Jennifer Cooper: 1/ 3 scale of a cod fishing dory with a stitched story about the Newfoundland dory fishermen. Photos used with permission of the artist.
Textile artist Jennifer Cooper’s work Prayer Flags for Ernie Cooper is featured in my latest book Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles. She works with two and three dimensional textiles, hand-dyeing and history. Though her days are currently filled with caring for aging family members, she tries to fit art-making into her busy life.
I asked her three questions:
Q: What do you want to make next?
A: I want to make another 3D boat based on my family’s involvement with commercial and sport fishing. Our family had one of those car-top aluminum rowboats. Growing up with three brothers and a father who enjoyed sports fishing, and a grandfather who was a commercial fisherman/owner of a Seine boat means that the fish swim in my blood.
I’ve collected tons of family photos that I’ll transfer to fabric, I’ve already planned the boat’s construction, planning to hand-dye an old linen tablecloth of my grandmother’s greyish / aluminum. This is a tablecloth that many family meals were enjoyed upon. I just need the time to get started.
And, once it is done, I’m mulling around creating a series of vessels that served to build Canada … the Viking longboat that brought the first Europeans, a Voyageur’s canoe, an Inuit kayak, maybe a Red River cart, a Haida canoe … all made so that pictures and words that tell the story of the boat / cart and how it served to create Canada, are integrated in to their construction.
Q: Where are you getting your inspiration these days?
A: The cod fishers’ dory was a big hit when exhibited. And, it was the first time my Dad actually took an interest in any of my art pieces. He was impressed that I had built a boat.
A group of friends and I mounted a gallery show titled Architextile. The six of us each created five works for display … thus 30 pieces for an exhibition. My take on the theme was to create pieces based on the Atlantic codfish. The instrumental builder of Canada, it was the cod that the Vikings were following from Norway to Iceland to Greenland to the Grand Banks off of Newfoundland. It was the cod that brought the Basques fishers, then the English (with John Cabot) and eventually the French.
I like to research and learn things in my process of making, so making these boats would definitely serve those interests, too. It’s not just about the finished product, I love the whole process behind the making.
Q: What other contemporary artist/designer/maker inspires you?
A: Linzi Upton, a quilter and creator living in Scotland
Sue Benner, who loves to paint dyes on fabrics to create fabulous surface designs
Pat Pauly’s abstract creations combining unlikely patterns of hand made and commercially designed cloth
Kerr Gabrowski’s fearless use of deconstructed screenprinting
Jane Davies abstract playfulness and use of colour