Amarama Vercnocke’s art is meant to be both seen and, (forgive me) felt. Vernocke, a wool sculptor, pays fervent attention to color, texture, and form. The result? People can see something that moves them, then move to it and touch.
“It feels like touch is usually left out of a lot of the artistic experiences,” said Vercnocke.
Amarama’s entry into the medium draws its inspiration from their middle daughter, who is 8 and on the autism spectrum. One day, she was examining a piece made from brown llama, blue wool, and yellow tulsa silk.
“She told me, ‘Mom, I can feel the color.’ I was like, ‘What?’” Vercnocke said.
It was a revelation. Vercnocke could use needle felting to express another dimension of sensation and emotion for the visually impaired and sensory seeking.
Vercnocke gets as much wool locally as possible, cleans it in the backyard, lets it dry, and hand dyes much of it. That way colors can be matched to textures.
Felting needles are slotted on the sides. The user pokes them in and out of a mass of wool, causing extra heat and friction, which is utilized to shape the wool. Shaping occurs where the wool condenses.
The finished work looks fragile, but, when touched, reveals itself as durable, strong.
You can see Vercnocke’s work all over the region. A Warhol Soup can is at the Rochester Art Center. Scrub Your Butt Soap company carries a variety of pieces. A May Gallery 24 show at Forager’s will feature more work, and a piece called “Unity” will be at the CIDI play and poetry event, “Being Muslim, A Practical Guide” this Saturday.
The sculptures have an entrancing effect; Amarama has seen people enter a state of wonderment when they get to touch the wooly sculptures. It’s proving the assertion that touch belongs with the other five senses in art.
For those looking to ride the felt wave, Vernocke teaches needle felting classes the first Tuesday of each month in April, May, and June as part of Forager’s Local Creative Nights. Tickets can be found at the artist’s Facebook page.