In July 2014 a Lithuanian magazine about Psychology asked for an interview with me. It was one of the most interesting interviews to be part of for me, so now I am sharing the English version of it.
From a little wool ball to Aphrodite
I have been following the path of a textile artist, felt maker Vilte Kazlauskaite on the social media lately. I must confess that every time I see a new post by Vilte with an artistic photography, I feel joy as it not only gives me an opportunity to see something beautiful and elegant, but also to be transferred to another dimension – sensual and poetic. Egidija Seputyte-Vaituleviciene
Veltinis (felt in Lithuanian), velimas (felting in Lithuanian)- it doesn’t sound poetic in Lithuanian language. Yet when I first visited your website http://vilte.net and read the words “Fiber poetry. Felt in fashion, interior and art”, I had a thought of a double meaning of the word “felt” in English language – felt as a textile, and felt as feeling. Actually I did read the phrase as textile poetry that has been felt (from feeling). Wool and feeling. This connection is so obvious when looking at your work. How could you describe it in words? How does felting connect with feeling for you?
Yes, in Lithuanian, alas, the poetry vanishes in the same way as we would clean the magic of frost on the window with a damp cloth and start gazing at a dirty glass and cloth, not the hypnotizing, unearthly drawing of frost on the glass… Perhaps the Lithuanian thriftiness is to be blamed… The oldest findings of felt in Altai region from 5 a.b.C. are very artistic and decorative. The oldest felt in Lithuania (and not that old as from Altai) was only functional material – thick, one colour felt that had to protect from snow and cold, perhaps there was no place or wish left for poetry… So the word came out also very direct – “suveltas” (felted), and not felt as in English language.
The English version of the word felt (the second and third form of the verb to feel) is really magic for me, it seems to have the essence of felt encoded in it. I say “veltinis” now and I catch myself scanning all the possible words and their combinations, which I could use instead “veltinis”. I feel like I am talking with double meaning – saying a word which has a completely different sense encoded in it. Perhaps wool textiles? Well, also not the most poetic version, but at least neutral and not so plainspoken.
Wool and feeling… These words are entangled in one another. Feeling, sensing, senses – all is here. We sense the wool by touching – it can be rough, nipping the skin, or soft and gentle as a mist, wrapping you and cocooning you inside. It makes you feel warm, stimulates, maintains the temperature, and protects. And all these simple physical senses talk about much deeper things – it wakens up feelings, memories, not necessarily in a conscious way, and probably different to all of us. Yet most often we perceive wool through cozy, warm, safe senses.
Felting is directly connected to sensing – it is actually caressing the wool with one’s fingertips, hands, sliding its surface and also a rough rumpling of it. Senses concentrate in the finger tips and hands. The whole felting process is also not just a mechanical process: you need to feel what is going on with the wool, how the wool fibers are migrating and shrinking.
Despite all those physical feelings felting is still very sensuous process, because in a creative dimension of this process I am also led by a big sensual charge. I mean that I need to feel my work, thought, and energy that I want to radiate through my work. It seems that summing all this up wool textile really becomes so felt, sensed as the word in English. That means that the way you read the description in my website was correct one.
Talking about feelings and felted items, it is not just physical senses, inspiration and the feeling of the process where the connection of wool and feelings takes us. Felted items also act as sensuous stimulus, that people can not simply ignore. It always give rise to reactions and feelings, it gets somewhere deep, where it is sometimes even hard for a person to perceive consciously, it awakens something from the inside, as if it was hiding some codes that have been encoded in our sub consciousness. This sensuous reaction is one of the most beautiful processes in the whole act of felting.
What was your own way to this field of art? How did you understand (feel) that this material can be more than just a cozy craft item? How did it become a tool of self expression?
Getting to know wool was very unplanned thing in my life. It was a result of my usual curiosity and being interested in many things. I had seen and heard of some felt work in Lithuania, and to be frank, it looked terrifying to me. What triggered my curiosity was a simple laconic felted ball of wool that I saw live. It was hard to believe that separate wool fibers could form into something so continuous and dense. How could it form into something whole? So I just bought some wool and scattered it on my kitchen table, wetted and started to rub with my hands. It was that feeling of Eureka and joy that I had when I was convinced that separate wool fibers really come together into continuous fabric. I didn’t discover anything at that moment, it was only a feeling inside as if I had discovered a new star.
