Meet Kristy Kún, one of our 2017 LEAP finalists and a feature artist in The Store for October through December. Kún is deeply moved by the transformative qualities of wool and plant fibers, which, when plied correctly, parallel environmental transformations; Birth, fruition, decay. She translates this energy and these textures from nature into new form using ancient methods and timeless imagery. Read on to learn more about the artist and her process. And Remember to stop by The Store to collect her work when it is available in Pittsburgh, PA!
Tell us about your work…
My works are created with a desire to explore/exploit the medium (wool) in new ways while executing works of beauty and fine craftsmanship. The process of creating felt from wool involves water, soap, and energy (movement). Wool fibers are covered in scales that react to the alkaline environment of warm soapy water by opening from the core of the wool staple. With agitation, these scales become locked together into a dense material, wool felt.
During creation, my vision and inspirations unfold in my mind in meaningful ways, but might be obscured in the finished piece; I share these stories when asked, but wish for viewers to find their own interpretation of the work. If the result evokes an emotional response or curiosity from the viewer, I consider it a success.
Could you share with us how your background and education influenced your work?
I dreamed of being a craftsman from a young age, but wasn’t able to see a path for it out of high school. After four years studying construction engineering at the university, I realized I would never get my hands into any real “making”, so I moved to the West Coast and enrolled in a furniture program at a community college. I was only months into the program before finding a job building furniture, which turned into a partnering business that I was in for the next 13 years.
I consider building hand-crafted wood furniture part of my life, my true education in the Crafts and what informs how I work with textiles. My engineering mind thrives on the challenge of design and construction, and approaches each work in response to it’s unique needs; While my tactile nature is invigorated by the process of transformation by the supple materials within my hands.
Why were you drawn to making art pieces?
Basically, I was challenged to it. The transition from furniture to fibers includes seven years of running a business importing and reselling wool to artists. I was exploring wool at the time and dabbling with small creations when I met artists (wood turners, metal workers, weavers, etc.) that were intrigued by my fiber sculptures. They invited me to participate in a week long collaborative “camp” where artists work together to create art for a benefit auction and kindling inspiration for their own studio practices. At the end of the week, one of the organizers asked me to email photos of my work for submission to a local invitational show… And this is where it all began. Once I started, I haven’t been able to stop.
Patterns in nature and architecture are especially interesting to me. In the dry layout stage, my piece will start with an idea or pattern. By the time the layout stage is finished and the wool has become a dense textile, the material becomes responsive to shaping and sculpting. I play with it a lot and let the material direct me where it should go from there. Under water, in the rinse bath (several rinse baths), the felt becomes alive with weightlessness and movement. This is often where I will discover the final form to a piece.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an artist?
Believe in the work you’re doing. If the work is from the heart and of genuine ambition, it will be reflected in it’s uniqueness and quality.
– John Dooley
What advice do you have for others considering a career in the arts?
Two things have been critical for me.
First, collaborate with artists outside of your medium, tour their studios, and study how they run their practice. There is so much to share and learn from each other. If you are open about your work with other artists, it will come back to you. Strive to adapt “process” into something unique within your own medium.
Second, spend plenty of time alone, without work. I know it’s important to be in the studio creating, but it’s just as important to take time to let in new ideas and problem solve. Afternoon naps are the best way for me to solve difficult challenges in my work. Even ten minutes can open my mind for great revelations. Driving with the radio off when there are errands is another good place to think when there isn’t extra time for nature or naps.
I thrive on sharing the work and the feedback I get from viewers, but it is difficult to travel long distances for shows. The feature at Contemporary Craft allows me to share what I love, and bring this unique medium to a new and broader audience.
Additionally, this recognition from a major institution and my peers reminds me, “You are moving in the right direction. Stick with it. We want to see where it will go.”