Friday, February 05, 2021

Fibre Art Show at the Café - Interview with Robyn Quaintance

Robyn's show runs until March 10th.  Please stop by and have a look and put a comment in the book!

Your new show just started a few days ago, how do you feel about that?

As my very first solo show, I was terrified and yet afterwards, really pleased with myself for having put my artwork and name out there. It is a big job to get ready for a show including planning and hanging it. Because I was exhibiting more than just prints on a wall, I had to work carefully with Priscilla and her staff and they allowed me to use the table for more displays.  Staging a show is a challenge in a working café, and am grateful for the help of Nettie, Joyce and Carol.

Why fibre arts?

I love working with textures, I love the feel when I spin wool, and it makes me feel good manipulating wool into felt. Bright colours and combining unlikely textures are always fun to work with.  I enjoyed learning about the different kinds of sheep and their coats.  My favourite wool to spin is Lincoln and it comes naturally in lovely silver and grey tones.  It also takes dyes very nicely. My beginning spun wool had plenty of lumps and bumps, which I always appreciated because of the texture.  I have since developed great skill in spinning and have taken up knitting as well.  I have woven lots of ‘rag’ rugs and also very fine, precise pieces, like the vest hanging in the show.  At university, I even had an opportunity to work with a computerized loom, and a large-scale production machine for handmade paper fibre.  I also experimented with dyeing silk with paper fibres and saw how the dye was taken up much stronger (and brighter) by the silk fibres.  It made a really lovely contrast that worked well together.

Why fish?

I have always enjoyed the ocean, and I kayak regularly and look for fish beneath the water.

I wanted to make something different, something whimsical, something playful, something bright with their own personalities. The mobile fish continue to intrigue me when hanging in my own space.  They always seem to have a bit of movement with the air currents and it changes the physical space where they hang because of the movement.  Some people have hung the fish from the rafters with long fishing lines, others on a short leash and still others have hung them from a triangular frame as a larger mobile and they look great in all three ways.  They are one-of-a-kind and all have fish names, which makes it more fun to view them.  

How has your use of fibre as a media progressed over time?

I spun and wove for well over 30 years, and then added making hand-made paper and felting when I went to art school.  I find fibre arts have endured a bad rap and not given the respect the art form deserves. For many years, people thought framed paintings were the most important of the art world, but fortunately, fibre arts have finally gained respect even here on Saturna!

Your art work sounds like it is taking new directions, talk about that.

I have always appreciated the character of wood grains, natural colours and love the smell of working with wood by cutting and sanding it.  All new skills take learning and experimentation, and so it is with painting on raw wood and sitting back to watch what would happen in each stage of sealing.  I find a new piece of wood has its own personality and actually suggests to me what to paint.  The preparation is quite extensive.  I have also been experimenting with water pencil crayons to create a series of large marina/boat scenes.  I have painted 3 large scale murals in my own back and front yards and looking forward to painting more external murals.  One of my neighbours has approached me to paint a mural on her garage.   

Final Thoughts?

It takes a village to raise a child and Saturna clearly demonstrates it has the resilience to roll with the punches.  But we need to remain aware and discuss the bigger issues around us.  This is my role as an artist and yet the whimsical theme of this show contradicts that, like life.      

I am challenged to think about how art interfaces with what is going on around us right now.  Rather than this period being lost to COVID ambiance, as artists, how can we interact and express the dynamic changes that are occurring outside of our little island of Saturna?  I think about how privileged I am to be healthy and living on Saturna.  I believe art needs to give clarity on the social issues of our time and stir up thoughts and difficult conversations. 

Regardless of the world problems, we always need to love and respect each other, including everyone on our island.  Thanks for giving me a voice among my fellow artists here.