Today, we are visiting with Shoshanna Wingate of Sackville, NB. Shoshanna’s etsy shop, Shoshi Eco Prints features beautiful and elegant wearable art pieces, hand-dyed and eco-printed, often with materials foraged from the woods near her home. Shoshanna is also a published poet.
I had the pleasure of meeting Shoshanna during the holiday season, when she joined us at our Barrington St, Halifax Pop-Up event. Seeing her textiles in person was an absolutely treat. The softness of the materials, with the warmth of the colours and the familiarity of Eastern forests is a beautiful combination.
Read on to learn more about today’s featured maker.
Thanks for joining us, Shoshanna. Can you first start by giving us a brief bio/intro to yourself and your shop.
Sure. I am a poet and textile artist, expat American who has lived in Atlantic Canada for twelve years, mother of two little girls, married to a wildlife biologist.
Under Shoshi Designs, I make and sell eco prints and nuno felts—scarves, shawls, and original artwork. Eco printing is contact prints with plants. It’s also called botanical printing, bundled natural dyes. I use eucalyptus in the winter and early spring and many foraged and local dye plants in the summer and fall.
My new spring 2016 line of scarves are vibrant and combine eucalyptus eco prints with logwood, madder, cochineal, lac, and indigo. They’re made one at a time as I compost the leaves after each scarf is made.
Could you please explain a bit of the process of nuno felting.
I like to nuno felt silk scarves that I have already eco printed. The designs are simple and understated and as a result, the scarves are elegant and really highlight the materials used.
Nuno felting is an alchemy of materials. It’s the process of felting wool into fabric, mostly silk. I use a fine merino wool roving and lay it on the silk in thin layers (sometimes I use prefelts, too). Then I spray the scarf with soapy water and carefully place mesh netting over the whole project. The next process is the longest—massaging the scarf very gently so that the wool grabs onto the silk. You have to start slow and work the whole piece from one end to another.
The mesh cover is removed and the piece is given a test to see if the wool is properly attached to the silk. Then the whole project is rolled up in bubble wrap. This stage is the rolling stage. It’s a good work out. Depending, you can roll for half an hour or so per project.
The stage up until this point is called felting and next comes fulling.
This is shocking the piece in hot water. The wool shrinks and as it does it pulls the silk with it. Depending on how much wool one has used and the design of the project, this can give you ruching or ruffles in the piece. It also strengthens and shrinks it. And voila! You have a wool and silk scarf that is strong and warm but light and airy.
It’s a beautiful process and has so many possibilities.
I love when an artist is able to incorporate walks in the woods into their creating. Do you mind sharing with us some of the foraged materials that find their way into your work, and how they are incorporated?
I live in eastern Canada, so I use a lot of birch, alder, and trembling aspen leaves. They all have interesting shapes and give different shades of green and brown. I also live on the marsh, where we have wetlands, and some of my favorite spring plants to forage are ferns and horsetail, a plant which dates back to the time of the dinosaurs.
In summer, I like to use raspberry, blackberry, and wild strawberry leaves. Come fall, I’m all about the maple, oak, sumac berries.
When I forage, I look for plants I recognize from my dye books. If I find a plant I like but don’t recognize, I take a sample and look it up when I get home.
Some of the colours you use are quite vibrant. Are the dyes that you use all natural?
Yes, I use all natural dyes. I’ve started using madder, logwood, cochineal, lac. All traditional dye plants. I love the range of colours one can get from a single dye pot, from the concentrated first batch to the paler second and third batches. I also use concentrated forms of dye to achieve those vibrant colours.
You have also recently had a book of poetry published. I love that you have found a way to combine your written work with your fabric pieces in beautiful art prints. Please tell us more about your poetry collection.
Poetry was my first love. I got an MFA in poetry in the late 90s, worked in publishing at magazines and nonprofits for fifteen years, and slowly wrote my first book. I didn’t rush to publish a first book. I took long breaks, got married, moved from New York to St John’s, Newfoundland. Every writer has to find their own process, voice and it took longer than I expected for me to discover mine. But I also didn’t want to compromise. I waited until I had a manuscript I felt was ready.
Around the time I was finishing the book, I discovered eco printing. After ten, fifteen years of intensive study and writing, I loved the whimsy and playfulness of eco printing. It was liberating. Eventually, I started to combine my poetry and natural dyes, finding a way they could compliment one another in a larger piece of art. I sew silk and wool pieces to heavy art papers, eco print them with leaves, and handwrite or paste in my poems.
Do you have any hand-made items that you particularly treasure? Heirlooms, gifts, etc?
Oh yes. My great grandmother was a seamstress on the Lower East Side in the 20s and 30s. I have a beaded blouse she made during the Flapper era. It’s black with steel beads and it weighs about five pounds. My mother is a jeweler and she’s made me a few necklaces I really treasure. She finds antique pieces and pairs them with semi-precious stones, hung on silver chain. I have a necklace she made for me with parts from an antique mother of pearl pen and another with an antique jewelers magnifying glass. I wear her necklaces when I do craft markets because I find public presentation intimidating and I guess they are like talismans. And my sister’s knitted baby sweaters made for my first-born daughter. She added a bird somewhere on every sweater, either embroidered or on a button, because my daughters name means “like a bird”.
Can we find your work anywhere outside of etsy? And do you have any shows coming up?
I have work in about a dozen stores in Canada. You can find the list here (http://www.shoshidesigns.com/blog/). I will be at the Dartmouth Makers show in Nova Scotia on May 7th and I often sell at my local farmer’s market in Sackville, NB on Saturday mornings. I haven’t finalized my summer craft show schedule. You can always find an updated schedule on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ShoshiScarves.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Shoshanna. Your work is beautiful and I can’t wait to see what arrive sin your shop next.
Be sure to check out Shoshanna’s shop here, or click on any of the above photos to see that item directly.