Sheila Thompson :: Q&A with a Felt Artist
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Sheila Thompson is a fibre artist based in Toronto. Through the techniques of wet felting, her art practice explores questions about landscape change, resilience & loss, artefacts and inheritance. Themes of migration run through the latest works, creating impressions of artefacts of journey, the passage of time and memories of lost homelands.
We spoke to Sheila about her recent exhibition: Between the Layers: Stories in Paint and Fibre with Bev Quinn, an abstract painter at Toronto’s Studio 888. The exhibit featured her pieces from her Red and Black Gallery: stories of bloodlines, ties and bonds and pieces from The Second Generation and Migration Galleries: stories of the passage of time, remembering places, and capturing the essence of events. To learn about these galleries visit Sheila’s website: sheilathompson.studio
Can you tell us how you became involved with felt?
After a health scare about 15 years ago, I started making felt as a therapy to slow myself down and be more reflective about life. I had a very busy job full of stress, so teaching myself how to make felt as art pieces was sufficiently complicated, yet instantly gratifying and rewarding that it was just the thing I needed. I have always had an interest in fibres and felting fit the bill – not too fiddly and wonderfully tactile. I now have a busy exhibition schedule and art practice centred on making felt wall art and related wearables or home decor items from detailed images.
Where did the inspiration for Between the Layers come from?
Between the Layers was a co-exhibition between me and a fellow artist, Bev Quinn, who is an abstract painter. We realized that we could pull together our complementary yet entirely different work through the notion that between our layers of either paint or wool we are working towards telling a story. My stories tend to be all in the details and titles while Bev’s are large flowing gestures encapsulated in the paint.
You use fibres and organic materials to create a narrative. Can you tell us what pulled you in this direction?
To me, making felt and constructing the narrative were tightly linked. I wanted to take on the technical challenge of completing a narrative and the felt textile at the same time, i.e. no post felting embellishment with sewing or beading. I started to experiment with organic and fibre additions and inclusions between the layers and tucked into the surface to see what kind of things worked in concert with my storylines.
What’s the next for you in your artistic practice?
From a technical perspective, I will continue to explore incorporation of digital imagery either transparencies or fabrics to add to the narratives. I think there is still a lot to explore in stories of landscape reclamation, conflict resolution, migration, resilience and persistence. I am still evolving second and third generation pieces which continue a narrative over several pieces, one incorporated into another going forward and other time lapse narratives in single pieces.
Eventually, I would like to make huge map-like landscapes once I have access to a much larger studio and many more folks to help create. I would also like to collaborate with others to create thought provoking pieces.
Sheila Thompson is a felt :: feutre canada member and invaluable contributor to the felt :: feutre canada exhibition committee.