Barbara Posey ’68

By Ann Muder

Barbara Posey ’68 can bring fairy tales to life using just a needle and wool. As a needle felt artist, she creates 3D characters in displays that are featured in art shows — an elephant doing an arabesque, a donkey playing accordion, a cat playing clarinet, and a juggling kangaroo family.

Posey is a member of the Artful Dimensions Gallery in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the only 3D gallery in Virginia. A lifelong artist, she discovered needle felt art in 2007 and has been using it to create worlds of characters ever since.

“It’s like magic to see a shape coming out of a shapeless mass, to see a personality emerge from a wad of wool,” she says. “I draw a lot of inspiration from folklore, so my work has always had an element of story.”

Before she discovered needle felt art, her main medium was a pencil and paper. Growing up in Kentucky, Posey loved to draw starting from the age of 2. Her parents encouraged her love of the arts, taking trips to museums and filling their home with music, paint palettes, Crayola crayons, and art books.

After graduation, she enrolled at Christian College in art and English, with the goal to someday write and illustrate books. While at Christian College she studied under Sid Larson, a prominent artist and inspirational teacher in the school’s art department.

Posey, a National Merit Scholar, says her parents chose Christian College for her. But if she had to do it all again, she says of any college in the world, she would always choose the school where Larson was.

Barbara Posey ’68 in Venice

“He was the kind of teacher you’re lucky to encounter once in your life,” she says. “He was a gifted artist, but also loved teaching. He loved his students. We knew we could trust what he found in us.”

In the 1960s, Larson restored the Thomas Hart Benton murals in the House Lounge of the Missouri Capitol building, and several times during the project, he allowed up to two students to accompany and assist him. Posey was one of those students and remembers a time they were on a scaffold as the security guard was bringing around tours.

“We were working on a mural section depicting a train robbery. The guard didn’t see us. As he talked about the mural, he told the group, ‘Behind me, over the door, is the Jesse James gang,’ and we waved to the tourists, which made them all laugh.”

Through the years, Posey has kept in touch with her Christian College roots. She regularly meets with a group of former classmates who lived in St. Clair Hall on the third floor in what was known as HOP Alley. “Sometimes years go by, but when we all get together, it’s like no time has passed,” she says. “It feels like we’re all back in the dorm.”

After Posey graduated from Christian College, she got married and continued her education, receiving an art degree from George Washington University. She worked in graphic design for 35 years, starting with small printshops. “It was the days of X-acto blades and lightboxes,” she says. “When computers came, it was a paradigm shift for the graphics world.”

Posey worked in graphic design for years in the Washington, D.C., area before moving with her husband, Bob, to Fredericksburg where they worked from home as contractors for Fanny Mae. Later, Bob started another position, while Barbara became a caregiver for her father, a retired physician. After he passed away in 2008, she began to get more involved with needle felt art.

Needle felt artwork by Barbara Posey ’68

She joined a workshop on needle felting and then took private lessons to learn more about the technique. When her instructor moved, Posey kept learning as much as she could, reading books on needle felting while practicing techniques. At the time, it was hard to get the tools needed, she says. “Now, it’s much easier. There are serious, reputable vendors available online and at fiber festivals. Even Michael’s carries some of the materials and tools, though in a very limited way.”

In 2012, a neighbor of Posey’s helped found the Artful Dimensions Gallery with the idea of having a place that could showcase 3D art. Posey became one of the first members to join. “Most art galleries are devoted to what you can hang on a wall, so three-dimensional artists have a hard time showing their work,” she says. “Our gallery shows a wide range of work, including metals, ceramics, wood work and fibers.”

In Fredericksburg, Posey says she’s been fortunate to work with a welcoming community of artists. “It’s a small but vibrant art community that’s inclusive to everyone,” she says. “It’s been a wonderful place to make friends. They welcome everyone with open arms and celebrate art in every form.”

For more information on Posey’s work with the Artful Dimensions Gallery, visit https://artfuldimensionsgallery.com/.

Barbara Posey ’68 with her needle felt artwork