Each of artist Nancy Schmitt’s pieces has a story.
“I get into the studio and make something that’s based on something that I see or feel,” explained Schmitt, of Westminster. “ There’s always a story behind the piece.”
Schmitt creates two and three-dimensional felt artwork from sheep’s wool. She adds heat, agitation, and moisture to tangle fibers and create permanent fabrics which she then forms like clay.
“You really have to understand the properties of the water, the soap, and fiber you’re using,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt is featured at Gallery 99 and owner Lou Chang said Schmitt “paints with fiber.”
“We’re thrilled to have her work on display and we’re always interested to see what creation she comes up with next,” Chang said. “Her work has a very earthy, natural, organic feel with delicious colors. The texture is interesting with the combination of the fiber and the beading and you just keep looking at it.”
Friend Jean Smith said she is typically awestruck by Schmitt’s work.
“I just want to get up close and touch it,” Smith said. “I want to figure out how she did it. It’s so much more complicated than what you see on the surface.”
Carroll Arts Center visual arts coordinator Susan Williamson described Schmitt’s work as “incredible.”
“I’m very taken by her technique and how it’s so different,” Williamson said. “The works are exquisite in any way you look at them. They’re masterfully created.”
Schmitt was one of seven children and said she must have shown artistic skills as a child because she was the one who always received art supplies. She attended Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, a private girls’ boarding school, and chose to major in art. She also majored in fine art at Trenton State College.
“It came naturally to me,” she said. “I was always making, inventing. I always felt like art was the bigger piece of me. It’s what makes me breathe every single day.”
Schmitt’s own realities truly come through in her art. A recent fish sculpture was conceived while riding the metro back and forth to work.
“You become keenly aware of what you have and what other people don’t have,” she said. “On each scale of the fish there’s a letter or a design and it reads ‘It is foolish that the fish in the water is thirsty. It is what we do not see that is most abundant inside our own house.’ For me, it spoke to how grateful I am to all that I have and all the opportunities I’ve had in my life.”
Schmitt’s piece entitled “Disintegration” was inspired by her father’s recent passing. Her father was a veterinarian and a powerful figure in her life. For the piece, she used brown, black, and beige as well as her father’s medical supplies including suture material to “kind of give that idea of holding things together.”
She also celebrates the bright spots in life. A piece called “Water Effects” reflects on a vacation to Cape Cod.
“It was a relaxing vacation where we were completely cut off from technology,” she said. “We were totally off the grid and it was like pushing the reset button.”
Schmitt said she’s never desired to make a living selling art but she does do commission work and puts pieces up in some galleries.
“When your art sells, that’s validation,” she said. “You know people worked hard to earn that money and when they spend it on something that you’ve created, that’s the highest compliment to me.”
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