Some origin stories have a hairy start. For Chantal Cardinal, a Montréal-born, Vancouver-based felt artist, getting her hands dirty – really dirty – while helping to shear the sheep that produce the wool she uses to make her art is all part of the creative process.
With an eclectic background in fashion design, massage therapy, and translation, as well as having spent time on the soccer field and hanging from silks as an aerialist, Chantal found felting after she’d already had a long career doing wardrobe for the film industry. When she discovered felting, she fell in love with the tactility and the physicality of the work of turning wool into anything from small pin-on flowers to wall-sized felted murals. For her, it was a merging of her flair for all things beautiful and whimsical with her athleticism and practicality: wool – a material that is naturally antibacterial, insulating, fire retardant and water resistant – can be turned into virtually anything. By processing the raw wool herself, Chantal is thrilled to have found an art form that is environmentally sustainable and presents endless possibilities.
Another favourite part of her work is its capacity to engage others. Through her workshops, Chantal has seen the felting process work its magic: participants are always amazed when wool becomes a hat, a flower, or even a small bowl. It’s truly an experience that sets the imagination free.
-Written by Jill Goldberg, longtime friend and co-author of The Fire Still Burns: Life In and After Residential School.
Which ’hood are you in?
Well, I first landed in the heart of the West End 15 years ago. Now, I find myself at a unique intersection: head west and I’m in The West End, go north and I’m in Downtown, northeast leads me to Yaletown, and if I venture south over the bridge, I reach Kitsilano. I absolutely adore having the Sea Wall as my backyard and make it a point to walk or bike along it as much as possible. I am so grateful for this City Center Oasis. Oh, and when I’m commuting to my studio at The Arts Factory, you can spot me biking along False Creek. My studio is located just off Terminal, at 281 Industrial – the first studio on the ESCC (EastSide Culture Crawl) map, depending on your approach.
What do you do?
I’m an Artist / Designer / Artisan Felter who goes by the name FELT à la main with LOVE. My passion lies in the world of wool fibre artistry. Using the magical technique of wet felting, I craft tactile and textured artwork and artefacts. Starting with wool fibres, often raw directly from sheep I know by name, I create my own unique material: handmade Felt. This artistic practice is not only 100% natural, renewable, and sustainable, but it also serves as a means of making connections. By binding wool together, I explore intricate creations and meaningful relationships. I turn wool into wonder.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve been honoured with a shortlist for a monumental window display installation—an opportunity that promises to be the pinnacle of my handmade felt creations. If selected, this project will push the boundaries of scale like never before. This is so exciting! The magnitude of this endeavour necessitates enlisting additional hands, emphasizing the growth and expansion I aspire to in my work. Creating large-scale public artwork is precisely the direction I am passionate about pursuing.
I recently participated in the 3rd annual CREATE! Arts Festival on July 22nd, and look forward to participating in the 2023 Eastside Culture Crawl on November 16-19, 2023. Get all the info here.
At the same time, I remain committed to fostering connections through workshops and engaging with individuals on a personal level.
Where can we find your work?
You can find me and my work at my studio @The Arts Factory. Check us out during the open studio events Nov 16th-19th, 2023 of the ESCC or feel free to get in touch to book a studio appointment anytime. My work is also sold on my website and I have some of my Birch Sticks Series in NV @PUREShoppe by interior Designer Ami McKay. Visit my website and join my newsletter to stay in the loop.