Friday, May 15, 2009

Needle Felting: Learning to be an Artist

Detail of below wall hanging

Santa Claus is Coming to Town
18 x 32"
In private collection

Blue Santa
10 x 16"
In private collection in Atlanta, Georgia
Coat trim is gorgeous dyed angora bunny fiber

Red Elf
10 x 16"

Needle felting is fun and easy. The only hard part is learning to be an artist.

Learning to Needle Felt

Below are some of the needle felted wall hangings I've made over the years.

Santa Claus is coming to Smoke Rise Farm
28" x 32"
Commissioned piece, in private collection in Georgia

Santa on a Purple Night
10 x 16"
In a private collection in Pittsburgh, PA

Detail of a Santa with beautiful Border Leicester locks

Christmas is Here!
8 x 14"

I attended the Michigan Fiber Festival in 1997 and 1998, mostly to learn about sheep and goats, since I had started working at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University in publications and media relations in 1996. I spent a lot of time visiting with the animal owners and learning about their animals.

In 1998 I took a little time to walk into the 4-H Building that was filled with fiber and fiber artists, and that few minutes changed the course of my life. I was in awe of the beautiful colors, textures, spinning wheels, and everything else that makes up the world of fiber. I came across the "Sheep Farm" booth, and met Suzanne VanNatter of Dexter, MI. She not only had roving and yarns for sale, but she had created something I'd never seen before: needle felted Christmas holiday wall hangings. I was estatic and wanted to learn more!

I joined the guild that Suzanne belonged to, the Spinners Flock, which meets in Chelsea, MI. Suzanne and I have become good friends and what fun I've had with fiber and needle felting!

Needle Felting Halloween Fiberart

Needle felting is a fun hobby. Here's a 2007 wall hanging, "Only her Hair Dresser Knows for Sure," and two three-dimensional art dolls I made in 2008, "Wicked and Cruel" and "Cher, the Glamour Witch."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fiber Festivals

Summer will be here soon, and with it comes fiber festivals. Attending the Michigan Fiber Festival in August is an annual event. Held in Allegan, the festival offers many wonderful classes. But a special treat was attending the 2007 Midwest Felting Symposium in Madison, WI. I took several hat making classes from the incredible Hungarian artist, Judit Pocs.

In the photos, my niece, Alexis Lessard, models a blue silk scarf embellished with blue merino wool, and a burgundy merino wool scarf embellished with silk, polyester yarn, and merino prefelts. The hats are fine merino wool and silk. The scarves were made in classes I took from Sharon Costello at the 2007 Michigan Fiber Festival, and the hats were made at the 2007 Midwest Felting Symposium in classes I took from Judit Pocs.

Just do a search for each festival to see what delightful classes they are offering this year!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Family history and oral historian

Photos: Left, James McKeown, my dad's grandpa, who came from Ireland in the mid-1800s to Ontario, Canada.
Right: My dad, Louis W. Lessard, bombardier with the 450th Bomb Group, Manduria, Italy.
I was born to be a family historian and oral historian. In the 1980s, I interviewed my grandparents about their young lives growing up in the late 1800s - early 1900s in the wilderness near Clare, Michigan. The resulting books were a labor of love since I prepared them on a typewriter! In the next few years, I hope to put them on the internet for the Michigan Gen. Web. project.

My grandmother's book, Andrine and Ole Larson and Family, (150 pages) is the story of her parents who came from Norway in the 1880s and settled near Clare, Michigan.

Before preparing my grandpa's oral history, I wrote a basic family history, The History of Our Kaul Ancestors, (350 pages) which begins in the mid-1600s in Deidesheim, Germany, and ends in the late 1800s in the Frankenmuth, Michigan area.

I finished my grandpa's oral history, The Childhood Memoirs of Earl Kaul (530 pages) in the early 1990s and it is my pride and joy. Grandpa had so many good stories!

Since then, I've done quite a bit of oral history on video, including my dad's WWII memoirs and both my parents memoirs of surviving the Great Depression and WWII, and once done with that, getting on with their lives--marrying, raising a family, and the fun they had with friends and relatives in the Clarkston, Michigan area.
More recently, I've worked on my dad's mother's Irish family, the McKeowns and Writts from Kinkora, near Stratford, Ontario.

Horse Friends

A fond memory of living in Cody, Wyoming in the late 1970s was my friendship with Tim Tolton, a South Dakota cowboy. He spent the summer working on the Fales dude ranch, close to where I worked and lived in Wapiti Valley (halfway between Cody and the east entrance to Yellowstone). Here's one of my favorite photos of Tim. He'd been to a horse auction to purchase horses for the dude ranch. It was a fall afternoon, and he stopped by where I was living, to show me the youngster. He was taking him to join the ranch's other horses at winter pasture.

Tim now lives in Big Piney, Wyoming.

Horses, Horses, Horses!

Here's a 2007 photo of my horse, MacKenzie, at RJ and Jane Smith's training facility in Clio, Michigan.

I was born loving horses and the happiest times of my life have been spent with my horses and horse-loving friends. I bought my first horse while in college at Michigan State University, where I was a member of the Block & Bridle, and Rodeo clubs. I spent a few years in Cody, Wyoming, and Helena, Montana, where I rode in the mountains, worked as a race track groom and ponied race horses. I also spent some time with friends in South Dakota, herding cattle. In more recent years, I have learned some dressage basics and have spent a lot of time trail riding.

My newest horse, MacKenzie, is a PMU from Manitoba, Canada. Born in 2004, he is mostly draft and a personable youngster. RJ and Jane Smith have had him off and on since 2005 for some "summer school activities," but he's now ready for some more serious education.

I have the privilege of working in Publications and Media Relations at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University. I enjoy writing basic horse health articles with Dr. Judy Marteniuk, equine extension veterinarian at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. I also arrange equine health lectures for the public at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. You can view our articles and power point presentations at and click on "Animal Health Information."