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Chantal Cardinal :: FELT à la main

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Artist, Designer and Artisan Felter, Chantal Cardinal explores the world and expresses what she sees through her hands. She has spent her life making things. Over the years she has sewn, painted, and shaped ceramics. But what she enjoys most of all is to “repurpose and transform things”.  It’s no wonder she loves working with felt.

Recently we interviewed Vancouver-based Chantal about her work and her artistic philosophy. We hope you enjoy learning about her creative endeavours as much as we did.

How did you discover felting? 

I literally walked into a felter’s studio… her mezzanine space became available so I asked if she was looking for another person to replace the ceramic artist that had been there. With my background in Fashion and Film, I was wanting to make items out of her handmade felt, but she said, “no”.

About a month later she called me to ask if I was interested in working in her studio and the rest, as we say, is history.  I learned to do felt yardage by using a mechanical roller, but I was curious about other ways of making felt and wanted to test test test a gazillion ideas. After almost two years, I got my own studio at The Arts Factory and I am still working on all those tests. Who are your artistic influences?

My influences have changed over the years but of late I am really inspired by textural contemporary ceramic work. When it comes to felting, I keep a list of Pinterest Felters to Follow, a private board which includes Fiona Duthie, of course, Marjolein Dallinga, Lisa Klakulak, Maria Friese, Charlotte Sehmisch and quite a few more. I was lucky enough to have taken workshops with all mentioned by name but one. Then there is the large-scale work from Anneke Copier & Claudio Varone and my rockstar of felting, Claudy Jongstra. The logistics of working on extra-large pieces really ignites me.

On your website you talk about how you realized very early on that you explore the world through your hands. So given your tactile nature, is your creative process planned or intuitive? How much does the way a creation feels guide the work. 

I love felting because I love love love the process. Planning where to insert a texture of an effect must be done ahead of time or you might miss the opportunity to do so. I learn by manipulating… I trust my hands more than my eyes to see what is going on, to feel what is going on. I studied massage before discovering felting and I learned to take in information with my hands even more. I am not sure if this is intuition or just finally being able to listen.

What is your favourite fibre to work with? Do you use tools? If so what? 

This is like asking a parent to choose a favourite child… I love all fibres for different reasons, but I am trying to focus on locally available wool which I discovered when I was awarded a Vancity commission and having to source my wool locally, but most of all ethically. My focus became Romney, not the easiest wool to felt, but I like a challenge.

I notice a great deal of your work features black, grey and white wool. These pieces are remind one of black and white photographs. Why are you drawn to these colours? 

I do like the effects you can achieve with just Black and White, discovering more of the essence of the wool. Good metaphor comparing it to the feeling you get from a black and white photography, I might have to borrow that. But don’t get me wrong I love colour!

I also found that I can get lost in colour, so I am trying to rein it back after my Vancity “Collective Hands Blooming” I spent 3 months with a table full of bright primary/secondary colours. At first, I just needed a colour break and now I just love a more subtle way of using colour.

What is your favourite piece at the moment?

My last piece is always my favourite, because I get a high from accomplishing whatever challenge I set for myself.

What are you working on?

I am working on a piece for our annual Spring Salon in less than 2 weeks (see below) and getting ready to leave for Holland to participate in an event part of the Cultural City of Europe 2018 in Groningen. I enquired about an internship at Studio Claudy Jongstra and they said yes, but asked if I was interested in participating in the Waste No Waste Factory and the Woven Skin.

WOVEN SKIN is a sculptural textile art installation created by Claudy Jongstra. and will explore three core elements – Ecology, Color, Community – through lectures and public programming in a selection of international locations, beginning at the Waste NO-Waste  Factory in Groningen. In each location, local communities, artists, artisans, chefs and influencers will expand the community of WOVEN SKIN, spreading the message of inclusivity, sustainability, and the preservation of tacit knowledge and biodiversity.

This will be quite the sustainable showcase, the essence of Claudy from farm to table, farm to art, engaging the public and inviting conversation. I hope to be posting and writing about my experience from Groningen, April 23 -June 9, 2018 coming up fast.

Do you have any shows upcoming?

Yes, we have our 3rd annual Spring Salon @ The Arts Factory April 13-14, 2018. This year, it’s a collaboration between a photographer that took portraits of us in our studio and 14 of us artists (3 from outside The Arts Factory). During my photo session, I mentioned that it would be great to have his portraits and our artwork side by side… a couple months later, here we are.

I worked on a few pieces for Once upon a Time (TV-series) to start off the year, trying to do two identical web overshirt for a witch character which I will not be able to show the final look until the episode airs. I also created finger sleeves made for nymphs characters that finally got just painted blue. I’m sure if they ever found another use for them. The costume crew said they would wear them in the workshop just for fun if nothing else!

I just did a podcast today with fellow artist Carol Mcquaid for her latest endeavour called “Two Artists walk into a bar…” “Two Artists Walk Into A Bar It will probably be available to hear during the time I will be in Holland. There is nothing like a big yellow microphone to make you say silly things. It’s a big blurr… so I hope I made some sense!

I am humbled and lucky to have these experiences offered to me… all because of my studio felt practice.

Chantal Cardinal:


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