Updated: Oct 27, 2021
Alevtina Sharapova is a feltmaker and felt :: feutre canada member based in New Brunswick. Tina’s piece, Blue Labyrinth, was a part of the SHRINE exhibition and was the winner of the Fiona Duthie Wearable Felt Art Award (2018), selected by a panel of international feltmakers.
How did you discover felt making?
It was almost 10 years ago, I was looking through my friend’s feed at LiveJournal and I noticed some nice flowers made from wool. I never saw anything like that before, so I started to read more about it. I found a piece of roving in my box of yarn (from the time I was making textile dolls) and tried to make my first flower. It was very fluffy and cute! So I found a shop to buy more wool and my next project was a water bottle cozy- ugly, but very practical, it is still in use.
Was it love at first sight?
Yes, it was. And the more I looked at other people’s work, the more fascinated I was by its beauty, diversity, gentleness.
Music or no music while you work? If so what kind of music?
Yes, music or audiobooks, or podcasts. I like old jazz and ethnic music, like Goran Bregovich, something joyful and energetic.
Your favourite fibre?
I like merino wool and raw fleece. Merino is very soft and easy to felt. Raw fleece smells so naturally nice! Some people call it “barn fragrance,” warm and earthy. And I like the texture with curls on top so sometimes I leave these curls randomly on the surface.
Where do you find inspiration?
It can be from nature, from books, from movies. I like to play with textures that reminds me of tree bark or moss, but mostly my works relate to images or symbols and I create little stories for every piece I make. I dig my ideas out of fairy tales and legends, give them shapes and colours, adding new meanings to old forms.
Do you teach? If so what do you enjoy about that?
Yes, I teach and I find it very exciting! My students always surprise me with their ideas. Felting is really easy to pick up in the beginning. Yes, it needs more skills to create high quality pieces, but it is so easy to play with wool creating flowers, toys, little pictures! People enjoy working in warm soapy water, building shapes from what seems so soft and weak. And it is always a nice surprise to see that you make a bag or a hat from a bunch of fluff!
Who is your favourite artist? This can be another fibre artist or just any artist you admire.
There are so many wonderful artists in felt! And it is so amazing to know that many of them were not connected with fibre art when they started. They were so thrilled with the wonderful possibilities felting can give, so they evolved in their own unique way. Maybe I can mention one very special person – Alexander Pilin, who created felted shoes museum in Russia. Felted shoes “valenki” was a traditional Russian thing for ages and Pilin brought a new dimension to this old art, adding leather and fabric, making shoes look more modern without losing practical purpose.
What would you say to fibre artists just starting out?
Explore and play! Don’t be afraid to experiment and spoil something. And get some cheap wool for crazy ideas, so you will not be afraid to throw it away after you realize that it was all wrong. But in felting, you can reuse and utilize almost every piece, so again, don’t panic! Take it aside and the next day you will see how to make it work!
Are you a perfectionist?
Hard question… the more I work, the more mistakes I can see, the more improvement I want to make. But wool is such a wonderful material. It can hide many imperfections, turning them into features. If I have an image in my mind how my work should look, every detail is important, but life is not perfect! And wool can have its own ideas of where to go, so I have to admit that the work process is always a compromise between my ideas and wool desire to stay in certain shape.
Have you ever gone through a dry spell or felt blocked? What did you do to get restarted?
It is very rare that I don’t know what to do! I usually have some sketches ready in my sketchbook, waiting for proper time to bring them to life. If I am not sure where to start, I watch other artist’s works, workshops, trying to learn new techniques just to expand my view on felting. I can start with a small idea, for example, how to make stripes with prefelt, but later it evolves into a bigger project incorporating this method.
Describe the space you create in…
I work at home. I have a table in my living room, enough for most small projects like bags, toys, hats. Also, I have a folding table that I can add and have extra space for making jackets and dresses. I know some people are not sure how to felt at home since there could be a lot of water… but I don’t pour much water, just enough to make my felt damp. I put towels under the table in case something will leak and it works fine for me. So if you have a lot of towels and bubble wrap, you will be fine! I have a shelving unit with wool, silk, fibres, tools and pieces of plastic for patterns.
You can see more of Alevtina’s work here: artisalwaysmagic.com