On Friday, December 16, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Museum Store will host the free event Meet the Artist: Mia Kanazawa. Mia’s products include puppets, ornaments, and sculptures made by felting, an ancient process of creating textiles.
Felt is one of the oldest textiles. It’s found far back in the early chapters of human history, wedged mysteriously between fashioning clothing from animal skins and primitive weaving. The textile is produced by matting, condensing, and pressing woolen fibers which can then be sculpted into countless shapes and forms.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business.
I construct, choreograph, and perform my own work. My primary medium is handmade felt, but depending on its end use, I have used paper, fabric, foam, rattan, and bamboo among others to create one-of-a-kind functional and sculptural objects. I make hand and finger puppets for retail stores such as the Portland Museum of Art’s Museum Store, as well as larger work for galleries and craft fairs. I have also made large puppets for theater, dance, and parades.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
I’ve found that I like to work in series, so I really enjoy the process of making one object, which leads to another idea, which leads to another…
What does handmade me to you?
The process of making handmade felt is a slow one. Fortunately, I enjoy the process of laying out wool fibers and manipulating them with my hands to transform these fibers into a three dimensional textile. So, for me, it is quite literally made by my hands. Me, fiber, water, and soap. Couldn’t be more direct!
What are some sources of inspiration for your work?
A friend recently described me as a “purist,” and I think what she meant is that I search for the simplest, most direct way to express an idea; whether it be in dance, or handmade felt. A recurring source of inspiration is my lifetime love of origami. It is as though the origami Masters are sitting on my shoulder asking, “Can you say it with less?”
The series that I am working on presently, and which I will bring to the Museum for my trunk show, was inspired by a pile of old stuffed animals. I began by deconstructing them–removing embellishments and features, altering their shape. I then re-felted a new skin. The resulting shape, stripped of bright colors, fake fur, and bright plastic eyes looked older, wiser, and timeless. The new shapes had an adult sense of comfort and resonance. I then continued to distill the shapes down to even more essential forms. I call this series “Old Souls.” Worn, stooped, and wrinkled, these small sculptures contain, within their skin, a lifetime of memories and affection.
For more information about Mia Kanazawa, visit www.miakanazawa.com.