Little crafts were never my aim. It would have been too boring for my nature. It was curiosity that took me forward. Perhaps also the intuition was a part of this belief that felting was not just for little hand crafts. And sure, it wasn’t. It was just that in Lithuania during that time felt was just little hand crafts more or less and I hadn’t seen anything else.
The first months of trying to feel the felt were full of manic experiments day or night, not following any traditions of felt. I was just discovering new forms, textures and expressions in felt. The moving force was the versatility, inexhaustibility of the material, new challenges and joy of discovery. During the eight years it stepped out of the limits of self expression, it became one of the ways of being, relating to the world and life; not just expressing myself, but also feeling the life through all I do in life. To give and to take.
What do you feel when you touch the wool and silk (you also use silk, right?)? Does this feeling change during the process?
It’s a kind of meditation. Falling into another dimension. I think that all ways of creative processes have these rabbit holes of Alice, where the similar feelings arise. In felting it is also stimulated by the sense of touching. It is a very sub conscious connection with all natural materials for me, and I don’t always want to analyze it in a rational way, or name it. I just want to melt in that feeling.
Touching is an intimate sense. It is immediate communication with silk and wool. The whole process is also not monotonous: the beginning is always so fragile and soft when I just start to lay out all the fibers in a certain composition and layers. During the process touching changes from caressing to rumpling, rolling, there is more force, friction. The final touch of playing with textures can be very sculptural process. It becomes soft and sensitive process again. As in every other field there is piano piano and forte, fortissimo stages…
I naturally started to talk about the sense of touch. How do other senses are involved in your creative process?
Yes, of course, as we have already talked about it – touch is entangled with felt. Vision is also a very crucial sense here. It matters during the creative process and after – observing all the visual information of the piece and thus giving rise to the whole gamma of feelings, i.e. reactions.
For the last few years I only use natural dyes for my pieces. I dye my wool, silk or felt pieces with plant and other natural matters. It is another one strong stimulus for our perception – a true, live colour that also has hidden codes that we feel, but can hardly name it.
Vision is also what I use to gather a big part of my inspiration. I usually transform visual stimulus through the prism of my sensuous perception. What I felt is never a repetition of what I see. It usually reveals how I feel what I see, hear or perceive in any other way. We can talk about sounds, smells, tastes – when it goes through my sensuous perception, it gets encoded in my pieces in one way or another. Music, colour, taste, and smell are feelings, sometimes even the same feeling that has just been floating in another form, but it is about the same thing… All the seemingly separate particles, impulses of the world merge together in a certain scheme and get a new “body” – felt piece.
You give workshops in different parts of the world. For example, for the last few years you have been returning to Cyprus to give workshops. It is a nice place, and a bunch of creatively inspired women. How do such workshops happen? What do those travels mean to you yourself?
It is one way of giving. Giving what I have learnt myself, what I have perceived, felt, what I feel like giving to someone else, believing that it is going to become an important, positive stimulus in another person’s life. Wherever it would take him/her. Such workshops as in Cyprus are special and really felt from my heart. I understand clearly that people who come there have to put a lot of effort to escape their every day obligations, and the processes of learning and transforming start long before they reach the island of Aphrodite. Everything is actually taking place in their inside, in their feelings, and thoughts. They escape their daily routine, get to a special place where everything makes an influence, it doesn’t matter if you want it or not – satin waters of the sea, sun, figs from the garden, blue sky, bright stars at night, the smell of the flowers and songs of cicadas. And the main reason of this escape is creating, not interrupted by any other obligations – like of mother, wife, housewife, or employee…
A person gets a creative stimulus, tasks – sometimes poetic, sometimes very mathematical. Sometimes creativity flows in abundance, sometimes it gets stuck inside. But then the law of withdrawal, relaxation, changing the activity takes the action and you witness a person living through an Eureka moment. Something moves forward inside and a person knows how to express their creative potential, how to put all he wanted to life. It is beautiful to witness such moments.
How did it happen that you are more there, in other countries of the world, than here, in Lithuania? I mean the public space, workshops, etc.
Maybe because of the not poetic word “veltinis”? Well, seriously, I am here and I am everywhere. I think we all became modern nomads, and no distinct “here” and “there” exists. I am where I feel free to express myself in a way I feel I have to. I am where I am loved, needed, where I can give and get. I am where I feel I can be accepted and people want to accept me. I am where I feel that what I do reflects the pulse of life.
