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Art becomes therapy to deal with losses

Sarah Tierney shows off her “Mother and Baby Giraffe” Fiber art she made for the Detroit Zoo. Photos by Trevor Keiser. (click for larger version)
June 19, 2013 - After having put herself through college by selling real-estate and graduating from Oakland University with honors, Sarah Tierney was always goal oriented until one day she "didn't care about anything."

In 2009, Tierney, lost her job as an account representative after 17 years with the company she worked for. Six months later, her mom died unexpectedly, the day after her 20 year-old dog passed away and almost two years later she had a brother pass away, as well as dealing with her own personal health problems at the time.

"When my mom passed away, I kind of lost my mojo, said the 15-year Oxford resident. "We were very, very close – best friends."

Shortly before losing her mom, Tierney said she had an art studio completed off the side of her house and was planning on making art her profession after losing her job.

To celebrate the Detroit Zoo’s new beaver habitat, Sarah Tierney made a beaver habitat of her own out of wool and alpaca hair, which she donated to the zoo. (click for larger version)
"I think my core, my soul is an artist," she said. "I've always done some form of art, whether it was rubber stamping, cards, drawing or water color painting. I am a jack of all trades kind of artist."

Tierney said she used to make soaps and cards for her clients at work and was planning on making cards, men's jewelry and had ideas for inventions.

But after her mom's death she went in another direction. She learned a new art form known as "fiber art," which dates all the way back to Biblical times. Fiber art is done through a process known as "needle felting" and uses wool or any type of natural fiber, such as Alpaca hair.

"I can't really tell you how I got into the fiber arts, but I taught myself," she said. "I started with a little snowman because my mom loved snowmen, but hated the cold winters in Michigan, so I made this little snowman with a little baboshka and put it next to her picture."

From there, Tierney started making gifts for friends, as well as showcasing her work at the Orion Art Center and in the Artist Alley at Amazing Petals. She has also made and donated pieces like she did for local resident Laura Lee who had a cancer benefit last month. She most recently donated two pieces for the Detroit Zoo, which was shown at the Zoo's "Sunset at the Zoo Boardwalk Bash" on June 14, one of the Zoo's biggest fund-raisers.

The first piece was a "Beaver Habitat," designed to celebrate the new beaver habitat the zoo is opening this year.

"For this beavers' habitat I needle felted and wet felted natural fibers from wool, mohair and alpaca (purchased from Michigan farms) to create an organic environment," Tierney said. "The two little beavers are solid wool and alpaca. The art piece is felted onto a pegboard base. The two larger trees have thin wires through their trunks with fiber felted around. Other than the base and two small wires everything is solid felted fibers."

The second piece is a wall art piece of a mother and baby giraffe that measures 25.5 inches by 21 inches.

I just happen like to giraffes (and) I think a lot of people like giraffes," she said. "They're just gentle and inviting and cute."

Tierney said she and her husband, Ron Wonboy, have been members of the Detroit Zoo for years, so when she heard they were looking for art pieces for their fundraisers, she saw "a good mix" between what she does and what they needed.

"The big picture of helping the zoo out, getting my work out there and dealing with animals," she said. "A lot of people on the board who are movers and shakers, people who might appreciate this kind of work and the time it takes to make a piece. One piece of art can take anywhere from three hours to months at a time."

While Tierney is a lover of animals, having had many dogs in her life and two house bunnies and created various animal art pieces, she also does fiber art jewelry such as "art cuffs, as well as necklaces and pins.

Creating art she said has been a therapeutic way to release her grief and she hopes her art helps others.

"You never get over grief, but you kind of work through it," she said. "Art and the creative process is maybe an area that would really help other people because I've been through that really low place with grief and everything."

To see more of Tierney's work visit Etsy-Angel48371.com on the web or check out SarahTierneyFiberArtistry on Facebook.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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