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Orts: Threads of Creativity

Fiber art inspired by the forest floor 🍄 🌳

I am thrilled to share the second installment of my series One Person, One Project: an exploration into an artist's work by way of a single project. Fiber artist Amy Reader creates nature-inspired work that is colorful and joyful. Her pieces incorporate needle-felting and other textile art techniques. Today, she's discussing work having to do with "moss, lichen, and fungi-filled world of the forest floor," and what it all means to her.

Amy has a bustling online community—and a Patreonand is one of the artists featured in my upcoming book, Threads of Treasure: How to make, mend, and find meaning through thread (more on that later!!).

The project elevator pitch:

I’m developing a collection of dimensional wool paintings inspired by mushrooms, the forest floor, and the connectivity of nature. My work interprets how my brain processes different colors and textures found in nature and connects them to my experience of joy as an autistic artist.

What was the inspiration for the project?

Last year, I created an entire collection of work for a solo exhibition; during that time, I made a triptych called The Forest Floor Trio. That series of three was filled with my interpretation of the different textures and colors of the forest floor and how they feel to my brain. I remember thinking to myself after I finished those three that I could make one hundred more based on the same idea. However, that did not fit in with the plan for that particular show. Now that I have the time, I’m revisiting the moss, lichen, and fungi-filled world of the forest floor. I’ve long looked to these organisms as one component of inspiration among many. With the work I’m doing now, I’m narrowing in on what is still an incredibly vast, interconnected ecosystem that many of us rarely see in our day-to-day lives.

Whenever I make a new piece, I scroll through my mental index of all of my different encounters with nature that brought me joy. For me, joy is an intense, visceral feeling that is hard to communicate in words. Colors feel more vibrant, details feel larger, and I can hold those moments in my mind’s eye, spin them around, and zoom in on different parts. I can still hear the birds, feel the moss beneath my feet, and relive these moments. The best way I have to translate that memory is through my art and aiming to capture the technicolor sensation that is my own experience.

I used to joke that I felt as though I really belonged in the trees. As I’ve become older, I realize how much that feels true to me. Because of my autism, the world is typically overwhelming to me. It bombards all of my senses, and it is exhausting to exist in most spaces. In the forest, I can breathe fully. I feel so deeply connected to our natural world and have always sought respite there. I’m bringing that sense of connectedness into my studio practice through this work.

What materials and methods are you using in making it?

Most of my work right now involves needle felting. I’m enjoying treating wool like I used to treat paint. I also use embroidery and beading to add texture and depth to many of my pieces. The majority of my work is backed on either felt or cotton. I’ve been experimenting with building out larger shapes with different infrastructures and using wool felt with roving felted on top to add dimension while retaining stability.

What obstacles are you facing with the project?

[My husband and I] moved cross country from Portland, OR, to Asheville, NC, at the end of 2023 to be closer to our families. I’m finally at a place where I do have a functional studio, but there is still work to be done. I have struggled to balance the last 10-15% of unpacking with my desire to make new work. That usually looks like I can either unpack or make work during the day, but not both. There are untouched boxes under my table and still in my closet. I am also settling into a new space and routine, so I am feeling how hard it is to be disconnected from my local artist community. Asheville is a beautiful, vibrant city filled with artists, and it has been hard to motivate myself to go out and engage in the community while we are still unpacking.

What are you learning from it that will help in future projects?

Framing! I have long struggled with the best way to frame my pieces. All of my fiber work until this collection has been circular and framed in some sort of wooden circle. These are the first pieces I’ve framed in conventional rectangular and square frames. It felt almost illegal to my art practice to deviate from my beloved circles, but it has been so delightful instead. I’ve learned how to make conventional frames work for my dimensional fiber pieces! I feel like I’m continuing to unlock new ways to show my work in its best light, and I love it.

Thank you, Amy! Make sure you follow Amy on Instagram to see updates on her work.

Talk to you next week,

Sara Barnes

Embroidery illustrator and writer

2206 17th Ave S, Seattle, WA 91844

Orts: Threads of Creativity

Orts is newsletter collecting small snippets of creativity: embroiderers, textile artists, illustrators, DIY projects, and how we can make time for our creative endeavors. Published every Friday.

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