Spotlight: Faith Hagenhofer, Fiber Artist, Feltmaker and Shepherd

En Route by Faith Hagenhofer

Spotlight: Faith Hagenhofer, Fiber Artist, Feltmaker and Shepherd

For as long as she can remember, Faith Hagenhofer has made creative things. But when she and the hands-on process of feltmaking connected, it was kismet – and she shows no signs of slowing down!

Faith Hagenhofer

Why textiles? Why feltmaking? How did you get started? 

I’ve knitted since I was about 5 when my mother taught me. She couldn’t follow a pattern, but the ones she made up worked very well. Our family ethos included making from scratch, and that has always satisfied me better than anything with short-cuts or proscribed methods and outcomes (i.e.paint by numbers etc.)  I took 2 classes the winter of 1992, papermaking and feltmaking. I didn’t like papermaking, but the speed with which whole and even shaped cloth could be made through the magic of wool fibers being agitated under warm wet pressure appealed to me enormously. So I proceeded to make 200 hats, each numbered and sold into the world!

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Have you always been an artist? When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person? 

As a graphic artist, my father believed that children should have good tools. I always had good colored pencils and a drawing pad.

As a creative individual, do you believe that you perceive the world differently from other people?

No, but I think as an individual I have a really good visual memory.  I’m in a choir, and I have the hardest time memorizing lyrics, but I can tell you what the alto in front of me was wearing last week.

Do you think that any unique thought processes are involved when you create something?

Probably…

How would you compare your Staten Island childhood with your rural Washington state adulthood? Could one have happened without the other? 

This second one is an interesting question, but I think it remains in the realm of unknowable. As a kid in the ‘60s I roamed all over the island and eventually all over Manhattan (a little into Brooklyn). All on public transportation. 

I recently revisited Staten Island because I wanted to check 2 perceptions: that the streets ran higgledy piggledy into each other (they do!) and that I could see water from many many many places – That’s what shows up in my dreams. 

It’s true. Winks of water are constant. I left NY because – I know this sounds really odd – there wasn’t a lot of psychic space. Also, I didn’t have any idea what grown-up work I could do. Where I live in Washington is quiet. And dark at night.

How do Hercules Farm and Cat’s Paw Studio complement each other?

They have been very intertwined, but I need to give the endeavors different business categories, whereby one will “buy” supplies for the other. Where they will always connect is at our website, www.herculesfarm.com.

Are there indispensable tools and materials in your studio?

I use a lot of things designed for kitchens in my studio.

What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade?

My favorite farm tool is a gate closure that has a tongue on the gate and slides on the post. I can slide the opening up, open a gate and swing it back into place in either direction. I’m also very pleased to have self-watering floats in the sheep yards. I look forward to acquiring a guardian dog -disaster prevention on the hoof.

What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? 

All of the above. I tend to like instrumental music – jazz from a range of eras. If I have repetitive hand work I watch (mostly) British television. I listen to audiobooks—I spent 30 years as a librarian, so I have broad taste in genres and specific things I like. I don’t like horror or zombie stuff.

Do you use a sketchbook or journal?

I have kept a journal since I was about 8. I write, draw glue stuff, make lists,

How does that help your work develop?

Sometimes a particular piece will need a construction scheme worked out, so I sketch that and label it. Some work is word/pun/multi-meaning driven. Sometimes I will photograph a piece in progress and print out several so I can draw on them before committing to the real thing.

Do you focus on one piece from start to finish or work actively on more than one project at a time? 

Almost always I have a few things going at a time.

What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work?

Culture contact, immigration, migration, ebb and flow are all long term explorations.

How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the art you produce?

I like to sketch in whatever medium I’m using, and I need to be interested in the processes – Otherwise I’ll lose interest in the work.

What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours? 

I’m devoted to hand work. These days, I dye all the fabrics I use with plant materials I’ve grown or scavenged or gleaned. I keep experimenting with grown color, and there’s so much to still learn.

What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?

Finding time as a working parent to still hold an idea freshly. 

I followed an example I heard about from the great storyteller Jane Yolen who said that she placed her writing desk in the middle of the living room. There she could find 15 minutes a day, then 20, then 2 times 15, etc. I used to work entirely in the kitchen, which also meant that I needed to have my materials be non-toxic.

Which of your creative accomplishments gave you the most satisfaction, and why?

Persistence gives me satisfaction, and I’m pretty sure that’s not going away.

How has your creativity evolved over the years? What triggered the evolution to new mediums/kinds of work/ways of working?

I was almost exclusively a printmaker/book artist until I wasn’t. Got new skills, scratched an itch of a question in a new way, and took off.  There’ve been events, like the acquisition of a printing press, a flat-feltmaking machine, allergic conditions that meant I couldn’t do watery stuff, and the death-by-pit-bulls of my sheep flock. But I just like to make stuff, and so I’m pretty sure that’s the key to “evolving” or emerging and persisting.

When you teach, what are your most-requested workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event? 

I am thrilled, happy, elated to teach anything I know! I teach printmaking: block printing, pattern and multiples, reduction linocut, printing on cloth; also, using plant dyes and growing dye plants. I teach the range of feltmaking—simple intro, 3D, yardage, design in this medium. I’m happy to teach at my studio in Tenino or at a place elsewhere. Finally, I have been a handwork teacher and can teach young and old knitting, crochet, hand sewing, embroidery, etc. I can accommodate individual learners and groups—Let’s talk!!! I can bring the needed tools. Contact me at the farm website Hercules Farm | Pasture Poultry & Local Fiber | Tenino, WA , or at faithatcatspaw@yahoo.com

What areas of your work do you hope to explore further?

Off the top of my head: I am relearning to draw, and making myself comfortable with my drawn lines, and (dare I say it) combining drawings and writing. Some are sewn drawn lines. 

Also, I have a vision that I will be bringing into all my forthcoming teaching.  It has been exciting to see a rebirth in the DIY (Do It Yourself)  movements by which many people have gained skills and agency and confidence! I have taught from that enabling philosophy. I want to expand it now, so all of my workshops will encompass elements and be held within a spirit of DIT : Do It TOGETHER! 

Interview posted November, 2019.


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