Common Threads: Volume 18, February 2023

8 February 2023

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Ad description: Cover of the book Sheep, Shepherd & Land, and the words, "THE book about Canadian Wool, by Anna Hunter. Photos by Christel Lanthier. Buy now."

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The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Halifax’s Pier 21 recently hosted the exhibition “Weaving Cultural Identities.” The exhibition brought together graphic artists and weavers from Vancouver’s immigrant Muslim communities and Coast Salish Indigenous communities to create a series of ten small-scale “prayer rugs” as a means to share cultural knowledge and reconcile lost heritage through symbolism and traditional motifs. It was only available to visit for a short time, but there’s an excellent video interview with one of the show’s curators, and a short tour in this CTV news article.

Textile artist Simranpreet Anand has won this year’s Philip B. Lind Emerging Artist Prize, awarded by Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery, for her textile works.

Anand’s series of rugs, titled insatiable desires of a bourgeoisie, uses weaving to create pixelated images of spice mixes. Dhurries and spice mixes were treasured commodities of a British middle class during colonial rule. The artist has also produced a short film, mukti maal kanik laal heera man ranjan kee maaiaa, which comments on the wastefulness of the textile industry, depicting hands delicately laying out an accumulating pile of sacred fabrics and pulling loose its threads. 

 The Craft Ontario Gallery is hosting an exhibition of works which are a collaboration between two artists that never met, one of whom is long dead.

Hamilton-based artist and weaver Amanda Rataj has woven new textile coverings for chairs made by her grandfather, master woodworker and furniture designer Rudolph Rataj. The chairs were made when her grandfather worked for Brunswick Manufacturing, a small furniture company in Toronto.

“In my home I have six chairs built by Brunswick Manufacturing that are covered in their original fabric — each of my grandfather’s children got a matching set of chairs, and I have my father’s set. I have designed, sampled, and hand woven yardage to reupholster these chairs. The original fabric is plain, brown, and synthetic — very representative of the late 1970s when they were made. The new textile covering for each chair takes its cues from the coloured light in shadows, and is made from natural fibres and padded with local wool felt.

My grandfather died before I was born, but his material influence has always been a part of my life, through the family cottage he designed and built, and in the countless chairs, tables, and furniture I have lived with, slept on, and used in my day to day. I’ve always taken this material landscape for granted while knowing very little about the maker.

Ultimately, this exhibition contributes to a conversation about Toronto’s small-scale industries, institutional furniture, and craft history. Through this exhibition, my work may help viewers identify items of Brunswick manufacturing that they know through offices, classrooms, and boardrooms, creating a conversation about the crafted environment of our institutional spaces.”

Recognizing that their members are skilled makers and craftspeople who might not have a strong background in other areas, many of Canada’s provincial and territorial arts organizations offer ongoing education for their members, to help them establish and build their businesses and manage the more practical aspects of working as an artist. These sessions are typically free with membership, and can be enormously informative.

Craft Ontario is hosting a session February 26th on Insurance for Business and Home Studios.

The Conseil des métiers d’art du Québec is hosting a seminar en français, on internet marketing, starting Monday February 13th.

The Northwest Territories Arts association has a five-week online program on Selling Your Artwork, starting February 15th.

The Saskatchewan Craft Council has connected with filmmaker Thomas Hale of Reghal Media to create films to showcase Saskatchewan craft artists working in their studio spaces, in a series he calls Makers. Of particular interest to us are milliner Sherri Hrycay, and clothing designer and fibre artist Kathleen O’Grady. You can watch the videos and learn more here.

Winnipeg costume designer Quita Alfred is receiving a lot of media attention for her work on Sarah Polley’s Oscar-nominated film adaptation of the book Women Talking, by Miriam Toews. The story is set in a remote religious community, similar to a Mennonite community.

There are some excellent interviews with Alfred on CBC, in W Magazine, and in The Art of Costume , in which she speaks of her work to use fabric and dress to authentically and respectfully represent the lives of the women. She researched Mennonite “plain dress,” working with decades-old patterns that had been saved by a Winnipeg fabric-store owner.

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Featured image by Judson Moore on Unsplash.

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