05 November 2021

5 Artists – 3 Shows – 1 Venue: Inverness County Centre for the Arts (ICCA)

Englishtown Spill by Alison Cowitz (w27”xh54”) 

Five SAQA Atlantic Canada members have joined forces to fill the three ICCA galleries with colour over the coming months. The exhibitions include: 

Place in Perspective by Hélène Blanchet, Alison Cowitz and Kristi Farrier; 

FLOCK by Anne Morrell Robinson; and 

A Sense of Place by Regina Marzlin. 

Don’t miss this exciting trio of shows in Inverness, Cape Breton!

Location:        16080 Highway 19, Inverness Nova Scotia

Reception:       7-9pm, Saturday, November 6, music by 

                          Cape Breton guitarist Brian Doyle.

Gallery hours:  Tuesday – Sunday from 12-5pm. 

Closing date:    January 15, 2022.

Man Plays Guitar While his Wife Dances in the Big Saskatchewan Prairies by Helene Blanchet (w36 “x h12”)

Place in Perspective: Hélène Blanchet, Margaree Valley CB, Kristi Farrier, Baddeck CB and Alison Cowitz, Calgary Alberta. 

Moody Crush by Kristi Farrier

HB: Place in Perspective is a dynamic exhibition resulting from a three-year collaboration between three artists.  The artwork both showcases our individual voices and reveals how our sense of place is wholly influenced by who we are and how we interpret and give meaning to a location.

FLOCK: Anne Morrell RobinsonMargaree Valley, CB 

O is for Ostritch by Anne Morrell Robinson

AMR: Working in a series and exploring fabric collage allow me to just have fun playing with nature’s shapes and colours. Fun is something we all need in our lives as we adapt to the current changes in the world and our daily lives. Do the birds realize they are adapting to the changes or is it just instinct? Let’s find our place with as much joy as a bird soaring on the wind currents. 

A Sense of Place: Regina Marzlin, Antigonish NS 

RM: In these works, I try to capture the beauty of the nature around me by using actual plant material to print on fabric. My colour choices, placement and paint layering are my responses to the astonishing beauty of even the humblest weed. These works convey a sense of place and an awe of the details in nature in a tactile medium that shows the hand of the maker.

Dandelion Dreams by Regina Marzlin (w21”xh18”)

The Inverness County Centre for the Arts requires masking and proof of Covid-19 vaccination for all events. 

30 September 2021

Susan Lilley: Geometrics (bound and unbound)


Geometrics 29: Power Lines
Susan Lilley, 2021 30"x30"

Susan Lilley’s solo show, Geometrics (bound and unbound) opens October 8 at the Chester Art Center.  The exhibition is of a series of work created over the last two years.

Now a resident of Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, Susan was born in Quebec amidst a family of artists.  Although her art classes began at a very early age, it was only after a 30 year career in public health that she returned to art-making.

In 2010, Susan completed the City and Guilds of London Level 3 Certificate in Design and Craft. She is currently an active member of the Textile Artists Collective, the Lunenburg Art Society and SAQA Atlantic Canada.  

Susan has exhibited her work in numerous local, regional, national and international exhibitions. Geometrics (bound and unbound) is her third solo show.

Geometrics 2  Susan Lilley  2019 12"x12"

Q:   Susan, how would you describe your work?

My work is non-representational. I use strong colours and my own hand-dyed, repurposed fabrics, often featuring shibori or surface-design techniques. 

In my latest collection, Geometrics, all 30+ pieces were composed of strips of brightly-coloured fabric over-dyed in black to create bold, repeated, geometric patterns. I prepared the cotton for the black dyebath using a shibori technique called itajime, which involves folding the fabric, adding resists and using clamps to hold it all together, thus preventing dye penetration and creating the pattern. 

Q: What prompted you to choose this particular technique for your series?

Itajime both fascinates and challenges me. I’m drawn to it for several reasons: the “glow” effect of the blurred dye lines, the contrast of order with imperfection, and my inability to control the outcomes. Relinquishing control in this way, I, myself, am unbound. 

