Juliana Boyd’s love of fabrics, textures and nature is evident in Woodland Feltings, a new exhibition on display at the Hamilton-Wenham library now through February 1.
The exhibition showcases her works of animals and flowers done in needle felting, a process involving working unspun wool with a specially designed needle. The artwork is created using the needle’s barbed end to push enough of the wool fiber through a background fabric, so that it forms a felted surface. The wool becomes compacted very densely and creates a textured appearance that achieves a surprising realism in her portraits of woodland creatures and flowers.
The process of commercial needle felting has been done using industrial machines since the mid-1880’s, but it wasn’t until the 1980’s that artists began experimenting with two-dimensional felted pieces. The felting process takes place as the wool is repeatedly punched in by the needle, so that the fibers begin to compact together.
Boyd began working in the medium three years ago, and she has since then forged her own technique.
“It is especially gratifying when I can add extra dimension, by coaxing animals out of a bit of woolen fluff,” she said.”
Boyd, who grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has lived in Hamilton since 1986. Since moving to the area she obtained a Certificate in Fashion from the School of Fashion Design in Boston, and did apparel design for large companies, including Reebok, Rockport and Timberland. Boyd said choosing fabric was her favorite part of those jobs, and it is something that carries over to her felting.
“I really want the fabrics to play a big role,” she said, adding that patterns and colors in the background upholstery fabric swatches help her to tell stories and guide her designs, creating harmonies of color and pattern on a miniature scale.
The exhibition features 27 pieces scattered throughout the library walls, and includes many birds and woodland animals, including chipmunks, squirrels, a fox, a field mouse, and a rabbit, which she says is her most requested animal. A number of pieces feature flowers, including daffodils, hollyhocks, peonies and lilies, to help viewers get in the mood for spring, and there are also a number of dog portraits, which she can do on commission.
In “See What I See”, a crow’s feathers shimmer with an almost photographic realism; in “Spring Greens,” a rabbit nibbles daintily at a blade of grass, with a wary eye out for the gardener; and in another piece colors and textures blend to create a wool “painting” of a morning glory.
“I am constantly surprised by the blend of textures that emerges,” she said.