Artist Interviews, Gallery

Dreamy Threads by Amanda McCavour

Neon Bloom, a beautiful installation by Amanda McCavour at the Comox Valley Art Gallery

A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

Sometimes you see something that takes your breath away. Last weekend, I got to see a gorgeous piece by Toronto-based artist Amanda McCavour at the Comox Valley Art Gallery, on Vancouver Island where I grew up. This morning, I remembered where I knew Amanda from – we both have been interviewed by Cami Smith from Fibre Art Now!

And, be sure to check out Amanda’s website, it is full of stunning things.


Making a Thing a Day


If you read my newsletter, you  know that I’m taking a design course right now. My course is on the subject of ideation or idea development, and as part of our homework, I have to do a ‘thing a day’ project.

What is a ‘thing a day’? It is a project where you make something every single day, regardless of whether you feel prepared do so or not.

Some of my classmates are making short videos, others are doing illustrations, and some are doing interviews. As my schedule is always jam-packed, I decided to pick up a project that I started a long time ago and then quit – I am taking a photo of a sign around my workplace in the Chinatown/Gastown/Downtown Eastside part of Vancouver. The reason why I chose to photograph signage is that I think that these small letterforms say so much, indirectly, about the changing-nature of my city.

The neighbourhood that I work in has been undergoing rapid gentrification for the last five years. It has been an interesting experience to watch it all happen from my office window. Housing for those with low income have been refaced into high-end condos, services for those in need have been turned into high end nail salons and baby stores, artist studios have morphed into sexy, empty loft spaces which no-one can seem to afford to rent.

Pictures of signs

Pictures from my #SignADay project.

I’ve taken on intense projects, but this is the first time that I’ve committed myself to making something visual every single day. I’m about a third of a way through the project right now and I’m learning about myself and how I approach my creative projects.Some days when I’m feeling resistant, I end up coming up with my favourite stuff, and some days when I’m feeling ‘I got this’, I end up terribly disappointed with the results. But when I look back at the last four weeks, I’m proud of myself for showing up every day – whether the photo turned out well or not. Sometimes it was pouring or I didn’t go to work, so I had to draw a picture of a sign – and despite not liking what I made, I had to post it. There is a special kind of magic in making things in large quantities. I’m finding that you can learn a lot about making by just showing up – over and over again.

More pictures from my #SignADay project

More pictures from my #SignADay project

If you want to take a look at what I’ve been up to, you can see my project take shape at #SignADay over on Instagram. Not all of the photos are mine – the interesting thing about sharing things in public is that people join in and are now sending me photos by using the hasgtag. This has become a spontaneous extension of the project, and one that I’m enjoying a great deal.

At the end of 12 weeks, I’m going to be rearranging all of the photos that I’ve taken into either a bound book or a piece of graphic design. I’m not sure what form the end presentation will take, but each photo that I take has sparked different ways that I could summarize this project at the end.

Other people who have done Thing A Day projects:

Noah Scalin’s Skull A Day (2008)

Lisa Congdon’s Collection A Day (2010)

Jessica Hische’s Daily Dropcap (2009)


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