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Diane Goossens :: Creating During Covid

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Fibre artist, Diane Goossens lives in Kelowna, BC. She began working with felt in 2011, her longstanding passion for one-of-a-kind clothing makes it the perfect match. Frequently she begins her projects with recycled saris from India. These saris are too fragile to use on their own and definitely reflect the imprint of their previous owner’s life – burn holes, stains, rips. Through the process of Nuno felting they are given a second life. Diane uses this unique fabric to make gorgeous wearable art.

For Diane’s two and three dimensional pieces, she finds inspiration from systems and structures she sees in the physical, political, social and behavioural world.  With these works, the challenge is to convey, through felting, concepts and ideas to reflect these thoughts and hopefully invoke questions and ideas in others.

Diane has studied with national and international artists and exhibited locally and nationally. She is part of the award winning Art Felt Collaborative.

Recently Diane joined us to discuss creativity in the time of Covid.

Like everyone, 2020 has been a layered year for me. I’ve managed to create but less so than other years. I’ve had some injuries that set me back for good chunks of the day and I’ve been helping my family transition my parents off the family farm (where they’ve lived for over 70 years) into assisted living. Needless to say, my energy has been pulled from my felt making during 2020.

When the first lockdown occurred, I spent time in my garden culling overgrown beds and pulling invasive plants and I continued this into the fall. This outside retreat and physical connection to soil and plants helped to ground me during these extraordinary times. On reflection, this process has been similar to what I’ve done with my felt making this year. I have been working through my stash of nuno fabrics and designer linings and readying my studio and supplies for a promising 2021. I made some lavender-filled eye pillows for our Ponderosa Fibre Arts Guild Annual Artisan Sale. Learn more here or follow them on Instagram @ponderosaguild.

I have been exploring different compositions of Nuno felted 10 inch squares to use up older fibres and silk scraps. This work has also doubled as an opportunity to refine my design and colour expertise. I’ve been happy with many of the projects: others will be used for trivets in the kitchen… but all have been an opportunity to experiment and learn.

I love to create Nuno fabric from used silk saris that I then sew into jackets. I line them with fabric that my sister Carol in NYC designs using urban photos that she manipulates in Photoshop. Visit here to learn more.

Early in the lockdown, I was commissioned to make a garment for a woman who had seen my wearable art at our Guild’s Annual Artisan Sale. I worked up two sets of nuno fabric for her and she chose from these. She also selected a lining from my sister’s designs and Carol adapted the design to stretch over 2 yards giving me great flexibility in designing how the inside lining would look. I also created yardage for two additional jackets and I’ve paired them with a complimentary lining in anticipation of future commissions.

The past year was also a time to reach out to family and friends worldwide. Last year I was able to travel to India for seven weeks for Iyengar yoga and met a dressmaker in Pune, India. This summer, out of the blue, Sunita reconnected with me over Instagram. It provided an opportunity to connect about how India was doing during the pandemic and about saris for my felting.

While many women in India still wear saris, they are increasing wearing long tunics and pants with head scarves. Sunita collected used saris from her friends and through WhatsApp provided pictures of the choices. With the shrinkage, I find I need two full saris (over 6 yards) to create enough yardage for a full jacket.

Getting two Nuno felted pieces to complement each other can be difficult so the more saris the better. Occasionally I will also overdye to build a complementary fabric! Our arrangement helped these woman cull some of their older pieces and me to build my fabric collection. Once I’m happy with the felted fabric, I work with my sister’s designs to choose a complimentary lining.

Two years ago, I would drag a 4’ by 8’ plywood board covered in marine vinyl from the garage into my kitchen and throw it on top of my cooktop island to create a large surface on which to felt. Then I would bring my totes of fibre and fabric from upstairs. The kitchen looked like a fibre/fabric bomb had gone off in it with bins, lids, roving, silks, yarns over every surface and wet towels on the floor. Projects needed to be completed in concentrated chucks so I could get rid of the mess in between projects.

Since then, we moved into a small house and one of the three bedrooms became my studio. I have two 6’ foldable tables that I either use together or separately and my fibres and fabrics are in clear plastic totes on metal shelving. Projects can now lay out for days and I can go with my creative flow. I’ve noticed that this time has allowed my pieces to evolve more naturally.

Through your work you examine the systems and structures that you find in the physical, political, social, and behavioural world.  What are you working on now?

I continue to be aware of the gender equality in not just Western society but around the world. Women are increasing moving into corporate boardrooms (and science, trades and technology, and …). I like that I can marry saris – fabric only worn by women – into one of a kind wearable art pieces that can be worn in these work settings. I’m working on incorporating Nuno felt made with Indian saris and traditional pieces of men’s clothing into garments to reflect the integration of women in the workplace.

I also like the continuity of working with women in India.  I may have been able to get by with the saris that I already had in my stash but connecting and purchasing from Sunita in Pune really appealed to me. It’s an active step I can take to support women if even just in a small way.

What are you looking forward to creatively in 2021?

I will continue to collaborate with my sister. Talking several times a week, especially when NYC was a Covid red zone, gave both of us a much-needed artistic distraction and that will continue. To date, I’ve been using Carol’s fabrics as linings but I’m continuing to explore marrying them with felt on the outside of pieces – for example, lapels or welts on jackets. I’d also like to design pillows with one side a bold modern fabric and other side a warm nuno felt.

I’m also working on some new pattern designs that compliment felted fabric and the woman for whom I am designing.

And lastly, I’m looking forward to when our Ponderosa Guild and the Art Felt Collaborative, a group with which I also exhibit, can meet in person again.

Thank you, Diane for sharing your thoughts with us. We appreciate it. 

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