Alissa Head: SOFT
“Soft” is my first foray into using color “comme les Fauves.” Fauvism was my first art love, but I have shied away from using color in artwork I’ve made with other media, such as photography and knitted sculpture.
For “Soft” I have based a series of wool felt paintings on photographs taken in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia while I was traveling, and in the rural Ohio landscape where I reside. I have dyed the wool, and then wet felted the fiber into landscape, sometimes stitching and needle felting details intuitively. My desire for this body of work was to interpret and evoke a sense of place, and to wield color freely to express emotion, memory, energy, and animism.
Why do I choose to make art out of wool? Why not paint on canvas or sculpt in clay? There are so many reasons to choose wool. Wool is natural, sustainable, sheep can graze anywhere so there is no need for factory farming or deforestation. Wool is warm, or cool (depending on how you prepare the fibers,) and naturally insulating. Wool is soft, comforting, it smells good. When treated properly, wool lasts. When discarded, it biodegrades. Wool is ethical, the sheep are not harmed in the cultivation of wool (but you do need to research the sourcing to be sure they are treated well.)
What I love most about wool is that it can take many forms, depending on what you do with it. Twist it and it becomes yarn. Loop stitches together and it becomes fabric. Add hot water and soap, and it mats together into felt. Or poke it with a needle and it collapses into a three-dimensional object. Wool takes dye easily, or you can choose one of the many lovely natural shades. Wool is as transformable as it is enduring. And the process of turning wool fiber into felt is tactile and vigorous, while remaining clean, soft, and sensory-friendly.
Alissa Head is a fiber artist based in Central Ohio. She has a BA in Visual Arts: Studio from the University of California, San Diego.