The minute before Maryanne Quinn begins creating her modern, felted-wool art, her Boulder studio is calm and orderly. Boxes of vegetable-dyed merino wool sit neatly stacked; scissors lay in wait.
Then, she begins—cutting shapes, experimenting with imagery, playing with the material. When the pieces are just right, she patches, layers, and “smashes” the wet wool together. “It’s like shrinking a sweater,” Quinn says. She spends days massaging the wool until it fuses into a single layer. At the end of her process, fleecy tufts cover every inch of the studio floor and a bold textile has emerged.
The former graphic designer discovered the craft while watching her kids work with felt in preschool, and she started by making pillows. An art-consultant friend who admired Quinn’s work soon commissioned four large pieces. “When the art was complete, we looked at the group and knew I had something people would respond to,” Quinn says. She was right: Today, Quinn’s works are sold by high-style retailers including One Kings Lane and Serena & Lily-. She also does large-scale commissioned pieces for collectors (such as “Astral Botanical,” pictured above).
Whimsical but still sophisticated, Quinn’s art feels at home in both traditional and modern spaces. Perhaps that’s because they’re filled with scenes from her imagination and life: a stuffed animal flopped on her daughter’s bed, lighthouse portals recalled from Long Island. Her most recent inspiration? The ’70s skiwear her parents once sported. “They say you need to write what you know,” Quinn says. “I create what I know.”
—Photography by Rebecca Stumpf; third photo by Emily Minton Redfield