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News > DP Festival > Behind the Scenes: Kate Leibrand

Behind the Scenes: Kate Leibrand

Muppets meet Monet for this fiber and interdisciplinary artist
28 Sep 2023
DP Festival
Kate Leibrand- "Ember" detail, 5x5', fibers, mesh, plaster. 2021.
Kate Leibrand- "Ember" detail, 5x5', fibers, mesh, plaster. 2021.

When you first look at a Kate Leibrand piece, you can’t help but to think of Monet – specifically Monet’s “Water Lilies” from the naturalistic inspiration to the softness of the piece to the large size. Instead of oil paint and Giverny, however, Leibrand prefers to work in felt and in North Philadelphia. Her dense forms are inspired by her interest in nature and it’s ability to grow and regenerate, calling to mind flowing fields and lapping lakes of blossoms, moss, fungi, shells and reefs.

The fiber and interdisciplinary artist describes her pieces as “the Muppets meet Monet,”  as the she spends as much time prepping the acrylic felt as she does making the pieces. She starts with large rectangular die cut felt sheets that she sources from a local producer who makes them out of recycled water bottles, respecting nature as one of her influences. She then laser cuts each sheet into circles, before stacking them in groups and spray painting the edges. Now begins the laborious process of folding, stitching, gluing and attaching thousands of fabric elements onto a backing, something Kate finds meditative. She grew up watching her mother quilt, leading her to appreciate the process of hundreds of small pieces coming together into a whole that is greater than the sum of their parts.

In the initial stages, Leibrand creates her complex pieces intuitively as she allows the materials textures, and patterns to guide her. As her pieces grow element by element, she sculpts the overall shape to fit her vision and tucks in intimate details, waiting for viewers to find them. Dimension and pops of texture are added with EPS foam forms that are also made from recycled materials with felt and beading added right on top. The end result are soft, almost hypnotic pieces that draw the viewer like a half-remembered dreamscape.

You can take a step into Kate’s world this Festival at the Center for Architecture and Design where we’ll be hosting a brand new piece Kate created for the Festival. "Protea's Keep" celebrates that power of transformation. Inspired by the Protea flower, named after Greek god Proteus and a symbol of the ability to adapt and the refusal to be stuck, the 3D piece stands at 8 ft by 16 ft. Viewers can make their way around the free standing structure and observe the ebb and flow of color and detail. Whimsical depictions of the flower are interspersed with organic forms that are reminiscent of oceanic systems.

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