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Area of Study Blog

“There must be a reason to dirt a fine, white cloth with print.” –Armi Ratia


Armi Ratia, founder and managing director of Marimekko. Photo: Teppo Lipasti, 1975

Lately in my practice I’ve been thinking about what has influenced my interest and love for hand-printed textiles. While I was deep in my research and thoughts this weekend, I remembered the “Marimekko, With Love” show I was fortunate enough to attend in the winter of 2013. The show took place at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto, Ontario. The quote above popped into my head recently, reminding me of how much this show has had an impact on me, inspiring my work and my design philosophies to this day.


Installation view (2013) Photo: Jill Kitchener

The show was a retrospective look at the famed Finnish design company, Marimekko, founded by Armi Ratia and her husband Viljo in 1951 in Helsinki, Finland. The show explored Marimekko’s uniquely integrated design, manufacturing and marketing. The Toronto Star said the company’s focus was on “style, creative living and bright patterns in a society recovering from the Second World War.” Marimekko’s prints and patterns suited the emerging visual arts landscape of the 1950s and 60s.

The article also stated that “its designer Maija Isola, who created the classic poppy pattern, Unikko, often took cues from nature. Her Lokki design-think horizontal wavy lines- was inspired by a seagull’s shadow flying over water.”

Finding inspiration in one’s surrounding environment hits close to home.


Installation view (2013) Photo: Jill Kitchener


Karelia (Front Street), opening party. Photo: Wollin Gustavs Kayari, c. 1960

“Marimekko introduced boldness and experimentation that left an indelible imprint immediately,” says Shauna McCabe, executive director of the Textile Museum of Canada. “The founder, Armi Ratia, had an encompassing vision about the power of design in everyday life.”

Who wouldn’t fall for these bright, bold and powerful patterns?


Printex printing mill in Helsinki.

To learn more about Marimekko’s history visit:




Creating festive and fun variegated yarn using the slow cooker method is super satisfying and only slightly more difficult than dyeing solid coloured yarn.  The only difference happens at “Step 2”.

For this process I prefer to use the Clubhouse dyes because they are so easy with their little squeezy dropper bottles. The Wilton Icing Gels can also be used as long as you thoroughly mix the gel with a bit of water before adding it to the slow cooker.  Remember, the Wilton dyes are really concentrated so you will only need the smallest amount for this technique.

While your yarn is being pre-treated select a few colours you would like to work with. I usually choose 3 or 4 colours I know will be friendly with each other. Carefully drop one colour into the slow cooker at a time making sure to leave ample white space.  Here are three examples of colour combinations I have used:

Example 1: Clubhouse Green, Neon Green, Yellow and Neon Blue


Example 2: Wilton Black, Clubhouse Neon Blue, Neon Purple and Neon Pink


Example 3: Clubhouse Red, Yellow, Neon Purple

Once you have your dye in the slow cooker, carefully place the lid on top and leave it for at least 2 hours.  It is very important that you don’t stir or bump the slow cooker.  If you do, your dyes will meet and mingle and most likely ruin your variegated intentions and leave you with a yucky, muddy colour.

After the dye bath has been exhausted I like to poke around a bit to ensure there are no undesired chunks of white yarn.  If I find some, I carefully rearrange the yarn, exposing the parts where the colour hasn’t reached and add some more dye.  Pop the lid back on and let the slow cooker continue with its magic.

Continue with Steps 3 & 4 and enjoy your lovely art yarn.


Example 1

Example 2


Example 3


Stitch Journals

For several months now I have been following Bonnie Sennott and her daily stitch journal. For an entire year, at the start of each month, she begins a new embroidery on linen which she works on each day. Based on what she witnesses in her backyard she mimics the colours and growth occurring documenting the changing of the seasons. Sennott uses one colour and one type of stitch each day with each stitch improvised creating an abstract composition. She documents each day on her instagram and blogs regularly on her experiences during the project.

Sennott uses the stitch journal as a part of her morning routine. I love the idea of approaching a piece of cloth each day and affecting it with thread without any preconceived notions of what it will turn out as. Especially when you’re taking the spontaneous element of weather and nature in to consideration.


Day 274. The last day of September.



Day 268.



Day 280. October.



