Erma Martin Yost is a classically trained artist, with an M.A. in painting. For ten years, she painted large abstract landscapes with thick impasto surfaces; then her work took a turn to fiber, art quilts, another very textural form. “When I retired after 36 years as an art teacher,” says Yost, “I continued to substitute. One day I was supposed to teach felting, something I knew absolutely nothing about and the class ended up teaching me. I went home, did research, bought some supplies, practiced on my own, and took two workshops. I was totally seduced by the tactile quality and saturated colors of the magical mesh of fibers. Now I consider felt my canvas.”
Asked about her creative process, Erma replied, “I don’t’ have a specific picture in my mind when I start. I select some colors to work with and begin composing. I like to let things evolve as I respond to what is before me. I especially enjoy making the pouches, which are constructed without one sewn stitch (except for the long straps). It is a challenge to make them turn out the correct size and in a single, completely felted unit.” She also makes scarves, using a process called nuno-felting, where wool fibers are laid out on a silk base before the felting process begins. The wool fibers migrate through the silk and shrink more than the silk during the felting process. The process, says Yost, yields crinkled textures and a soft durable product.
Erma explains that felt is the most ancient textile, predating spinning and weaving by several thousand years. “Nomadic peoples discovered felt when subjecting wool to heat and moisture, pounding it until it matted into a cohesive structure. These densely packed fibers were transformed into durable objects ranging from the utilitarian to the religious, even transportable tents. My felt items are one of a kind, made in this ancient manner from wool fleece batting or roving that is unspun.”
Erma is represented by Noho-M55 Gallery in NYC. Her works there are framed hand-felted stitched constructions.
Erma will be here, with over fifty other fine artisans, so mark your calendar, today! In the meantime, you can see more of Erma’s work on the Gallery page of http://www.ybcrafts.org and on her website, http://ermamartinyost.com/ermamartinyost.com/Home.html.