Art Beat: Felt So Right

Jan 2, 2020

Dawn Edwards at work
Credit Carolyn Fink

Until a friend invited her to come along to a class in 2005 about felt-making, Dawn Edwards knew nothing about this ancient fabric. But it wasn’t long before the Plainwell resident developed what she calls an obsession.

Today, Edwards sells her artistic felt hats and teaches felt-making across the world - in the United States, Australia, Ireland, Russia, and the Netherlands - wherever felt-making takes her. In Kalamazoo, her felt hats can be found at the artist cooperative on South Westnedge called Signature Artists.

“Historically, felt is the most ancient of textiles,” Edwards says. “More than likely, it came about quite by accident. A little wool on the ground, moisture from rain or snow, people walk on it, and voilà! You have felt! It may not have been the most beautiful felt, but originally felt was a functional item.”

"Felt Crown" by Dawn Edwards
Credit Mary Whalen

Edwards also works in pottery and stained glass but felt enchants her the most. She sells her creations under the label Felt So Right, a name she credits to her husband. Many of her felt hats, shawls, scarves, and wraps are not only practical; some are wearable works of art: a hat shaped like a pinecone, a hat with curvaceous spikes emerging from its top, or a hat that looks like a colorful conch shell. Edwards says she also enjoys creating hats in the colors and shapes of large flowers.

“I like making things that are different,” she says. “I don’t want to recreate something I can buy in a shop. I love the artistic and sculptural aspects of felt. I find a lot of inspiration, like many artists, in nature. I also love Van Gogh’s sunflowers, so I have a hat inspired by his sunflower paintings.”

Edwards says that her felt-making has opened the world to her, taking her on travels across the globe to learn from or teach others. She has won many awards for her felt creations and has been featured in publications in the United States, Russia, Australia, and other countries. Locally, she has offered workshops at the Kalamazoo Art Institute and at her Plainwell studio.

In 2012, Edwards was selected to lead FeltUnited, a nonprofit group of international artists whose goal is to connect felt makers around the globe. She is also a member of the International Feltmakers Association, the Surface Design Association, the Handweavers Guild of America, and the Michigan League of Handweavers.

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