Meet the Maker- Veronica Santorum

Over the course of this month at next we are running a series of interviews showing the work of those applicants who submitted a piece to our exhbition currently showing at the Vsitor Centre in Phoenix Park Dublin.

The Exhibtion title is “Endangered”. 2020 has been a very different year for many of us. We decided to run this online version of the exhibition in order that all our members have access to see this inspirational work, especially those that may not be able to make it along to the physical show. Part of the constitution of Feltmakers Ireland is to promote and encourage the craft and members. We support #madelocal, perhaps think about this national campaign over the coming month and choose to spend money on local crafts and arts to support the industry.

We asked Veronica the same three questions about her work.

 The Exhibition title- Endangered?- how does your piece respond to the title? your inspiration and methods.

My artwork is a response to what I have seen on farms. I have tried to capture the moment in time when grass fields are “burnt off” with weedkiller before reseeding. This process destroys wildflowers and insects and eliminates wildlife that depends on them. Old pastures and species-rich meadows aer converted to monocultures of perennial rye grass. Disingenuously, the new fields look lush green and the underlying damage is disguised. I captured this period of ‘agricultural improvement’ and the damage done using the image of a green wave swallowing and casting aside species in disarray amidst a scarred and bleeding ‘burned off’ earth. Saturated colours were used to represent the luxuriant abundance of the Irish landscape and its inundation with fertiliser. My inspiration was Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. It was the high energy and macabre atmosphere rather than the physical images that informed my work.

I created a wet-felted piece using blended Irish wools including Galway, Zwartable, Alpaca, Blue-faced Leicester and Jacobs, which I processed from raw fleece. Some I used undyed and others were dyed with acid dyes. The reason I combined the wools was to create varied texture which for me represented the diversity of species and textures of grasses being lost from old grasslands and to intensify colours so that the soil was not just ‘brown’ but a rich, fertile loam for example and the reds look truly fleshy and bloody. The bones were ones I found and cleaned and stitched on to the felt. They represent the species lost, field by field, to the onslaught. I arranged them to look as if they had been carelessly discarded on a rubbish heap as I want to capture a ‘who cares anyway’ attitude. The bones also introduced a hardness to the piece, contrasting nicely with the soft wool and, for me, evoking fossils of lost species. The green merino and  silk nuno-felt were dyed and made to be smooth and uniform to mimic the  homogeneity of the new reseeded lands. I stitched into the nuno-felt to shape it like a wave sweeping over the land and also like a rolling landscape.

Crafting through the current crisis, with the pandemic have you found more or less time to craft, has it inspired you or have you found it more difficult- discuss

I have found it easier to focus on crafting and to getting projects completed during the pandemic. I have tried a few online workshops for the first time and been introduced to some new ideas and techniques. I treated myself to some extra art supplies to get me through the lockdown.

Felt- how you discovered it, what it means to you.

I properly discovered felt through the Kilfinane Art, Craft and Traditional Skills group which I am a member of. About 2 years ago, the group decided to learn how to process a raw fleece and before we knew it we were spinning, dyeing, felting and weaving. I fell in love with felting when I wet felted alpaca wool for the first time and saw the patterns made by the very long fibres. Each new piece I make teaches me something and I appreciate the potential of felt more with every project. I have been inspired by Feltmakers Ireland’s exhibitions which have shown me how far you can go with this medium. I love what you can do with felt in terms of colour, texture and form. The fact that it is a natural material, that when it is no longer wanted it can simply be composted, makes it one of the best art materials around for me.