They have so much personality that when I opened the box, they looked like they were ready to jump out! An illustrator by training and a corporate graphic designer by day, Julie Pietras enjoys making many types of fiber art. From these charming needle felted critters to experimenting with indigo dye techniques, Julie says it all started innocently enough. Growing up in a family where crafts were a part of daily activities, she truly played by drawing, sewing and making things with her father’s wood working tools.
Planning ahead for semi-retirement in a few years, Julie wants to hit the ground running rather than bounce around looking for the ideal way to express her creativity. So a few years ago, Julie decided fiber is her choice of material because it comes in so many different mediums. Cloth or roving in silk and wool all share infinite possibilities with their depth of color, texture and the ability to be manipulated into imagined ideas.
Julie’s first foray into fiber was felting! The Midwest Felting Symposium in 2012 got her started with wet and needle felting. Quickly abandoning wet felting because it of the laborious process; Julie began experimenting with needle felting. Her first project was her own dog—a schnauzer. In her efforts to make this felting project mimic the real dog, she spent a lot of time working on the details and over felted it. The result was too stiff, so she relaxed a little in her approach and began to think of her critters as caricatures; a cartoon version of the real animal. Julie starts with a line drawing that shows both the front and side view of her ideas. Next she starts to build the critter from the inside out with wool roving. And it goes from there. Comparing fiber to illustration, Julie says the dimensionality and tactile properties of fiber evoke an emotion and tug at your heartstrings in a way illustration does not. Giving away most of her critters to friends and their kids, Julie feels her mission is accomplished when a child clutches one of her critters and feels like they’ve found a new friend.
Julie’s experiments with silk cloth have been transformative. Hours fly by and grinning from ear to ear, she remarks that it is the exact opposite of her daily work life where every pixilated detail is examined under the zoom on her computer. Beginning with a class, she soon became addicted to the colors and immediate gratification of dyeing silk. Happy the entire time, she washed out a piece of silk and was amazed at her creation. Initially, she learned how to do direct dyeing but soon learned how to paint the silk and then learned resist techniques and discovered Shibori techniques of which she has let take over her fiber creative life! Before long, indigo dyeing was added to her repertoire and the combination of Shibori and indigo has almost turned Julie into a human smurf! She dyes napkins, scarves, baby one-sies and beanies. Julie has also started to carefully bring new life to vintage crochet hankies and pillow cases made by her grandmother. Books, DVDs, blogs all assisted her desire to learn more about her new found fiber passion.
Taking a step back, Julie decided to review her work and venture forth into self-critique. Laying out all of her dyed pieces, she was amazed at the volume and thinks she might like to have a booth at a craft fair. The purpose is two-fold. One, gauge an interest in her work and if so, turn the cash around to buy more dye! Whether or not her craft fair booth idea takes wings, Julie’s approach to her work is to have a fun activity and make an idea come to life.