Sandra Barrett welcomed many guests to her studio last Thursday when she displayed her first solo exhibit in the 25 years she has been working as a felt artist.

Sandra Barrett welcomed many guests to her studio last Thursday when she displayed her first solo exhibit in the 25 years she has been working as a felt artist.

Winter Lights Exhibit

Sandra Barrett has been felting for 25 years, and put her work on public display for the first time, last Thursday.

Sandra Barrett has been felting for 25 years, and put her work on public display for the first time, last Thursday.

After receiving a grant from the Columbia Basin Trust, Barrett attended the Canadian National Felting Symposium, last year. Here, she learned from international felting masters.

“Part of what I chose to do was exhibit what I’d learned. The results are in the other room,” said Barrett with a smile.

Barrett, originally from England, started up the Fernie Forge, as they are blacksmiths by trade.

After their daughter returned from Vancouver, trained as a costume designer, the family decided to become the third owners of the old and beautiful Salvation Army church building, in order to give everyone new studio space. The building was built in 1909.

After her daughter received a Leo Award for best costume design, she was off again to pursue her new career. This left the new studio space entirely to Barrett and her husband.

Barrett hosted Winter Lights on Thursday evening, showcasing her recent work in her first ever solo exhibition.

“It’s quite daunting,” said Barrett with a laugh.

Barrett has not hidden completely from the spotlight, as she has been featured in numerous international fibre art magazines, included some from Britain and Australia.

Barrett makes her fibre works of art out of her own alpaca wool, which she harvests from one of four alpacas on their acreage in Hosmer, the homestead of Fernie Forge. Washed and dyed, the felt is then made through a process of hot soap and agitation.

She also incorporates other materials such as silk and merino wool while making fashionable felted items, such as a gentleman’s hat she recently made.

Plant fibres and artificial bi-products can also be used to make felt, such as Ramie (nettle), Hemp, Jute, Rose or Angelina.

“This (pointing to a scarf) has rose fibre in it. It has a really nice sheen to it,” said Barrett. “Gradually you get to indentify different fibres, because they have distinctive looks.

A new experimental technique, used the combination between Japanese paper, ink and felt. After a paper is scribed, it is then felted into the vessel (work of art), it then decomposes and leaves only the ink embedded in the felt.

A recent work of art, made for her daughter, reads, ‘Be Humble for you are made of earth, be noble for you are made of star.’

Barrett collaborated with Mary Menduk, another local Fernie artist and poet, to create works of felt, inscribed with her writings.

Using a dying house in Italy, Barrett imports 45 different colors of dye, which she uses and sells, along side her own hand made fibre. She also has contracts with a group in Nepal, who harvests and sells the plant fibre from giant stinging nettles.

The local artist also specializes in adding a unique touch to store-bought items of clothing, and recently finished an elaborate felt coat, with her own added features and touches around the collar, tassels, outlines and buttons.

Barrett has all her work on display at her studio, located on 5th street, just across from the Fernie Heritage Library.