Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Fibre artist, Carmella Karijo Rother lives nestled among century-old pines in Gatineau Park, Quebec. Her work is defined by “A love of nature, design, and beauty.” Her aesthetic is “one of studied simplicity.”
She creates art with a variety of textiles and fibres. Her work is three-dimensional and she encourages viewers to experience her pieces completely by allowing them to touch and hold her sculptures.
Carmella’s work is currently in the City of Ottawa Fine Art Collection. Past exhibits include: Darrell Bell Gallery, Saskatoon; General Fine Craft, Almonte; World of Threads Festival, Oakville; and Wall Space Gallery, Ottawa
Here is our Q&A with Carmella. We think you will enjoy learning about this very talented artist.
How did you discover felt making?
I was searching for a new direction in my art after several years of making silk canvases, and I had it in my head to work in three-dimensions. Diane Lemire (https://generalfinecraft.com/makers-by-category/fibre/diane-lemire/) and I are part of a knitting group, and she would often bring her felt pieces to work on. One day it just hit me that I too could work with felt. I considered the warmth, softness and suppleness of the material, its lovely neutral colours, the simplicity of wool as a medium, its natural origins, and these led me down the felting path.
Do you have your early work?
Following sometimes very lengthy periods of experimentation, when I am on the cusp of starting a new body of work, the very first piece seems to have some special mojo. It’s as if all the ideas, intensity and powers coalesce to make a really good piece. I think it is more likely that I don’t know quite what I am doing and I am free to work without pre-judging. So I do keep my first piece of every art form I make. It brings me back to the moment of creativity that sparked a line of pieces, and makes me very happy.
What would you say to fibre artists just starting out?
Three little words: do the work.
Much of an artist’s recurrent activities are spent trying new ideas that do not work out as originally anticipated. Sometimes we double-back and try again repeatedly, other times we head off on a different tangent. I have questioned continuing with the art more times than I care to admit, however I keep returning to my studio and doing the work. Inevitably, when I think I have nothing left to give, when I despair of resolving an issue, I find something to engage me again. Sometimes it is good to walk away for a while – as I have done for days, even weeks – but there is a tether that draws me back, usually with some fragile idea that needs to be nurtured and explored.
I often think of my work before I fall asleep and when I first wake up, and I find this leads to something, whether successful or a non-germinating. If all is well I leap up in the morning, my favourite time, and get to work immediately. If I am reluctant to face the studio, I drag myself there anyhow, and soon I am working again. It helps that my studio is in my home and therefore easily accessible. It is a space that I love, with windows looking onto forested parkland and a cozy chair to sit in. I am often there even when not working.
Are you a perfectionist?
No. To me this describes someone extreme in their vision of total control, who will stop at nothing to achieve the ideas envisioned in her/his head. As an artist I need to be flexible. I can never know the outcome of what I am doing, whether it is a hands or heart issue. The beauty of making art, for me, is that I cannot envisage the direction that things are going, nor the outcome. If I could, all the magic would be gone and I would not be interested in doing it. When a piece is completed I don’t agonize over a small issue or critique it. I make it the best I can, with the skills and creativity I have at that moment, and I move on. I made it, it’s over, it’s good, and now I want to start a new piece that is going to be different in this one feature….
Have you ever gone through a dry spell or felt blocked? What did you do to get restarted?
I have to answer this with a resounding “YES”. It happens frequently. After many years I have come to see that this is part of the process, and do not get as discouraged as I did in the early days. The more one explores an idea, the more of a push-back there is by the universe. When I think I cannot come up with one more thought of how to do something or what to do next, I keep going back to it and try a different angle.
I enjoy reading biographies of artists to see what their lives are/were like, and note that no matter how famous, there is commonality in the creative process. I am intrigued by other artists’ visions, their triumphs and their tragedies, and see that we are all the same, really. For my current work I often look at ceramic pieces for inspiration. As do other artists, I enjoy museums, art galleries, exhibitions, studio tours – any art “fix” that makes me grateful to be doing what I am doing and to be part of a community of people making beautiful and thought-provoking work.
I make use of the solitary time that I need in my life, to think about my art, the issues that faces me. It is a slow, laborious process, often fraught with rabbit holes. I know that if I was content to make several iterations of the pieces I produce, I would not feel blocked as often. However I love the challenge of pushing the envelope, discovering what I can do. I have found that my desire to do this cannot always be matched with techniques I am able to do, or sometimes the laws of physics are against me! I have come to begrudgingly accept that frustrating periods are inevitable and even necessary.
What are you working on now?
I am working with industrial felt. It is more consistent and dense than anything I can make. I am experimenting with various techniques I have accumulated over the years, and will see where this takes me; it will be yet another road well-travelled. At the same time I am making “panniers” with coiled cotton rope, and selling them in two venues at present. I find it helps to have some concrete work out there, while I pursue new work in my studio.
To learn more about this artist’s work visit:: www.ckrother.com