How we survive

TW: sexual assault, victim blaming

When I came to the understanding, years ago, that I had been the victim of sexual violence I decided that I needed to use my artistic voice to speak up about it for myself and others like me. Until recently I thought I could never return to speaking about assault, it is a truly exhausting and intense topic, yet here I am! In bumbling around trying to figure out exactly how I wanted to talk about it this time around, I stumbled across this most wonderful slam poem titled People You May Know, by Kevin Kantor. This poem is about Kantor’s experience with their rapist appearing in their “people you may know” section on Facebook. Upon watching it for the first time I immediately replayed it because I felt it was so powerful and spoke so strongly to the survivor experience of being confronted by trauma almost daily.



~ Madison

Slow Cooker Dyeing or Dyeing for the Half-Assed – Part 1: Solid Colours

Slow cooker dyeing is really easy and can lead to some very satisfying results. I can’t be bothered with the measuring, weighing, math and babysitting involved in traditional dye methods so I will leave that to the Fibre Witches. If you, like me, are half-assed about such things I suggest trying your hand at slow cooker dyeing. Here is summary of the process I spoke of in my PechaKucha last week.

equipmentThe Essential Equipment:

  • slow cooker
  •  white vinegar
  • skeins* of yarn (Protein fibres only!)
  • synthetic kitchen dyes (i.e. Club House Food Colouring, Wilton Icing Gels)

    * If your yarn is in a ball, that sucks. You need to make it into skeins.

Other Useful Equipment

  • measuring spoons
  • buttter knife
  • tongs
  • salad spinner

Step 1: Pre-treat Your Yarn
Place your yarn in the slow cooker and cover it with cool to room temperature water.  I always push the yarn to the bottom of the slow cooker to ensure that it is saturated and as little water is used as possible. Now add some vinegar. I use a splishy-splash for a small amount of yarn, a splash for a bit more yarn and a couple of glugs for a bunch of yarn.  Place the lid on your slow cooker, turn it to high. Leave it for about 15 minutes or until you can see condensation building on the lid.  Once this happens you know your yarn has been pre-treated.


Dye bath – exhausted!

Step 2: Add Your Dye
I don’t really measure my dyes but you can be as particular about this as you want, especially if you are hoping to replicate exact colours.  When using Club House dyes I would start with about 3/8 of a teaspoon and maybe a skimpy 1/8 teaspoon for the Wilton dyes (they are very concentrated).  Give the water a quick swirl, if you like the colour you see put the lid back on the slow cooker and walk away for 2 or 3 or 5 hours.  It doesn’t really matter.

Step 3: Check Your Yarn
Generally, I check my yarn around the 2 hour mark.  If it looks like your dye bath exhausted – great!  If not, put the lid back on and check again in a bit.
Step 4: Rinse, Spin, Dry.
Once the dye bath has been exhausted you can take your yarn out and give it a rinse.  I usually dump the yarn into a strainer and let it cool down for a while.  Once I can comfortably handle the yarn I give it a quick rinse, a squeeze and a few spins in my salad spinner.  The salad spinner is totally optional but it really helps get the excess water out of your yarn.  Now you can hang your yarn to dry. Done. Easy peasy.








Below is a shot of the different greens I was able to achieve using the Club House greens in “Neon” and regular and the Wilton dyes in “Leaf” and “Moss”.   To get the pastel mint green on the far right I dipped just the tip of a butter knife into the Leaf Green and swirled it into the water.  I have had less success making pastel colours with the Club House dyes.


From L-R: Club House Neon Green, Wilton Moss, Club House Green, Wilton Leaf, Wilton Leaf



Filling The Surface

One thing that I am battling with larger scale embroideries is combating all the white space, there’s a fine balance between too much and not enough. I’m stuck within the realm of too much white space and have been researching a variety of other contemporary embroidery artists who’s work expands across the cloth.


Rieko Koga. Tourne tourne. 2010. 152 x 110 cm. Hand embroidery on cotton.


Rieko Koga. Des Pas. 2013. 65 x 49 cm. Hand embroidery on linen.

Rieko Koga, a Japanese artist living and working in Paris, works by hand to create responsive, spontaneous embroideries based on her environments. I thoroughly appreciate the balance of weight within her work as well as the variety of scale.



