|The Back Page: Lion Hearted Keiley Stewart Sheridan College||| Print ||
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Finishing School: Putting on a brave face by Keiley Stewart
Standing in front of a group of people, talking about anything, even something I know intimately like my work, is a significant fear of mine. It’s awkward and inconvenient at best, but I’m starting to think it’s one of my best qualities. In 2008 I went back to school to finish what I had started. I joined the Craft & Design Program offered through Sheridan College following a penchant for hands-on construction and to learn new techniques. An interest in sculpture brought me to the school, but a serendipitous run-in with Rachel MacHenry, head of the Textiles Studio at the time, changed my mind and my major for the better. MacHenry’s enthusiasm and experience for textiles is inspiring in itself. She encouraged me to challenge myself, move outside of my comfort zone and pursue new avenues that incorporated my three-dimensional thinking.
A Lon and a Whale
Dorie Millerson is credited for providing that new avenue. Although Millerson is synonymous with needlepoint lacemaking, her talents and knowledge in all textile techniques is extensive. She introduced us to wet felted sculpting techniques, providing a dimensional outlet and sparking an obsession exploring the versatility, tactile qualities and intuitive manipulation of raw wool.
Not just a tool, wool has a personality of its own and I habour great appreciation for it. The impression of wool prompts feelings of warmth and comfort, but most prominent to me is its mammalian origin. Like the animals to which the wool came from, I aim to emulate a sense of protection and durability in my work in order to highlight the fundamental nature and behavior of wool. Since Millerson’s class, I’m compelled to challenge the boundaries of felt making to produce sculptures and dimensional forms. These forms act as hosts for personal explorations in hopes of encouraging "relatebility" and a connection with the audience.
Bookworm featuring Hare’s head (2011), Felted; wool, flax, 80 x 25cm
In final year, I challenged myself to make my fears and social awkwardness the focus of my latest work, using large-scale sculptural felting as the vehicle for my concept. My hope was to produce a relatable and interactive piece to share with the audience. Graduation ignited sudden panic in me: anxiety about personal representation and building a strong body of work. I was and still am very shy and my lack of confidence can be defeating. Concentrating on the anxiety, generated ideal qualities I would need to succeed, I played with the idea of masking my insecurities and how I could use raw wool as the catalyst. The result was the concept of putting on a brave face.
Stood Up featuring felted Hare's Head
Size: 80cm x 25cm
Medium: Felted; wool, flax , 2011
My recent work is series of large-scale wearable, felted sculptures entitled, Animal Collective. Each animal represents quality that I strived for: a lion - a symbol of bravery, a hare - a symbol of luck and poise and a fox’s is quick-thinking. In combination with the heads, a collection of photographs, shot by colleague and photographer Owen Deveney, capturing the sculptures worn in everyday life, creating awkward situations and a feeling of being exposed. The installation of the pieces has the heads suspended at eye level, giving the audience an opportunity to step inside and share in my social experience. Fear and awkwardness is a universal concept felt by everyone, it’s something we all can relate.
Working with the felting process can be very meditative. It’s a quiet solitary activity and for someone as socially awkward as I am, this is an ideal activity. It’s very much like art therapy. Continuing with sculptural felting, I am currently construction more heads as I accumulate interesting characteristics from the people I get to meet because of the series. Having recently graduated and now in the real world, there are all new fears and anxieties to propel me.
Now You See Me 2011
All Photos taken by : Owen Deveney