Updated: Oct 24, 2021
Linda Armstrong is easy to listen to. She’s expressive with an infectious laugh. For thirty-one years she was a high school visual art teacher. Talking to her one gets the feeling she would be the kind of teacher the students admired. A teacher whose passion for her subject fuelled her students curiosity and interest. It’s easy to recognize this by the way she speaks about learning her craft. We all know the best teachers are those who love to learn. We all remember the teachers we had like that. They stay with us a lifetime.
The London, Ontario-based, artist says “I am a maker. I have always used my hands to express myself. Whether through the experience of touch or the ability to work with tactile texture, my art work reflects my desire to experiment and pursue a variety of media in a unique way.”
Since retiring from teaching she has been actively pursuing her interest in felting, every chance she has. Her love affair with the medium began during a visit to Tallinn, Estonia, when she was exposed to the art form for the first time. Before that she had no idea about textiles.
Linda was so smitten with the art form that after her holiday she began looking online for instruction. She discovered Jenny Hill, an award-winning fibre artist with a series of YouTube videos. This started her on the path, but she was eager to learn more.
Eventually Linda discovered fibre artist Kim Goodling, of Vermont Grand View Farm. She asked Kim to teach her, and she agreed, so she visited her in Vermont. They hit it off immediately. It was through Kim that things began to come together. She opened up the world of felting to Linda.
“Since then,” she says, “I have attempted to make up for lost time by taking as many courses in order to deepen my understanding of this new passion for felt making and textile arts.” Linda has studied with some of the most talented artists working with fibre: Fiona Duthie, Katia Mokeyeva, Pam de Groot, Kristy Kun, Nicola Brown, Ellen Bakker, Judit Poc, and Zsofia Marx. She says, “Their instruction and inspiration has helped me to develop my own voice.”
It was at the 2017 Felters Fling that she made her next important friendship —with Beth Marx, a fibre artist from California. They were both enrolled in Fiona Duthie’s Big Ink: Surface Design + Garment Construction, when they learned they were both planning on joining Fiona at her Shetland Island Retreat.
Since then, a lovely long-distance friendship has sprung up between the two artists, built on a shared creativity. They regularly spend their free time together in their “virtual studio” where they share ideas, skills and techniques. It’s not unusual for two or three hours to go by without them noticing.
They have even collaborated on several pieces together. One of those pieces, Separate yet Connected, was inspired by Fiona Duthie’s Asymmetrical Tunic, part of the March 2020 Colour Collaboration exhibition by Fiona and Ellen Bakker.
For Linda, felting is about learning techniques and enjoying the process, rather than the end result. The art of the different materials coming together. She recalls Fiona Duthie encouraging her to take the time to explore, test, and push the techniques of what she learned over the previous six years.
These days Linda’s work explores the use of mixed media to generate a variety of surface techniques. She says, “I have come full circle with my early use of cyanotype, which I now incorporate into my felt making through garments and home accessories.” The results are stunning. She has also begun to use her sewing machine to do free motion quilting on her pieces. Something else that links her to the past, especially to her Mother, who always tried to encourage her to learn to sew.
Recently Linda has been learning all about hat-making with master felter, Zsofia Marx. Her ambition is to create her own unique resist templates to make the designs her own. She’s definitely going in the right direction judging by these beauties.
Many thanks to Linda for generously sharing her story with us.