Respiration: an Outdoor Felt Installation

One of my big summer projects is an outdoor felt installation created for the juried exhibition LandArt @ ArtCraft.

I have been fascinated with Land Art for many years, and allowed the whisperings of a felt installation to roam around in my imagination…When the call for entry for this exhibition came up, I knew exactly what my proposal would be…I was juried into the show, but given a different location to the one on which I had based my proposal. I didn’t think much of this until many months later when I was ready to approach this new work, and started to spend time in the space. My original idea just did not respond to the environment.   So I visted regularly, observing and sketching and thinking…until the new work presented itself. (I will tell you sometime about the original idea, as I still plan to make it and present it in a different location this summer!)

In Land Art I see two distinct relationships. The artist meets the site and responds to it’s characteristics, developing a relationship and then a concept for that space.  And then the artwork meets the site,  and it too responds to it’s characteristics. How will the artwork react with the changing seasons, weather patterns, growth of plant material, animal behavior, movement of the light, and wind? There are so many components to be aware of  and potentially respond to. It is a very exciting and dynamic “gallery”!
  It has been a fascinating process,  immersing oneself in the space, observing
it’s seasonal nuances: the light, the wind, the foliage, the

 In the late spring when I saw the strong leaf patterns, emerging on the trees, I knew this would be the right form for this work. A collection of felt leaves, connecting the trees with the earth, filling in the air in between. When we started the installation, I was amazed to see the leaves moving in the breezes, coming up from the harbour. I had no idea until that moment that there would be a kinetic aspect to the work. But it is perfect. The air movements change the relationship each leaf has with the sunlight, illuminating the surface patterns in new ways, with each viewing.

 My artist statement on the work sums up where my planning went within the space… 

As an environmental art sculpture, Respiration relates to air and light.
The soft, wool felt forms stand in relationship with the strong
vertical lines of the trees, grasses and plants within the garden.  The
white felt leaves have delicate surface textures, telling a story of
 movement; of air currents and rhythm. As the sun moves, the felt leaves
are backlit and illuminated, showing their patterns with different
intensities, casting shadows and being cast upon by shadows of the
surrounding foliage. Air movements catch the leaves, changing their
relationship with the light and the viewpoint of the observer.
 Respiration is constructed in natural, untreated, white wool and
bamboo, primarily from local sources.

Respiration: the act of breathing, the conversion of oxygen (air) into energy….we do it…the leaves do it…The leaves have an inbreath and outbreath, an empty side and a full side depending on the position of the sun. They catch the breath of the wind and move and change… 

 I’ve been making and installing one or two leaves everyday. This continues my relationship with the space. Everyday I visit, and change it a little…changing the space, and also adding to my vision of the sculptural work, as it grows.  The last pieces go up tomorrow and the exhibition opens on June 26th. 

If you re in the area, I hope you can join us for the opening!

LandArt @ ArtCraft
June 26 โ€“ September 20 2015

Mahon Hall
114 Rainbow Rd, Salt Spring Island, BC

Opening w/ Artists on Site:
June 26     5:30-7:00pm

Warm wishes, 



  1. Teresa N August 10, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Love this, Fiona! I’d like to do something of a smaller scale in my backyard. What is the structure that holds the leaves? How was it created?

    • Fiona D August 14, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      Thank you Teresa! The structure is split bamboo. Each leaf either has a sleeve felted in along the sides for the bamboo, or else is double sided, like a vessel, so the bamboo holds the leaf in shape under tension. We used copper piping to secure the bamboo at top and bottom. This was an exciting project, and I plan to explore this much more in the future…as time allows!

  2. Lois July 6, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    You inspire me! I am looking forward to playing with wet wool on our rocky Bowen outcrop. I love the idea of woolly shapes guiding visitors up a long steep driveway….

  3. Els July 1, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    (hmmmm sorry, must have been "sleeping", that I only saw it nรณw …)

    I love the leaves hanging out there ! I do love "land art", we change
    our environment a lot of times and a LOT of times nor for the best,
    but this is something intertwined with nature in a delicate and beautiful
    way ! No second thoughts here ๐Ÿ˜‰
    What a bonus when you found the leaves moved !!! Something extra
    you may remember (and use) the next time ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Would LOOOOVE to see the installation in person, but …
    Love, Els.

  4. Monica Bennett June 28, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Gorgeous work and thoughtful statement/explanation, Fiona. I love this installation! Congratulations on creating such wonderful felt art. I love the play of light on felt and you have captured the effect beautifully.

    • Fiona June 30, 2015 at 8:20 pm

      Thank you, Monica. I am so excited about this work. I have a big project in the works to be installed in Scotland in 2016. Thanks so much for your comments!

  5. Pat Taylor June 25, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Land Art is so fascinating! I love your piece Fiona. It looks like your work will have an interesting and embellishing relationship with the environment. Bravo Fiona!

    • Fiona June 25, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      Thanks so much, Pat! Your words are important to me, coming from such a creative environmentalist as yourself! As you said, Land Art is a fascinating practise. I do also appreciate the other side to it, that questions why humans need to leave their mark or change a natural environment at all….it's good to keep this in mind also. Warm wishes! F

  6. Kerry O'Gorman June 25, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Lovely!! Now another excuse to come to the Island this summer! they must catch light and wind beautifully!

    • Fiona June 25, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      Thank you, Kelly. I hope you do make it to the island to see this work, and all the other wonderful island offerings!

  7. Susan C Hammond June 25, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Oh how I wish I could see these. I love land art.

    • Fiona June 25, 2015 at 7:44 pm

      Thanks you Susan. We're making a short video to show the full work in different lighting conditions.

  8. Jzin Teng June 25, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Wow! Beautiful! You are an inspiration, Fiona!

    • Fiona June 25, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      Thank you, Jzin. I get inspred by these projects also…I'm looking forward to working on my original proposal, plus another installation within this body of work. It's exciting.

  9. Leslie M June 25, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    How will your installation react with the elements i?.e. rain?

    • Fiona June 25, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      I've had felt art work installed outdoors for over a year at a time with no ill effect at all. When the felt was taken down, it was a little dirty (being installed by the side of a busy road, but was in exactly the structural shape as when installed. This was in the Pacific Northwest, through a rainy winter. Since felt is made using water, it holds up well to rainy conditions, and all other elements in my experience. This parrticular work reacts with the space and elements in that on Salt Spring we get almost no rain for the four months of summer. The continuous sunny days provide the passive illumination that is part of this project.