Traditionally, itajime involves only a single dye bath, often indigo or brown, leaving white patterning. I spent a couple of years previously experimenting with a more complex approach, layering colour over colour and pattern over pattern with multiple rounds of folding and dyeing. While I was able to make a few exciting pieces, I was more often disappointed with my results. 

This current series began as a way to become more skilled at itajime by simplifying my process: making many small studies, using narrow strips and a single colour (+black). I was also hoping to become more fluid and relaxed in my work and to develop my own style of itajime.

Geometrics 19  2021 12"x12"

Q: Had you worked in series before, and if so, how was this series different for you?

In the past, I generally made a few pieces expressing the same idea in different ways, but this is the first time I've intentionally set out to create a series. My plan at the outset was to make 20-25 small (12”x12”) studies, followed by a few larger pieces, an idea suggested by Cape Breton artist and friend Helene Blanchet.

Making so many small studies, guided by a few simple rules, was surprisingly both liberating and addictive. I approached each new piece knowing it didn’t have to be perfect, so I could relax and let go. And each completed study left me with a head full of “what ifs”, compelling me to go on to make another.

Geometrics 22 Susan Lilley 2021 12"x12"

Q:  Do you see this body of work as a departure from your earlier work?

I think this collection builds quite naturally on my previous work. The departure, in my mind, is the long-term commitment to developing a specific idea. During this two-year journey I have surpassed my initial goals and discovered my own unique approach to itajime.

Q:   Do you have plans for your work for the coming year? 

Itajime still fascinates me. I’ve not yet decided what my next challenge will be but I expect to use a similar, experimental approach, probably involving multiple colours and dyebaths. 

Geometrics 28: Spirit Ways 30"x30" 2021

Q: In addition to the show in Chester, where else can your work be seen?

I’m hoping to hang some of this work in the Bridgewater branch of the South Shore Public Libraries next winter. I generally have a piece or two hanging at the Lunenburg Art Gallery, changing every month from May to October. I also have two pieces in the SAQA Atlantic juried show, Commotions, which will be travelling around Atlantic Canada in the next year. And for those outside the region, I’ve recently taken to sharing my work on Instagram.

Geometrics 30: Making Do 2021 34"x39"

Susan's show, Geometrics (bound and unbound), opens with a reception from 5-7pm on Friday October 8th at the Chester Art Centre in Chester NS. The show runs until October 28th, however, gallery hours vary considerably from one day to the next:  

October 9,10,15,17,21,28 - Gallery open from 10am-4pm

October 14,16,20,22,23,24,27 - Gallery open from 5-7pm

The Gallery may be open at other times by chance or appointment. Contact Chester Art Centre at 902-275-5789 or info@chesterartcentre.ca before setting out.

02 September 2021

Congratulations to Kathy Tidswell!


Bank Machine Blues by Kathy Tidswell 2005 29"x20"

 Bank Machine Blues has been selected for inclusion in Martha Sielman's new book about fibre art inspired by birds. This was no small feat, as Martha had to choose from over 1200 pieces submitted for her book.  

Kathy created Bank Machine Blues for the 2005 Grand National Juried Quilt Exhibition: Airborne.

Kathy explained:  "It was inspired by the then $20 bill.  I wanted to immortalize it but chose to make it in the colours of nature. The loons in the section above the  "bill"  represent the $20 bills that you take from the bank machine which seem to magically disappear.

I painted the background fabric and used commercial fabric for the mountains and trees.  The loons were made totally from thread using free motion embroidery and then attached. The serial number is the initials of my family and their age ranking. "

Martha Sielman's book will be published by Schiffer Publishing.

05 August 2021

Cathy Drummond interview: From watercolour to textiles

Where Land Meets Sea by Cathy Drummond
(2019) w24xh18"

Cathy Drummond is a textile artist who lives on an island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. She’s also an accomplished watercolour/mixed-media painter who, years ago, won a national competition to paint portraits of Canadian Forces women involved in NATO war exercises. Her artwork is now in the collection of the Canadian War Museum.

