Artist Interview – Erma Martin Yost

The next installment in my Art of the State artists interview series is fiber artist Erma Martin Yost. Her website states,”Trained as a painter, my creative canvas is now handmade felt—and thread has become my pencil and brush.” You can find Erma online at her website and you can see her piece, Shifting Shadows, at Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2013 at the State Museum in Harrisburg, PA.


Shifting Shadows © Erma Martin Yost 37” x 22”
Shifting Shadows © Erma Martin Yost 37” x 22”

1. How did you get started in your craft?

In 1975 I graduated with an M.A. in painting and for 10 years did large abstract landscapes with thick impasto surfaces. Then my work morphed into art quilts, again very textural. When I retired after 36 years as an art teacher, I continued to substitute. One day I was supposed to teach felting, something I knew absolutely nothing about and the class ended up teaching me. I went home, did research, bought some supplies, practiced on my own, and took two workshops. I was totally seduced by the tactile quality and saturated colors of the magical mesh of fibers. Now I consider felt my “canvas” on which to compose and it is a lot less daunting that facing a blank white canvas.

2. What has been inspiring/influencing your work lately?

My work has always referenced nature, even when living in the city for 36 years. In 2008 we moved to PA and I began to take notice of the shadows on snow covered fields in the winter, and the shapes and colors of rolling fields in different seasons and light conditions. Line and mark making became an expression of these observations.


Firefly Field © Erma Martin Yost 23” x 22”
Firefly Field © Erma Martin Yost 23” x 22”

3. Who are your favorite artists in your field?

Influences for felt making:

I admire these three women for their inventive use of felting as a fiber technique – Jori Johnson, Janice Arnold, & Chad Alice Hagen. I took a 5-day intensive workshop with Jori Johnson at the University of Minnesota in 2010.

“Mark Making” with thread:

These three women are fiber artists, but not felt-makers – Barbara Schulman (her “textile gallery”), Dorothy Caldwell, & Mariska Karasz. If you Google “images” for their names and take a look you will see what I mean by mark-making with thread.

4. What is your favorite customer quote or story?

Shadowed Field © Erma Martin Yost 22” x 27”
Shadowed Field © Erma Martin Yost 22” x 27”

I am a founding member of Noho Gallery in NYC. When it’s an artist’s turn to have a solo show, one is responsible for having the gallery open and staffing the desk. On a cold January day I was struggling to walk to the gallery in near blizzard conditions, and was tempted to turn around and go home. But I was reared to always “show up.” I sat in the gallery all day and only one person came in. Then close to closing time the phone rang. A voice on the other end said she had been in the gallery the day before and couldn’t get one of the artworks out of her mind. She bought a $3000 piece over the phone. If I had not answered the phone that day, perhaps she never would have called back. She has since bought additional works.

5. What is your favorite piece of art or fine craft that you own?

My husband, Leon Yost, and I collect Navajo rugs directly from the weavers. It is an inspiration to see how they marry tradition, innovation, and skill. To be considered a “good rug” the design must have precise symmetry from top to bottom and left to right. This is done without sketches or cartoons but with a lot of patience, sharp memory, and endurance in harsh conditions.

3 thoughts on “Artist Interview – Erma Martin Yost

  1. I have followed Erma’s work throughout her career and love seeing how felting has offered her a place and a method to go deeper into visual , natural, and spiritual expression.


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