Local Artist brings books to life with needle felting

Above, Claudia Lenart of Wauconda recently illustrated her second children’s book. She is skilled at making lifelike felt creations. – Claudia Lenart photo

by Tina Johansson

An artist and former journalist is becoming known for her dream-like creations made from colorful woolen fabrics.

Claudia Marie Lenart of Wauconda has recently illustrated her second book for Loving Healing Press and the late Toronto author Jewel Kats, who was a disability advocate.

Jenny & Her Dog Both Fight Cancer features felt art characters by Claudia Lenart of Wauconda. – Loving Healing Press

 The much anticipated book titled Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer: A Tale of Chemotherapy and Caring is a bittersweet tale of mutual devotion and loyalty. The children’s book tells the journey of Jenny, a young girl undergoing treatment for cancer, who discovers that her best friend, her family dog Dolly, also has cancer. Their friendship becomes their core strength in their fight against the deadliest of maladies and most trying times of life.

According to a 2014 CBS news story, the incidence of children’s kidney and thyroid cancers has increased in recent years. Though still not as common as cancer among adults, the disease has devastating effects on both physical and psychological condition of young patients. It takes extra emotional support to manage the disease in children and pets without losing hope – precisely the message in the book.

Lenart, who was born and raised in Chicago, met Kats several years ago after the author discovered her online through the sales of her fiber artworks.

“Jewel was looking for a unique illustrator for Jenny and Her Dog. She found my shop on Etsy and asked if I would illustrate the book. I read it, was deeply moved, shed some tears and said ‘Yes,’” recalls Lenart.

Loving Healing Press considers Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer an invaluable legacy of the late Kats whose personal life and uplifting books for children, particularly those with special needs, have helped many families around the world.

Kats, who suffered health issues since she was involved in a serious car accident as a child, died recently at age 38, after complications from surgery. Her story can be seen in the Toronto Star: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-author-jewel-kats-1.3398884 .

While the books that Lenart and Kats have collaborated on are geared toward special market groups—children with disabilities, and those going through illness—parents of all children benefit from the books, by sharing the stories. The books are also popular with artists, particularly fiber arts enthusiasts, said Lenart.

“Jenny and Her Dog is the book that brought Jewel and me together as creative partners and I cried the first time I read it,” said Lenart, who has pioneered a distinctive 3-D style of illustration using needle-felted wool. “I think everyone knows someone, whether family, friend, or pet, who has struggled with the disease and the story paints a picture of how the struggle can be eased with the help of a true friend.”

Cute chipmunks are among the many animal creations available by Claudia Marie Lenart. – Claudia Lenart/Etsy

 Her reviews:

“Jewel Kats and Claudia Marie Lenart accomplished the unimaginable by telling an important and moving story in just a few mesmerizing pages,” says psychologist Dr. Laurie Zelinger in her endorsement of Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer.

“Once in a lifetime, a lucky publisher may find an artistic collaboration that communicates emotion and ideas in a way that grabs your heart and won’t let go.  For me, the teaming of textile artist Lenart and children’s author Kats is both unforgettable and bittersweet because of the unexpected and devastating loss of Jewel Kats’ unique voice in early 2016,” says publisher Victor R. Volkman of the Loving Healing Press.

Lenart said she pitched aside her longtime journalism career to focus on her love, actually her two loves – animals and creating handwork. “The animals I create and sell in my Etsy shop are a reflection of my own deep love of nature and wildlife,” she said. “I love seeing the wool come to life. I love doing the book illustrations because it is such a creative process, imagining the pages of the book and how to best interpret the text. My illustrations show a lot of emotion.

Beyond that, what really keeps me going is the reaction I get from people who buy the books. I am amazed by how deeply people are affected by my work.”

Hansel and Gretel published in 2014
A twist on the classic Hansel & Gretel was illustrated by Lenart and published in 2014. – Loving Healing Press

In 2014 Lenart illustrated another of Kats’ books titled: Hansel and Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist. This book as well as Jenny & Her Dog Both Fight Cancer are available on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Claudia-Marie-Lenart/e/B01E4HTKOQ.

About the Illustrator:

Claudia Marie Lenart, a longtime Lake County resident who was born and raised in Chicago, is a fiber artist who works in needle felting. She is also a book illustrator, using her unique talent to create soft, dream-like character sculptures out of natural fibers including alpaca. She gets the soft look by repeatedly poking the fibers with a barbed needle. Her other techniques include wet felting and pressed wool painting. See her work by visiting https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClaudiaMarieFelt .

Lenart is working on other projects with Loving Healing Press where she will be both author and illustrator.



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