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Inspired: Fiber Artist Sarah Mandell

October 19th, 2020

This is an excerpt from the Fall/Winter 2020-2021 issue of the Upstate Advocate, Upstate Forever’s twice yearly print newsletter. To read the entire newsletter, click here. If you’d like to be added to our mailing list to receive future issues, please email athacker@upstateforever.org


Moving to Greenville in 2010 felt like a breath of fresh air, and a lot of that had to do with the natural beauty found in the Upstate. I have never lived so close to mountains before and they truly are a magical place — by far my favorite type of landscape to be looking at, driving through, or featuring in my art. I also enjoy including farms and forests in my work. Here in Greenville, we’re never very far from rural scenery, and my husband and I take joyrides through the country so I can find inspiration and take reference photos of cool old barns or fields full of crops to use for future felted landscapes.

I’m very inspired by nature. I enjoy hiking and taking daytrips all over the state and often times these new sights and scenes lead to a felted landscape, or even a series. Almost all of my felted landscapes feature scenes from the Southeast, from the mountains for the Upstate, to the irregular patterns in the Lowcountry marshes, and the textures of the Midlands. I use my art as an excuse to go see new things, and vice versa. Finding inspiration is the easiest part of what I do — I look around, take it all in, memorize the colors, and recreate what I see in this unique medium. 

My focus for the last few years has been fiber art, particularly needle felted landscapes. These textured “paintings” are created with dyed wool roving, using only a barbed felting needle to move and attach the fiber to a piece of fabric. It’s a lot like painting — I block out the scene with base colors, then come back and layer on more wool with the needle, tapping the needle into the fiber which pulls it tighter and tighter the longer I work on it, adding shadows and details. I even blend some of my own wool colors.

View more of Sarah’s work at onceagainsam.com or on social media @OnceAgainSam.

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