Artist Interviews

What’s Next for Jennifer Cooper


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.

textile boat

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

Books, Creativity, Ecourse, Uncategorized, Writing Life

Mixing It Up in 2015

Bang by Ai Wei Wei at the Vancouver Art Gallery, December 2014. A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

I gave up making New Years Resolutions a few years ago. Instead, I’ve adopted a theme word for each year – last year’s word was JOY (and amid the ups and downs of life, there was a lot of it) and this year’s word is STRETCH. For me this means trying new things, taking on projects that I haven’t done before, and expanding the limits of my comfort zone.

Over the next few months, I’ll be filling my time with some exciting projects, including:

  1. Changing my e-newsletters to come out every two weeks. Not on the list? You can sign up here. I started to publish to my list monthly this past fall but lost momentum over the holidays. With blogging and e-newsletter writing, my biggest hurdle is not keeping up the habit. This year I really want to prove to myself that I can do this. 35 newsletters – here we come! (the next one comes out tomorrow – January 4th!)
  2. A website redesign – my current site is not reflecting my goals and interests. I’ll be doing gradual updates over the next month. Keep your eye out for changes. While my focus has been primarily on textiles and street art, I intend to start blogging more about design, making, and the intersection of culture with all of these things that we touch and make by hand.
  3. My first e-course! Launching February 1, I’ll be sending out a weekly prompt via STITCHED STORIES to inspire stories for textiles, or textile stories (as you wish). The course will run for 12 weeks and this first session will be free. Let’s write together, it will be fun. I’m limiting this run to 50 people tops, so sign up early.
  4. An ideation class  – I’m taking a night class at a local design program on brainstorming ideas, and I’ll share what I learn as I go. I’m looking at getting a fresh perspective on how to generate new ideas. Plus, I’m super-excited to be around young graphic designers again.
  5. Sewing clothes and trying to figure out my new Serger. I may need your help figuring this one out.

It seemed like 2014 was a mixed bag for many people I know, and there is a feeling of optimism about the coming year. 2015 – I think you are going to be a good one.

Did you receive Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles as a holiday gift? Drop me a comment on this post and let me know what you think of it!

And, thanks to the Surface Design Association for naming Strange Material a must-have book for 2014. I’m honoured!

Speaking Engagements

Booking Myself for 2015


I’ve been offline the last couple of weeks as I’ve been tidying, and brainstorming, and sketching out some NEW (to be revealed next year) projects, which take a certain amount of quiet time alone to develop. Yesterday I finally cleaned up my linen closet, which sounds boring, but was actually a revelation for me. I received an advance notice of rent increase from my landlord last week, which reminded me that I’ve been in my current apartment for 10 months. It feels like I moved in about six weeks ago, so organizing the closet and getting rid of my last unpacked boxes really felt good. I’m looking forward to 2015 with less clutter and more time to make things without following a specific schedule.

Since making a dress from Sonya Philips’ 100 Acts of Sewing last month, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of making clothing again. I really love the idea of a uniform of one flattering dress made in a bunch of different fabrics. I adore clothes, but as I got older and my life becomes busier, what I really enjoy is not having to think too much about what to wear. My closet purge has me thinking a lot about simplicity and having less but better choices (which is somewhat ironic, as while I’ve really whittled down my personal possessions in the last few years, I actually made my first Black Friday purchase ever this year – a serger, to help me sew clothing). I’m intending to start sewing on a regular basis this year. I’m pretty excited that Colette Patterns has introduced a new magazine called Seamwork, that focuses on projects that can be sewn in 2-3 hours. I’ve been a big fan of their work for some time, I’m looking forward to see what else they come up with for projects.

And in book life, I’ve agreed to participate in a couple of events in 2015, including a new art and textile conference called Pieces: Celebrating Textiles, which will take place in Courtenay, BC this coming March.

Pieces: Celebrating Textiles is an event that focuses on the creativity involved in hand work, new ways of using materials and Slow Fashion. Pieces offers a tapestry of lively discussions, demonstrations, fashion show offs and vendors, complemented by makers, musings, mending, food, and more. I’ll be speaking on storytelling & textiles on March 29th. To register and learn more, visit the Pieces: Celebrating Textiles website.