Felting frenzy at the Owens

The Owens Art Gallery’s MAKER MAKER workshop series continued with a tutorial on patch felting run by artist Kaeli Cook on Wednesday, Oct. 26. These two-hour-long workshops occur once every month, with the aim to explore handmade practice in an approachable setting.

Upon arrival, what initially seemed to be an ambitious number of tables and seats were set up in the gallery. But the room filled quickly, and eventually there weren’t enough places for all attendees.

Lucy MacDonald, curator of education and community outreach at the Owens, emphasized that these workshops are short in order to be  unintimidating and accessible to a variety of people.

“They are projects that you can do in two hours or less – that is our saying,” MacDonald said. She added that another goal of the workshops is to expose people to the handmade in different ways. “We hope to show [attendees] a variety of ways of working,” she said.

Maker maker participants try their hands at felting. Savannah Mileen Harris/Argosy
Maker maker participants try their hands at felting. Savannah Mileen Harris/Argosy

MAKER MAKER highlights the value of handmade goods and makes them accessible to the Sackville community. In our post-industrial culture, handmade goods are increasingly popular. This resistance to mass production values craftsmanship and process as much as the final product. This is a refreshing and wholesome idea that contrasts the immediacy of commercially produced goods.

Home to many artists who specialize in handmade practices, Sackville provides community members with the rare privilege of learning from artists in intimate workshop settings. “The knowledge in making we have in our community is pretty incredible,” she said.

Primarily a potter, Cook also practises other handmade crafts like sewing, knitting (according to MacDonald, she makes the best socks) and felting.

MacDonald said that Cook could lead several workshops because of her vast experience in handmade crafts. Cook has created official mugs for the Town of Sackville and opened her pottery studio for viewing during Art Across the Marsh. If you haven’t actually met Cook, you might have had coffee from one of her mugs at the Black Duck.

For some time now, Cook has been using textiles through felting, a method she incorporated into her practice because it was something she could do while relaxing. “It’s nice to do at the end of a long day,” Cook said, calling it an excellent activity to help students unwind and de-stress.

At the Owens, the repetitive action of felting soothed the attendees who sat at my table. Needles punctured coloured wool scraps, binding them to patches that would soon become a works of art. The sound of the needles passing in and out of Styrofoam filled the gallery with comforting white noise.

The fun, portable and playful workshops attract a large number of people who vary in age and experience. November’s workshop will focus on the creation of pom-poms. Be sure to get there early to reserve a seat.

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