Nastassja Swift will be joining us July 29th for a Felting Workshop! Nastassja is a VCUarts alumni and former Quirk team member. Nastassja currently works as a visual artist and sells her handcrafted felted figures under the name D for Dolls. Nastassja sees these dolls as miniature sculptures, each doll has their own personality and is needle felted, styled and dressed with a pinch of charm and a whole lot of sass. We sat down with Nastassja and talked about her practice and the upcoming workshop!
Quirk Gallery: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Nastassja Swift: I am a visual artist and lover of these little people I call dolls. I’ve been painting for the past eight or nine years, and I’ve kind of placed that medium aside and have really been focusing on wool as my primary medium and needle felting as my go to process. I began making dolls during my junior year at VCU and they’ve stuck with me ever since. There’s just something about the personality, sass and individuality that is present within these little ladies that I’m very much drawn to. It literally puts a smile on my face with each completed doll and seeing who they become. This past summer, I decided to push my dolls as more than just these little objects that I make every once and a while, and really give them a platform to exist on their own, separate from the more conceptual work I was working on. From that decision and desire to give my dolls more, D for Dolls was born.
Quirk Gallery: Your workshop with us will focus on felting, when did felting become an important part of your practice?
Nastassja Swift: I learned the process of needle felting my junior year at VCU. As I was stabbing this little needle into these pieces of wool, I immediately thought of dolls. Prior to that moment, I had always been extremely intimidated by the genre of sculpture as an art form. Being that my work has been figurative since the beginning of time, I used to believe that I didn’t really fit into the realm of contemporary sculpture. However, working with wool and the process of needle felting allowed me to find my way into sculpture and it felt appropriate for the kind of work I was interested in making. Felting became important because it allowed me to translate these figures from a 2D surface to a 3D space and it was something I was really excited about trying out
Quirk Gallery: Your background is in Painting and Printmaking, how does this inform your textile work (weaving, felting, etc)?
Nastassja Swift: Thinking of my paintings, I’ve always wanted to take advantage of the physicality of paints – allowing layers to build in ways where if one is viewing my paintings in person, you can actually see the ridges and slips that occur on the surface. In regards to my fear of sculpture mentioned in the previous question, I would always tell myself, I’m still a bit of a sculptor, just on canvas. And that tactile quality that I felt I needed within my paintings definitely informed my decision to take on a medium such as wool in my practice. But aside from surface and texture – color is just as important with comparing the mediums. I’ve always been told that whether it was a weaving, embroidery or something felted my fiber work feels like my paintings- and I think that has everything to do with color. My paintings have always been pretty saturated and that has directly made its way into my color combinations of wool and yarn.
Quirk Gallery: Throughout college you started the online gallery, Mist Gallery, with Lizzy Servito, what is the current status of Mist and how has it evolved since it began?
Nastassja Swift: Mist Gallery started off as this crazy idea Lizzy and I had the summer before our senior year. At the time, I don’t think we really knew what we were getting ourselves into. We were just extremely eager to take on this new venture, but very much excited to be able to give ourselves the professional title of “Gallery Directors”. From developing contracts, curating artists’ work, maintaining a blog, designing the website, establishing a presence on social media platforms – we have definitely been able to experience some of what it means to be involved behind the scenes of an exhibition. The list of artists we’ve worked with has grown tremendously, and the Gallery has become something that people actually look forward to being a part of.
As of now, we’re taking a bit of break to explore other opportunities, however Mist is still very much alive and I’m anxious to see where and how it exists in the next few years.
Quirk Gallery: After graduating from VCUarts you’ve had many amazing residency opportunities including Vermont School and VCUarts Qatar. What was the most beneficial part of those experiences for you?
Nastassja Swift: So I went to Vermont at the end of the summer following graduation, and literally a week later left the country for my residency in Qatar (pretty crazy stuff). I remember arriving at the Studio Center and just being really excited to be able to be making work outside of the school environment, and to have other people and other things influence my work. For the first time I felt like an artist, as opposed to the art student that I’ve been for every year up to that moment. Both experiences gave me the time and space to think about my work and really just sit with it, without the pressure of deadlines. I could breathe and really enjoy experiencing my work in a way that I hadn’t before. That time and space helped with figuring out what my work needed to do and say next, so I definitely attribute my works growth and direction to both of those residencies.
Quirk Gallery: As a former Quirk intern, we’re so happy to have you back with us teaching. What are you looking forward to bringing to Quirk at this workshop?
Nastassja Swift: I’m definitely looking forward to contributing to Quirk’s continuing conversation and support of contemporary craft. I think that’s always been something I’ve loved about the space and the work you guys show - your strong inclusion of the wide range of craft mediums. I’m so excited to return and that you all continuously welcome me back with open arms!
To sign up for her workshop and learn how to needle felt, call Quirk! 804 340 6036. You can also stop in the shop and sign up, limited spots available.
If you have specific questions pertaining to the workshop you can email firstname.lastname@example.org