Rainbow. Sculptural. Experiments. Nothing I can say about the Fiber Art of Mandi Smethells will be greater than actually seeing them. They are so joyous, colorful, fun loving, and expertly crafted. They are gorgeous! I asked Mandi a few questions about her work and her business creating Fiber Art Sculptures.
BB: Where are you from? How did you start your business? How long has it been around?
MS: My home is in St Paul MN, where I live and work (my studio space is in my home). I started weaving over 4 years ago, in an attempt to DIY my teen sister a birthday gift. I fell deeply in love with working with fiber immediately, and my handmade business began by me selling my woven wallhangings.
BB: Are you a full time maker or do you side gig?
MS: I am full time now, but balanced a full-time career (and motherhood!) for a long time. I finally left my day job and took on my own business full time this past February.
BB: What draws you to fiber? Do you have experience with other materials?
MS: I had zero experience working with fiber (other than very short lived dabbling in knitting..seriously short lived, maybe an hour? haha) My area of emphasis when earning my degree in fine art was in printmaking. My prints and drawings were all very illustrative, and it finally feels like that skill is getting put to use in my more illustrative fiber work.
BB: What was the inspiration for your rainbow collection?
MS: I have two young daughters, and the oldest (age 6) has been a large influence in my more recent work. Her excitement to bright rainbow colors really motivated me to continue to experiment with color. I had a short period of time where I started to create these arched wrapped shapes that I was attaching to weavings, but the weaving portion was starting to feel like an after thought to me, so I quickly dropped it all together.
BB: What is St. Paul like? What are the craft fairs and shops that we should know about?
MS: St. Paul is the quieter of the two “twin cities,” but there is still so much to do. I enjoy walking around antique shops such as the Mall of St. Paul when I have a free moment. There is a fabulous yarn shop called The Yarnery, which also happens to be in a nice walkable shopping district. I happen to live very near to the Minnesota State Fair, and that is going to be at the top of my to do list once open.
BB: Tell us about your color stories. You combine colors so well! Is there a trick that you can teach others about this?
MS: Thank you so much! I spend a lot of time pulling yarn together before starting to work, which I think most that work with color do this (build their “palette.”) I am always looking for beautiful color combinations everywhere I look, and nature is the most skilled at this.
My best tip is always have your camera ready, or use the Save function on social media sites, and start to create a visual library of colors that inspire you. This doesn’t have to be pictures of art: maybe it is fashion, food, interior design, floral arrangements…just images where the colors excite you. Then find a way to draw from those images new color combinations.
BB: What is your most popular item?
MS: Definitely the rainbows…they just make us all so happy! I have one particular design, I think it is just call “Colorful Rainbow,” and it is the most cheerful colors, and I find myself making that one very often.
BB: Do you have any cool inspiration stories about how your audience has connected with your work?
MS: This might not address this question perfectly, but what I think of is about how much my work inspires ME. Once I finally gave myself permission to make whatever I wanted (and not take myself too seriously,) I connected with an enormous of like minded individuals. If you find something to create that is authentically you, the will shine through in your work…and people will take notice!
BB: What is the best way for people who fall in love with your work to stay connected?
Let’s Stay Friends!