Crafting A Remedy For Troubled Times

Currently on view at Lawndale Arts Center is Tobiah Mundt's "Being." At first glance, you might wonder what these whimsical and menacing figures are constructed from. Some have limbs and bulbous bodies, others are literally bursting out of frames. Our favorite creature is happily chomping on Cheetos, some of which are strewn across his potbelly.

Mundt's pieces are created through the process of sculptural needle felting, in which raw wool can be formed and shaped using a large barb. This is far from an original invention. Needle felting kits, tips and techniques can be found all over the internet and in your local craft store. Odds are your grandma or reclusive aunt dabbled in this art form decades ago.

Putting a new twist on the favored craft form, we attended the "Monstering" workshop recently, led by the artist herself, where we got the chance to make our own monsters. Admittedly, we were foremost drawn to the class by the sub header on the website, "No sewing and stuffing, just stabbing and poking." Who doesn't love stabbing and poking?

As advertised, the workshop involved plenty of stabbing and poking, and, unfortunately, many times our own fingers were casualties of the process. The 34-gauge needle is not forgiving.

But within minutes we were rolling and tacking on big woolly clumps of color like old pros. Our fluffy orbs began to reveal gaping mouths and sprouted twisting teeth and horns. Here we sat, within a class of predominately middle-aged women, making the most sinister things out of wool you've ever seen.

In the end, there was something therapeutic in all the repetitive piercing, and we felt a little less stressed at the end of the class. If the entire nation adopted needle felting as a remedy for these pressure-filled economic times, our country would look like "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode of Star Trek.

Aside from working with wool, we've felt the squeeze of craft culture on the art scene in a big way recently. Locally, The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft just wrapped a poppy and articulate show called "The Paper Runway" featuring intricate garments and accessories made from, you guessed it, paper. Outside of gallery walls, if you've tread around Montrose, you've seen the master works of renegade knitters donning stop signs and local businesses.

For those who want to take their skills to the next level, you might consider attending a class at Sew Crafty Houston, which offers a range of classes and skill levels in sewing, knitting and crochet. They even have a sewing lounge where you can use machines and work tables to bring your wildest hand-made fantasies into fruition.

That a connection might exist between the negative climate of our country and the rise of arts and crafts, is not such an outrageous idea. When you consider it, there are few things more rewarding than making something with your own hands, even when we might not be entirely successful in our other endeavors. The sheer physicality of creation likely relieves frustration (but mostly it's just fun).

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