Woolly tales: Eszter Burghardt is needle-felting her childhood memories into art

This Vancouver artist is turning fables of the Hungarian forest into bedtime stories about Canadian wildlife.

'This is a story about my childhood and my kids' childhood...a tale of our history'

Eszter Burghardt. (CBC Arts)

Vancouver-based artist Eszter Burghardt spent her childhood summers outdoors, along the Danube River in Hungary. Her world was filled with nature and animals (and some trepidation that came from her mother's stories about wild boars in the forest). And these memories have informed her latest work, Esti Mese: Sculptures from a Bedtime Story​ — a collection of needle-felted characters taken from her recollections and her travels from Hungary to Canada.

Watch the video:

Vancouver artist Eszter Burghardt is turning fables of the Hungarian forest into bedtime stories about Canadian wildlife 3:26

The series is also a way for her to tell bedtime stories to her young twins and teach them about their family history. For instance, in Esti Mese, the felted characters travel from the Hungarian forest to the Canadian wilderness, encountering the wildlife of their new country in Northern British Columbia and the Arctic.

Wool is a main character in Burghardt's work — it's the material her animals are crafted from, and it's inspired by her own travels. The artist spent a summer in Reykjavik, Iceland for a residency a few years ago, and she was struck by the presence of sheep dotting the landscape. Back in Vancouver, she found a local farm breeding Icelandic sheep, and using their wool has become a way for her to keep the Icelandic landscape close to her.

Detail of "Wooly Magma" by Eszter Burghardt. (Courtesy of the artist)
Eszter Burghardt with one of her sheep companions. (CBC Arts)

Follow Eszter Burghardt here.

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.

About the Author

Lisa Wu is a filmmaker and photographer on the unceded, occupied territories of the Coast Salish peoples. She’s interested in stories that show the intersection between art and social change. Working to keep B.C. beautiful, she’s part of a movement to #stopkm and to #protectourcoast.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.