Interview: with Nancy Ballesteros

Nancy Ballesteros from the renowned “Treetops Colour Harmonies” in Australia is planning a series of workshops in Europe in 2020. We really hope here at Feltmakers Ireland to be one of the lucky groups to host a masterclass workshop with her.

We decided in advance of this to ask her a few questions about her felting journey and what currently inspires her. We at Feltmakers Ireland hope that this interview in turn inspires you.

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Tell us a little about you as a person, Nancy?

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma with an artistic father and creative mother who bestowed me with a love of art and textiles.  While at University I stumbled upon an opportunity to learn how to spin yarn, I took to it like a duck to water.  Spinning continued to be my passion for many years after finishing a degree first in pre-Veterinary Medicine that finally changed to Biology/Geology.  In 1986, I was made redundant from my corporate job and decided to follow my textile passions.  I began by selling handspun yarns. It quickly became apparent; however, that what people really loved about my creative efforts was the passion and flare I had for colour.  So, I decided to do just that – create colour!  In 1990, my husband Mark and I re-located to Perth, Australia where I immediately launched an international web-based business called Treetops Colour Harmonies.

I feel very lucky to be able to work ‘from a home-based studio’. We had the opportunity to purpose-build a passive solar studio/workshop into our house design. My space contains both my Treetops Studio and my own workspace intermingled. There are separate dyeing and storage areas.  My family has, in self-defence, set up “Wool Free Zones” in the rest of the house…

NANCY BALLESTEROS

How and when did you start Felting?

I first learned how to felt at a spinning retreat in America. It wasn’t till I moved to Australia that I really developed my passion for felting.  Nuno felt making was just being developed by Polly Stirling. It just so happened that Polly was teaching her technique at our First Southern Hemisphere Felting Conference in Bunbury, Western Australia. That changed the course of my felt making. Nuno allowed us, in the warmer Southern Hemisphere, to make lighter weight cloth, but most of all it was the ability to create my own cloth that fascinated me!

Tell us about your process from conception to creation and what is your motivation?

In a nutshell, I love to “Investigate Ideas”.  I’m always asking myself “How”, “Why” and “What if”…  I believe it’s my science background having an on-going conversation with my Art-self.  I think about things a lot, and then I play. I like explanations, but then I’m happy to break rules…  I love creating Nuno for fashion.

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What currently inspires you?

Last year, having seen some gorgeous but very expensive striped deck chair fabric, I decided to set aside a month and embark on a journey of creating Stripes! I had never much liked stripes before…! I became fascinated with the idea of “What constitutes a ‘Great Stripe’?” That question soon morphed into “HOW does one create a great Stripe design?” After experimenting a bit, I very quickly realised it wasn’t as simple as it appeared!

To stay focused on my journey, I decided that I needed the pressure of ‘going public’.  I declared that “I was going to make and post a Stripe sample every day for 30 days” – I called it “My 30-Day Stripe Library Challenge” (you can find in on my website at https://treetopscolours.com.au/natural-rhythms-30-day-challenge/). The name, after my challenge, from ‘Stripes’ to ‘Natural Rhythms’ when I realised that ‘Stripes’ were really only one part of a broader category of Linear Patterns, and my interests included both.

Along this journey, I discovered how the Fibonacci sequence was a great tool to help me design a more balanced ‘Natural Rhythm’ pattern. It also tapped into my 30+ years of working with colour theory!  Along the way, I have had to create a method of “working with wet wool” to obtain sharper linear elements.  The seeds of this idea had been sewed several years earlier when working with my Silk Hankies.

I will be teaching these ideas in Europe in 2020. There are several workshops on offer from creating your own ‘Natural Rhythms’ garment, wrap or scarf. Or you can choose to happily fill 2 or 3 days with creative play ‘Developing your own Sample Library of Natural Rhythms’ – the possibilities of colour and movement are endless!

From Feltmakers Ireland, “thank you, Nancy” for taking the time to complete this interview with us. We really love to learn about our fellow felters artistic pathways and do hope that we will see you face to face in Ireland in the very near future!

For more workshop details see: https://treetopscolours.com.au/more/information/workshops/  or visit my website on www.treetopscolours.com.au

You can also follow Nancy on FB and Instagram:

FB: www.facebook.com/treetopscolours

Insta: www.instagram.com/treetops.colours

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