I love Lithuania and I am here. Though I also have some rational self criticism in me. But I don’t want to analyze some of our national traits that are not all so positive. I would love to give some of my workshops here in Lithuania in a special place for me – in Kursiu Nerija. I work for clients here, especially wedding clients, who find me in one way or another and are looking for something not traditional, who want to create fairy tale images of themselves and have a different feeling of their wedding. But in a broader sense of creativity I live there, where I can have my momentum, where I can breathe free and give.
Have there ever been any unexpected discoveries while working with wool, giving workshops? Perhaps something (an event, feeling) has surprised you?
Ability to be surprised and wonder constantly and to value even the smallest things that the life brings to us is one of the most important conditions of life. I feel like referring to the English word “wonder” (as it is more obvious than with the Lithuanian word) which actually means miracle. So to wonder, be surprised really means to fill one’s life with miracles, no matter the size.
When I just started dating felting, my life was full of wooly “miracles” and being surprised with all little discoveries. The further I go, the more my life is filled with miracles that are connected with people I meet on my wool and silk path, with people who go through the most beautiful human transformations, for seemingly so little things – for just giving them something in the workshops, for touching something deep inside them. It feels like just pulling a little ribbon – something inside a person starts moving, some spiritual transformations, changes in feelings occur, the relationships change, new resolutions are made, dreams and new paths follow. And it seems that you only pulled a very common “ribbon” – just something about wool and silk… Everything is much deeper… We are felt of thoughts and feelings ourselves. Sometimes it is even hard to understand what it is about – silk fiber, rough wool that might rub your skin to the blood, or on the contrary – so soft and caressing – here, on the table, or all of this – in our minds…
So I really treasure all such human moments when such a simple act of teaching felt makes the sensuous stories of people flow out. It happened during one of my first workshops I had in Italy. I guess it really surprised me most, when one of my students whose work we were just analyzing, and the things she said about it herself, started thanking me for something I just said, something having a great importance in her life, something she had just perceived about herself and accepted. And it changed her attitude to life. All was said with the tears in her eyes.
These are very fragile but very treasured gifts of life. The human factor.
You have a degree in Psychology, you have also danced a lot, and now – creating with wool. How do those three things come together?
All the human paths in life are entangled. And from a distant point of view all of it is about the same thing. I love psychological subjects till now, and I continue to deepen my knowledge in some of the subjects when I feel a need for. Right now I am into psychology of creativity which will be the basis of my new workshop program. I also still dance – just for my own pleasure. If I start to analyze these three fields, I am not sure which of them is more sunken into the other one or two. Everything overlaps. One part of psychology field analyzes creative processes. There is also art therapy. Dance also exists in psychology as a form of therapy and a form of non verbal expression. Creating with wool also has so much movement and psychology. We have already talked about the thoughts, feelings, fields of sub consciousness, connections… Human relationships as well. The felting process itself – it is movement of the hands of a felter, and movements of the wool fibers that migrate, entangle, shrink, and always move – as if it was a dance.
So…perhaps it really is about the same thing…
Actually I believe in the human potential to become almost anyone and to do almost anything if there is enough of curiosity, stubbornness, and a wish to learn, get deeper and better. A decade ago we had TV series on called “The Pretender”, where actor Michael T.Weiss played a genius who could master the profession of anyone. Perhaps it was an exaggerated version of what I believe in, i.e. the potential of a man, but on the other hand it also talked about importance of feeling life through the being of anyone you choose to be.
How do you see your future path (also the creative one)? Do you have new plans?
I will answer with the quote of the same “Pretender”. In the beginning of every series, the character of M.T.Weiss is being asked: “Are you a doctor?” And he replies: “I am today”.
Today my path is covered with silk, wool, and natural dyes. I don’t ask myself what I am going to be tomorrow and I don’t build plans. People say God laughs at those plans. Wool came into my life in an unexpected way, and I let it in. Besides, I love surprises. Usually even more than carefully thought over plans being put to action. So I chose to be whoever or whatever I am today, I dream about tomorrow just a little and with open arms I meet what I am to become tomorrow. It maybe the same path of wool and silk, getting just deeper and broader. It maybe dance again, psychology, or literature or photography, or some other unexpected yet to me activity. I only know that it is never going to be sliding the surface, I will be diving deep. Curiosity, sensitivity to the world is the feeling of the pulse of life. Whatever is going to be, will be my way…