20 May 2017

The 2017 Grand National Exhibition features three SAQA Atlantic Canada pieces

Congratulations go out to Deb Plestid (Tatamagouche NS), Kate Madeloso (Wolfville NS) and Kathy Tidswell (Burtts Corner NB) each of whom has a quilt in The Grand National. 

This year, the Committee of The Grand National challenged quilters: to create a work of quilt art that captures the essence of their part of Canada – its history, its geography, its cultural diversity, its traditions... reasons for celebrating 150 years of our glorious nation.

This prestigious juried quilt show will be on display until September at the historic Joseph Schneider Haus in Kitchener-Waterloo. 

Deb Plestid's Winter at Balmoral Mills takes Curator's Choice Award

Winter at Balmoral Mills by Deb Plestid, 58" x 37"

DP: Crisp, clear, cold, woefully underrated wonderful white winter. ‘Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver.’ (My country is not a country, it is winter.), Gilles Vigneault.

Curator Susan Burke wrote:

For me, Winter at Balmoral Mills perfectly captures the spirit of the theme Oh! Canada… much as the singer-songwriter Gilles Vigneault has done in his unofficial Quebec anthem, Mon Pays.

Yes, many people world-wide, when they think of Canada, they conjure up the image of a cold, clean, white, winter snowscape, much as quilter artist Deb Plestid has created here.  As the Inuit have many words in their language for snow, so too has Plestid called upon a full vocabulary of quilted shapes to render a pristine drift of snow otherwise unmarred but for the long shadows of a pair of impatient snow shoes.  The viewer is quickly transported into the scene and the imagination races in anticipation of the wintery adventures that lie ahead…Oh! Canada.

Kate Madeloso - Home is on the Sea Ice

Home is on the Sea Ice by Kate Madeloso, 24" x 21"
KM: To the indigenous people of Canada, the polar bear is known as Nanuk - wise, powerful and almost human. This iconic sea animal is a source for stories, art and identity, as well as food and clothing for northern communities.

Ringed and bearded seals are the polar bear's main diet. Bears can detect seals' breathing holes up to a kilometer away.

This 'rider of icebergs' depends on habitat quality for survival. The loss of sea ice is a red flag to the current climate trend on our planet.

See more of Kate Madeloso's work on her blog.

Kathy Tidswell - My Peaceful Oasis

My Peaceful Oasis by Kathy Tidswell, 27" x 21"

KT: Early each morning I walk on the Trans Canada trail, steps away from my home in rural New Brunswick. Breathing the fresh air, I see wildflowers, majestic pines and an unpolluted river, and may catch a glimpse of fox, deer, an eagle and perhaps a person or two.

While travelling last spring in London and Bruges, I felt overwhelmed by the crowds. Relieved to return to my peaceful oasis, thankfulness for my special part of Canada inspired this work featuring 5 hand painted and thread painted ovals depicting sites from my walk.

See more of Kathy Tidswell's work on her website.

09 May 2017

A great experience: the SAQA “Creation to Curation” conference in Lincoln, Nebraska

(Photo credits and some writing credits: Maggie Vanderweit)

Regina Marzlin, our SAQA-Atlantic Canada Representative has just returned from her first SAQA conference, this year held in Lincoln Nebraska. Here is her enthusiastic report:

RM: The conference was a great success by all accounts. Really great fun, learning and networking. The Canadians there: Bethany Garner, Judy Martin and Maggie Vanderweit (all from Ontario), Jaynie Himsl (from Saskatchewan), Paulette Cornish (British Columbia), our own Christine Nielsen (SAQA board member, Nova Scotia) took many opportunities to connect. Here we are at breakfast, with instructions to be “goofy" for the photo!

Back row: Maggie Vanderweit, Regina Marzlin, Chris Nielsen, Jaynie Himsl, Judy Martin.
Front row: Paulette Cornish and Bethany Garner.

Regional representatives enjoyed two days of pre-conference workshops and tours. Led by the warm and wonderful Desiree Vaughn, Candace Phelan and others, we shared ideas for strengthening regions by building strong “pods” or "local connections” within large regions. This would mean that members in a local area could develop their autonomous self-directed group and benefit from SAQA’s amazing support and resources. 

