Artist Spotlight: Haley Wood

February 8, 2022
Haley Wood, Image Courtesy of the Artist
Haley Wood, Image Courtesy of the Artist


Abigail Ogilvy Gallery began working with emerging artist Haley Wood for our 2021 Spring/Break NYC collection. Haley is a fiber artist, surface designer, and musician living in Boston, MA. She received her BFA in Fibers at Massachusetts College of Art & Design in 2021. We recently sat down with Haley to chat more about her artwork, artistic background and inspiration.


Abigail Ogilvy: Each of your pieces features a cast of characters that convey complex stories and emotions. What is the role of storytelling in your work? How is storytelling central to the process of creating your work? 

Haley Wood: It really depends on the scale of the project- for something like WOAD or my Tam Lin project, I started with a pre-written story and based all of the designs off of that. For smaller pieces, like the Green Fairy rugs, I prefer to arrange a group of “characters” and see what sort of narrative may arise from that. 


Haley Wood, Green Fairy with White Hart, 2021, Acrylic yarn, hand-tufted, 38 x 29 in.


AO: Continuing with the discussion of storytelling - tell us more about your thesis project WOAD, what inspired you to create this 12-panel story and what was that process like?

I wrote the story of WOAD in the autumn of 2020, after my grandmother passed away at the beginning of the pandemic. She suffered from dementia in her later years- although my family had been effectively mourning her for years, her passing still felt very sudden. 

I wanted to create a story that was relatable to others who have known a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and perhaps eye-opening to those who haven’t. It was difficult to condense years of events into 10 pages- but I tried to include moments such as changing memories, a return to childlike behaviors, and not wanting to repeat bad news to your loved one every time they ask. 


I have been drawing comics since I was a child, as my father is a cartoonist. I wrote and drew the story over a few weeks in late 2020, then did the tufting in the winter and spring of 2021. Due to the emotional nature of the story, it was easier to have everything planned out in advance and just go into production mode with the tufting. I did one page a week- it really felt like tufting bootcamp! By the end of the project, I was able to produce a page in several days. Then I photographed each page and put together a printable version of the story that I could mail to friends and professors during the pandemic.


AO: Your work often incorporates medieval and mythic motifs: fairies, trolls, anthropomorphic animals, knights, etc. When did you decide to work with this subject matter?

HW: I developed an interest in those sorts of motifs in elementary school; where I showed up every day in a large belted t-shirt and pageboy haircut as to look like a medieval serf. I don’t know why it was so appealing, I think the stories people tell during an absolutely brutal and disgusting time period have always interested me. I really enjoyed fantastical fairy tales as well as Brueghel paintings of people rolling around in their own filth.


Haley Wood, WOAD Page 4, 2021, Acrylic yarn, hand-tufted, 38 x 30 in.


AO: As an artist still early in your career (and you have already accomplished so much!), what are your artistic dreams/goals/aspirations for the future?

HW: Why thank you!! I’m currently trying to scheme up my next story to tell, and learning some simple animation software techniques. I think it could be really fulfilling to combine tufting with various other mediums such as animation, music, projections, etc. Another dream of mine has been to illustrate a children’s book using tufting! Possibly grad school, but no concrete plans. 


AO: In addition to being an interdisciplinary artist, you’re a practicing musician. Can you talk about this a bit more? What is the relationship and connection between your music and fiber art?

HW: I play guitar and violin for the Croaks, which I would describe as “progressive folk.” I have been collaborating with my bandmate Anna Reidister since we were freshmen at MassArt, we are mostly inspired by traditional British folk music and the Canterbury scene of the early 70’s. I guess the connection between my art practice and songwriting is that both results tell a story, usually of a medieval nature! There’s also a bit of a physical appeal that comes from tufting and playing guitar, both involve very loud machinery that is quite exhilarating. 


Haley Wood, Lewis Chessmen King Pillows, 2021, Acrylic yarn and cotton, hand-tufted, 14 x 14 in. (each)


AO: What inspires you to create a new piece?

HW: Typically I start thinking about my next project while I am still working on the current one- I suppose the grass is always greener… As far as inspiration goes, I am always taking photos of creatures and scenery that I find amusing during my daily routine. Then if I am feeling out of ideas, I can go into my vault of squirrel pictures!


About the author

Abigail Ogilvy

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