More recently, after a demanding career in the federal public service, Cathy was reborn as a textile artist.

Cathy Drummond is a member of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) and the Textile Artists Cooperative. She is also a member and former president of the Mahone Bay Quilters Guild and a writer for the SAQA Atlantic blog. Cathy has exhibited in juried shows throughout Atlantic Canada and internationally.

In this feature interview, Cathy tells us about her artistic journey.

Cathy, how would you describe your work?

My work is representational, often of landscapes. It varies in style from fairly realistic to loosely impressionistic, depending on the subject matter and the mood I want to convey. Increasingly, the painting skills I developed long ago are appearing in my quilts, adding another dimension to my artwork.

Describe your journey towards becoming an artist who works with textiles. 

I had always painted. I began selling my watercolour and mixed media work in 1979, which led to a series of commissions. All that came to an end, though, when I joined the federal public service and found I had little time to paint.

Around the time of my retirement, I came across an exhibition of Laurie Swim’s textile artwork and experienced a eureka moment. I was fascinated by the richness and depth of colour possible with textiles and I had always sewn, so it seemed like a perfect fit. Laurie’s wonderful work inspired me to learn to quilt.

My Garden by the Sea
by Cathy Drummond (2020) 10" x10"

How has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

I was extremely shy as a small child and spent much time with my mother and grandmothers, who were all creative in their own ways. Though my mother and maternal grandmother both had careers, they also painted and were highly skilled at needlework. My other grandmother was a wonderful gardener. She took me on backroad journeys in the woods or on the shore. My father was the ultimate over-achiever, and all four role-models taught me not to give up on anything I start. That helps a lot when the creative process leaves me discouraged, as it sometimes does.

On Helen’s Walk, by Cathy Drummond
(2020) 12"x12" 

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

Most of my inspiration comes from nature -- the views out my window, the changing seasons and colours of the ocean and the woods. I usually work from a photograph I’ve taken, although sometimes I work from memory or invent a scene to convey a mood.

My process is continually evolving. At first, I used commercial fabrics and believed that using paint on quilts would be cheating. I worked studiously from a sketch or directly from a photo, and I built the scene from the top down. Now, I’m using much more hand-dyed, repurposed fabric and I’ve recently begun to paint my scene on plain cloth, building from there in any direction that appeals to me.

What was your experience in moving your watercolour skills to textiles?

Boys Love Mud by Cathy Drummond (2012)
w24" x h30"
Boys Love Mud was the first quilt I painted on. I turned to watercolour when I didn’t have the fabrics I needed to get the sky and faces right. Initially, I was concerned that the colour would fade or run, but I’ve since learned that after it has dried and been pressed with a hot iron, watercolour is fairly permanent on cotton fabric.

I have now experimented with various products and frequently use fabric paint, which I did, for example, to create the water in Hurricane. Fabric paint, like all acrylics, dries fast and stiffens the cloth if applied directly. What works well for me is to dilute the fabric paint and apply it to damp fabric. This way, the colours are absorbed into the cloth rather than staying on the surface.

Hurricane by Cathy Drummond (2021) w30" x h25"

More recently, I’ve also been using Inktense pencils, which are great for strengthening a line or adding a bit more shadow. When they’re wet and applied with a brush they act like watercolour but produce a more intense colour.

Once I began to use paint on my quilts, I discovered that it’s neither cheating nor unusual. Mickey Lawler’s book Skydyes: A Visual Guide to Fabric Painting is a really good book on technique.

Peggy and Helen at Book Club
by Cathy Drummond (2019) w20" x h16”

Where can readers see your work this year?
I generally have a piece or two on show in the Lunenburg Art Gallery. My piece, Displaced, is travelling with the SAQA juried exhibition, Forced to Flee, currently in Minnesota.

I also have two pieces, Hurricane and A Commotion of Coots, travelling around Atlantic Canada until 2023 in the SAQA Atlantic juried exhibition, Commotion, dates TBA.

