It’s such fun to keep up with returning fiber artists to see what they’ve been up to each year. Their imaginations and creativity seem limitless and encourage us to explore new media fearlessly. Many artists not only teach a class (and will often reprise a POPULAR class) but also share a special talent in our Free Demonstrations tent. Jen Appleby is just such an artist and a whole lot of fun, too! She returns to Fiber College this year to teach a favorite Fiber College class: Wet Felt, Dry Felt Faerie Huts on Saturday, September 10th from 9 AM to 4 PM. And you never know what she’ll be demonstrating in the tent — maybe some of the pictures she’s shared with us here will give us a hint. Let’s meet Jen! Then you can read the details about her class and sign up here.
As we celebrate the tenth year of our Fiber College community, tell us about how community plays a part in your life as a fiber artist.
For me, community provides inspiration and support. I am lucky enough to have an exceptional group of friends who are both amazing creators, and provide regular opportunities for me to stretch myself artistically. A good community creates a safe space to take artistic risks and regularly infuses the group with new ideas, methods, and materials. Fiber College is an extension of my smaller community and lends structure to my creative vision over the year. On my way home from FC I am frequently thinking about what I may want to teach, sell or create for next year based on the unbelievable inspiration and support I find there.
What keeps you coming back to Fiber College? How is FC different from other teaching venues? What’s your favorite thing about Fiber College?
I look forward to returning to FC as soon as I leave. It is a highlight of my year, and I return because I love the people, the location, and the indefinable ‘vibe’ of the time spent there. I feel like ‘me’ at Fiber College, and this is a great gift. Fiber College is such a comfortable, fun, genuine environment to be doing what you love, with other people who love similar things. I eat well, I sleep well, and I play well at Fiber College. I like teaching so close to the outdoors, and the feel of ‘camp’ for grownups.
How do you keep your creativity fresh and new? What have you experimented with in the fiber arts in the past year?
I like to experiment with a variety of creative endeavors so rarely feel burnt on any one in particular. I also feel that each project or practice can reflect or enhance another. There is a source that wants to express itself, and whether it is origami or dance or wet felting, there are threads and resonances that can be more similar than different. I am interested in this dynamic and so am frequently moving from one thing to another. I have recently been experimenting with paper stars and flowers; reverse embroidery; and wet/dry felt fairy huts.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given to a student or another fiber friend?
I am a firm believer that art is important because individuals have been willing to push and stretch beyond a method mandating a certain procedure. While art and craft have useful means, I am most interested in how to manipulate those for something unique. I tend to motivate students to pay less attention to being exact or going by the book, and more attention to their curiosity and exploration.
You’ve hit a roadblock and need to get back into your creative groove. How would you do that?
When I hit a roadblock it is typically because I doubt my vision or abilities. Getting back to my community; looking at art; pushing through and doing it anyway; or remembering not every process or product will hit the mark all can be helpful.
Tell us about a proud moment you’ve had as a result of your students’ efforts.
I work with young people who have experienced significant trauma in their lives and as such have great difficulty being vulnerable and learning anything that requires patience, focus, and the ability to tolerate frustration. One young man was curious about learning to spin. His staff warned me that this would not likely be successful, but we gave it a try anyway. He took to it right away and was able to relax into the practice, recognizing that he is good at paying attention to multiple things at once. This was a skill that was once about survival, and now he realizes as artistically useful. He was euphoric over his success, as was I.
If you could go back in time, what might you change about your fiber journey?
I spent many years as a batik artist. I miss those days and wish I had continued to push and play with that medium. I hope someday to return to it.
What’s the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you?
I love to teach and to encourage each student’s unique gifts.
You can go read more about Jen’s class and sign up for it here.