Part 1: History - Who are you and what physical path has your life taken?
I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, the second oldest of four children in a middle class household. I attended public school in the west end of Toronto. As a young child, I loved crafts – give me some paper, scissors, glue, and a few Popsicle sticks, and I was a happy child! I caught the travel bug in my high school years, earning money working as a waitress to fund school trips to Italy and Hawaii. I hated piano lessons as a young child but discovered my love of music in high school as a flautist in the band. At one point, I seriously thought about a career in music but decided that I did not want to become a starving artist.
I loved school and always knew I would attend university. I was enrolled in my freshman year at university studying math and science when I discovered that I really wanted to be an engineer. I graduated with my Chemical Engineering degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario in 1980. I accepted a job with a large oil company in Calgary, Alberta, and moved out west to work on the Cold Lake mega-project. My early jobs were in process design and project engineering.
I met my husband working as a summer student at a chemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario. He also accepted an engineeringjob with the same company. We were married in 1982 and bought our first house that same year. Our children came along a little later after completing our field assignment in Cold Lake, Alberta. Our daughter, Pam, was born in 1989, and our son, Chris, was born two years later in 1991. Both of our children were born in Calgary. I believe they are the best part of me. Many happy vacations were spent with family at my in-law’s farm near Harrington, Ontario, and their beachside condo in Navarre, Florida.
In 1997, we accepted a three-year expatriate work assignment with Exxon and moved to Houston, Texas. My work at this stage of my career focused on major project development and included travel to Alaska, England, Norway, Peru and Nigeria. After a few years, we bought a house in a Houston suburb called Spring. My love for gardening blossomed in this house and I spent many hours in our garden carefully tending exotic plants year round. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. I was fortunate to be detected early - my treatment was successful. I took up running with my daughter when she was in high school. After doing the 5 and 10 k circuit for a few years, we took the leap and completed two half-marathons in Houston and San Antonio. It was not our original plan, but we spent 14 happy years living and working in Houston.
We were repatriated back to Calgary in 2011. We lived in a downtown condo with sweeping views of the Bow River and the Canadian Rockies. I retired a year later, and took my Master Gardener certification at the Calgary Zoo and volunteered as a gardener at a historic house. I became a serious yoga student with a yoga studio just a block from our condo. When my husband retired, we moved to St. Marys, a small town in southwestern Ontario, to be closer to family. We bought a 130-yr old historic Victorian house with a large yard and gardens. This house gave me the studio I always wanted.
My interest in fiber art began when I started making traditional pieced quilts in the mid-1980. I took a class at a local quilt shop in Calgary and never looked back. During my years in Houston, I attended the International Quilt Festival every year, and registered for as many classes as I could. These classes exposed me to many different techniques taught by world class artists. I have also attended Art Quilt Tahoe and Nancy Crow Barn workshops several times. These experiences influenced my creative process, transitioning my work from traditional quilting into fiber art.
Part 2: Process - How do you work and what do you love to do?
One of the reasons I was initially drawn to the quilt medium is texture. I love to run my hand across an antique quilt that I own, drawn to the exquisite texture created by those tiny even stitches of thread pulled repeatedly through the layers of fabric and batting by creative hands. I never tire of it.
As my work has evolved into the fiber art genre, I like to think of my pieces as layers of texture. I use different types of fabric – cotton, silk, linen, sheers - both commercial and hand dyed. My fabrics create the first layer of texture and are often machine pieced – one of the elements of the quilting art form that I love to do. This forms the skeleton that supports the layers that follow.
Thread work is an integral part of my art and connects the fabric elements using stitch. Free motion machine quilted stitching is used to introduce another textural element to the piece. The intent of the quilted stitch is to support the theme of the piece rather than provide a separate decorative element. Hand and embroidery stitches contribute my own distinctive marks to the piece. Different weights and sheens of thread are used to introduce an additional layer of texture - and sometimes a splash of color!
I have started to introduce different surface design techniques into recent work. Often the fabric itself is manipulated using discharge, rust, paper lamination, or monoprinting with thickened dyes. Text may be introduced but in an understated fashion to introduce pattern. Paint or ink can also be added to highlight specific details. This is an area that I continue to experiment with and believe I can use these tools to make my fiber art distinctive.
Part 3: Content - What do you care about?
My creative process begins with images or an experience that inspires me and speaks to my heart.
My personal relationship with nature resonates with me and presents imagery for my art. An image of the mature larch tree in my garden with its unique winter profile and branches dotted with pine cones, the caterpillar that arrived in a bunch of Italian parsley then changes into a Swallowtail butterfly, and the baby crow that fell out of a nest and onto my patio are some of the images that dwell in my memory and inspire my art.
I have always been a huge fan of Tom Thomson the Group of Seven. I discovered these artists in a middle school art class. They are best known for their paintings inspired by their Canadian wilderness experiences delivered in their own distinctive painting style. I admire the control of color and the texture of the distinctive brush strokes. Just gazing at Tom Thomson’s painting ‘Northern River’ captures my early childhood experiences in Algonquin Park. Their art inspires me.
I love to travel and I constantly photograph images I see that connect with me personally. I am drawn to architectural elements - the shapes, the lines, the patterns and the textures. I also love to capture my seaside experiences on film – the colors of the ocean, the movement of the cresting waves, the sparkle of the sun on the water and sailboats bobbing on the horizon. My photos provide valuable clues to visually discern what matters to me as an artist.