Thoughts on the making of a Prince and meeting the subject of my portrait...
photo: Joseph Hopfner
It seems I've been able to spark the imagination of a country by showing what can be done with wool as a medium for fine art. I had the privilege of presenting my life sized needle-felted wool busts of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Charles in St. John's NL during the May 2022 Royal Tour of Canada.
It started with someone seeing my faces made of wool and imagining that the Patron of the Campaign For Wool should be made with Canadian wool to celebrate the 10th global anniversary of the campaign, and, after a global pandemic put a stop to the planned unveiling, looking ahead to the Jubilee and thinking that a bust of Her Majesty could be commissioned as well. It happened with a creative spirit and a quiet studio to experiment so that a small heart of needle-felted wool could eventually morph into a life-size bust of a monarch, then two. The subject for the portrait seemed daunting at first. After a week I thought - “I make faces; that is what I do” - and got to work, as usual, trying to understand and capture the essence of the person. Like all my pieces, whether they are portraits or not, I enjoy my time in the studio with them. I feel I get to know them and have great “conversations” about life and beliefs. The wool has its say in the pieces as well, collaborating to make cheeky grins or adding a bit of fun with curls. The act of needle-felting, similar to pointillism, adds to the overall meaning – pushing and pulling the wool tighter and tighter. So many small gestures build the piece, build our lives, build the fabric of our communities. Art can do that – strengthen the fibre of communities. For the Royal Tour, Campaign For Wool Canada had organized a roomful of creative people who love to work with wool to make exquisite pieces. The Prince was gracious, interested, funny and knowledgeable. After watching him interact with everyone in the room and speaking with him, I felt that I had done him justice in my sculpture. It was amazing to be able to talk about my process, the technique, the wool, and also to explain what my intent was for the piece. I'm happy to have done my part to put fibre art in the news these last weeks. I often think back to advice that was given to me at a juror's lecture when I asked about not finding a place for my work in juried show submissions: “Just keep putting your work out there and they'll catch up eventually.”
photos above and below: Emily Christie
The two busts were not conceived at first to be shown together and, not having seen the Prince's bust for over a year when I was asked to make the bust of Her Majesty, I was nervous about seeing them side by side.
The sculptures are all needle-felted wool – that includes the eyes, teeth, clothing, jewellery, hair... There is a threaded metal rod that goes through the wool body to attach it to the wood base; the earrings and necklace are attached with jewellery clasps and hooks.
I was taken aback by how much I had missed the first bust when I saw him at Government House. He needed a couple of touch-ups after his travels.
The bust of Prince Charles and Her Majesty are on loan to Government House in St. John's NL by the Campaign For Wool Canada, June 2022. A short film of the making of the Queen's bust is in the works.
Everyone is invited to attend this event. Manitoba fibre artist and
needle felter Rosemarie Péloquin. Rosemarie will share why she loves using wool as an artistic medium, talk about her Campaign for Wool commissions, and relate her experience meeting HRH The Prince of Wales as part of the recent Royal Visit to Canada.
The event will consist of brief opening remarks, speaker's presentation and ample time for Q&A.
Participation is free, but registration is required. Register HERE.