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Roberta Rolf :: Bringing Felt to Life

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

Roberta Rolf discovered felting over ten years ago when she took Andrea Graham’s needle-felting workshop, Fabulous Fun Felted Figure at Fibre Potpourri, in Olds, Alberta. The event was co-hosted by the Edmonton Needlecraft Guild where she’d been an active member for over twenty five years.

Five years later, when Roberta joined the Edmonton Weavers’ Guild (EWG) to learn how to spin, she learned they ran a Fibre-2-Felt study group. The group became her main focus. During that time she took classes with felt artists like Melissa Arnold, and Moy Mackay. She learned how to make projects like 3D vessels, figures, and nuno scarves. When she wasn’t working on a project, and hanging out with her felting friends, she’d make hats. She says, she has a lot of hats.

Recently we talked to Roberta, whose mask of a Saiga is part of Gladys Paulus’ Faces of Extinction exhibit. Faces of Extinction is an international community art project & on-line exhibition that was created to bring attention to the “impact of human activity on ecosystems and habitats, and the increased rate of species loss that is one of the results.” Learn how you can be part of this exciting project HERE

What made you enter Gladys’s call for submissions?

In 2019 EWG joined Red Deer College in bringing Gladys Paulus to Canada. We had Gladys teach us her five-day Animal Mask and two-day colourplay workshop. I had seen a documentary on the Saiga, which is a Mongolian Antelope. I was intrigued by its unique nose. When we decided to have Gladys do two workshops for EWG, I knew this was the animal I wanted to felt.

In January 2020, Gladys released her Call for Submission for “Faces of Extinction”. I knew my Saiga was eligible. The criteria was a felted mask of a species that is considered endangered based on the IUCN Red List. The documentary had spoken about the mass die-off of Saiga’s due to a fungus that exists in their nostrils. In the years when the spring air is very moist, this fungus creates a respiratory disease that results in a high percentage of deaths. The IUCN Red List reports Saiga are critically endangered. Humans also play a role with their ‘need’ to harvest the Saigas antlers.

Gladys’ call for submission expanded from Facebook to articles in Australia’s Felt magazine in January and the latest issue of German’s FilzFun magazine. As felt :: feutre canada is Canada’s Felt publication, Saiga (Roberta’s animal character), feels she would like to present the call for submission on behalf of Gladys Paulus. As Saiga was excited to have been included in both of these publications, she feels more Canadian felters may also wish to participate.

Do you usually make masks? Or is this new for you? 

Making the Saiga was my first felted mask. A handful of us did some pre-class work by making a paper mask to understand it’s features and researched our animal’s lifestyle.

Did you enjoy working with Gladys? Have you worked with her more than once? 

Gladys is a warm and intuitive instructor. I was also fortunate to have done the ‘Inspired by Nature’ five day workshop, which was part of the Red Deer Polytech Summer Series, so I was able to enjoy Gladys’s company for 19 days.

What did you find most challenging? 

The most challenging part was the continuous rubbing and rubbing and rubbing… When Gladys checked in on each of us her parting words were always, “Keep rubbing,” which brings out the details of our animal.

Tell us about your recent experience at Hungarian Felting Camp?  

Felting Camp was an exhausting endeavour. Five, six-to-eight hour-days of steady felting. Between each day there was a two-hour Q&A and share zoom session. Enthusiastic felters, excellent instructors, and great opportunity to get a taste of various felting techniques.

The hosts have done an excellent job in delivering their programs. Always warm and delightful, despite the long hours they keep and the few technical issues. Their commitment to be the best hosts and share their Hungarian hospitality to participants is very impressive.

Thanks to Roberta for sharing her story and artwork with us. The featured pieces are from workshops with: Alison Cole, Andrea Graham, Katia Mokeyeva, Nataliia Iashnikova, Melissa Arnold, Judit Pocs, Ariane Mariane, Nicola Brown, and Carolyn Agopsowicz.

To learn how you can submit to Faces of Extinction visit here:

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