Meet Maria Wiklund

By: Audrey Levinson

What do you get when you mix natural wool fibers with the luxurious feel and look of dyed silk? You get stunning wearable art made by fiber artist Maria Wiklund.

She allowed me invitingly to visit her in her home studio in the Sedgwick neighborhood of Syracuse. As I entered her studio, I could feel the happiness in the room. Maria told me she loves spending time in her happy home studio. If I remember correctly the walls were a light sunny yellow, with a banner of simple pastel flags hanging up across one wall and a giant table that filled the center of the room with a huge sheet of what looked to me like blue bubble wrap over it. It turned out to be pool covering used in part of the process. The more I looked around at the details;I noticed the delicate curtains of white silk, and one of the walls displayed hanging pockets that burst with colorful skeins of hand dyed raw wool. Maria said this is her palette.

Maria has many steps to complete to produce her one-of-a-kind fabrics, from dying the wool and silk into beautiful bright colors to finishing her unique fabrics. This was all new to me, so she went through the process and I was excited at the possibility of trying my hand at this one day. Then I thought about all those steps and decided to leave it in Maria’s hands. She begins by making a pre felt which is a very loose felt. There she can mix colors of dyed raw wool together and add ribbons by running it through a small machine just for this purpose. It reminded me of mixing new colors in paint. Using the pre felt she can cut shapes and straight pieces to add character and style to the final product. The interesting part, she explained is that silk will not shrink in water while wool shrinks quite a bit when wet. Another fact is that once Maria has laid out her silk with felt strips and cuts out shapes, she rolls the two fabrics and agitates them together while they are wet. Wool, being a natural fiber has small scales that open up and work themselves through the silk gauze. This makes one piece of fabric once she is done agitating the wool and silk together like magic.

Actually, there are many instances in all kinds of art where science plays a part in the creation. Maria told me that felt was the very first fabric that man ever created. The new fabric is very strong. It will not separate or fall apart. Her scarves, shawls, and over dresses are elegant and versatile. You can wear them in many different ways. Maria tends to gravitate towards bright colors but has made some of these in dark and neutral tones as well. Her work is sold at a gallery called Cazenovia Artisans in Cazenovia, N.Y. Maria also works with just felt that she has felted. When I walked into her studio she was working on a collaborative project with the soap maker from Cazenovia Artisans. One artist makes wonderful natural soaps and Maria wraps them in felt. No washcloth necessary! She has made gorgeous items from felted bags to ornaments to hang.

She and her family moved to Syracuse, N.Y. in 2009 from Sweden. Her husband is a professor at Syracuse University. He teaches entrepreneurship in the school of business. I mention this because the business side of creativity is also Maria’s interest. She counsels women who are trying to begin or grow their businesses as artists or otherwise. She works through WISE Women’s Business Center in Syracuse, NY.

I asked Maria what advice she would give to someone who is just beginning her business in Art. She replied “Approach with an open mind and take help from someone. Find out what the market looks like. Make a business plan.” Maria is also a member of the North East Felt Maker’s Guild. I left Maria Wiklund‘s charming home feeling very educated about something I never really knew much about. My mind was stirring with ideas.

You can see her entire collection at www.mariawiklund.com, or visit the Cazenovia Artisans.