So, we are always looking out for and appreciative of your ideas and initiatives to further that mandate. SAQA is about building community for art quilters and this means supporting each other in regular local meetings where possible. It can also mean exhibitions, retreats and zoom conference calls to include more distant members. We also learned about inspiring leadership, regional exhibitions, and getting grants for regional endeavours. 

Regional representatives, hard at work during pre-conference meetings.

Then, at the actual conference, we enjoyed 20 quick Lightning Talks on a huge variety of subjects. We had break-out sessions, panel discussions with Midwest artists and students from the local Textile and Fashion Department. I attended two workshops. One, presented by staff of the International Quilt Study Center, looked at the information we can gain from looking closely at both historical and contemporary quilts. In the second workshop, Candace Phelan helped us hone our presentation skills and "elevator talk”.

The executive and board shared great ideas and expressed their gratitude for our growing community. The hotel had a huge open indoor lobby where we all met for some meals and happy hour.

 Here’s a view of the hotel lobby from the 7th floor.

We had the chance to see all the new trunk show pieces in our SAQA Hospitality room during the conference.

2017 SAQA Trunk Show pieces on display in the hospitality room

We visited the Deeply Rooted show and the nearby Sheldon Museum Gallery- both wonderful. We also spent a whole day at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, a must see venue for anyone. We enjoyed their great archives as well as the current shows: Luke Haynes' log cabins (pictured below), Linda Colsh’s “Like Breath on Glass", a Japanese collection and SAQA’s “Layered Voices” exhibition.

Luke Haynes' log cabin quilts at the IQSCM

Michael James' department tour
Visiting the UNL’s textile/fashion building where Michael James is head of department was such a treat too. Having him give tours and talk about his work there was pretty special.

Michael James was also our keynote speaker. He shared his journey as a ground breaking art quilter. His latest exhibition “Ambiguity and Enigma” draws from his experiences as primary caregiver for his wife, as she moved through the stages of early onset Alzheimers. It was incredibly moving. He also included some amazing quotes in his talk.

The silent auction this year raised over $13,000. Thank you so much to all of you who contributed your fabulous work!

Conference delegates bidding on the 2017 Spotlight Auction

SO HERE IS THE HUGE NEWS: the SAQA board, staff and executive director have chosen TORONTO as the 2020 venue for the first conference to be held outside the USA. This is a huge honour and vote of confidence for Canada. SAQA-Central Canada representative Maggie Vanderweit will chair the local organizing committee. I'm confident that she will do a great job, and we hope that all Canadian members will work together to create an event to remember and make us all prouder than ever to be Canadian art quilters!

Next year's SAQA conference will be in San Antonio, Texas, April 3-8 2018 and the 2019 conference will be in San Jose California - both fabulous destinations. I hope many of you will consider attending one of these. SAQA conferences are a unique opportunity to meet your favourite art quilt rock stars, make friends and celebrate being an art quilter.

I would like to acknowledge Arts Nova Scotia's financial support in awarding me a professional development grant to go to the conference.

28 April 2017

Laurie Swim creates Time Goes By

You'll enjoy this timelapse video, by Teresa MacInnes and Kent Nason, of Lunenburg artist Laurie Swim creating "Time Goes By”. A nine-months process condensed into a 4-minute video!

Time Goes By from Teresa MacInnes on Vimeo.

See more of Laurie Swim's work on her website

13 April 2017

Linda Finley interview: Illustrator and storyteller

String Theory by Linda Finley (2008) 36"x42"
Textile/mixed media artist Linda Finley creates magnificently detailed art quilts from her home in Bear Cove, a small community looking onto the approaches to Halifax Harbour.

Linda’s eclectic body of artwork evolves in response to social and environmental concerns and her ever changing interests. Her work is focussed on textiles, with print, paint, and occasional sculptural elements sometimes interjecting. Whichever the medium, Linda’s work demonstrates her passion for line, colour, and above all, story. 

Her academic background—in biology, mathematics and theatre—is also sometimes evident. Over the years, Linda has made quilts that tell stories of such complex issues as HIV/AIDS in Africa and the desertification of the Aral Sea, without becoming sombre.

In this interview, Linda Finley talks about her journey into textile art and shares her process for creating award-winning artwork.

How would you describe your work?

I think of myself as an illustrator and storyteller. I occasionally create pieces just for fun, but more often my pieces explore important issues. In spite of the sometimes unpleasant stories they tell, I aim to make them visually appealing.

