Saturday, December 19, 2009

Halifax - Part 2

Halifax Night Lights

Halifax was lit up for the holidays, as well as the usual city lights, but pictures taken in a moving car in snow and rain show it off even better. Last time I was in Halifax there was a fierce snowstorm that shut down the enter east coast, causing a two-day delay in my arrival. School (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, i.e., NSCAD) was cancelled but some students came in anyway to hear my talk. There was no traffic on the road, snow was knee deep, and I thought the town was a small fishing village. This time I realized it is quite large--especially if you consider Dartmouth and Halifax as one city. I liked everything about it and hope to get there in warmer weather when we can walk along the water and not freeze.

Lesley Armstrong in her studio, Armstrong Textiles

I met Lesley Armstrong on that first visit to Halifax and knew I wanted to see her studio. Lesley produces wonderful contemporary textiles that are woven and then felted and manipulated to become textured and lively. She weaves these fabrics on old looms that she has saved from disuse, bringing some of them from England to Canada. I loved the contrast of the up-to-the-minute cloth with the machinery, which is really industrial revolution (ancient compared to modern equipment). You can see that Lesley is as lively as her cloth--always laughing, smiling and exhibiting genuine enthusiasm. Besides running Armstrong Textiles, she is on the faculty of NSCAD.

Robin Mueller (l) and Frances Dorsey (r)
Textile Faculty at Nova Scotia College of Art & Design

Images of NSCAD Textiles Studios
Morag weaving on tapestry loom, top left
Michelle Alarie at TC-1 Loom, center left
Maddy Andrews wearing her jacquard cloth, bottom right

Robin Mueller and Frances Dorsey are the two full-time faculty in textiles at NSCAD. Although it was the end of the term, and everyone was very busy, they kindly asked me to do a lecture for their students. Before my talk I got to visit the studios, which are in a charming old building, one you could easily get lost in. Michelle Alarie, the technical assistant, was my guide and kept me out of trouble. They have a wonderful TC-1 loom with 12 modules. I wove on it the last time I was there. This time I only looked with envy at the width and the extra modules that i would like to have on my loom. There is a strong possibility that I will return to NSCAD in the summer of 2011 to teach, and perhaps there will be a chance for me to try their loom again too. NSCAD has been a strong program for many years--Sandra Brownlee is one of their graduates. One of the reasons it continues to thrive is because the faculty are working artists, as well as teachers. If you click here you can read an interesting review of Fran's recent exhibition, Saigon. There is also a catalog that can be ordered from the exhibition. Though I don't know Fran well, every time I see her I have the feeling that we are old friends. I guess we must have been sisters in a past life.

Wendy Landry in her studio showing her velvet loom

Another woman who teaches at NSCAD is Wendy Landry. We visited Wendy's studio on Saturday. I knew she was a velvet weaver and had modified a loom, but I wasn't familiar with her work. Once I saw it, I thought that not only should I know her work, but so should more people. She has her loom set up with two different warps for the velvet pile so she can do interchanging colors in pile. She is also a historian and scholar, and her interests show up in the weaving. The bottom left image above shows a weaving she did where she combines pile loops and an area of weft tapestry, like the Coptic weavers used to do.

Sandra Brownlee weaving and images of her studio

Of course, we also saw Sandra Brownlee's studio. Sandra's work is featured in the new book, Art Textiles of the World: Canada. So if you can't get to Halifax to see her current exhibition, you can see her work in that book.

Speaking of books, if you are looking for a gift for someone who loves to read, I strongly recommend A Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev. It is one of the most beautiful books I have read in a long time. Bittersweet. It made me want to visit Israel. It got me to write to my wonderful cousin Ahinoam, who I had not contacted in a long time. It's a great read.

I finished my plain weave linen for the curtains. Will take a picture soon to show you the moire effect. I didn't get to light Chanukah candles this year (Happy Chanukah if this is your celebration!) so this tree below will have to do.

Festive Halifax Tree

1 comment:

  1. Loved these two posts! When I first decided to major in textile design, I wasn't quite sure it would be for me, but knew I was good at sewing and knitting and somehow wanted to work with fabric. I think I assumed I'd be a knitter. Sandra was my first weave design teacher and I knew after her class I would be a weaver. I remember loving that on the first day of class she gave us a 3 page handout of book recommendations. I still have it! She also gave us a bookbinding workshop, which I loved. She was so inspiring, so good to see photos of her!