About the Artist

Portrait of fiber artist Melinda LaBarge

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso

Read more about Melinda at Monadnock Made

When I create a piece, I think about it adding more beauty to the world. I have no personal attachment to my work. Rather, I want people to enjoy wearing my textile art.

I am a silk and wool artisan specializing in The Nuno felt technique. "Nuno," the Japanese word meaning "cloth," is a technique that bonds loose fiber, usually wool, onto a sheer fabric such as silk, creating a lightweight felt that looks delicate but is durable.

Currently I specialize in making scarves, shawls and pillows. I am looking to add wall hangings and some clothing pieces to my product line.

The first pieces of Nuno felt I saw were two scarves worn by two of my friends. The scarves looked like ancient pieces of cloth that should be in a museum. It looked timeless – I was mesmerized by it and I had never seen anything like it.

Nuno felting is a technique less than 20 years old. I searched every piece of information I could find on it when I started. When I learned this was something I could do, I was hooked. Through Nuno felting, my love of fiber grew – the texture and feel of it.

I thought the end product was beautiful and unique, and I find the technique exciting because so much is yet to be done with it.

My ideas for my one-of- a-kind pieces come from art history books and I am also inspired by nature, for example, the wildflowers (echinacea and bee balm are favorites) and hummingbirds in the garden. Other times, geometric shapes, ink splatters, astronomical photographs of nebulas and galaxies, or memories of paintings serve as subjects – one painting I love that depicts cherry blossoms directly influenced one of my pieces.

I use Merino wool roving, which I dye by hand along with the silk I use. I am becoming just as passionate about dyeing as felting – I find working with the colors a joyous experience. The high-quality wool creates a soft product. After I cover the materials with hot, soapy water, a process that involves friction adheres the wool to the base material and shrinks the garment by 45 percent. After rinsing, I iron the garment while it's still wet, which causes a sheen to emerge that brings it to life. Another method I use is called shibori, which involves rocks and marbles tied into the fabric half-way through the felting process. When the garment dries, the objects are removed and the finished product holds their shape in the design.

In addition to the watercolor pieces I make scarves and shawls out of bamboo (which has the appearance of suede) and silk fabric commercially-printed with designs that attract me – material featuring Asian characters, numbers, animals and pop art are a few types I look for in thrift shops and online.

My ultimate goal for each piece is that it not only be high-quality and beautiful but also practical – I want the owner to wear it for the rest of their life.