evoke the past, taking small treasures someone left behind and finding new purpose for it. I combine all of these materials in my dolls to create fantasy worlds. The cloth, fiber, and my stitches are the animating threads of each new creation.
You’ve just run into an old friend from high school. How do you answer the question, “What do YOU do?”
When I meet new people or run into people from the past they often ask “What do you do?” and I answer, “I am a dollmaker.” This usually causes them to pause, and you can almost see the wheels turning in their heads as they wonder, “What on earth is she talking about? Dolls, really?” The idea of spending time creating dolls is crazy to many. I am drawn to dolls because of the stories they evoke. Small children spend hours whispering to their dolls, sharing their thoughts and secrets with this most trusted friend. Older children pit their dolls against all sorts of challenges, creating elaborate worlds and enticing situations in which their companions triumph over adversity. Sometimes dolls can just exist in an imagined beautiful place of peace. As adults, we should not lose this attachment to the imaginary. As we age, being able to step away from ourselves and look at the world again with wonder is more important than ever. Dolls remind me of familiar stories from the past and can strike a chord of memory that frees the imagination.
How did you decide to become an artist? What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have? How do you ensure plenty of time to be an artist?
Art has been a constant in my life. I am not sure that I ever decided to become an artist. I have always needed an outlet for imagination, whether through drawing, working in metal, glass or clay, and now in fiber. Creating is a part of my daily routine. My ideas find expression in doll making. As my ideas take form, a story evolves and the doll’s personality begins to direct the way the piece takes shape. I usually have several projects in various states of completion and work on whichever piece suits my mood and the amount of time available. Some pieces will insist on immediate completion. I will block off specific times for machine sewing and large projects (usually the morning), but most of the sewing I do is handwork that can travel with me. Doll making fills in the corners and spaces of the rest of my days and evenings.
Tell us about your studio space and how you work.
Being able to work nearly anywhere has good and bad points. My main studio space, The Dungeon, (aka the basement) has a large work table used as a staging area for work in progress; all sorts of storage including a wall of shelves with all of my beads and buttons; and a workbench for dyeing, fiber prep, and messy endeavors; and more storage. I used to store many of my supplies in fancy tins and baskets but that meant having to search through everything to find what I wanted. Now, for efficiency, most of my supplies are in clear plastic boxes with big sticky labels. My “fancy” studio room—with a view—doubles as a guest bedroom. In nice weather, messy endeavors move to the barn and yard. Most often, I work in the dining room, which has a big table and good light but projects migrate through the house when I’m not watching. My family is very understanding. This hodgepodge of space and time, organization mixed with chaos, wouldn’t work for everyone, but this is my way and it works for me.
Tell us about a proud moment you’ve had as a result of your students’ efforts. As an instructor, what would be the best advice you could give to a student?
Teaching doll making is pure pleasure for me. Part of the fun is that there aren’t any wrong answers. I try to provide a framework within which students can create their own piece while they learn techniques to help them complete a doll they can enjoy. Many of my students have started a class saying “I can’t” and find that they really can. I have had the good luck to be contacted by some of my students who want to share photos of their completed pieces. These are proud moments especially when students have gone on to design their own dolls. The best advice to my students: “Do it your way.”