Words into Wool @ the Center for Maine Craft

By Sara Palumbo, Fiber Artist & Shamanic Practitioner

The first three weeks of my artist residency have flown by! I love being nestled into the Center for Maine Craft this winter. This residency is giving me the space and time to see a project that has been two years in the making come to life- Words into Wool.
I’m meeting with people who call Maine their home, listening to their personal stories, and creating a felted piece representing the essence and vibration of each story. It will culminate in an installation at the Center. This project was birthed out of my love of listening to others tell their tales, the amazing project ‘StoryCorps’ that I would listen to on NPR, and by how all the pieces I create have a story, have words to express. I see this project as the joining of ancient practices of storytelling, felting, and shamanism.

The experience of being with someone and not knowing what will unfold as they speak their story has been moving. It’s been an honor to witness them and is strengthening my personal practice of getting myself out of the way so that creation can take place. This project is pushing me to be bolder in the way I work and reminding me to be humble in the way I listen.

I have collected four stories so far, and they are developing into pieces in unique ways. My Words into Wool process falls into different stages – meeting with the storyteller and just listening, really letting them dance through their thoughts, while I hold the intention that all that is need to be told will be told. I then rewrite my notes and really take in what was shared so I can sit in a meditative space with the essence of the story. Some of the images come to me right as I close my eyes to sleep and others when meditating. I will then sketch and write out notes for color, technique, and materials. Some storytellers are giving me their own materials, ‘found objects’, or artwork to incorporate into the felted creation.

Right now I’m working on a piece expressing the untold stories of someone’s ancestry. I was powerfully taken in by the account of her ancestral story and her fascination with the untold stories of her grandmother’s legacy. Her family’s history is so deeply rooted in Maine soil, I could almost taste it. She wove me through her knowing, giving me snapshots of her history and life. She then gifted me with some of her artwork. The idea of creating a felted book using her artistic images took shape and claimed the title The Unwritten Story.

The concept of a book came to me a few hours after I heard the story and was in my studio listening to The River by Leon Bridges. The rhythm and cadence of the song paralleled the emotion of the story for me. These lyrics solidified the direction-

“Take me to your river
I wanna go
Oh, go on
Take me to your river
I wanna know”

I then sat with her artwork, mapped out the story sequence, and felted a cover and pages. I selected the bow that would serve as the spine of the book and started stitching different patterns into the paper pages that held her artwork.

The rest is still in the works and I can’t wait to discover the final piece! Visit my space at the Center to see it! I’m there Wednesday from 10:30am-1:30pm as well as Friday and Saturday from 1pm-6pm. The closing reception for the full installation of Words into Wool is on Saturday, February 29th from 3pm-6pm. I would love to share it with you!

You can learn more at www.sarapalumbo.com

follow the project on Instagram @sarapalumbostudios