Still longer than 3 paragraphs, and sounding a little more “full of it” than I would like. More edits needed.
Change is the constant in my life. The quiet, empty prairies and plains of Nebraska and Texas, the history-laden environs of Germany and France, the hustle and bustle of the Chicago and Toronto, the tropical warmth of the Caribbean, and the pastoral countryside of rural Ontario, have all been home. I relish their diversity of environment and culture, even their extremes. Embracing difference, and striving to welcome change, has certainly influenced me and is a source of inspiration and direction in my art.
A few early experiences were, I believe, the foundation for my love of textiles. At age five, I luxuriated for months in a “Cinderella” gown fashioned by my grandmother from an old orange and white silk parachute. At six, I explored Versailles and was spell-bound by the Queens Bedroom, its opulent tapestries and embroidered silks. Among my family – from great-grandparents on down – were talented needle workers and hobbyist painters. From an young age, I was sewing and thoroughly caught up in many facets of visual arts and design.
My academic studies and work have included printmaking, fashion, textile history and conservation, interior design, graphic and exhibit design. It took many years and a few institutions to acquire the knowledge, skills and confidence to finally identify myself as an artist. Currently, I work as the curator of a community museum, which holds a tremendous textile collection, and my home studio includes facilities for printmaking and fibre art.
In the past ten years, my work has been shown work in more than 30 exhibitions, including one solo exhibition, and has received juror’s choice awards. I have work in private collections, and in the permanent collections of the Great Lakes Quilt Centre at Michigan State University Museum and at the University of Waterloo. In 2010, I worked as a textile conservation consultant at the Baha’i World Centre, a World Heritage Site, in Israel. As a member of local and international guilds and arts organizations, I assist in developing exhibitions, creating promotional materials, and have acted as a juror.
I’m impatient. I love to work late at night. I (usually) enjoy the surprise of experimentation. Inspiration and ideas often come from musical or written/poetic sources – stories – the every-day and the dramatic. Visual inspiration comes from ephemeral events – how light falls, or an unexpected colour juxtaposition. I prefer to record brief written overall concepts, but I don’t often use sketches except where I might lose track of an idea.
Grids, pattern repetition, juxtapositions or gradations of colour, and silhouettes are part of my compositions. With textiles, my preference is to work improvisationally, experimenting and building layouts until I feel I have found the right way to convey the concept. In printmaking, there is more structure, and the concept needs to be more solid. Using collagraph plates and printing on muslin, I can create beautiful textures and patterns. And they are more environmentally friendly than etchings. I do love the physicality of printing, the sound of ink on rollers, or wiping ink off plates, running them through the press, revealing the final print. The surprise comes in subtle differences revealed in each print, and in results of combining multiple images. Hand dyeing, piecing, working with scraps and leftovers are favourite processes. Dense hand stitching which alters or moderates the underlying fabrics is something I’m drawn to because of its slow, quiet, meditative nature.
In my “spare time”, I collect vintage quilt tops, the rougher the better. I cherish the stories that are told in the work and patterns of a utility quilt – frugality, necessity, an imagined history.
Understanding why one cares about something, reveals a clearer understanding of the “what”. In considering what I truly care about, what I want to express in my work, I believe it comes down to one thing – Connection. I believe my passions and inspirations – history, material culture, ancestry, family, human rights, oneness/diversity/contrasts – express a desire to be connected. The complex nature of the diversity of humanity, of its history, of the need to express, through struggle and celebration, the uniqueness of a people or culture, can best be appreciated when there is a longing to be connected to it. That connection is often built or expressed through art and craft. Perhaps the same is true for individuals and for their aspirations. How are we connected? Are there connections of the soul – between souls, to the spirit world, across time. And how can we know? Perhaps this is where my current intrigue with the concept of light comes in to play. Light brings understanding, eliminates the dark, reveals and makes connections possible.
And in a life of constant change, delightful as it can be, connections can be tenuous, but they are vital.