An interview with Shana Kohnstamm

from Annalisa Chelli - 27 May 2015
Annalisa Chelli

Annalisa Chelli

Community Manager at DHGshop
Sicily and Tuscany are in my blood. Travelling, movies, music, and art are the things I enjoy the most. I love whales, tattoos, the sea, Africa, good food, big smiles, Picasso, ‘The Master and Margarita’, and ‘Marriage Italian Style’. I believe in Charles Darwin and in the proverbs my grandmother said.
Annalisa Chelli

Shana Kohnstamm

Recent exhibitions of Shana Kohnstamm:

Solo exhibitions

  • 2014 The Wool Sculptures of Shana Kohnstamm, Green Hills Library, Nashville TN
  • 2012 Surface Treat, Nashville’s Smallest Art Gallery, Nashville TN

Selected Group, Invitational & Juried Shows

  • Fine Contemporary Craft of the Southeastern US – Artspace, Raleigh NC *Award of Merit*
  • Courage Unmasked – OZ Nashville & Sarratt Gallery, Nashville TN
  • Dubious Expedition – Leanna Lin’s Wonderland Gallery, Los Angeles CA
  • Figuratively Speaking – Rymer Gallery, Nashville TN
  • Nexus 2014 Sculpture Exhibit – Dogwood Arts Festival. UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville TN

Shana Kohnstamm Felted Soft Sculptures

Interview

DHG: what are your sources of inspiration?
SHANA: as clichéd as it sounds, the natural world is a vast source of inspiration. The diversity of life, from single-celled organisms to the giants that dwell in the sea, is boggling to the mind. I am constantly plagiarizing Mother Nature and doing a terrible job at it!

D: do you use one color more than others in your work? 
S: not particularly, although my colors tend to be very bright. I was a painter for a long time before embarking on this fiber path. My paintings were becoming increasingly darker and darker. When I found felt making I was joyously surprised and my colors are a reflection of that continued joy.

D: the world of textile art is wide and diverse, why has wool caught your attention? 
S: my art background is in painting and sculpture (clay, metal, mixed media), and I have always loved to try out new mediums whenever possible. After a 2-day wet felting course a few years ago, I played with a little bit of wool at home. And then a little more. And then I learned how to needle-felt. Slowly I had pushed my painting easel into the corner to make room for more wool. The transition was fairly smooth and very exciting. For me, felting is the perfect union of painting and sculpture without any of the mess!

D: what do you express with your Soft Sculptures? 
S: good question! And my question in return is “How does it make you feel?”  I am far more curious in learning about someone else’s reaction to my work than in any intent to express myself.

Shana Kohnstamm Felted Soft Sculptures

D: is there a time of year or of the day in which you are more creative? 
S: when the days are longer and there is more light, I definitely feel more productive. (Whether that’s true or not is a mystery.) A short mid-morning to mid-afternoon studio day seems to reap the most benefit. I tend to work in bursts and get a lot done in a very short amount of time. When I’m not motivated, I will clean up my workspace or do the clerical business work we all loathe.

D: once your work is finished, how do you feel? Are you possessive and wish you could keep it all to yourself or are you eager to share it with others? 
S: I never know how a piece is going to turn out, so getting to “finished” state is a relief in itself. On rare occasions when everything clicks into place, I am overcome with an unexplainable euphoria and my whole body hums with delight (This happened with the white illuminated piece from this project.) I do get possessive of a few pieces, especially the ones that mark professional highlights. Just like children, after a while, I am eager to have them out of the house.

D: for some people, the creative process is also an occasion for a deep self-analysis. Is this the case for you?
S: when I was younger, that was definitely the case. As I grew older, I found that resolving those deep issues was better for my health and relationships than stirring them up for creativity’s sake. It took a surprising amount of time and effort to re-learn how to make art from a place of peace and happiness. Worth it!

D: tell us about your collaboration with DHG. Which of our fibers have you chosen for your work, and why? Is there a particular message behind the works that came out of these materials? What will you take away from this collaboration?
S: I was already enamored by the all the gorgeous colors of Maori, so when Gaia suggested the Maori/Bergschaf, I was eager to try it out. The 15 color-blends are absolutely luscious (the website does NOT do them justice). There is no particular message, only the passion to push past the known, to explore and experiment with the materials and techniques.  I’m quite happy with these pieces from a technical standpoint and I have a better understanding of how the Bergschaf both softens and strengthens the Maori. It’s a good union.

D: what’s your favorite movie??
S: “The Fifth Element.” While I don’t usually re-watch movies, if this one is already playing I’ll sit through until the end every time.

D: what literary character do you feel is most similar to yourself?
S: do you know the story of “The Princess and The Pea”? I believe my creative nature makes me incredibly sensitive to the world or perhaps it’s the sensitivity that has lead me to my creative life. I hear noises other can’t hear, I see things (and colors) no one else sees and the wrong smell can be like a blow to the head. When I was younger, these sensitivities made me intolerable, always miserable, always complaining. Now that I understand myself and have the ability to make my friends and family understand, life is much more enjoyable. (*I am by no means calling myself a princess!*)

Shana Kohnstamm Felted Soft Sculptures

D: what’s the sentence you use most often? 
S: thanks.

D: is there a place you especially love, a place which holds special memories for you?  
S: even though I was only there for a few hours, the Waimea Arboretum & Botanical Garden on the island of Oahu Hawaii was about as close to paradise as I have ever come. The aroma of tropical flowers, the sheer diversity of plant life, the waterfall… I would have happily tucked myself away there for weeks if possible.

D: if you had to choose one adjective to describe yourself, what would it be?  
S: unusual.

D: if you could turn into an animal, what animal would you be and why? 
S: I always joke that my spirit animal is a “Slow Loris”. An octopus or cuttlefish would be the life… floating under the sea, a master of camouflage, curious and clever.

D: you have a time machine, and you can travel to the past. Which historical period do you choose to visit and which personality would you like to meet? 
S: if I had a time machine, first I would wait to use it until I was 50 years old. Then I would go back to around 1962 and visit with my art hero, Dorothea Tanning when she lived in the French countryside with her husband Max Ernst. I think it would be lovely to spend the afternoon or a long weekend in her company if we were the same age.

You can find Shana works in DHG Art Gallery.

If you liked this article maybe you would also enjoy Needle Felting. Never been easier…

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2 Comments for An interview with Shana Kohnstamm

  1. Morwenna Catt

    I love Shana’s work and I love the questions you asked her :)

  2. Annalisa Chelli

    Dear Morwenna, Shana is a special woman and a capable artist. I am glad to had the opportunity to know her better through this interview. Thanks for consider questions interesting!

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