Northern threads

Sudbury artists put spin on fabric

P0P FOLK T3XT1L3S at Campbell House Museum (160 Queen West), to August 9. 416-597-0227. Rating: NNN

Despite its techy spelling of the word “textiles,” this show from Sudbury’s Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario, curated by Sophie LeBlanc and co-presented by T.O. francophone arts group Le Labo, is not about smart fabrics that answer your iPhone or drapes that change colour with your mood. 

Instead, four women from the province’s north put their own contemporary spins on traditional needlework techniques. 

Feel Better, Judy Martin’s wall installation of small white cloth packages wrapped in red thread, plays on infant swaddling, bandaging and aboriginal medicine bundles. It seems unprepossessing at first, but as I worked at Martin’s small sewing station making my own bundle with twigs, cloth and string, I came to appreciate the healing power in the act of wrapping, which helped the artist after her mother’s death. Such sharing, DIY activities are an essential part of textile craft.

Mariana Lafrance’s small quilt using the diamond pattern called tumbling blocks looks ordinary as well, but the gentle progression of earth colours she’s achieved by tinting found textiles with plant dyes results in a subtle, unique harmony. 

Danielle Gignac’s cozy teepee offers a resting place. Using saplings as tent poles, she’s woven a covering around them from sewn-together socks donated by residents of Sudbury. Aptly called Walking Home, it draws a connection between garments and nomadic shelter.

The show’s techiest work, by Greta Grip, translates QR codes into knitting. Unlike Douglas Coupland, who makes QR graphics into colourful op-arty paintings, Grip sticks to the natural tones of undyed fleece in her small knitted squares, which link to videos of Dot, Sammy, April and Sara, the sheep who contributed the wool. 

A wall of people’s quotes about textiles seems a bit too much like a public service announcement, but this is still a lovely small show by artists not often seen in Toronto, and setting it in a heritage house adds another layer of history.

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