Work by more than 100 Artisans inside new Carmel more

Wearable/Felted Fiber Art
Bloomington Clothing Company,
Hoosier Artist Gallery,
Indiana Artisan,
     French Lick Resort Hotel
Liudmyla Symonenko

“You can play with colors, textures and use different fiber art techniques that have been used for a thousand years, but it’s almost like each piece will tell you what it wants to be. It is pure magic.”

If it takes a village to raise a child, maybe it takes a vibrant arts community to encourage a young artist’s exceptional talent. Many who have been named an Indiana Artisan are at the top of their craft because they have been at it for decades. Perhaps the young artists simply have an exceptional talent. Liudmyla Symonenko has Bloomington. She also has motivation.

“I am lucky to live in Bloomington,” the Ukrainian-born fiber artist said. “This is the only city I have lived in during my nine years in the United States, and it suits my interests and personality perfectly. It has the relaxed feel of a small, friendly Midwestern town, and at the same time a diversity and an events scene like a world-class megalopolis.” Without realizing it, Liudmyla adds to that atmosphere.

“My neighbors include a very talented English lady from Cape Town, who makes unique dolls in a primitive art style and writes poetry. There’s also a professional photojournalist from Corydon, Indiana. My friends are beautiful Polish sopranos who help me with photo shoots and inspire and motivate me to keep doing what I’m doing. It is such creative environment that my talent opened up, and I became an artist myself,” she said, thankful to Bloomington and its people for “making my life happy.”

Liudmyla first encountered felt work in 2012 when she saw photos of nuno-felted clothing online. “I was astonished by its beauty and the variety of textures,” she said. Since then, she has developed her craft from info gathered from Ukrainian and Russian online felting communities “because the artists eagerly share their knowledge, discoveries and ideas,” she said.

In 2014, in Madison, Wisconsin, for the Midwest Felting Symposium, Liudmyla took a class with Ukrainian fiber artist Irena Levkovich. In the class, she learned it was Irena’s clothing she saw online, the work that first inspired her.

“You can incorporate different fiber art techniques in felted work, such as shibori dying, patchwork, openwork, application, knitting, sewing, embroidery,” Liudmyla says. “You can paint with fibers by using them as your brushstrokes. You can make 3-D effects, too.”

Liudmyla uses fine merino wool, alpaca/lamb/mohair fleeces, silk and plant-derived fibers such as bamboo, viscose and tencel. “These fibers are super soft to the touch,” she says. “Putting layer after layer together is a meditative experience for me. It clears my head.” And the result is stunning.

“It is fascinating how absolutely modern looks come from such an ancient craft,” Liudmyla says. “You can play with colors, textures and use different fiber art techniques that have been used for a thousand years, but it’s almost like each piece will tell you what it wants to be. It is pure magic.

“Wool is such a versatile material. You can make practically everything with it: interior decor such as wall pieces, rugs, blankets, decorative vases, and sculptures; shoes and accessories like hats, purses, pins, necklaces, scarves, etc. After working on all these, what makes me most happy is to create felted clothing and women’s accessories. I love to create eco-fur by felting sheared fleece. It’s a joy to visit local farms and meet the animals with whose fleece I’m working.”

And after her work caught the eye of the Indiana Artisan jury panel, that last sentence confirmed Liudmyla’s selection for the honor because one-quarter of the review criteria is the work’s link to the Hoosier state. Her motivation to keep improving was evident in the work, and that sealed the deal.

“I’ve developed my own sense of style that makes my work original,” she said. “I keep learning new techniques, and my style keeps evolving. The pieces become more sophisticated. I escape routine by switching from making clothing to making accessories, from big forms to small ones, from working just with wool to working with silk for nuno-felting.”

She applied to Indiana Artisan because she was looking for ways to introduce herself to a broader market and to be part of a wider professional artisan community. “It was a challenge to go through a juried process, but for me the outcome means I’m doing something right,” she said. “It is such an honor to be part of this group of talented people.” And again speaking of what drives her, she said, “Being named an Indiana Artisan is good motivation to become even better at my craft.”