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Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Dawn Waters left her job working at an art school to pursue her own unique style of art here in St. Pete. She developed her craft using fibers, including wool, and felting needles to create realistic portraits that are often mistaken for paintings. Her work can be seen at Brenda McMahon Gallery in Gulfport, as well as on her website and Instagram, or by appointment in her Gulfport home studio.

Years in Tampa Bay


Hustle (job)


What do you do?  

I paint portraits with fiber. I use a felting needle and fiber, usually wool, to create realistic "paintings." I have more recently begun painting with paint also.

Why do you do it?

It's become a passion, the likes of which I've never known. When I'm felting, I lose track of time and do not think about the world and its problems. I'm completely obsessed with what I'm working on.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

I worked as communications director for an art school and nearly every day a coworker would bring in felted wearables that she made. She taught me the method and then I learned about the felting needle. A few years ago, after I left this job, I began experimenting. I had never made a portrait, nor had I seen one made of fiber, and I had never painted (although I've long dabbled in crafts), but kept at it with fiber and the felting needle until the likenesses were recognizable.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

Although I worked at an art school, I never took art classes (I regret that now) and people sometimes ask about my art schooling. I learned at the School of Mistakes. Most people assume my fiber paintings are painted. I explain they're made with wool, needle-felted by hand - like tattooing with fiber. People still think there's paint applied at the end. There's not. I promise.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

The most challenging part isn't in the making, although that's no piece of cake, it's having galleries, curators and buyers understand what my medium is, especially when they see photos online. Conveying the tactile nature is a continual challenge.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

The most valuable insight I've been given is to create art that I need and want to make - not art that I think will sell or please others. I've found when I do this, it often finds a buyer anyway.

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