Fiber artist Flóra Carlile-Kovács shares the trials and tribulations of becoming an artist, and presents her lovely portfolio of felted wearables.
ABI: How did you get started making felt?
FC: My first felting experience was a disaster, when I was about 15. I saw others making felt in a Hungarian Folk Camp, and it seemed to be so easy. I got some wool from my mom and I tried to make a pair of slippers by myself, but it was rather a collection of “don’t dos.” I made every possible mistake and the result was a complete failure.
I did not even touch wool for the next ten years until I was asked to teach children how to felt. So I had to learn the basics by myself. But the big change came when I explored the possibilities of superfine merino wool, and I learned how to combine it with silks and learned how to dye my deep gem colors. That was addictive for me. Soon I met a gallery owner – who I’ve been working for ever since – who placed bigger and bigger orders so I could quit my office job and be an artist.
ABI: How are you currently selling your work?
FC: I’m doing art shows mostly in the Pacific Northwest. My studio is part of the West Seattle Art Walk, and that is a great opportunity in the fall, winter and spring. I have also been selling my work in the Iparos Gallery in Prague since 2005 and I’m now looking for galleries in the USA.
ABI: With regard to the gallery in Prague, has it been difficult working with a retailer in another country?
FC: Since felt is so lightweight, it is really easy to ship. I have a very good relationship with the proprietor in Prague. She places her order regularly and we also discuss how to renew her inventory. I also get some custom orders through her for special colors or sizes. Since the taxes are lower in the US than what I paid in Hungary, it’s still financially viable to work for her. However, she has to pay customs on the goods I ship to her.
ABI: Tell us about your teaching experiences.
FC: I’ve been teaching since the beginning of my felting career, both kids and adults, beginners and lately advanced levels. I teach evening classes or week-long camps. I love to share the tricks of the trade and love to challenge my students with difficult projects. Feltmaking is the most versatile craft I know.
Rather than teaching just a technique, I prefer to build a session of classes, one based on the other, so my students get to experience all the possibilities: from soft nunofelt scarves to strongly felted boots bags or jewelry, from the wonderful traditional nomadic design to contemporary individual design, from superfine merino wool and silk to coarse wool and its applications. My workshops are mostly project-oriented. Instead of making a pile of samples, we make an object, and we also discuss how to apply the knowledge to other projects.