Rita St. Amant’s Art Is To Dye For

Rita St. Amant’s Art Is To Dye For

"Sunflower" - hand dyed, applique, free motion thread painting

As we journeyed across Canada in search of artists to interview we passed through many larger urban centres, but mostly we came across the smaller towns as we traversed the roads less traveled. Willow Bunch in south central Saskatchewan was one such destination; a small town steeped in history, from its celebrated native son, giant and strongman Édouard Beaupré, to its connections to Jean-Louis Légaré and the famous Sioux leader Sitting Bull. It was here, in this pretty little town nestled within a small valley that we met up with fibre and mixed media artist Rita St. Amant.

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With a little trepidation we left Assiniboia and headed for Willow Bunch; Rita warning us of crater-sized potholes in the road that could swallow up our beloved 25 year old van Arty, or at the very least deliver a concussive blow. Also, Rita thought that her interview was for the day before our planned arrival. As it turned out our faithful chariot made it there in one piece and Rita was also still there, waiting for us with some carrot and zucchini cake, to be chased down with coffee and tea. So far so good.

"Big Muddy Valley" - needle felting

“Big Muddy Valley” – needle felting

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Descending to Rita’s basement studio and gallery one might think of a dark workplace devoid of natural light, but the multitudes of brightly coloured fabrics in every corner and space defy any gloom, and instead greeted our eyes with gusto. Some fabrics rest in their completed forms as quilted art pieces, silks or scarves, while others are waiting to be transformed into her next idea. Rita hand dyes most of her own fabrics with very little usage of commercial product, and will employ different techniques to do so. She uses an ancient Japanese fabric dyeing technique called shibori; a method which can involve folding the fabric in certain configurations or also wrapping it around a foam noodle before dyeing to create stunning patterns. She will also bind stones of differing sizes in the fabric with elastics to create other engaging designs. Varying effects are also created with the use of stenciling, a potato masher, and even used dryer sheets. Rita’s imagination reveals that there are endless possibilities for textile art and the mixed media that one can employ.

"Saskatchewan Tiger Lily" - hand painted on silk

“Saskatchewan Tiger Lily” – hand painted on silk

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Rita related to us that she has always wanted to be an artist, loving to draw as a little girl and then also moving into painting. She was influenced by her parents, with her father enjoying drawing and her mother being very artistic and involved with various crafts. Her first interest into the world of fibre arts came when she was at an art exhibit and was fascinated by the textile arts of Martha Cole, who proved to be a huge influence for Rita. That sparked her initial foray into fibre art and she hasn’t looked back, with over ten years now of creating her own works of art. She notes that the feel of the cloth and the many varied forms of art one can do with it explains why she has taken to the textile arts, but also that the mixed media challenges her to grow and think outside the box. Though a self-taught artist, Rita enjoys the camaraderie that going to art retreats brings; sharing ideas and techniques with other artists.

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Rita and her husband love to travel in their motor-home, and it is on these excursions that they both indulge in their pastimes and passions. He scours the landscape with his metal detector searching for buried treasure in the form of coins, while Rita takes her fabric dyeing process on the road with her. Depending on the area that they find themselves in, Rita will also include what she finds in these natural surroundings to incorporate into her fabric patterns, such as using varieties of leaves and plants. So whether at home or on the road, Rita’s love for her natural surroundings and the colours and textures that it brings is always a source of awe and inspiration for her next project.

Learn more about Rita and her art work in our interview with her shown below. Feel free to share on social media and leave a comment below if you like.

Textile Artist Terry Phillips Brings Fibre to Life

Textile Artist Terry Phillips Brings Fibre to Life

I have to pinch myself everyday just to make sure I’m not dreaming!

April 23, 2013, another simply gorgeous day. The air has just the right amount of chill and the azure sky is soothing on my morning eyes. Today we will visit Terry Phillips at her home and studio, Hopespring Studio, on Quadra Island, B.C. Terry is our 81st interview since we began in August of 2011. I sometimes wonder if traveling and interviewing artists will become routine and just another day but it never does. It holds as much intrigue and excitement today as it did right from the start.

Terry Phillips at Hopespring Studio on Quadra Island, B.C.

Terry Phillips at Hopespring Studio on Quadra Island, B.C.

