Updated: Oct 24, 2021
For felt :: feutre canada member, Fay Hodson, art has always been an essential part of her life. Ten years ago she stopped working to focus on art and travel. Since then she’s taken workshops and classes in felting, painting, and drawing. This spring she will be graduating with a Fine Arts Degree from the Alberta University of the Arts (formerly ACAD).
Fay works in a variety of media. Her early work was primarily painting and drawing. In the past decade or so, felt-making has become a large part of her practice. Recently she’s been exploring work that integrates wet and needle felting. She feels combining the two techniques greatly increases the potential of the medium. She’s also been exploring how to integrate felt making with painting.
Recently we talked to Fay about being a mature student and what she’s learned from the process.
Why did you decide to do your BFA [as a mature student]?
It was really more of a journey rather than a decision. After I stopped working to focus on my art practice and travel, I took workshops and credit free courses. These were very good options, however, it felt like something was missing. I wanted to learn things that I didn’t know to ask about, and to be pushed in directions I wouldn’t intuitively go on my own. Plus, I really wanted to get serious constructive criticism and be challenged —art school seemed like a good option.
I took a first year art history course to see if I was up for the rigours of going back to school, and loved it. Next step was taking more courses. Which meant that I had to apply to the degree program, to get into the classes I wanted. I started generally following the program and was given some credit for previous education.
My plan was to keep going as long as the courses seemed valuable – graduation wasn’t really a major objective. I was able to take classes in the fall, allowing me to travel and continue my art practice the rest of the year. It fit relatively comfortably into our lifestyle and gave me the structure that I missed after stopping work.
Much to my surprise, eight years later I’m finished. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity —the instructors were wonderful and it was very interesting, motivating, and eye-opening to be classmates with a new generation. If you are interested in more detail throughout my journey you can check out Back to School Updates on my blog.
What do you think are the advantages of being a mature student?
Being a mature student has some challenges for sure but many advantages. The specifics depend on your individual circumstances. I am an academic at heart which made it much easier —I already knew how to research and write papers, study for exams, manage projects, problem solve etc, but these skills aren’t critical.
To be candid, I am a more-than-mature student so I did not feel the pressure of launching a career —I was there purely to learn with no other agenda— which was a privilege and joy. General life experience was definitely valuable. Having that framework of experience and knowledge, that can only develop by living a life, provides a much richer context for understanding and appreciating art.
Just being more “mature” helped constantly —it was fascinating to watch how much young students matured over the course of four years. Their confidence, commitment, patience, and work ethic matured and it was definitely an advantage to start out that way as a mature student. Everyone is different.
Taking this degree at this time of life was the right moment for me —I was at the right point to shift focus and it was revitalizing and motivating. As an aside, I had several students and instructors talk about how they appreciated having the influence of mature students in classes and I don’t think they were just being kind. I wasn’t alone as a mature student but others from my generation were few and far between.
What did you learn during your BFA that you use in your felting practice?
It is hard to give a short answer because the way I think about art (this includes craft of course), and how I approach my practice, has fundamentally changed. I think I am more fearless about trying new things and am more focused on and confident in my own assessment of my work —which is liberating. Feedback from others is important for sure but my skin has gotten thicker because of this confidence. I am more inclined to take on projects that require researching background information; starting with an idea and researching before even deciding what object I want to make.
Previously, my practice was very personal and almost insular. I focused on what resonated with me. Not to say that this was a bad thing, but I now appreciate having a much broader understanding of art —that it is a complex, integral aspect of human nature and our societies and we can learn so much from it. For example, I have done quite a lot of reading about the history of felt making —how it was essential for survival and came to be an integral part of the culture in some regions.
North America’s relatively recent adoption of felt making has been for quite different reasons and that is evident in how we make and use felt. It has caused me to become more connected with the local felting and wool producing community, and to think about the function that felt making can serve beyond being just an amazing medium. I have also intentionally taken workshops with international felt makers to learn about different techniques and and gain an aesthetic appreciations of felt.
What is it about felting that challenges and fascinates you? Felting has infinite potential —I am always thinking about new things that I can do with it. I love experimenting with different techniques, looking for different ways to combine needle and wet felting, as well as integrating felt with my first artistic passions: painting and drawing. I enjoy responding to a medium rather than trying to control it —felt is a perfect choice for me. It feels like I am working collaboratively with an inanimate medium that has a mind of its own.
What are you currently working on? Lots – maybe too much! During the pandemic, I am finding it harder than usual to walk the fine line between being too busy and not busy enough.
I just finished a workshop with Nicola Brown on felting and eco-dyeing bags —a great experience. I belong to a local guild which has been very active during the pandemic and we have mini projects on the go.
I just finished a felt square to go into a group quilt about “looking out your window” and am doing some final touches on a piece inspired by Kandinsky’s use of line in his paintings.
I am also working on a series of headgear which I hope to exhibit sometime in the not too distant future, called “Sustainability on My Mind” and is a metaphor for how sustainability, literally and figuratively, weighs heavily on my mind.
Pre Covid, Fay taught workshops at the Leighton Centre south of Calgary, AB and Legacy Studio in Cochrane, AB. These are currently on hold due to the pandemic.
Currently Fay’s work can be seen at McMichael Makers’ Market Until March 19, 2021.
Fay’s work is also available at Leighton Centre Gallery Shop Winter Collection and the Leighton Centre: May 2021 “Art on Wall” members’ collection.