Empire fiber artist Holly Sorensen’s latest works are literally off the wall. After years of weaving colorful but conventional, artistic scarves, rugs, garments and wall hangings, she wanted to add a twist to her works and opted for a 3-D look.
Her current creations bring her weavings into a three-dimensional format; they seem to pop off the wall. Foam core, pipe insulation, aluminum fl ashing, Plexiglass and copper wire add the new dimension to her colorful works.
Sorensen’s newest specialty is a series of eye-catching masks. Using mannequin faces as templates, they are created in her former garage-turned-studio that now houses two working looms. Her work schedule has been interrupted lately by her caring for ill friends, but she tries to keep a steady fl ow of projects underway.
After years of traveling and living in places across the country, Sorensen moved to northern Michigan when her son went off to college. Leelanau County is a place she had long loved after childhood visits to a family cottage on Crystal Lake. The landscape near her Empire home and studio remain an inspiration.
HOW I GOT STARTED
My fascination with fiber began in my childhood, while playing in the old woolen mill that my family operated in Connecticut. The colorful webs of yarn, noisy clanking looms and rich smell of lanolin were magic to me.
THE STORY BEHIND MY ART, MY INSPIRATION
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in graphic design and working in New York City in the fashion industry, I did some extended travel. Eventually I settled in Ninilchik, a small fishing village in Alaska, near Homer. It was there in the mid-‘70s that I rediscovered my love of fiber while learning to make coiled baskets from beach-salvaged hemp fishing line wrapped with the colorful wool yarns my father sent me from the mill. I began studying various weaving techniques, made my first loom and started to explore yarn dyeing processes. Space dyeing, a method producing multiple blocks of color on a single skein of yarn, became my signature. I continue to use space dyed yarns in most of my work today.
I love exploring color relationships by creating a warp of space dyed yarns. Once it is on the loom, the weaving is easy and it is so pleasing to watch the juxtaposed blocks of colored threads form into a richly textured fabric. Then when the piece is taken off the loom, the fun begins: finding a way to make it into a three dimensional sculpture.
I guess I could be called a colorist as that is my medium, my favorite tool. Since moving to The Leelanau, “Land of Delight” as the Native Americans named it, I have found inspiration in the colors of its lovely landscapes and ever changing light. Each season always brings a fresh new palette.
WORK I’M MOST PROUD OF
After many years of weaving hand-dyed rugs, garments and wall hangings, I began experimenting with various stiffening elements to bring new dimension and movement to my wall pieces. Using foam core, pipe insulation, aluminum flashing and bent Plexiglass, I was able to bring my weavings off the wall. This 3-D sculptural approach led me to my present interest in creating masks, which I feel are my most original works to date.
YOU WON’T BELIEVE
Poet Anne Marie Oomen wrote a poem about one of my masks. It’s called “Kindred Spirits.”
MY FAVORITE ARTIST
There are many, but here are three – Henri Matisse, sculptural fiber artist Adrienne Sloane and local watercolorist Tim Lewis.
ADVICE FOR ASPIRING YOUNG ARTISTS
When I’m working on a piece, it feels like an extended experiment. I don’t believe in rules so much as breaking them when it feels right. I would encourage people to have fun. I also remember a quote from my favorite weaving teacher, Anita Mayer: “If you are not making mistakes and having failures, you are not learning anything.”
MY WORK CAN BE SEEN/PURCHASED
In Empire at my studio, at the Secret Garden, or at the Sleeping Bear Gallery. Also at www.hollysorensen.com.