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Terry Phillips is a textile artist and watercolour painter. She started out making traditional block patterned quilts and painting on watercolour paper. A creative mind knows no boundaries though, and so one day Terry found herself combining textiles with paint. Her quilts began to transform from functional bedspreads to free flowing artistic textile art that would add a bounty of life to the loneliest of walls, and her paintings became an integral part of that process. When Gary and I were invited into her studio we were greeted with eye stopping pieces of art. Each piece stood out on it’s own; some for the colours, others for the texture, still others for the three dimensionality, and most with all three.

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Terry’s work is representative of all things intriguing to her. She admits that she would like to try to focus on developing her strengths in one or two areas rather than many. Her ideas come from everywhere. Her mind is open to whatever wants to come on in. I love her enthusiasm for her art. She has a child-like sense of awe and excitement combined with years of hard work and loving attention that is evident in her work.

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Textile art has opened up a whole new world of creative possibilities for Terry and she says she has only scratched the surface. There are so many different paints, fibres, techniques and materials that she incorporates into her pieces in layers upon layers. Everyday she gets to explore and stretch her imagination. What a wonderful way to live life!

Join us as Terry shares her enthusiasm and passion for textile art.

Warning: After watching this video you may want to start creating your own textile art!

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Laurie Swim – On the Cutting Edge of Quilted Art

Laurie Swim – On the Cutting Edge of Quilted Art

One would think that the best time to travel across Canada is when the sun is high in the northern hemisphere and winter is well behind and in front of you. A challenge we never anticipated was finding artists who had idle time on their hands. Summertime brings with it tourists and tourists bring cash. We arrived in Nova Scotia during the peak of tourist season and hadn’t been able to nail an artist to the wall until we were two thirds the way around the province!

Thankfully, Laurie Swim, a textile artist, in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia answered our e-mail. Now, this is not to say that Laurie wasn’t busy. When we arrived she was getting ready to travel the next day to a show along with a million other things she had on her list. Perhaps it was the ocean breeze or the glorious crystal clear day, and it may have been the case, but I never felt like we were just another item on her list to complete and check off.

Regaining Paradise
Laurie Swim
2012

When we walked into The Art Quilt Gallery of the Atlantic it was a jaw dropping experience for me. As with most people who think of quilts, I too thought of lovely symmetrical patterns and geometric shapes beautifully sewn together in straight and even stitches, handcrafted to wrap around yourself or your bed. I’ve even made one myself. Laurie uses fabric and quilted material but the similarities end there. She “paints” her quilted art. The fabric acts as the canvas and the paint, and the thread and the sewing machine act as the brush. You would be hard pressed to find any straight and even stitches in her work, and that is part of the magic of it all!

As with most artists, Laurie spends a great deal of time with her camera, shooting photos and collecting ideas to patch together a story of her own experiences, the culture of the people, and the landscape in Nova Scotia. Prior to their life together in Lunenberg, Laurie and her husband Larry lived in a small community just down the road, called Blue Rocks. Gary and I wanted to get a feel and appreciation for the place that had a major influence on Laurie’s work, so we traveled to the end of the road and there it was, Laurie’s quilted art just as we had saw it hanging in her gallery. I could see right away how inspiring this place can be; the smell of the salty air, the tiny boats bobbing in the bay, and only the sound of sea birds and waves nudging the blue rocks along the shore. It was peaceful beyond my imagination and hard not to fall in love with this place on a day such as this.

Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

Laurie has been a textile artist going on forty years and has poured her love into her work over this time. She has contributed her experience and expertise to community projects as well. She recalled while we were there the York Mill Subway Station Project in Toronto, Ontario, which consisted of about twenty-five volunteer quilters working together on Laurie’s design and under her tutelage creating a twenty foot long quilt titled “Breaking Ground” which hangs in the subway station as a memorial for the five Italian men who lost their lives in the Hogg’s Hollow Mine Disaster. The tragedy that occurred 50 years ago changed the labour laws in Ontario. Laurie finds great satisfaction in creating art that people will cherish for years to come, but it is projects such as these that hold a deep sense of fulfillment for her. She is able to contribute a powerful message and reminder in an art form that has held her passion for a long time.

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Laurie is also the author of three books on quilt art; The Joy of Quilting (1984), Quilting (1991) and Rags to Riches: The Quilt as Art (2007). Rags to Riches can be ordered through Laurie’s website or online through Amazon.ca. It will be out in October 2012 in paperback.

Learn more about Laurie Swim and her textile art in her interview below. We always welcome comments.