Salt Marsh Sunset by Cathy Drummond


You can see more of Cathy Drummond’s textile artwork online on her Artwork Archive profile page.

16 July 2021

Fogo Island residency for textile artist and printmaker Audrey Feltham

Audrey Feltham: Line reduction work, in progress

Audrey Feltham, from Deer Lake, NL, is serving a 5-week artist residency in Tilting, on Fogo Island, Newfoundland. 

AF: “My residency at Tilting will be time spent creating works on both textile and paper, deconstructing the objectification of the material. In doing so I hope to take the viewer to a place where abstraction allows one to see a specific object through new eyes. Like the word "artifact", the object itself will become barely recognizable. Rather, line, shape, colour and texture will be signposts to the viewer to create surfaces that speak to both emotion and place. I have no idea of the number of works I will create or the size. My intent is solely to fill my days with creating“.

One week into her residency, Audrey reported that her accommodation/studio space is a small, rustic, remote, 150-year-old house by the ocean. “There are two rooms downstairs...a kitchen and a small drawing room that is now a very small studio space. As you can see, I am using every available space, walls, floor, etc, to cope with lack of working space.”

Without radio, television or internet access, there are few distractions to keep Audrey from her artwork. So far, she has completed an edition of reduction block prints in her series Quotidian/culture/kitsch. 

Audrey Feltham: Coal shuttle/sugar spoon, reduction block print.

Audrey Feltham: Coal shuttle / sugar spoon on hand-dyed silk.

Learn more about Audrey Feltham at Atelier West Studios, and in our 2018 feature interview Audrey Feltham: Printmaker on paper and textile + stitch.

The Fogo Island Arts’ international residency program hosts artists on Fogo Island for terms of one to three months. Artists-in-residence are provided with accommodation and studio space, a weekly stipend and travel expenses. 

02 July 2021

Welcome to Anne Morrell Robinson's new gallery in Big Intervale, Cape Breton

If you find yourself in Cape Breton be sure to visit Anne Morrell Robinson's brand new gallery. Housed in a beautiful new barn, the gallery incorporates wood salvaged from an old barn on the property, giving it a sense of both past and present. Currently, the gallery walls and hanging rails display Anne’s numerous quilts, a riot of colour and quilt styles.

When the pandemic is over, Anne hopes the gallery will be used for exhibitions by other Atlantic Canadian quilters and textile artists. The space is also a perfect venue for a retreat, with an attached classroom and a cozy lodge just down the the road.

Anne always wanted to have other artists enjoy and be inspired by the beauty, peace and quiet that she enjoys in Big Intervale, Cape Breton. It took a long time to reach that goal but at last it’s a reality!

The gallery is currently open by chance or appointment. Please call a day or more ahead of your planned visit. (Note that there is no cellular service in the area.)

Learn about Anne Morrell Robinson's studio, shop and workspace in her 2019 photo essay,
 Welcome to my Studio.

Visit Anne Morrell Roboinson's website, Kingross Quilts and Fibre Arts.

11 June 2021

The SAQA Atlantic Show, Commotion!

Recently, SAQA Atlantic members were invited to illustrate the concept of "commotion" and express what it means to them. Is it loud and overwhelming? Pandemonium or turmoil? Or exciting, lively, and full of unexpected delights? 

Juried by Lee Cripps, Curator of the Craig Gallery in Dartmouth, the result is an exciting,contemporary fibre art exhibition containing 27  pieces by 16 artists.  

"Commotion" opened this week at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, in Sydney, Nova Scotia.   It will remain there until July 3 and then will be on tour within Atlantic Canada until 2023. Information on the exhibition's opening hours and COVID restrictions in the gallery, can be found here

Ricochet by Linda Mackie Finley 2021 36"x36"

Journey by Julea Boswell 2021, 45"x 65"
Above are two of the lovely quilts in the show. They give a sense of the broad range of ideas invoked by the word "commotion".  Stay tuned for more, and for information on future sites and dates for the exhibition.