My most recent project is a white felted fiber ball. I have always been drawn to bold, vibrant colors, but I wanted to experiment with using one color and concentrate on texture, to encourage the viewer to pause and absorb the abstract but subtle designs. I had already photographed the ball by itself, to be digitally manipulated—cropped and magnified as I see fit.
It is early Spring in New York City and I decided to take my ball to Riverside Park for the one-hour art assignment, because I kept visualizing what it would look like nestled in the branches of fruit trees that are in the beginning stages of growing their leaves and blooming. Riverside Park is a beautiful and established park on 191 acres of land; it was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who also planned the iconic Central Park) and was built between 1875 and 1910. Much of it overlooks the Hudson River and it is filled with beautiful trees and plantings, monuments, natural rock croppings and hardscaping.
As a fiber artist, I like to work with different textiles, but wool is my favorite because it is such an amazing material. Wool comes from sheep who are shorn in early Spring. Their coats keep them warm over winter and shearing them doesn’t harm them, which is important to me. I work mostly with merino wool; it is very soft and felts easily. I also use lots of wool yarns and they are usually hand-spun and dyed. I have a collection of yarn, some of it decades old! (Buying yarn is one of my favorite activities and I go to festivals and seek out yarn shops wherever I go.)
So I feel that using wool connects me and my artwork to nature in a very fundamental way. (I would never use man-made materials like acrylic or polyester in my work.) Additionally, the white ball just feels Spring-like to me and it feels playful and fun to join the ball with the awakening trees.
So, I packed the ball, camera, and tripod in a knapsack and for expediency, took my bicycle to the park. It was a perfect day; upper 60’s and mostly sunny. The park was filled with people with their dogs and kids enjoying the weather.
I rode slowly, mindful of avoiding running into anyone as I checked out suitable trees for my ball. I only wanted fruit trees, with their delicate and intricate branches and soon-to-be flowering gorgeousness. Some already had bright green leaves just beginning to unfurl. Others teased with still tight flower buds, only a hint if what would soon come.
Like typical New Yorkers, most people ignored me as I got to work: bike parked, knapsack on the ground, I placed my ball into the branches of numerous trees. The ball weighs about two pounds and I had to pick branches that were sturdy enough to hold it. I was only questioned once and it was from a pair of elderly women who approached me and asked me what the ball was; I said: “It’s a felted fiber ball,” (wondering if this meant anything to them…) to which they responded that it: “Was beautiful.” “Thanks,” I said, and they were off.
I rode from the southern end of the park at 72nd street to 96th street, stopping numerous times to take photos. A couple more stops going back and then I just enjoyed the beautiful Spring day, riding my bike back to my apartment, my ball resting in the knapsack on my back.