Felt makers Ireland follows several felt makers on Instagram to get our regular fix of inspiration. A member put us in touch with Yaroslava Troynich, a 41yr old Russian textile artist, based in Helsinki, Finland. Her specialty is felted animal puppets. She says “this is fun textile way to worship wildlife” we decided to get in touch to find out more…
Tell us a little about you as a person? e.g. upbringing/ where you work/ work other than textiles…
My life seems to me like a huge pile of wool, which I could transform into endless forms.
I was born in USSR and had no artistic background in my family. As a child I was fond of sewing textile toys and dreamed about art school and industrial design. The next big dream was to become a policeman to fight for justice and make the world better. However, the world itself captured all my attention so in the end I graduated from university as a journalist! For several years I have been traveling the world and contributing to Cosmopolitan and National Geographic in Russia and continued to write for local media after moving to Finland in 2007.
Most of all I loved to make stories about remote places, where wildlife, traditional lifestyles and crafts remain. The best moments of my life have mostly connected to wildlife – snorkeling with manta rays in Galapagos, planting rainforest for orangutans of Borneo or searching for the sloths in the Amazon.
Humans and wild nature cohabiting and environmental issues were always on my top interest list.
How and when did you start your textile journey… what is your experience, tell us a little…
Once in 2009 I came across of artwork done by Stephanie Metz. Her meaningful sculptures made of white wool and some experimental textile pieces were shockingly modern, pure contemporary art.
In Russia felting is very traditional craft and to me it felt quite outdated. But this was the first moment I began to look at it differently. My inner artist woke up. I tried needle felting and was amazed of wool’s ability to take any shape. But I really fell in love with wool after my first wet felted piece. The feeling of soapy babbles on my hands and witnessing of wool fibers transformation into something totally new – this magic has forever bewitched me. Quite soon I realized that I want to work with 3D-felt. In my childhood I loved “bibabo”, traditional Russian hand puppets, with their history dated back to 17 century and originated in Italy and France. Ideas came fast and naturally. My first fox puppet was born, and it felt like a real gift from textile and craft gods. Surprisingly, combination of traditional felt with traditional toy turned in to very modern and unique art object. Suddenly everything came together: my love of puppets, of wildlife and of wool. That is the story of my own transformation into textile artist specialized in felted animal puppets.
My artwork is my small personal contribution to environmental awareness. These puppets are really great communication gadgets. They help to connect parents with children, create new stories and learn new things. They have strong social position – they support environmental education and promote love to animals. My special pride if they work with ecologists in the national parks and museums and with teachers and psychologists.
I have been learning a lot from great textile artists to develop my own skills, tried new areas of textile art but nothing makes me as happy as these animal puppets. Felting process itself has great art-therapeutic effect on me. So, I do share these benefits with others on my workshops around the world. I love to teach adults and transform them into artists and kids at least for a day. This transformation is no less amazing than wool metamorphoses. Sometimes I feel that it can be my real vocation to inspire people for creating via my puppets.
Tell us about your process from conception to creation and what is your motivation? e.g. for hobby/ creativity/ art/ fashion/ health/ money…
My strongest motivation is a game with the world, special quest. I want to explore its secrets and search for opportunities to create new, positive and inspiring things.
Almost all my ideas I draw from the nature. Weird animals, beautiful animals, endangered animals. While visiting national parks I have chance to encounter wildlife closer. Even though I don’t follow physiological accuracy in my work, I study animals a lot, examine pictures, watch nature documentaries and read about their habitats and personal lives. I am minded in spirit of minimalism, restrained Scandinavian design and naive art, so I try to create live animalistic images using as little details as possible. But I also like to add some humor or bright travel and cultural heritage inspired details to my work. Especially, I feel free with my finger puppet collection. Some animals can wear Russian felted boots at some occasions and use the laptops at their homes. This kind of art makes me play all the time. I draw very poorly, so my rare sketches look like ugly construction schemes. More often I just have an idea inside my head and then test it directly on the wool. Complicated shapes I break into many simple forms and play with it. I combine different felting technics but my main one is wet felting. There are wool, soap, water and hands only. I use a lot of different fibers for creating animal hair, especially I love hairy goat mohair. I try to make my felt durable and flexible in the same time to keep the most of mobility for the toys. Sometimes my projects involve dyeing of materials and even painting on top of the wool toys.
It is weird, but 3D objects at first are just flat and in the beginning of my journey I was too depending on the patterns and constructive solutions but nowadays I become increasingly aware of limitless sculptural opportunities of felt. You can always change, reshape, improve. Felt makes me feel braver as an artist because in this process even apparent mistake can turn in to genius idea. Besides, it is difficult to make mistake with animals – they always come out wonderful. Probably, because they are born twice – at first from the idea and wool and then again become alive on top of the hand while playing.
What currently inspires you?
Lately I am passionate about the animation to give my puppets even more life and voice. It is inspiring to integrate and collaborate different types of art and creativity in to the one beautifully felted structure. Well, and sponsors of all my ideas and inspiration invariably remain wildlife and life itself, with all that everyday routine and new changes. The coolest ideas come to me when traveling or hang out in the mountains, through the forest or along the cold ocean. The Amazon jungle and Himalayan snowy peaks are my eternal favorites. But during my life in Finland, I fell in love with the north. Perhaps the northern animals are not the most vivid and expressive as objects for creativity, but the power of life in northern nature, with its short as a flash summer, is simply unique. This power nourishes me. In Finland, people are very respectful to their nature resources, and this gives me the feeling that I am in the right place. After all, partly my work is pure nature worship, and toys are a tribute to the nature.
Thank you Yaroslava for taking the time to answer our questions for supplying the wonderful images of your work and for providing the dose of Instagram inspiration that we need. If you want to see more follow Yaroslava at the below.