Peepwool – Viroqua, WI
Artists working in clay, fiber and wood
Amy Arnold + Kelsey Sauber Olds
It’s not often that we run into other families that have lifestyles similar to our own. Other than when we’re out exploring, most of our life happens at home — we live, work, school, eat, play, sleep… at home. Amy + Kelsey and their three boys do the same sort of things, out in their beautiful country home.
It was so fun to see their workspace, a glimpse of how their creations come together, and how they balance kids, work, and everyday life. Amy and I agreed that it’s definitely crazy some days, but it’s so worth it.
Though Peepwool continues to evolve into new and exciting things, here’s the definition Amy writes on her website:
Peepwool: A one-of-a-kind figurative sculpture concocted from recycled, felted wool and festooned with frills, frippery, and finery of every sort. Equal parts refuse and treasure, alien and object, beauty and beastie, Peepwool are alluring yet repulsive, yielding yet fierce. They can be found, variously, lounging upon sofas, leering from walls, and snuggling under the chins of slumbering children.
>Why did you choose to settle here, in Viroqua?
Each of us, since we were younger, had hopes of settling in a rural area which was one of the things that drew us together. We met while living in Madison and kept hearing about the area. Once we started spending time here it became clear that Viroqua, because of the beauty of the area, the good people, family friendliness, and proximity to both of our families would be a good spot for us.
>What is the best thing about living in this area?
Living here we feel a great sense of control over how our hours and days are spent. We have found greater clarity as to what is important to us and that this place is somehow conducive to us living deliberately and according to our values.
>Where do you source your materials?
For the past ten years Amy, liking to use inexpensive and easily available materials, has been scouring the thrift stores for sweaters or receiving wool from people who want their old sweaters to live on. This resourcefulness has carried through to our work in wood. When in need of some Basswood for carving Kelsey would have headed to the lumberyard in Madison or Minneapolis, but Amy called a friend for some advice on matter and before we knew it we were going to pick up a van load… for free! Amy took his generosity as a sign that carving that wood was how she should spend her studio time.
>How do you relax?
There are certain times of year that get a little hectic around here, but we generally do our fair share of relaxing- drinking tea by the fire or reading. Amy takes regular walks with friends and Kelsey is a little more into ping pong than he would care to admit.
>People are often curious about how we got into photography. What brought you into this line of work?
After being immersed in the art programs at our colleges we could really see no other path for ourselves. That is not to say that we had no other choices, but that our experience provided us a clear understanding of what we wanted to do and an appreciation of its legitimacy as a career. Perhaps sharing this vision with one another gives us the courage to keep after it when doubts arise. Our ambitions may well change, but we are living a life remarkably similar to that which we separately dreamed up for ourselves in college long before we met. What brought us into this line of work? Simply put by Amy- our hearts.
>What is the best part about working with your hands?
Working with our hands helps us to trust ourselves and to follow through. Having a vision and pulling it into reality is always exciting and having our minds and bodies involved in the process feels wonderful. When engrossed in a physical project we feel in the moment. There is a clarity that comes to us from doing, and often when one of us is stuck on something the best remedy is to simply start working on something, anything- to get physically involved.
>You have a lot of boys to feed in your house. What’s your favorite meal?
We are experimenting with the Paleo diet lately so everything we eat is pretty simple. As a result, our meals feel a little more thoughtful and totally delicious. Many of our favorite meals of late have included pork from the pig we raised last year.
>Would you mind listing the steps of your process?
Whether working individually or collaboratively we almost always start in the sketchbook. For a collaborative project one of us might take the lead with an idea and some drawings. The other may add to the drawing or keep some surprises up their sleeve. Scheduling is an important part of the process as we have to divide up our work time as we pass the piece (and the house and kid duties) back and forth. We each have our own processes and working styles and fitting these together can prove tricky. We are, of course, challenged by this but as we pass a sculpture back and forth adding and taking away, encouraging and editing, we find ourselves engaging in a deeper kind of communication.