Browsing Category

Artist Interviews

Artist Interviews, Writing

New Writing: A Wardrobe for Wellness

One of my greatest writing joys of the past few years was being able to contributing to Works That Work, a magazine of unexpected creativity. Works That Work published articles focused on the impact of design, and the many ways that we perceive and react towards design.

Changing the Hospital Experience through Fashion

I wrote a final article for Issue No. X. My profile “A Wardrobe for Wellness” explores the work of Molly Bonnell, an emerging designer. During her studies at Parsons’ School of Design, Molly designed a line of fashion called ‘Hospital Hacks.’ The line has been designed to facilitate medical treatments. Her clothing subverts the idea that patients must wear clothing that do not work for them. It strives to reclaim positive experiences of dignity, comfort, and pride in the patient experience.

I expect to hear great things about Molly and her work in the future. You can read the full story on how she developed Hospital Hacks online at Works That Work.

The final issue No. X can be ordered here, along with remaining back issues.

Artist Interviews, Gallery

Dreamy Threads by Amanda McCavour

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.

textile boat
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

Artist Interviews, Speaking Engagements

Chat with me!

Let’s talk about fibre, textiles, gender, craftivism, design, art, high-brow vs low-brow, and story-telling of all sorts!

This Sunday, October 26th, I will be the guest artist/author at FibreArts Now online chat FANFARE! I hope you’ll joining editor Cami Smith and I for a lively discussion, and I will be answering questions live via the internets.  The chat will start at 12 pm noon PST / 3 pm EST.


FAN Fare is a free, online, interactive, web show devoted to inspiring and connecting the fiber arts community. Every month, FAN Fare will give viewers the opportunity to actively participate in the program and ask questions while watching the live show. The host, Cami Smith, has been involved with Fiber Art Now since it first started. She has been building the FAN community and connecting with artists and authors for three years.

If you attended a stop on my recent book tour and have a question you didn’t get to ask then, please jump in! If you didn’t live in any of the cities we visited, I hope that we’ll meet online Sunday. During my recent book tour, I left each conversation in each city with ton of ideas that I wanted to hash out further, so I’m really excited to do this with Cami this weekend.


How to Participate

There are two ways you can enjoy FAN Fare: either by joining the live program or watching it later, at your convenience.

1. Attend the FAN Fare program. Watch live, and use the chat or question box to follow along with the conversation of the other viewers. You will be able to participate with questions or comments.
2. Watch the recorded episode. Check back here to see the archived episodes for topics of interest, and watch as many as you like. Archives will appear on the page.


For those of you who are looking for a recap of our MASSIVE East Coast tour, I promise that I will sit down this Saturday and provide one epic update of photos and stories. Jet-lag and catch-up at home has gotten the better of me, and I want to do it when I feel refreshed (aka not running off to my day job).


Artist Interviews, History

Poet & abolitionist Lucy Larcom

“I defied the machinery to make me its slave. Its incessant discords could not drown the music of my thoughts if I would let them fly high enough.” – Lucy Larcom, poet, abolitionist, former child mill worker.

Today I’m editing an interview that I did with Diane Bush, a Las Vegas photo journalist and artist who is bringing textiles into her art practice in remarkable ways.

As we chatted, Diane cited one of her early photography influences as Lewis W. Hine, who helped to bring awareness of child factory work at the beginning of the last century. His photographs are chilling, and not a far off reminder of today’s news reports of the horrific working conditions and deathly outcomes that overseas workers are experiencing as a result of the North American ‘fast fashion‘ syndrome.

Cotton mill, early 1900's. Photograph taken by Lewis L. Hine.

Cotton mill, early 1900’s. Photograph taken by Lewis W. Hine.

While Hine’s photographs were an important tool for social reform, few details were recorded about the young children who looked into his camera – often they provided their ages, how long they had worked in the factory, and that they worked at night but little is known of their individual histories.

Lucy Larcom reading

Poet Lucy Larcom

One survivor of the textile mills was poet Lucy Larcom (1824-1893) who worked in the Lowell textile mills with her sisters from age 11. During this time, she became a published poet and in her twenties she went onto a successful writing career, well published in her lifetime. At the end of her years, she wrote her biography A New England Girlhood, Outlined from Memory (1889) which detailed her accounts of gender and labour in turn of the century New England.

