11 May 2018

Lois Wilby Hooper Interview

Iron in the Blood by Lois Wilby Hooper, 2015 w28” x h40”

Lois Wilby Hooper is a self-taught fibre artist from Moores Mills NB. She is known for exploring textile techniques in unusual ways, with unique materials, incorporating traditional needle skills. Lois has shown her work in numerous quilt shows, including solo shows at the Saint John Arts Centre and the Sunbury Shores Arts Centre in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. She has taught various textile-related classes for quilt guilds and for the City of Saint John, NB. 

How would you describe your work?

My current work can best be described as mixed media, incorporating metals, sheers, beads and fabric manipulation. I enjoy the contrast of modern fibres and techniques combined with the traditional, stretching me in new directions. Even so, I find myself sometimes going back to my embroidery roots. 

How did you come to be an artist who works with textiles?

I grew up with sewing and embroidery, heavily influenced by the long line of needle workers on both sides of my family. But I came to quilting much later, during its revival in the 1970s. Initially I made bed quilts for my home, but my work gradually evolved into smaller pieces inspired by traditional patterns. 
Sue Anonymous 1 by Lois Wilby Hooper (1998) w20” by h28”

I “came of age” as a quilter with a 1990 CBC radio interview on Peter Gzoski’s Morningside and the publication of my original quilt pattern, Canadian Seasons, in Canadian Living magazine. The pattern was subsequently republished in the book Quiltworks Across Canada by Gail Hunt. 

My "trial by fire" came in 1998 with my Sue Anonymous series depicting violence and abuse against women. In the years since, I’ve participated in many quilt and art shows, sometimes together with my friend and fellow artist with Sandra Betts

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

I don’t have any particular process for creating a piece. Ideas just jump into my head, perhaps inspired by a juxtaposition of colours, the glint of sunlight on water, or fallen leaves. I've always had a good memory for patterns and designs, unconsciously re-arranging shapes and colours mentally, so I can often visualize the finished piece soon after I get the initial idea. At other times, it may take years before I "see" the completed piece or learn a technique that enables me to produce the result I’m looking for.

Fog in the City by Lois Wilby Hooper (2013) w32” x h18”

What features do you most like and dislike about your studio?

Thanks to my wonderfully supportive husband, I have a large studio in what was originally a hay loft above our carriage house. The studio has excellent lighting and ample storage for supplies and unfinished projects. The large space allows me to have numerous projects on the go at once. I love having a private area, connected to the house, where I can work without interruption!

What are your goals for the coming year?

My goal is to get some of my countless unfinished pieces completed or in some way repurposed I hardly need mention that it tends to be my goal every year!

Abandoned by Lois Wilby Hooper (2015) w41” x h38”

How has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

I believe that my love of history and genealogy shows very strongly in much of my work. My experience volunteering in museums and textile collections has given me an appreciation of our rich Maritime heritage. 

Iron in the Blood (top) is a tribute to the railway men who bound this country together with steel rails, often giving their lives in the process. This piece won an Award of Merit at the 2015 Grand National. 

Abandoned (above), is an abandoned boat house, a tribute to the generations of fishermen who worked in such difficult conditions. With the decline of the fishing industry, the buildings and wharves in our harbours are now derelict. My husband's family fished the Bay of Fundy for over 200 years, yet now there are no fishermen left in the family.

Organic by Lois Wilby Hooper w28” x h29”

Do you engage in other artistic or creative endeavors? 

Yes, I'm also a knitting designer. I always have several pieces of knitting and/or wearable art on the needles or hook. Over the past few years I've started to incorporate knitting and fabric manipulation into textile pieces, as well as embroidery and beading. Combining these traditional techniques with unusual fabrics like polyester sheers, Tyvek, cheesecloth, metals and found objects is an ongoing fascination. 

Tell us about your most memorable experience as an artist. 

The Sue Anonymous series stands out as my most memorable experience. To this day, I don't know why it affected me so deeply. Perhaps it was the shock I felt that people could perpetrate such violence against their own family. I was driven to finish that four-piece series, living with it daily and dreaming about it at night until its completion. 

The subject was so taboo at that time that the work was nearly rejected from a quilt show. My battle with "the quilt police" was justified by the numerous women who secretly thanked me and shared their own experiences. 

The Sue Anonymous series has been shown in talks to both artists’ and women's groups and it's as powerful today as it was then. For several years, the series was used as an art display and a teaching tool by the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research. 

What fibre artists are you currently interested in, and why?

British fibre artists such as Maggie Grey, the late Valerie Campbell-Harding, and Yvonne Brown inspire me in the way they explore fibre, design, and techniques. 

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

Because of health issues, I have exhibited very little in the past couple of years. However, I have donated my work to the SAQA benefit auction for seven years now and one of my pieces sold for $1000.00 on the 2015 auction’s Diamond Day. I have also donated my artwork to other SAQA functions as well as several local charities. 

Moon Garden by Lois Wilby Hooper (2013) w24” x h30”


  1. So interesting to see more of Lois's work and hear about her inspiration. Thanks!

  2. The variety in your work and use of mixed media is interesting. I like the latest piece, Moon Garden. I hope you’ll continue to work, Lois.

  3. Nice to read this. I have always admired Lois's art.