Fiber artist Tracey McCracken Palmer developed a technique for creating felted landscapes. She shares her passion for this medium, and her business plans.
ABI: Tell us about your inspiration and technique.
TMP: I am inspired by nature, pure and simple. I’m constantly saying, “I bet I can felt that!” whenever I see a beautiful sunset or clouds passing over the mountains where I live. The changing of seasons and weather each hold their own magic, and are a constant source for my creativity. I’ve painted mainly in acrylics for most of my life, but in 2013 I discovered the art of making felt, which has opened up a whole new path of inspiration and passion for me. Creating landscapes in felt is a unique art, and after learning the basic technique I’ve developed my own style. At a distance they resemble soft pastel or watercolor, but on closer inspection you see the texture of the fibers, and realize it is made entirely of wool.
My process begins with wet felting, layering colors of pure dyed wool atop of several layers of undyed wool to mainly block in my scene, with some detail added. I wet it with hot soapy water and work it, pressing, turning and rolling repeatedly in a piece of bubble wrap for over two hours until the friction binds the fibers together, creating felt. The soap is then rinsed out before letting it air dry.
After it dries, I add more details to the landscape through needle felting, using notched needles which push additional wool fibers into the felt. The notches grab the fibers and tangle them with the inner layers as the needle enters the felt, adding detail and depth. It can, however be easily pulled back off and redone if necessary. Needle felting is always exciting, and sometimes just that tiny bit of wool either added or taken away, can completely change the essence of a piece. I also use hand carders to mix wool colors for shadows and highlights.
ABI: How do you present and sell your work?
TMP: My work is professionally framed under glass with a spacer placed between the felt and glass, leaving room for the fibers to breathe. The framing showcases it as a fine art piece, and the glass protects it, for it could easily be ruined if the needle felted details were accidentally pulled off.
ABI: Could you share the challenges you have with a current commission project you are working on?
TMP: I have been commissioned to create a very detailed scene for a Christmas present. It’s a Cape Cod style house with three dormer windows, and picket fence railing along the porch and down the front steps. There will be a lot of detail work in just the house – all those straight lines in the railing, plus there is a yard full of blooming rhododendron, azaleas, dogwoods and several huge oak trees. What a challenge! I’m looking forward to it though; detail and realism are what I really love and strive for.
ABI: What long-term plans do you have for your business?
TMP: I look forward to showing my work in more galleries, and plan to keep creating, always learning and pushing the boundaries of what I can create. My enthusiasm is never ending! I would also like to teach some workshops in the next year or two, so I can share this unique way of creating landscapes with others.