Color of Her Days (detail) by Audrey Feltham (2016)
Serigraph, laser transfer and stitching on cloth and paper.
Audrey has been printing professionally for over 26 years, exploring the relationships between processes used for printmaking and those of fibre art. Many of the processes she uses in her fibre art are drawn from traditional printmaking practice.
As an accomplished artist, Audrey has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants and has shown her work widely in solo, group and juried exhibitions. Her work is included in many private collections in both Canada and Europe, including Ireland’s National Concert Hall (Dublin) and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton NB.
In this feature interview, Audrey tells us about her journey, from early memories of stitching with her Norwegian grandmother, to fully integrating textile and print making arts.
How would you describe your work?My work is a blend of traditional fine art printing and fibre art. It ends up being very multi-media in how it appears on both paper and textile; very layered. The concept of layering is important to me because it reflects my interest in memory and its selectivity.
Narrative is a strong feature of my artwork, most often dealing with themes of memory and loss. As time passes, I’ve realized that memory is constantly in flux, not only due to aging and mental acuity. I believe we let go of painful and unimportant memories and remember things we can’t bear to forget. These images rise to the surface and obliterate other memories. Even when my work portrays an object, there is a narrative being told; marks and stitches are meant to portray some essence of what that object has meant to me and its subsequent history.
Plimsoll Line by Audrey Feltham (2010) w30“ x h22“
Monoprint on paper using fibre threads, photo transfer and hand stitch.
How has your life and upbringing influenced your art?Unlike many Newfoundlanders, I know little of my heritage. My grandparents, both maternal and paternal, were first generation Canadians and had little contact with their families in their respective homelands. I think that has influenced the themes I explore in my work.
I also came from a relatively poor background; we had to use what we had at hand. Hence I tend to recycle a lot in my work.
And I’m deeply indebted to my paternal grandmother, who was Norwegian, for my love of textiles. As a young schoolgirl she was obligated to take classes in embroidery, crochet, knitting and other needlework; skills which she later passed onto me. She was my mentor and teacher, so when I began to study fine art printmaking in university, I naturally explored the use of textiles.
|Picklebottle Henry Killed the Whale by A Feltham (1992) w36” x h74” approx.|
Etching on rayon, hand quilted.
What are some of the experiences you’ve had over the years, integrating fibre and print making practices?When I first started out, I experimented with etching-plate printing on various fabrics: silk, rayon, cotton, and used traditional quilting processes. Picklebottle Henry Killed the Whale (1992), for example, addresses the patriarchal nature of society, inspired by a folk tale told in Bonavista Bay. That piece is now in the collection of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Over time, I’ve integrated textiles into my practice in so many ways! I’ve printed on fabrics using a lino block, gum Arabic transfer, collograph, water-based monoprint, etching, and devore etch. I’ve used fabrics, threads and plant fibres to create monoprints. I’ve also experimented with textile techniques, such as dyeing and stitching, on paper. As a result, my work fully integrates paper and textiles and uses a wide variety of printing techniques.
The central motif in Catenary Curve (2008), for example, uses a printing plate of threads and corn silks, inked like an etching plate and printed onto a surface of pieced, appliqued and machine-stitched papers. A photo image, transferred onto transparent paper using gum Arabic, was superimposed. Machine stitching became an integral part of the mark making in that print, which I made for my Red Shoes: The Invisible Landscape exhibition.
Catenary Curve (detail) by Audrey Feltham (2008)
Editioned print on paper, machine stitched.
Tell us about Atelier West Studio.I set up my own professional print studio, Atelier West, in 1992. In the beginning it was solely an etching studio, but it has expanded to incorporate screen and textile printing. Now, it’s both a production and teaching studio that’s registered as a business. I offer print-making workshops to interested community organizations as well as one-on-one instruction in printmaking. I also produce a line of printed tea towels and aprons, which I sell wholesale to buyers across the province, and through my online store.
I am very rigid about charging CARFAC fees for my instruction. As artists we must ensure that people understand that this is our “work” and we deserve an honest wage.
The Funeral by Audrey Feltham (1999) 24” sq., on point
Editioned print on textile and paper.
What artists have inspired you and why?I am particularly inspired by the work of Louise Bourgeois, the emotive quality of her work and her courage to use her personal experience to fuel her art practice. Knowing that she came into her own as an artist very late in life is also encouraging. At the end of her practice she had begun to produce traditional prints that incorporated sewn line…..my kind of artist!
I’m also interested in the works of Faith Ringold and Miriam Schipiro, because of their use of fibre art to focus on women’s work and social identity.
|Color of Her Days by Audrey Feltham (2016) w40“ x h28“|
Serigraph, laser transfer and stitching on cloth and paper.
What have you been working on lately?I recently completed “Color of Her Days”, a mixed media piece currently touring in the SAQA Atlantic “Transitions” exhibition. The piece uses paper and cloth with serigraph, laser photo transfer, felting and stitching. It explores the concepts of home, aging and memory, specifically referencing the transitions associated with the frequent moves our family made when I was a child. The luggage tags on the outer border show our addresses over a period of about 10 years. The repeated image of a woman at a clothesline represents the sameness of domestic tasks despite the changing location, as well as the differences brought on by our attitude in that particular moment and our later recollection in tranquility.
Right now I’m working on a mixed media piece printed on both paper and fabric, part of my upcoming exhibition “Home(age)” which will show in St. John’s, Newfoundland in 2019. This exhibition also has a recurring theme of memory, specifically as associated with home and aging. The finished piece will explore this concept through the repetition of an image of a condiment jar given to me by my mother. The printing of the manipulated photograph in both textile and paper with added stitch marks, will document the importance of the object as family relic, as well as the degradation of the object and the memory over time.
Listening for the Greening of Home (2017) by A Feltham w9"xh8"
Etching plate with devore etch on azeta fabric.
Do you have goals for the coming year?My one large goal is to produce a piece for a SAQA international exhibition. That seems very ambitious but I like challenges. I firmly believe that if you have the gift and opportunity to be an artist you must continue to explore relevant means and methods to get your message across (because we all have a message), and in so doing, discover who you really are.
Wanderlust by Audrey Feltham (2012) w24” x h18”.
Editioned print on textile and paper fibres.
Visit Audrey Feltham's online store and read more about her work on her website, Atelier West.