Artist instructs high school students in textile expression
By David Ryan Palmer
When people think of fiber and textile art they often think of little old ladies laboriously stitching a quilt or knitting a blanket.
Local artist Katya Madrid is looking to change that impression. On Thursday Madrid was on a mission to open some Benicia High School students’ minds to the world of lesser known art media, including fibers, .
Madrid, through a joint project with Arts Benicia, served as a guest lecturer in Scott Thompson’s Art 2 class. The goal of the project is to put working artists in contact with students, and get their creative juices flowing.
“There is no reason that art students, at all levels, can’t connect to working artists,” she said.
Madrid brought to the class numerous examples of fiber art, which uses “dry felting” techniques to create a soft, textured work that has as many permutations as there are ideas to explore it with.
She said she works mostly with wool, and that’s what she showed Thompson’s students during the 45-minute class. “I don’t work with yarn, I don’t knit, I don’t sew. I work with the wool that comes before it’s processed into yarn or thread,” she said.
“Wool is basically hair, and each hair has little spikes on them that, if agitated, makes them bond together,” Madrid continued.
Combed and conditioned hair tends to have all its spikes going in the same direction, she said, which makes the individual follicles fall away from each other easily. Felting is the process of using the natural spikes on each piece of hair to bind them together.
“People’s dreadlocks are another example of felt,” she said.
Students in the class were shown an example of how to use differently colored wool as a medium to create images. Most of Madrid’s wool is locally gathered from herders, then dyed using vegetable dyes she makes herself.
“You can even draw with it,” she said.
Her work, and other work involving the use of felt, tends to have a softer, more textured appearance.
“Textiles are so personal — we wear them every day,” she said. “Working with them this way shows how soft the art can be.
“There’s a warmth to it.”
Madrid moved to Benicia in spring 2009. She works with a variety of media but said she likes to mix an industrial sense with her softer felt creations.
That’s evident in “Nude History,” in which she juxtaposes industrial clamps, brass screws and fittings with a felt portrait of a nude woman overlooking Byzantine architecture. “I like to work with history,” she said.
Half of Madrid’s class time was spent instructing students about the impact wool had on colonial culture, and the fact that — despite being a mundane-sounding material — wars have been fought over it.
“Without wool, things here in America might look a little differently,” she said.
Madrid said she hopes by bringing this lesser-known but historically and culturally evocative style to the students, they will develop an appreciation for textile arts — and perhaps even take it up at some point.
“You don’t have to have a lot of money, or a big machine or anything to do this kind of work,” she said.
On the horizon
Katya Madrid will host an overview of arts viewing opportunities June 2 at Arts Benicia, 991 Tyler St., #114.