Debbie Croft: Art studio opening in lonely Hornitos

08/30/2014 12:00 AM

08/29/2014 2:17 PM

A small commercial space in Hornitos received a makeover recently. Mona Jean’s Art Studio and Gallery opens this weekend in the town plaza.

Jean sculpts textured pictures using alpaca fiber. She learned this technique from Jackie Faulkner, an alpaca rancher and the creator of the art form, while living in Oregon.

Faulkner began as an artist by making clothes out of felt. While adding embellishments, she discovered she could also design pictures. One of her pieces was entered in an auction, where Jean fell in love with it.

When Jean asked if she could learn how to do it, Faulkner was thrilled to pass on the skill. She learned the basics in one week. “One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given was her teaching me,” Jean said.

Jean already enjoyed crocheting with the fiber because of its softness. She now raises alpacas to provide the fiber for creating her own 3-D landscapes.

From a distance they look like paintings, but up close viewers are amazed at the medium and the detail.

Her techniques involve tearing, carding and wet felting. Adding strands of silk and Angora rabbit wool give her pictures a little shine.

“I’ve only been doing this a year and a half, so every picture is a lesson,” she said.

With corkboard as the base, she uses pins to attach a square of netting onto a sheet of foam. She then places lengths or clumps of colored fiber on top of the netting. Using felting needles, she pokes and pulls the fiber to achieve the desired look.

Trees and branches are formed by rolling narrow lengths of fiber.

Browns, grays and purples become mountains. Shades of green are shaped into leaves and ground. Rivers, sky and waterfalls are streaked blue and white. And sometimes as a finishing touch, tiny snips of pink and yellow are added as wildflowers.

Her signature is a small dragonfly in the bottom corner.

Pictures are framed in shadow boxes beneath museum glass.

At this year’s Miniatures Show with Mariposa’s Sierra Artists’ Gallery, Jean’s pictures took first and third place. A few of her pieces are on display at Chris Sorensen’s studio in Fresno.

She has been accepted by the Celebration of Craftswomen, a juried show in San Francisco for emerging artists. Her artwork will be shown at the Fort Mason Center the last weekend of November.

“My goal someday is to write an instructional book about the whole process,” she said, “from cria (baby alpaca) to wall.”

She hopes to attract new students to her fiber art classes, which will be held at her Hornitos studio.

The work of other artists and artisans will also be exhibited at her studio, including Charles Phillips, Carol Lee Rayle, Vickie Stewart, Gary Latona, Al and Jeanette Unger, Becca Morse, Adra Holland, Jeanetta Phillips, Annie Shelton, Candice Hon, J. Barnhart, Sue Overstreet, Anna Alise, Kym Stotts and Steve and Sean Mortimer.

Hornitos residents are excited about this addition to the historic ghost town. Visitors will now have one more reason to stop and stay a while.

Visit to view her artwork and learn more about this craft.

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