Featured Artists

Interviews Archive Page

135  Christina Massey

134  Mary Grisey

133  Trina Perry Carlson

132  Anne Kelly

131  Louise Lemieux Bérubé

130  Dorothy McGuinness

129  Penny Mateer

128  Christine Mauersberger

127  Jim Arendt

126  Merce Mitchell

125  Louise Keen

124  Rosemary Claus-Gray

123  Mary Giehl

122  Emily Hermant

121  Robin Wiltse

120  Barbara Klunder

119  Megan Skyvington

118  Rachel Brumer

117  Heike Blohm

116  Shanell Papp

115  Carmella Karijo Rother

114  C. Pazia Mannella

113  Karen Goetzinger

112  Andrew MacDonald

111  Jeanne Williamson

110  Catherine Heard

109  Rosemary Hoffenberg

108  Cathy Breslaw

107  Leslie Pontz

106  Cas Holmes

105  Geri deGruy

104  Suzanne Morlock

103  Barbara De Pirro

102  Kathryn Clark

101  Noelle Hamlyn

100  Judith Mullen

99  Barbara J. Schneider

98  Merill Comeau

97  Beverly Ayling-Smith

96  Barbara Hilts

95  Mackenzie Kelly-Frère

94  Anna Keck

93  Pilar Sans Coover

92  Dolores_Slowinski

91  Leslie Pearson

90  Temma Gentles

89  Tilleke Schwarz

88  Anna Torma

87  Kim Stanford

86  Ingrid Lincoln

85  Anna Hergert

84  Joy Walker

83  Maximo Laura

82  Marie Bergstedt

81  Alice Vander Vennen

80  Xia Gao

79  Leisa Rich

78  Megan Q. Bostic

77  Sayward Johnson

76  Heather Komus

75  Sheila Thompson

74  Kerstin Benier

73  Molly Grundy

72  Nathan Johns

71  Lorena Santin-Andrade

70  Lisa DiQuinzio

69  Nancy Yule

68  Jenine Shereos

67  Bovey Lee

66  Nell Burns

65  Lancelot Coar

64  Elisabetta Balasso

63  Matthew Cox

62  Yulia Brodskaya

61  Lotta Helleberg

60  Kit Vincent

59  Barbara Heller

58  Catherine Dormor

57  Joyce Seagram

56  Yael Brotman

55  David Hanauer

54  Dwayne_Wanner

53  Pat Hertzberg

52  Chris Motley

51  Mary Catherine Newcomb

50  Cybèle Young

49  Vessna Perunovich

48  Fukuko Matsubara

47  Jodi Colella

46  Anastasia Azure

45  Marjolein Dallinga

44  Libby Hague

43  Rita Dijkstra

42  Leanne Shea Rhem

41 Lizz Aston

40  Sandra Gregson

39  Kai Chan

38  Edith Meusnier

37  Lindy Pole

36  Melanie Chikofsky

35  Laurie Lemelin

34  Emily Jan

33  Elisabeth Picard

32  Liz Pead

31  Milena Radeva

30  Rochelle Rubinstein

29  Martha Cole

28  Susan Strachan Johnson

27  Karen Maru

26  Bettina Matzkuhn

25  Valerie Knapp

24  Xiaoging Yan

23  Hilary Rice

22  Birgitta Hallberg

21  Judy Martin

20  Gordana Brelih

19  Mary Karavos

18  Rasma Noreikyte

17  Judith Tinkl

16  Joanne Young

15  Allyn Cantor

14  Pat Burns-Wendland

13  Barbara Wisnoski

12  Robert Davidovitz

11  Amy Bagshaw

10  Jesse Harrod

9  Emma Nishimura

8  June J. Jacobs

7  Dagmar Kovar

6  Ixchel Suarez

5  Cynthia Jackson

4  Lorraine Roy

3  Christine Mockett

2  Amanda McCavour

1  Ulrikka Mokdad


Self-Portrait, 27" x 34", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


Avoidance, 44" x 37", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


Artist: Robin Wiltse of Kaslo, British Columbia, Canada

Interview 121

Subscribe to Artist Interviews here...

Interviews published and curated by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Robin Wiltse was born in 1976 in Comox, Vancouver Island, British Columbia (BC), Canada. She grew up on a dairy farm in rural Black Creek. As a child she was an early artist, always creating and drawing. In 1994 she attended the Kootenay School of the Arts for three years in Nelson, BC. It was there that Robin discovered the possibilities of fibre art. The memory of first learning to felt and the feeling of the fibres interlocking remains one of her best memories as an artist. 

