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

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.

Click on the thumbnails below for a large image aspect.

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 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.

One Response to Laurie Swim – On the Cutting Edge of Quilted Art

  1. Mary Beth Donovan says:


    I visited your studio/gallery a few weeks ago and bought both your books, plus three of your giclee prints. Larry was there and spoke with me and signed “Rags to Riches” as well. To say I was enthralled with your work is putting it mildly! I am also an art quilter, but with no formal art training and far fewer years of experience. I have had some formal training in photography and have begun working from my images. I don’t know whether you would consider having me visit and observe you working, but that would be an amazing experience. I loved Lunenburg and Blue Rocks and plan to return for a longer stay (I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan). All the best to you and Larry, Mary Beth

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