TOWNSEND -- Fiber artists find their raw material almost everywhere. It can come from animals and plants, maybe from even something recycled. It is difficult to resist the temptation to touch their mulch-textured creations, everything from clothing to three-dimensional pieces, hanging on the walls.
A bold, geometric wall-hanging greets visitors to the Fiber Explorations show at the Townsend Meeting Hall Gallery. The fiber in "Five," created by Nancy French? Recycled sweaters.
Other artists begin with material much closer to a natural state. John King's "Fiber for the Birds" is a multimedia wreath made of wood and wooly bits of fiber. When hung outside, birds can pull the soft, warm fluff from the shape to line their nests.
King spins. When he talks about the fleece he uses, it sounds as though it is coming from animals he knows. "This is Romney," he said, holding a skein of yarn he spun. Despite the familiar name, Romney is a breed of sheep, not the former Massachusetts governor.
Sometimes though, the fleece does come from an animal the spinner knows. A pet rabbit has been known to sit on King's lap as he plucks fur and spins it into yarn, no cleaning or carding. "I don't have to do anything with bunny fiber. They love it," he said.
The fiber artists hold themselves to high standards, but not everything in the show is totally crunchy granola. "Wavy Wingspan in Kool-aid" is a scarf/shawl Susan Luongo dyed with Kool-aid and knitted from King's hand-spun wool.
Small three-dimensional wool objects appear in some of the works. The felted objects are made by compressing wool fiber into shapes. "Wooly Planets" was inspired by a workshop given at the library, said artist Kim King, John's wife. A father and son wanted to make planets, so she showed them how.
The library and meeting hall have become a place for people to share their skills. Fiber Frenzy, a group that John King said grew out of the knitting club, meets every third Thursday at the library.
"It's turned into equipment sharing," John King said. Spinners, knitters, felters try new wheels and use many of the myriad pieces of equipment designed to help turn a pile of shorn fur into usable textiles.
"It's idea sharing," said Kim King.
The group seems to be a bit of both, in addition to just a bit of recruitment. "We just bought a wheel for the library," John said. He taught a woman how to spin using the borrowed wheel.
"Now she's spinning like crazy," Kim said.
The craft was such a success, her husband bought her a wheel. Then he caught the bug and bought one for himself, the Kings said.
The artists are all local, but not all are members of the Fiber Frenzy group. "April Mist" a cotton, silk, tencel and bamboo jacket is the first piece Ruth Evans and Lynn Ferrillo have shown in Townsend.
A reception to meet the artists will be held Saturday, Feb. 16, from noon to 2 p.m. It was rescheduled because of the storm the previous weekend.
The show will be on display until March 24 at the Townsend Meeting Hall Gallery and can be seen when the library or senior center is open.