Sandra Barrett launched a new exhibit of work, last Thursday night at Eye Of The Needle. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Fernie felt artist launches new exhibition

A well known Fernie felt artist hopes to elevate the craft to fine art as she experiments with new techniques and styles.

Dozens of people gathered at Eye Of The Needle Studio last Thursday for the opening of Sandra Barrett’s latest exhibition “and yet…”.

To create some of her new work on display, Barrett used skills learned during a trip to Nova Scotia last year.

“That’s why I went to Nova Scotia – to learn. And I was learning from two really good businesswomen,” said Barrett.

While in the east, Barrett learned from two women who paint silk and felt, as well as felt intricate landscape scenes.

Barrett made the trip in order to expand her knowledge and produce a wider variety of work. The new techniques also allow for smaller works of art, which more easily fit into a suitcase while travelling.

Some of Barrett’s experiments in these new styles are on display at Eye Of The Needle, alongside her more traditional felting work for which she has become known.

“I’ve added to my technique and I also wanted to show people that felt doesn’t have to be a craft. It can be an art, and art form with the landscapes. So that’s an ongoing process and this year I hope to include the areas around Fernie as my subject, and make it my own,” she said.

Barrett explained that this is an exciting time for her, as she is now starting to revisit what her style is and where she wants to focus as an artist.

Through the process of self-examination, she has come to realize that there are several things that make her stand out from other felt artists in Canada and around the world.

“I love lighting my work,” said Barrett. “Which I know some felt makers don’t agree with because it can be a bit kitchy (cheesy), but for me when I’m making nuno felt and trapping banana silk threads in between layers of silk and wool, it doesn’t show up unless it’s backlit, or it doesn’t show up as well,” said Barrett.

“It gives an ethereal look within that two-dimensional piece that you don’t get without it being lit.”

Several of Barrett’s experimental pieces have been very successful, including “Spiritual Temple”, which was exhibited at the Craft Council of BC, featured on the front cover of their magazine and displayed in Vancouver.

Previously, Barrett has been published in Worldwide Colours of Felt by Ellen Bakker (Issue 15, 2016), Felt Matters (Issue 125, December 2016, and issue 130, March 2018) and online exhibitions, Stories of the Trees and Transitions curated by Fiona Duthie. “True North”, one of Sandra’s wallhangings, was accepted for a year-long tour of Britain from April 2017 to 2018 with the International Feltmakers Association travelling exhibition, Sea and Sky.

To view Barrett’s latest collection, visit Eye Of The Needle in downtown Fernie.

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