How I discovered the art of storytelling through art

Foundations

The world’s stories of human achievement, tragedy, love and adventure have been progressively embedded in every culture; they have helped shape traditions, rites of passage and identities. The greatest stories are always grounded in the richness of the human soul; they echo the lands and traditions of their people and are told by narrators who transcend the precedents set by those before them. Stories make humans and humans tell stories. Extraordinarily ordinary events are written, told, drawn, painted and sung. Hopes are intricately arranged with musical notes, dreams are etched in stone, heartbreak is punctuated then dealt with in the lines of a poem. A story can be historical in essence, transcribing the past’s events and educating future generations. It can inspire by creating a vision of the future, or simply soothe by recreating memories of people and events which have sadly passed. I believe everyone is a natural storyteller, we just all do it in different ways. It is often the case that people seek out way in which to tell their stories – I believe for me this happened in reverse.

Like many children, I grew up in a household where storytelling was a cherished part everyday life. Although traditional fairytales were shelved amongst great literature and art books, my young mind was more fascinated by Grandma’s unusual form of telling – family anecdotes infiltrated the Brothers Grimm imagined villages and ‘once upon a time’ beginnings ended with a portrayal of how to carefully tend to a spring garden. I never knew where fairytales ended and reality begun. It didn’t matter. My Father was a master storyteller. His spoken stories were so eloquent, humorous and full of detail, that despite being encouraged to speak up, I rarely felt adequate and stumbled through my expression, never quite making any sense. Even with my Mother’s encouragement to speak from the heart, I didn’t realize my own voice until I was introduced to felting. In a sense, and to use a bad pun, I ‘felt’ my stories organically forming through this medium.

As a child, my home was consciously filled with art; beautiful books, paintings and objects crafted from nature. Handicrafts were a part of our family, embraced enthusiastically by all members and constant reminders of our proud Polish heritage. Wool was highly prized after World War Two and therefore, any knitted items were cherished like a good friend. Looking back, I always had a ‘connection’ with fibers, especially wool. I would watch my mother turn balls of wool into love-filled garments. She would describe fabrics with a poetic flair, her knowledge of textiles was passionate, her ability to interweave her affection for us within a carefully handmade dress, was second to none. The seeds of my felting future had been sown. I nurtured my affection for handmade treasures throughout adulthood; spare moments were designated to needlework, embroidery and cross-stitching. I was fascinated with Polish folk art, in particular embroidered ethnic costumes that were feminine, elegant and reflected the immense beauty of the Polish landscape.

Discovery of felting and the art of storytelling through this medium

So how exactly did I get into felting? Several years ago, I came across some skillfully hand-felted flowers made by Nepalese children at a community store. I was immediately fascinated and after some research, decided to sign up to a basic two day felting techniques course at my local Workers’ Educational Association. I immediately felt very bonded to the process and could see endless possibilities of using this method for various purposes. I began experimenting with various techniques, pioneering my own and consecutively, teaching others. I never took another felt course, I simply started creating and discovering, letting the natural process occur. My own stories formed before my eyes; feelings and thoughts, memories and recollections that had long been trapped, appeared organically in the form of felt. I had found my inner storyteller.

............continue to "The Translation of Story to Textile Art"