Robin met her husband Rick in art school. They are raising two daughters, Rowan and Fyfe, who are now 14 and 12. Robin and her family have lived all over British Columbia. The experience of living in many rural BC towns has given Robin a full appreciation of the variations of natural beauty in the province. While Robin's children were young she fitted art into her life by working with school children through ArtStart Grants. This joy of teaching was a wonderful surprise, and now she often has private students and continues to work in schools on a wide range of projects.

Robin currently lives and works out of her studio in the small mountain town of Kaslo. She has been exploring felting and developing the technique she uses now, combining needle felting and wet felting techniques together. Robin has exhibited her work around British Columbia and does many private commissions.
Robin's website


Artist: Robin Wiltse.


Tell us about your work?

I am currently working with dyed wool, using a felting needle and wet felt techniques. I make large bold and colourful wall pieces. My feltings are very detailed. Sometimes I use very stylized imagery and sometimes the pieces are painterly and illustrative.


Self-Portrait, 27" x 34", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: Self-Portrait, 27" x 34", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


Why did you go into fibre art and how you decided on this medium?

In my family there are many artists, painters, designers, carvers and weavers. My Granny, for one, was a marvelous knitter and needlepoint artist, who was always challenging herself with new projects. I have many tactile and visual memories of time spent with her, fingering the wool skeins, seeing the rainbows of threads and watching the patterns evolve. I also have clear memories of lying on my parents' Turkish rugs in the living room, entranced by the patterns and colours. Textile textures, colours, patterns and images are all through my earliest memories. But despite all this early influence and my easy access to these materials, my first love was always drawing. From the earliest of ages I wanted to be an illustrator. I was encouraged in this and decided on a small art school, the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. Once enrolled, I realized that I felt a very free feeling during my introduction to fibre. Fibre seemed to encompass such a wide range of mediums and I did some of my most creative work once I discovered there were no limitations. I liked that I could work three dimensionally or two dimensionally. I also liked that I could use any kind of material as long as I could put it all together.


Detail: Self-Portrait, 27" x 34", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: Self-Portrait, 27" x 34", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: Self-Portrait, 27" x 34", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


You then started to work in felting, how did this come about?

I learned the technique of felting at the school in Nelson and the physical and ancient process captivated me. I studied fibre arts there for three years. It was years later, once discovering the felting needle that I was able to put my love of drawing and painting and fibre together. One thing that fascinates me about working with wool is the way the fibres hold their colours. When the colours are blended they never muddy each other or even technically change each other, the way paint does. The shift happens in your eye only and I think this is why the colours seem richer and have more depth.


Lemons and Poplars, 32" x 29", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: Lemons and Poplars, 32" x 29", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: Lemons and Poplars, 32" x 29", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


What role do you think fibre art plays in contemporary art and what do you see as the biggest challenge facing fibre artists?

I have found that I am constantly battling a preconceived idea about what fibre art is. When people see my work they seem surprised that they like it and that it isn't what they thought it would be. At exhibits I find I am mostly asked about my process and how I actually do it. I always feel like I am giving a little workshop on felting. Perhaps because there is such a wide range of techniques in the world of fibre art, it is sometimes hard for the viewer to feel that they have a grasp on what they are actually looking at. Or maybe it is because people are less familiar with the terminology. They hear the words and they don't have a clear idea of what that is. At the same time this is why I feel like fibre art is the most exciting place to be right now. So many innovations can still be made in this field. Many other disciplines have been around for centuries, while contemporary fibre art is still young, still breaking free from being seen as just craft or something functional. There seems to me to be so much opportunity for an artist to push boundaries in this field and expand on creativity.


Live Water, 40" x 26", wool and silk, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: Live Water, 40" x 26", wool and silk, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Talk to us about any historic artists who have had an influence on your work? 

I have always looked to painters for inspiration, especially the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. I love van Gogh's story, even though it is a sad one. His passion for discovery and understanding in the world of colour and interpretation is one that always inspires me. I like to look as close as I can to his paintings to see the colours he used and how he put them together to achieve that vital energy. I recently read that it is being theorized that van Gogh may have been colour blind, unable to see reds. It seems absolutely tragic that a man who loved colour so deeply may not even have been able to see all of them!

