This week's blog features Ammi Brooks of Ammi's Art.
How long have you been a member of Artistic Portland, and what appealed
to you about joining the co-op?
I was doing a show five years ago, and Marianne asked me if I would be interested in selling my felted scarves at a co-op store she and five others were starting. I had been only selling my felted items at shows and festivals so this sounded like a great opportunity. I joined so I only do one show a year now. I love being a part of Artistic Portland. I get to work with very creative people and contribute to the running of our store. I am amazed at how 35 people can run a business. At Artistic Portland we have people who contribute their time and expertise to make it a success. Working there is a pleasure.
What’s your background?
Hmmm. I am assuming this is about my art. I have always been good with my hands (a phrase my mother often used). I started with sewing Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls for my nieces. In 1971, when my husband was in the service in North Carolina, I took a class in making Christmas ornaments out of egg shells. That art form had me making duck eggs with music boxes and ostrich egg clocks. When I moved from California to Portland my daughter thought I would like felting. I did. I started by watching YouTube videos and then classes at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival and other classes online. I am still learning about felt. I will always be learning about felting. I am an expert, however, when it comes to my egg decorations.
What does your work aim to say?
Wear me! Give me to your cat. Soap me up and clean your body. Put me on your Christmas tree!
Who are your biggest influences?
My Teachers. There are so many fabulous women in our area who make incredible art with natural fibers. I took a felted hat class from Tash Wesp. She makes the most incredible nuno felted clothes (a mix of natural fabric and animal fibers)! I took my first wet felting class from Caren Engine at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. I recommend this Festival in Canby, Oregon for anyone who loves all manner of animal fibers, spinning, and knitting. They have great classes in knitting, felting, dying and many more. It is held at the end of September. Then there is the fabulous Tylar Merrill in Eugene. I hope to take one of her classes in the future.
How do you know when you are finished with a piece?
It is easy to know when I am finished with my egg creations. My little scene looks well balanced, tells a story, no glue showing, and seams are together. With my scarves sometimes it takes weeks of looking at it adding or subtracting this or that. Sometimes I put it into my giveaway box. Last month I took back a scarf from the store and added more fringe.
Where do you create?
In my home mostly. I am so lucky to have a really big downstairs room that I share with my Quaker Parrot, Birdie. I can make big messes so I am lucky to have a roommate/cousin who ignores the mess. I have manufactured wood floors for good clean-up and big sliding glass doors to our garden. Also, I can take materials to make my soaps, cat balls and eggs with me where ever I go. My storage space is in the furnace room which I share with the guinea pigs.
It is a constant organizing and reorganizing.
What inspires you?
Color! Whimsey! Other artists. Practicality. I love all the wonderful colors wool fibers come in Sometimes I find a skirt or scarf made of silk or cotton at the thrift store that I can make a felted scarf from. Sometimes I find a piece of silk at the fabric store that I love.
The fabric you see in the photo below has been on my 4ft table for at least a month It is surrounded by wool roving, raw silk, and yarn I plan to use to felt the scarf. The raw silk I use for design. It is always a surprise to see how the silk weaves through the wool to make little rivers of color.
I also love the natural colors of sheep or alpaca. I keep most of my wool in
boxes or plastic bags under my bed or in the furnace room. However sometimes they end up in baskets because I love to have them around! Check
out the yumminess of the Alpaca on the left and the sheep's wool on the right.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
My six-foot table. I can make scarves in a small 12X14 bedroom. When I lived at my daughter’s house I was able to make my bedroom work for my studio.
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
I really don’t have any routine. I get up in the morning and start on whatever needs to be done. I can work on my felting or egg ornaments for hours and days without leaving the house. I am very undisciplined in my artwork. I wing it a lot. I never weigh my wool or plan it out. I make a lot of mistakes too. I am teaching a class in September at the Hoffman Center in Manzanita. I will have to get disciplined!
Is there an artwork that you created that you are most proud of? Why?
I love my felted silk scarves with white locks. They are so soft and elegant.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?
I’ve only called myself an artist for the last five years. I am 73 years old and
in my life I have been a sales clerk, preschool teacher, an espresso pusher,
a personal assistant, house cleaner, organizer (kitchens and such), care giver, and nanny. I would probably find some crazed scientist or channeler of ETs to assist. Right now I am blessed to be the “artist in residence” in my home where my cousin Mary Beth pays the rent and feeds me. She is an angel.
What do you like to do when you're not creating?
I like to read a good book while I am bicycling at Planet Fitness, cook a good meal with Mary Beth and work in the garden. But mostly I love to create! While I create I watch or listen to all sorts of interesting things on my computer such as British mysteries, politics, conspiracy theories, science fiction and even the Marvel series and movies.