30 September 2016

Kate Madeloso interview: Fibre art that’s eclectic, universal, exploratory

Rooted by K. Madeloso, w20" x h40".
Calgary-born artist Kate Madeloso arrived in Nova Scotia in 2007, after living five years in Europe. Kate is an insatiable artisan and self-professed technique junkie. Her art quilts demonstrate strength in design, love of colour and texture, and fine needlework skills.

In addition to art quilts, Kate has worked (and sometimes taught or exhibited) in numerous media, including stained glass, mosaics, ceramics, stone carving, macramé and rug hooking.

Kate has had one solo show and participated in numerous group shows across Canada, in Japan and in Italy. She contributes to the Nova Scotia fibre arts community through various volunteer activities. Most notably, Kate co-coordinated Art Hits the Wall for a four-year period and co-founded the NS Fibre Arts Bee (FAB), in which she continues to play a leadership role. 

We are delighted to introduce Kate as our first featured artist of the new season.

Kate, please describe your work for our readers.

The words that come to mind are eclectic, universal, exploratory.
I am inspired by traditional craftwork in any medium. I like to reinterpret traditional motifs with contemporary colours and styles, creating unique and original work. 

Most of my work has been representational but with a spontaneous approach to the design aspect, which is consistent with my graphic design background. My current focus is on wall art for home décor. I play with texture and colour and layering, adding unexpected glimpses of detail for an element of surprise. 

Play it Again Sam by K. Madeloso, w20" x h20".

More recently, I have been striving to make my work more socially relevant. Two themes, my Slavic heritage and climate change, have been appearing in my latest works.

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

My mother was an extraordinary seamstress and craftsperson. She taught me to sew, knit, crochet and embroider as a young child, so I’ve been creating with textiles all my life. My formal education led to a 20-year career in graphic design. Throughout that time, I continued doing handwork as a hobby and as an escape from a hectic career.

I discovered the exciting world of textile art in 2003, while living in the UK and earning a Masters Certificate in Surface Design. The experience introduced me to the flourishing European textile art scene, confirming my long love affair with all things textile. 

Life then took me to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where I continued for three years to experiment and ask ‘what if?’ I took classes in bookmaking, beaded jewellery and the ancient Japanese art of temari (thread balls). I spent my Sundays learning to carve stone with a Cypriot family. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to twice visit the markets of Damascus (Syria). The abundant and high quality materials, traditional textiles and handcrafts I discovered there have been an endless source of inspiration. 

Then, shortly after the move to Nova Scotia, a call for art quilts to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables caught my eye. I submitted two pieces. “The Joy of Anne” placed 2nd in its category and subsequently travelled to Japan for two exhibitions. My other entry “A Lovely Place to Live, in an Apple Blossom” placed 3rd in a separate category. I was delighted to receive a substantial award cheque in the mail, an experience that launched my career as an art quilter.

Since that time, I’ve entered many exhibitions and have won several awards for my art quilts. 

Taliesin Mosaic by K. Madeloso, w30" x h36"
Honourable mention, SAQA Atlantic show, Structures, 2015.

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 inspiration comes from whatever gives me joy. Sometimes it’s a message or feeling I want to convey, or it may simply be the fabrics, colours, textures, or embellishments I have at hand. Perhaps a stick found on a beach, an Islamic mosaic, a bouquet of flowers, a piece of Russian embroidery, tribal drumming, or sparkling water running down a creek. So many ideas, interests, techniques and styles, I sometimes find it difficult to focus. I particularly enjoy responding to challenges and calls for entry because the criteria help me focus on a specific project and deadline, much as I did as a graphic designer.

I have an obsessive desire to keep learning and growing and challenging myself with new techniques. I like to layer with organza, digital photos, various fabrics like silk, cotton, wool and repurposed textiles. Lots of applique and embroidery, initially done by machine, but lately I’ve embraced the slow cloth movement and have been enjoying working entirely by hand, on appliqué, patchwork and embroidery. 

While I use a variety of materials and techniques in each project, my approach is consistent. I start with research and reading followed by rough thumbnail sketches in pencil. Then I make a paper pattern drawn to size. I tack that onto my design wall and begin auditioning fabrics. Once the fabrics are chosen the construction comes together quickly. I always finish my pieces with hand embroidery, either a little or a lot, to provide balance and fine detail that draws viewers in.

By Hand with Love (detail) by K. Madeloso, w16" x h31".

What are you currently working on and why?

I always have several projects on the go. Having lived in the Yukon for four years, I have a strong respect for wildlife and for northern Canada. My concerns about melting polar ice have sparked a series of pieces taking a light-sided look at the plight of polar bears. This series combines traditional patchwork with non-traditional embroidery and embellishment.
A Vanishing Culture by K. Madeloso, w24” x h72”.

I’ve also started working on a series relating to my ancestral heritage as a second generation Canadian. My grandparents immigrated from Russia and the Ukraine in the late 1890s. I’m continuously inspired by their vibrant colourful traditions and stories of their pioneer struggles.

In response to a FAB member challenge, I’ve been working on a series of small art quilts based on traditional Russian embroidery designs. This series of appliqué compositions incorporates hand and machine embroidery. I’m currently working with a gallery to organize an exhibition of the challenge pieces early in 2017.

What are your goals for the coming year?

I plan to build on both my climate change and my heritage series, with new and larger pieces, perhaps stretched on canvas for framing. I would also like these works to make more explicit statements, for example, by depicting my ancestors burning firearms in Russia, an issue that’s still relevant today.

On the business side, I’d like to redesign my website and re-energize my blog but I’d rather be stitching than sitting in front of a computer.

As for ongoing learning, I have just been matched with a SAQA mentor and I will also continue working on the UK-based Stitchbusiness Master Class.

Where can readers see your work this year? 

I have two pieces in the combined SAQA travelling exhibits:

My Corner of the World (international) and My Corner of the World Canada (juried) 

Currently scheduled:
May 21 - October 20, 2016: Stratford Perth Museum, Stratford ON
November 1, 2016 - January 29, 2017: Thunder Bay Museum, Thunder Bay, ON

More showings to be announced.

To learn more about Kate and her artwork, please visit her website.


  1. It is so interesting reading about our members and wow, Kate you have led such a life! Your pieces reflect your wide experiences and backgrounds.