“I weave, and weave, the livelong day:

The woof is strong, the warp is good:

I weave, to be my mother’s stay;

I weave, to win my daily food:

But ever as I weave,” saith she,

“The world of women haunteth me.

–excerpt from Weaving, a poem by Lucy Larcom

The legacy of Lewis W. Hine’s body of work inspired laws against child labour in the United States, and this practice has been adopted in most Western Country with child labor laws, though we should still question where the cloth we purchase comes from and what conditions it is created under. Both labour and environmental waste are two large areas of concern and study in contemporary mills.

A body of Lewis W. Hine’s work can be seen at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. Lucy Larcom’s work can be read at The Poetry Foundation website.

Artist Interviews, Textiles

Amanda Browder: Cascading Mississauga

Brooklyn-based Amanda Browder is an artist who creates large, playful installations with fabric.  She recently created a site-specific work for Mississauga City Hall this past September as part of F’d Up! an exhibition with the Art Gallery of Mississauga, on until November 9. F’d Up! explores directions in fibre-based art that creates a ‘radical vocabulary around material invention and sculptural ambitions’.

Amanda kindly answered a few questions about this new work.

What inspired your installation work Cascading Mississauga?

I was inspired by the City Hall building of Mississauga. The Great Hall is extremely rectilinear and I wanted to make a piece that reacted to its strong structure. The cascading shape uses architectural forms that are symmetrical but curved, hopefully creating a softer yet statuesque sculpture that is more inviting. Conceptually I wanted to parallel the uniqueness of how my work is built by a collective of volunteers, paralleling the community aspect of Mississauga city government.

This art piece debuted in Brooklyn, and now is coming to Canada. I understand that you have roots in both places. How will this change or not change when it is migrating across borders?

The piece is constructed in Brooklyn, yet is made specifically for this space. New fabric and new construction. There are 905 pieces of fabric used, paralleling the area code of Mississauga and has included many donated pieces of fabric from the region as an homage to the location. We were not able to have public sewing days as part of this piece, but that is a regular aspect of my work.

Your work inspires play and community engagement. Tell me about this.

I find it important to remind people how important it is to support fine art in our communities. It is traditionally the first department to be cut of funding and is regularly discussed as a hobby vs. a practice. I find it important that my works are in the public sphere because it lends to the regular conversations about art making, sculpture and creativity as an everyday practice. I find also showing in the public sphere outside the museums and galleries as a way to connect with my local community who is housing my work. Connecting, discussing and laughing about how this piece relates to each viewers own creative experience makes me feel as if I am doing my part as an artist to encourage art as a comfortable topic of discussion and hopefully remind viewers how good it makes them feel to engage.

Why use fibre for this piece? What is inherent about cloth that is appealing to you as an artist working with concepts of landscape and space?

Fabric has so many inherent attributes that are positive in working with pieces that are large scale. Because my work is about shift in scale, the fabric connects with people in many ways. It is a material that encourages people to find patterns they might remember from their own personal histories, and see the impact that it can create when it is put in a large scale piece. Fiber has a private element to it, it is found in homes, clothing, etc. we all see it somewhere personal. I hope to create works that bolster that comparison between the public and the private. Large scale fabric works break free of the “craftiness” and “traditional women’s work” and encourage the boldness that the sculptures demand in an architectural realm. Large scale items take collaboration, and I hope that the fabric is a physical reminder of how that is evident in the work and in life.

Amanda Browder

Is there anything else you’d like to tell me that I haven’t asked?

I have a second piece that is located in The Art Gallery of Mississauga called Future Phenomena. Here you will be able to see a piece that I made for the community of Greenpoint, Brooklyn (my current home) and how large/small it is when it’s folded. There will be an image of the piece installed next to the actual piece. I am so happy to be able to show in a gallery that is located in a federal building. It makes Mississauga unique and a fantastic place to be.

To learn more about Cascading Mississagua, click here.