I generally use appliqué to illustrate the stories, most often fused and applied with a hand stitch called the Armenian edge stitch. This technique allows me to create more detailed images. The backgrounds are usually densely hand quilted, providing a feel and texture that I just can’t achieve with machine stitch.

We Are All African by Linda Finley (2010) 48”x 62”

What was your journey towards becoming an artist working with textiles?

I seem to have been born with a pencil in hand and an uncanny ability to use it. I drew and painted intuitively at a very young age. Even so, neither my parents nor the school system encouraged my desire to become an artist, so at age 17 I headed off to university to study theatre, later transferring to biology and mathematics, eventually acquiring a PhD in biology.

I took up quilting as a creative outlet while raising three young children in a small Toronto flat, to avoid polluting their environment with oil, paints and mediums. Textiles were just beginning to be recognized as a valid artistic medium and I very quickly saw their potential to contribute an immediacy and emotional impact not usually achieved with paint.

Hour Glass Figure by Linda Finley (2012) 30”x31”

When we moved back to Halifax and I had more work space, I tried
making pictorial quilts for my children. One of these was accepted into Quilt Canada. Buoyed by this success, I made an appliqué piece comparing the artwork of the Celts with that of the North west coast indigenous peoples, having noticed that the artwork of the two cultures is astonishingly similar. The finished piece, Ash and Cedar, was also accepted into Quilt Canada, travelled as part of that exhibition to Japan, and was later accepted into the AQS show in Paducah Kentucky.

And so I had found my medium!

Tell us about your process for creating. Where do you find your inspiration and how do you get from that to a final product?

My initial inspiration can come from the news, travel, dreams; almost anywhere. It’s often just an inkling of an idea, and that’s when the work really starts. I do a lot of research, reading widely to improve my understanding of the subject matter and for visual cues. I make sketches, twisting the idea inside and out. And so the initial idea evolves, acquiring substance and a  strong visual reality. This research stage can be fairly quick or can take several months or even years. Much as I would like to, I can’t rush it. When I eventually get the "aha" moment, I feel an almost physical relief. I can then make a cartoon of the piece and begin to audition fabrics, which may be commercial, repurposed, or increasingly, cloth I’ve dyed or screen-printed myself.

I next create the applique images and let the piece sit for a time on the design wall, moving the images around on the background, or changing them up. Once satisfied, I stitch the piece together with dense hand quilting. Paint, print work, embellishments or text might be added at any stage in the process.

Carnaval des animaux (work in progress)

Carnaval des animaux (work in progress)

Carnaval des animaux (based on the work of Camille Saint Saens)
 by Linda Finley (2014) 30”x30

What are you currently working on and why?

Ships of the Desert by Linda Finley 30”x48" 
I’m about to tackle an unfinished piece about the desecration of the once abundant herds of white rhino in Africa. This very challenging piece has been sitting on my wall for nearly two years. I have a strong commitment to finishing it because I care deeply about the subject matter and because I owe its resolution to a loved and absent friend. It will, I hope, become the second in a series called Vanished, the first of which was Ships of the Desert, a piece about the desertification of the Aral Sea.

What are your goals for the coming year?

I hope to create several pieces for upcoming shows and to prepare a solo show for 2018.

What (non fibre) artists, either historic or contemporary, have inspired you, and why?

I have always enjoyed art history. There are very few artists that don't offer me pleasure, inspiration and an understanding of the value of art in defining what it is to be human.

Canadian indigenous art is my very favourite. Kenojuak Ashevak and Daphne Odjig have an almost heart stopping effect on me.

I am a huge fan of Freidenrich Hundertwasser. My first encounter with his powerful work literally took my breath away.

Surrealist Remedios Varo, one of the original inner circle of Surrealism, has long been a favourite. Printmaker Karen Kunc continually astonishes me. I am also deeply touched by the powerful prints and drawings of Kathe Kollwitz. 

What fibre artists are you interested in, and why?

I especially admire the work of Betty Goodwin and Louise Bourgeois, who have unapologetically demonstrated the value and beauty of domestic textiles. I also adore the touching simplicity of Janet Bolton's little fibre masterpieces.

Dorothy Caldwell continues to astonish me with her mark making masterpieces, as do Junko Oki, Jude Hill, and the wonderful Peruvian tapestry maker, Maximo Laura.