The French artists Paul Gauguin and Henri Matisse are other artists I admire. The period of Fauvism produced some groundbreaking uses of colour that I draw inspiration from.

I also learnt a lot from the Spanish painter Picasso, the appreciation of distortion and abstraction. He was the first artist that consciously helped me to understand the beauty of abstract and made me feel free from always trying to render things just as you see them.

The Canadian painter A Y Jackson is another artist whose use of colour completely inspires me. His paintings have taught me to see through new eyes what is familiar, such as the Canadian landscape. After looking at the way he celebrates a grey sky or a rocky outcrop, I feel like I will never be without a source of inspiration, no matter where I live or wander.

Alexander Calder, the American artist from Pennsylvania who worked in many different mediums. Known primarily for his sculpture he was also a printmaker, a jeweler, a designer of tapestries and rugs, an inventor of the mobile, and many things more. To me this is the true artist mentality, the epitome of creativity. One who sees any material, any medium and is inspired. I am particularly fond of his series of circus sculptures made from wire, rags and scraps.


Waiting, 33" x 26", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: Waiting, 33" x 26", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: Waiting, 33" x 26", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


From where do you get your inspiration?

I am influenced by colour, light and pattern, which are observed everywhere. I find by putting a creative eye to everything around me there is no shortage of inspiration. Form, in the natural world and the human figure, is also something that I draw from. I like the way form triggers memories and emotions. I also am inspired by other artwork, usually paintings, drawings and traditional textiles. I listen to a lot of music. Music inspires me in an ethereal way, it creates a kind of mood scape in my imagination and often these feelings come out in images and colours in my mind.

Two books I like to refer to are Decorative Ornament by Owen Jones, and Charlie Harper by Todd Oldham. The first book is all about the history of pattern in different cultures and I like to look through it, it refreshes my eyes. The book about Charlie Harper is a complete collection of his works. I am particularly fond of his bird series. He uses a very unique colour pallet and I love how he has stylized and played with the shapes using line and repetition.


The Reunion, 46" x 36", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


Please explain how you developed your own style.

I'm not really sure actually, I do know that I have a love of detail and also a fear of empty spaces. I like things to be crowded. Other mediums I work in, such as assemblages, end up the same way. Often with repeated elements and lots of detail. I rarely do any complete sketches before hand, preferring to develop the ideas as I go. I feel like I use a lot of intuition regarding balance and colour and will often pull out sections as I go if I don't feel that they are working. Usually I have a few pieces on the go at once, and they will often be completely different styles. This keeps things interesting for me and allows me to return to each piece with fresh eyes.


Detail: The Reunion, 46" x 36", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: The Reunion, 46" x 36", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


Is there a contemporary artist that you particularly like?

Every once in a while an artist will totally catch my eye and one that comes to mind is Nick Cave, the performance artist and fabric sculptor from Missouri, USA. Nick Cave designed some wearable fabric costumes called Soundsuits, which are constructed from collections of things like twigs, buttons and feathers. This to me is an example of the innovative possibilities of fibre art, but it also reminds me of cultural and primitive art. I love the visually crowded collections of mundane things, made to move, make music and not be static.


Avoidance, 44" x 37", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


What fibre artists are you interested in?

I don't think any contemporary fibre artist has influenced me in what I am doing right now, although there are many that I do admire. One that comes to mind is the Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. She is a sculptor and fibre artist I first heard about while in art school.


Detail: Avoidance, 44" x 37", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: Avoidance, 44" x 37", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


What is it about the work of Magdalena Abakanowicz that draws you to it?

She was the first probably world wide recognized contemporary fibre artist that I had ever heard of. Magdalena uses fibres in a sculptural way and on a very large scale, which I find very exciting. Her early work was described as being biomorphic, focusing on imaginary shapes in nature, inspired by plants, shells and animals and the processes of germination, growing, sprouting and blooming. I feel I can completely identify with this type of earthly inspiration. The work that she is perhaps the most known for are the large three dimensional fibre sculptures made during the 1960's called Abakans. These were large pieces hung from the ceiling created by a weaving type process she developed. I think why I find her work to be so wonderful is because of its scale and because of the material used. I love that a sculpture could be made from something as accessible and non-precious as sisal or jute. When I look at them I can imagine the hands that would make them, unhindered by tools or machines.


Village, 28" x 22", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


When you were starting out, did you have a mentor and how did this help and guide your artwork and art practice?

