Kathleen Dodge-DeHaven is an award-winning felt artist, originally from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, who has lived in Coupeville, Washington since 2010.
A retired collaborative pianist and private voice and piano instructor, Kathleen has long loved the visual arts. As a young adult, she experimented with oil painting. She began folding origami when she lived in Japan, having moved there with her Air Force husband, Steve. Their involvement with community theater led Kathleen into the textile arts, designing and sewing costumes for many plays. At their next duty location, in Germany, she continued her love of origami, adding the dimensions of fabric folding and Scherenschnitte, the art of decorative paper cutting. A “hardship” tour to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands gave Kathleen the opportunity to learn snorkeling and scuba diving, revealing to her the beauty of the undersea world, which informs much of her art to this day. A second tour to Germany found her creating more complex paper sculptures, and using those techniques to create models in fabric.
Steve retired from the Air Force in 2008, and two years later Kathleen and Steve chose beautiful Whidbey Island, Washington, as their new home. Here local farms raise sheep and alpaca, and the abundance of these wools motivated Kathleen to explore needle felting. Inspired by the fragrant lavender produced on nearby farms, her early works consisted of formed felted models around a core of dried lavender buds. She turned these into lovely pincushions and sachets, which she decorated incorporating techniques she had learned in her earlier artistic pursuits. As her knowledge and ability have grown since those early creations, she has expanded into sculptural felting, and has also learned to dye her own fibers.
Her work has garnered both popular demand and critical acclaim. Her pieces were quick sellers when she placed them on consignment at Whidbey Island Yarns, Gifts, & Teas. In several cases, her pieces would be sold right out of her hands as she was bringing them into the shop! She has won awards at the Whidbey Island Area Fair, including several blue ribbons, Merit Awards, a Superintendent’s Award, and in 2015, the Best of Fiber award for her large needle-felted sculpture “She,” depicting a contemplative woman by a stream.
Kathleen enjoys felting as a tactile experience and finds her inspiration everywhere—in nature, in music, in the people around her.