Dollmaker Kate Church’s characters enchanted me at first sight. They make my heart sing. My list could go on and on.

The Habituation of Mr. Morris by Linda Finley (2012) 38" x 47"

Do you treat art like a job, going to the studio each day at a particular time?

I don’t arrive in my studio at 9:00 a.m. every day, but I do put in the
hours and turn up most days whether or not I feel motivated. I find that work inspires art. Sometimes just having the fabric, sketch book or crayons in my hands will push me in the right direction. The most difficult thing has been acknowledging that the time for thinking, reading and planning is not time wasted.

How do you show and sell your quilts? Where can your work be seen?

I enter group shows when the opportunity presents and have sold work as a result. I am learning, through SAQA, to be more of a promoter and business person. My web site is a work in progress. I am also learning (after much resistance) the value of social media.

I recently took up a challenge to post my work on Facebook for six consecutive days. It turned out to be a most positive experience! I was surprised by the pleasure I experienced at having an audience for my work and overwhelmed by the support I received.


Watch for more of Linda Finley’s work on social media. A complete portfolio can be found on her blog, Kite Borne-Threads

07 April 2017

Monoprinting Workshop with Holly McLean in Port Elgin, NB on May 13th, 2017

SAQA Atlantic Canada member Holly McLean, from Bathurst NB, is a regular contributor to Quilting Arts Magazine. She describes her upcoming workshop: 

HM: Monoprinting, or making one-of-a-kind prints on fabric or paper, has been around for centuries. In this one-day workshop we will use a pre-made gelatin mold (recipe will be supplied) as our printing surface. We will roll the paint onto the mold, add textures, and then print onto white cotton. 

Many things can be used to make interesting textures: pressed leaves and flowers, bubble wrap, lace, empty spools, grids from berry containers, craft foam, etc.

Participants will select one monoprint to work with, adding batting, hand stitching and embellishment. This sample can later (at home) be incorporated into a small project such as a sewing kit, as featured in Quilting Arts Magazine, October/November 2016.

The class fee of $60 will include paints and foam to make stamps.

For further information or to reserve your space please e-mail me at hollymclean5(AT)gmail.com

Looking forward to seeing you in Port Elgin on May 13th!

05 April 2017

Call for entry for third SAQA Atlantic regional show: Transitions

SAQA Atlantic Canada is excited to announce our third regional juried show, curated by Heather Loney. The theme for the show, Transitions, can be interpreted in a wide range of styles and techniques, from abstract to pictorial, from monochromatic to colourful, perhaps showing a metamorphosis, a passage in time, alteration or evolution through surface design and stitching.

Deadline for entry:  December 31, 2017

Linda Finley's Ships of the Desert (w30” by h48") was awarded Best of Show
in SAQA Atlantic's last regional show, Structures.

Premiere Location: 

  • Craig Gallery, Alderney Landing, Dartmouth NS, April 2018

Additional venues to date (more to come):

  •  Inverness Centre for the Arts, NS, October 2018
  •  Art Centre Saint John NB, January / February 2019 

Elizabeth Whalley is a Canadian artist living and working in Quebec, Nova Scotia and New York. She has exhibited widely and created many projects in New York including work for the TD Bank’s Art for Trees, Flux Factory, and Galapagos Artspace. She was awarded a Canada Council travel grant, a McNair Scholars research grant, and a Pratt faculty grant. She received her MFA and an Advanced Certificate (PIMA) from Brooklyn College after studies at Concordia University, Montreal. She has taught at Adelphi University, Haverford College, Pratt Institute, Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art, and Brooklyn College. She is currently Director of the Inverness County Centre for the Arts, Inverness, NS.

Read all the details in the online entry form and guidelines.

Please note that this call for entry is for SAQA Atlantic members exclusively. Not a member? You can join SAQA here!

31 March 2017

Deb Plestid's Fiddleheads welcome spring!

Congratulations to Deb Plestid, of Tatamagouche, NS, whose quilt Fiddleheads graced the inside cover of the latest SAQA Journal.

Fiddleheads by Deb Plestid w26" x h39"

DP: A blueprint for spring, a green delicacy found on riverbanks, needing only the sun's warmth to expose a structure of immense complexity hidden in the fiddlehead, each compact spiral unfurls to become a fern of intricate design.