When I was in art school I was more interested in mixed media assemblage, playing with found objects and remnants. I was fortunate to have teachers who encouraged this and gave valuable insight. Over the years at school I found one teacher to be particularly supportive, not just of my work, but of me and what it meant to live an artistic and curious life. Maggie Tchir is a contemporary fibre artist and textile historian from Nelson, British Columbia. She continues to be my teacher almost 20 years later. When I need advice or inspiration I can talk to her or sit in her home, which is like being in the middle of an eclectic textile museum, and soak up what I love best about textiles. The warmth, richness, pattern, texture and history in her little house is food for my eyes and my soul. Maggie also taught me the value of having books on art, something I think the Internet will never replace. Which is maybe why I tend to look at mostly art from the past, and not a lot of contemporary works.

Another mentor from school who remains a friend and inspiration is the eccentric painter John Cooper. John was my colour theory instructor at art school and he continues to inform me on the subject. Once after an exhibit I had given, I got an email from him where he critiqued my entire show in colour theory and broke down the colour relationship I used in every piece. Some of which I was not even conscious I was using. Not only is John an interesting and skilled painter, he is absolutely mad about colour. John sees paint for not just creating images, but as a substance unto itself, to layer and sculpt, giving his work amazing texture and a distinctive three dimensional quality.


Detail: Village, 28" x 22", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Detail: Village, 28" x 22", wool, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


Tell us about your studio and how you work:

My studio is in an old heritage building in downtown Kaslo. This building is called The Langham and it is the cultural hub of our town. I sit on the board of the Langham Cultural Society so I am in this building a lot. On the main floor are two gallery spaces and an intimate little theatre. The other two floors host a Japanese Canadian Museum and many private studio spaces. During World War II, Japanese Canadians were interned in The Langham and the sense of history in this building goes deep. I rent a room on the third floor. I believe this room used to house the towns library and was even once a Waldorf schoolroom. From up there I can see the mountains, Kootenay Lake and out over the town. My studio is perfect for me, I can be there at any time of the day and the school where my two children go is just a block up the hill. There are many different artists and musicians who have studios in this building. For a while there was a classically trained opera singer down the hall from me who gave voice lessons. This was wonderful for me to listen to. A little better than the violin lessons!

As I have a full time job outside of the studio, I find evenings to be when I can work most often. The building is not used as much at night by other people, which is to my benefit, as I like to play loud music while I work. I have a large table that I work on and a wet felt table with drains, so I can do everything in my studio that I need to.


Robin's studio, Wool and dog. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Winter Marsh, in progress. Photo: Robin Wiltse

Studio picture (with Fish Series piece in progress) Photo: Robin Wiltse


Have you experienced fluctuations in your productivity through the years?

For the time when my children were very small I didn't really make art a priority for myself. But I have always tried to live a creative life and the ideas were always flowing. I knew that those times were not right for focusing on my art. I poured my creative energy into Halloween costumes and sock monkeys. Many hours were spent at the kitchen table drawing with my girls and building up their creativity. As a result, I had a lot of stored up energy once my time came back to me, and two very creative children. I'm happy with how it worked out.


What interests you about the World of Threads festival?

I like the idea of specific attention being drawn to fibre art. I think it's important, and for me personally as an artist it will be a valuable resource for finding out about what is going on in the world of fibre. I live in a very rural place and exist in a bit of a bubble sometimes.


Redwings, 44" x 62", wool and silk, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


Is there something else about you or your work that you'd like top talk about, that we have not covered?

I recently participated in an event called Let Them Run, Artists Engaging In Salmon Reintroduction. This happened at Hidden Creek in the Salmon River watershed. Artists of various disciplines came together to learn about a variety of ecological, cultural and historical relationships with salmon. Artists made work based on the two-day workshop experience and later exhibited at the Kootenay Gallery in Castlegar, thereafter it will be on tour at various locations in B.C. and the USA.


Detail: Redwings, 44" x 62", wool and silk, needle and hand felted. Photo: Robin Wiltse


Do you have any upcoming shows?

This September 26th is the opening for the group exhibit in Castlegar about salmon reintroduction. Currently I am working on a piece to submit to a juried exhibit in October The Edge of The Forest, put on by the Surface Design Association


Subscribe To Artist Interviews here...

Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.


If you'd like to make a donation to help support our
"Weekly Fibre Artist Interviews" series, you can do so here.