DYED IN THE WOOL: FELT & WEARABLE ART BY HORST
Alumni Gallery | Anne Bissonnette, Curator
Through the action of heat, moisture, chemicals and pressure, wool is made into felt. With great zeal and imagination, Horst manipulates both the wool fiber and the felted cloth in ways that defy conventions. His medium - wool - has been widely used since prehistoric times and yet few artists today choose to face its challenges. Armed with a strong love of color, sculptural shapes and the natural world, this artist reassesses primitive techniques to create a new and exciting body of work.
Horst, a native of Akron, Ohio, was introduced to felt making while enrolled in the master's degree program of the School of Art at Kent State University. Intrigued by the mathematics involved in the production of felted pieces which require careful analysis of shrinking and layering dynamics, he began a journey into a mode of self-expression that demands precision and hard physical labor. Employed as an art educator in the Cleveland municipal school system, he juggled work, family, his obligations to the US Army National Guard and his studies to graduate from the master's program in 2003. With thoroughness and determination, this dyed-in-the-wool innovator has sought to investigate the potential of wool fibers and the various ways to felt, dye and manipulate them.
Each garment is unique yet most follow a similar production process. A flat pattern is first cut out of plastic and slightly twisted strands of wool fibers (rovings) are then laid on its surface and a few inches beyond it. Additional layers of threads are placed perpendicular to one another and thoroughly wetted and drizzled with soap. Then electric palm sanders are used to mesh the threads and layers covering the pattern. Once the pattern's surface is felted, it is flipped over with the plastic pattern facing up. The threads of unfelted fibers extending beyond the original pattern are then folded over it so as to be fused with new layers of threads forming addition pattern parts. Using this process, seamless gowns can be created. As felt is capable of great plasticity and recovery, molding can transform the cloth further and new elements can be grafted. Though many pieces, such as Net and Coils, are created with this patterned process, others are produced as flat pieces that can be draped or wrapped around the body, as is the case for China Water and Symbiosis.
In a relatively short time, Horst has been able to create an energetic body of work with great artistry, originality and humor. From gowns with hundreds of chicken bones in a neo-CroMagnon style to skirts of sprouting organic buds reminiscent of sea anemones, his garments are moving sculptures that surprise and fascinate. This fiber artist's work is unique and the Kent State University Museum is proud to showcase this emerging textile artist and alumnus.