My name is Yaroslava Troinich. I am very happy for your interest in my work, to which I have been dedicating the last 12 years.
I was born in St. Petersburg, but I live and work in Helsinki. I have a small felting studio, a husband and a Scottish cat. I am a journalist by profession. For almost fifteen years I travelled around the world and contributed to travel pages of Cosmopolitan Russia and National Geographic Traveller. In 2007, I moved to Helsinki where I continued to write for Finnish media. My favourite topics were always environmental issues and remote places, where people are still strongly engaged with the wildlife. My best moments have been connected to nature - diving with manta rays in the Galapagos, planting a rain forest for orangutans in Borneo, searching for pink dolphins in the Amazon.
In 2009, while still working as a travel journalist, I saw the artwork of American artist Stephanie Metz. Her conceptual sculptures made of white wool were so fresh and modern! Felt is a traditional craft for Russia, it seemed rather outdated to me. Only carpets, Mongolian yurts and felt boots “valenki” came to mind. Her work has changed my view forever. Next day I bought some wool to try and my felting story began.
First I tried needle felting which astonished me with its possibilities to create forms. Then I felted a small flower with soap and water and immediately understood that this is my material. The sensation of my hands coming into contact with the wool, its incredible transformative possibilities and its versatility was like a tsunami wave. Ideas didn’t let me sleep. I became interested in three-dimensional felting. I found a wonderful artist from St. Petersburg, Nastya Mokhnopuzova, who knew the principle of working on the pattern, and went to study. And at the first lesson I came up with the idea of hand puppet toy.
Hand puppet (“bibabo” in Russian) is a traditional toy, known in Russia since 17th century, there are prototypes of it in Italy and France with their history dated back to 15th century. As a child I adored such toys: I had a yellow mouse and a red Cheburashka. So my first fox was born, and it felt like a gift. Everything suddenly came together: my love of hand puppets and nature, my desire to participate in environmental education and my new love for felt and its possibilities. Since then, the magic of felting has not let me go. This is how I became a puppeteer and a professional textile artist, who made the trend of felted hand puppet toys popular. In my collection I have hundreds of wonderful animals and birds made in the form of hand puppets, and recently I have developed another format - finger puppet toys. These cute babies capture the heart at a glance!
My work on the animals has become an ecological art project. Traditional material was combined with traditional form to produce a modern sound. It is loud enough that I have a lot of followers around the world, and professionals also recognise the artistic value of my work. With my toys I have participated in online felting conferences (“VOLK”, “Feltmakers Festival online”), puppet exhibitions in Russia ("Art of Doll”, “Doll time”, "New Life of Traditions"), Germany, Italy and the Netherlands ("Soul of Felt"), Japan (“Fantanima”). In 2017 there was my first solo exhibition in Kobe, Japan.
Bibabo is an amazingly powerful toy. A real communication gadget. It allows a connection between parent and child, to create new stories, to teach. My toys have a social position - they help in environmental education and create a positive wave. I am especially proud if they work with psychologists, teachers and ecologists in national parks. I have created many different animals for museums and national parks in Russia and Europe. Now I don't work to order, but I periodically put new work on sale.
In general, the process of felting toys is real art therapy. I know this for myself, that is why I like to run face-to-face adult workshops around the world and watch how they turned into artists and relive their childhood - at least for a day. This transformation is as amazing as transforming wool into three-dimensional objects. I sometimes feel that this is my vocation - to inspire people to create, and felt helps me to do so. The results of my students confirm that.
Of course, not everyone has the opportunity to attend face-to-face classes, that is why I have produced very detailed video tutorials and online livestream courses. Distance learning is no less effective than face-to-face courses. I try to make all the courses step-by-step, so that even beginners can cope. In the online livestream format, there is also an opportunity for communication via chat. I try to keep the atmosphere as creative as possible. Try felting with me - there are free workshops on my website where you can make with me different cute things: flowers, cones, radishes, birds, reindeers.
Almost all my ideas come from nature and travel. Unusual animals, endangered animals, unpopular and strange animals. I like to study a lot of information about animals, even though I don't follow physiological accuracy in my work. I like minimalism, so I try to use as little details as possible in my images but still keep them clear and touching. I combine different felting techniques but the basis is always wet felting - wool, soap, water and hands. I use a variety of wool and fibres, but I like my felts to be thin enough so that the mobility of the toys is preserved. I sometimes involve dyeing, and now I am introducing new techniques - metal wire frames and polymer clay details.
Surprisingly, in felting, three-dimensional objects are born from the plane, and at first I was very dependent on constructive solutions and patterns. But now I'm becoming more aware of the limitless sculptural possibilities of felt and getting braver. Felt makes me braver as an artist, because here any seeming mistake can turn out to be a genius know-how. Well, it's hard to make a mistake with animals - they always turn out exceptionally wonderfully. Probably because they are born twice, first from the idea and wool, and then they come alive in the process of playing. Try it yourself, but there's a danger that you won't be able to stop, just like me.