Stephanie Metz                                                  Wool Sculpture Artist's Statement, Copyright 2003

          Sculpture is material manipulated in a way to express an idea.  My recent work sculpting with wool has emphasized to me how important the choice of the raw material is to the finished artwork, both in physical and abstract characteristics.  I have discovered that wool appeals to me on both a tangible and conceptual level, leading me in new directions in my artwork.

          Wool has very opposite characteristics than the traditional substances of sculpture.  Wood, metal, and stone have qualities of hardness, durability, and weight that make them the common choice for sculpture in the round.  Wool, however, is soft, pliable, textured, and its density can be varied. Wool can be added onto and built up like clay, and its self-supporting mass or a simple armature allows felted wool to appear to be weightless. Felted wool sculpture has a beguiling presence that is contrary to the norm, and for that reason the medium plays an important part in communicating the message.

          Felting wool involves a very different approach than sculpting in clay, metal, or wood as it is both an additive and reductive process.  To make wool into felt I begin with cleaned, brushed wool that has been prepared to be spun into yarn.  Instead, I interlock the fibers densely together by stabbing the mass repeatedly with a barbed felting needle.  In order to shape a piece I stab the wool all over or in particular directions, compressing the surface and making the felt increasingly dense.  The process is extremely time- and labor-intensive, as every centimeter of the piece is poked to fasten down parts, add mass, and tighten the surface.  Felting is a very deliberate process that results in forms that seem to swell into space with the appearance of being both solid and porous.

          Working with wool affects and informs my artwork physically and conceptually. 
Wool lends itself well to representing the organic forms I am drawn to, and as I explore the possibilities and limitations of felt as a sculpting medium new subjects and topics
arise for me.  In the process of using a soft material to represent both hard and soft objects I have become mindful of the opposites that can exist within one being.  I am interested in portraying forms that encapsulate such opposites: concepts of hard and soft, flesh and bone, weight and weightlessness, even using the naming of a piece of artwork to introduce contradictory ideas to the viewer.

          Using a non-traditional material to mimic traditional sculptural techniques and subjects also makes me more aware of the message of the material itself. In the hierarchy of worth and nobility of sculpture materials I think wool would rank low. Wool has a history associated with clothing and crafts that fall into the realm of "women's work".  It is neither rare nor precious, and does not require great physical exertion or specialized facilities to manipulate it. Therefore sculpting with felted wool as if it were metal or stone emphasizes to me the differences between the materials and the message they intrinsically carry.

          Creating sculpture in felted wool has given me a new respect for the role of the chosen substance that gives solid form to a piece of art.  The material itself fuels my ideas and my approach to sculpting.  I am engaged in a process that is self-sustaining: through experimenting with wool I am uncovering my ideas and discovering how to bring them into existence in the most effective way.

November, 2003