By Joanna Bastian

Melissa Kendrick, one of Carlton’s permanent artists-in-residence, studied at the Art Institute of Seattle and ran her studio, ProletariArt, Art for Commoners, in a Seattle neighborhood. The studio was named out of Melissa’s deep conviction that art should be accessible to everyone, regardless of income or ability.

In her Seattle studio, Melissa kept the design comfortable by including dressers and tables to create a “living room” atmosphere. During art shows, gallery-goers could enjoy the displayed art by various artists, and create their own art within the studio at stations set up with art materials.

Today, Melissa is bringing ProletariArt, Art for Commoners, to the Methow Valley by offering affordable art classes in a comfortable party atmosphere. This week, she hosted a Critter Felting class at her home in Carlton. The cost was $15 to cover materials, and guests learned how to create their own felted critter in class. We got to keep our critters, and were sent home with a small gift bag that included a felting kit.

Photos courtesy of Melissa Kendrick  Felted critters created by guests at Melissa Kendrick's ProletariArt, Art for Commoners party in Carlton

Photos courtesy of Melissa Kendrick

Felted critters created by guests at Melissa Kendrick’s ProletariArt, Art for Commoners party in Carlton

The party kicked off with a light luncheon Melissa had expertly prepared: mini quiches, cheese and crackers, and fruit-filled pastries. We gathered around the table where Melissa had set up felting stations for each guest, and an array of project examples: sweaters with felted flower accents, a handbag with fanciful felted swirls that added color and texture, and felted puppies, birds and butterflies.

Fellow party animal Katherine Perkins confided that her crafting skills left much to be desired. “I took a knitting class, and was told my stitches were ‘not a mark of excellence.’ The only reason I was marginally successful at knitting a hat was because the circle was supposed to get smaller,” she said.

I followed up her tale of failure with one of my own from last week — an attempt at weaving a basket out of tree fronds was met with a look of pity from the instructor and a firm “non, non, non, non, non” as she declared my basket unsuitable.

Over mimosas, Melissa gave a brief introduction on how to use a felting needle. As the balls of loose fluff transformed into dense shapes on our felting blocks, she demonstrated how to add more details, such a turn in the neck, a bend in the ear, or the shape of a haunch. The final lesson was how to add patches of color to the critter.

Katherine tackled a ball of white fluff with a felting needle and within a short time a well-formed bunny took shape. It was excellent.

I tried my hand at making a felted spring robin with a patch of orange across the neck. It was easier and much more fun than wrestling tree fronds.

Anyone can host a ProletariArt party and bring art to their guests in the relaxing atmosphere of their own home. Guests keep their creations and go home with a kit so they can make more art. Melissa has a creative agenda of art ideas for birthdays, get-togethers, and showers. Her goal is to keep costs affordable and the art fun and accessible, regardless of age or abilities. She can be reached at or (206) 604-2206.