Artist in Residence Series with Meghan Urback

WOOL IS STRONG. It is often said that a single wool fiber is stronger than steel of the same diameter. Wool happens to be the material Meghan Urback uses to create pieces of texture, warmth, and art. Her work has been displayed around the world: from Malaysia and Sweden, to Baltimore and Oakland. A renaissance woman of sorts, Meghan also bakes, is a contributing writer for one of our favorite blogs, and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Textiles. I had the chance to chat her up over the phone earlier this week.

How was your weekend?

Oh boy, it was super casual — a pretty typical Bay Area weekend. I went to the farmers market. I picked up some peaches and figs and then made some peanut butter sandwich cookies. I probably need to share them. I made so many. They're basically two layers of cookies with peanut butter cream in the middle. I didn’t do anything felt-related this weekend. But I came back to my studio this morning ready to work.

What are you currently working on?

I just finished the Renegade Craft Fair and I've been busy working on 50 small pieces for a show in Pacifica. All fifty pieces are 6"x6". I find it fun to develop a whole new line of patterns using up a bunch of my felt scraps. Working on a project like this is an excuse to make a ton of examples of my work. I find that it's good practice to produce a lot of different designs — the more you make the better the options.

I noticed the colorful and different array of oddments on your Instagram — I love the way you photograph and style them. 

I've realized that Instagram is a great way to show my process and the materials I use. But I find that I've become very selective about what pictures I choose to use, so I end up storing a lot unused photos on my phone.

What about your work do you find the most rewarding?

I really love experimenting with designs using materials that I already have. A lot of my designs are a product of me working and playing around with my scrap materials.

Do you talk to other artists about their method of working?

There are times that I wish I had a little more of a community — a group of artist/designers/craftspeople who who work with textiles. A lot of my peers in graduate school were working with very different materials and ideas. I think my way of working is unique because my clients include interior designers and architects as well as galleries. then I also show my pieces in galleries...

I actually just met one of the few makers the Bay Area working with wool felt, a woman whose company is called Audrey Modern. We got to talk about all things wool, rivets, and types of shows. It’s pretty rare to find someone to talk shop with. I find it kind of hard to explain what felt is to most people. A lot of people aren’t familiar with the materials. Often times I pull out my phone to show them some of my pieces. Pictures have been the most effective way to show people what I do.

Do you think, as an artist, you’ve come to a point where your process, ideas and inspirations come more easily?

I think it’s just sort of a muscle you exercise. If you take a few weeks break then it’s more difficult to use that muscle, but when you're doing a lot of work then you shut off your brain and start cranking things out.

 

I hear that you're working with my colleague, Catrina, on a commissioned piece for one of our remodel clients. Do you enjoy collaborating with clients directly during your process?

I enjoy creating custom work for clients.  For example: Susan Collins Weir, an interior designer in the Bay Area, liked the Canby Baskets that I make but she needed something much bigger. That required me to make a completely new pattern and develop something the same shape but on a larger scale. I really enjoy having some constraints when it comes to my work. So it’s always nice to have to modify. I think it’s a good thing to have some boundaries. Another client, Feldman Architecture,  commissioned a custom Stacked Felt piece [similar to the one shown above], only they requested it to be about 20% larger, which ended up being quite big for me! It was fun to wrap my brain around  new methods to make this larger work. Whether larger work requires getting a bigger tables, hiring an assistant, or having a million X-Acto knife blades — bringing clients’ needs into the picture is exciting.

Meghan's work is featured in the exhibition 50/50: 50 Small Artworks in 50 Days. It opens on August 23 and runs until September 29 at the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica, California. To explore more of her artwork, check out meghanurback [dot] com.