Arts and Entertainment

Felt artist Janice Arnold to work at Bellevue Arts Museum

Felt artist Janice Arnold works on one of her projects. - Courtesy photo
Felt artist Janice Arnold works on one of her projects.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Bellevue Arts Museum offers visitors will get a rare glimpse into the process of large-scale felt-making this June as Olympia-based felt artist Janice Arnold transforms the Museum's Forum into a working studio, planning, designing and eventually mounting her new, site-specific installation.

The event begins June 3.

Arnold will first lay up huge swaths of raw fibers turning BAM's Forum literally into a "dry studio." Over the next three weeks, she will implement her design and complex mapping system which will eventually become her felt installation – the newest in a series of intimate window displays for Bellevue Arts Museum.

Installation and accompanying observation opportunities are free to the public and will take place in Bellevue Arts Museum's Forum on the following days and times:

Lay up

Thursdays, June 3 & 17, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fridays, June 4, 11 & 18, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday, June 12, noon to 5 p.m.

Installation

Tuesday, June 22, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wednesday, June 23, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Arnold has made it her life to know and understand felt, from researching and working with nomadic tribes of Central Asia and Mongolia to studying the high-tech world of industrial felt.

Finding a passion for fine fabric at an early age, she studied a wide variety of textile traditions in college, traveling extensively to learn traditional techniques within cultural contexts. In 1999, the artist first began making handmade felt for a large-scale sculpture commission for the Nordstrom stores.

Felt is believed to be the oldest type of fabric. It is non-woven and made predominantly from raw wool. The principle elements of felt-making have remained the same for thousands of years: moisture, agitation and pressure.

To create traditional felt, raw wool fibers are layered together. Hot water is applied to saturate the fibers, the moist heat opening the small naturally occurring scales in the wool fiber, and through agitation (rolling or rubbing the wool) along with pressure, these fibers irrevocably entangle.

Repeating the agitation and pressure through hours of manipulation condenses the fibers, shrinking them into the resulting felt, which is approximately 40 percent of the original lay-up size. It is the entanglement and density of the fibers that give felt its inherent strength and texture.

The Bellevue Arts Museum is located at 510 Bellevue Way NE, 425-519-0770, or online.

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