Christine Mauersberger. Timelapse. 2014. Hand stitched embroidery thread on silk/wool broadcloth. 45″ x 45″


Christine Mauersberger. Life Lines. 2012. Linen, Silk/Cotton thread, hand stitched. 40″ x 36″

American artist, Christine Mauersberger seeks to encapsulate the passage of time through mark making on cloth. Through walking she makes maps of her thought process and passage ways and depicts her journey through stitch. The calmness that hand stitching brings Mauersberger mimics the meditative nature of her walks.

I appreciate the balance between dense areas of overlapping or density with either small or larger areas of blank space that allows the eye to rest. The two pieces above reflect a spontaneous and organic nature of absorbing the surface of the cloth.



Richard McVetis. Displaced. 2008. Hand stich on wool. 28 cm x 56 cm.


Richard McVetis. Five O’Clock Shadow. Capturing a moment in time through stitch. A sunny floor in Madrid. 2013. Hand stitch on wool. 19cm x 19cm.

British artist, Richard McVetis, works with the process of repetition to document space, time and form. McVetis compares the similarities between materials of pen on paper and thread on fabric to create simple imagery that examines subtle differences through repetition of mark making. McVetis is a great example of organization and structure that I respond quite positively to.

One aspect I have yet to come across that I am interested in exploring within my work is the expansion of a thread that is the same colour as the cloth and mimicking it’s weave. If it works out as I imagine it will have a very curious tension and add an extra weight to the cloth without using colour or form.



This post is an update on one of my projects this semester. I have been documenting the process of preparing yarn for an ikat inspired weaving which will later serve as yardage for a set of cushions and a throw/runner. Here are a few photos showing the first few phases of the work. It’s a been a slow developing piece, but so far worth it. Dying yarn for weaving is a serious time investment. I will post more about this project when it is completed.


Tying Ikat on the warp.


The lovely and long process of hand washing yarn that has been dyed in indigo.













The weaving so far.










The Practice of Care

Last year I took a huge leap out of my comfort zone and enrolled in 3 ceramic courses at ACAD ceramic courses. At the time I was looking for a challenge, I left as if I had become too comfortable in my textile work and was no longer feeling a need to push and develop ideas. I was lucky enough to have Katrina Chaytor as my Introduction to Handbuilding instructor, and Robin Dupont as my Introduction to wheel throwing instructor. I remember my very first throwing class feeling as if I would never be able to move a 1 pound of clay into anything resembling a vessel, but still managed to accept the challenge it presented.


Katrina Chaytor. Cups and Saucers. Hand-built Earthenware with slip, glazes and iron transfers. Web. 19 Oct 2016.


Robin Dupont. Soda Fired Plates. 2012. Web. 19 Oct 2016.

What I learned in that semester was not only a multitude of skills and practices that I will carry throughout my life, but also the to practice care. To do the things you care about, to cherish new obstacles as an opportunity to grow as an artist and a person. I think what I learned the most is that the work I care about most is the work that doesn’t sit on a wall in a gallery, it is the work that I get to touch, use and cherish every day. Art can be enjoyed not only intellectually and visual but also physically. As I seek to develop more functional work for the use in the home exemplifying care has become an essential part of my practice.

Visit Katrina’s site here

And Robin’s here


Hendrik Kerstens Protraits of Paula

Photographer Hendrik Kerstens has created a remarkable body of images referencing specific 17th century Dutch paintings whilst exhibiting such a ubiquitous material in our time as plastic.  Where once was linen and cotton, now exists nylon and polyesters, and the tide of plastics seems exponential.  Kerstens is not making fun, he is making a statement. I believe he unintentionally provokes one from the viewer.

What might it say about how we perceive material today? The subject, Kerstens’ daughter, is wearing single-use, disposable items that are easily identifiable by everyone.  Using such a well-known material as plastic as the focal point could open up a discussion about plastic that everyone can, and more importantly should, engage in. “Hendrik Kerstens – Artists – Danziger Gallery.” Hendrik Kerstens – Artists – Danziger Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016. <>.


The New Mending

For my Pechakucha I was inspired by Jonnet Middleton’s essay Mending which looks at the rise of modern day visible mending. Through mending we create a relationship between what we do within the garment and what the garment has endured through that activity.


My favourite denim endured a disastrous accidental dryer incident which split high tension areas to shreds. Unable to completely conceal the repair I embraced the wear and tear for an obvious woven repair.


While I compiled my presentation I realized that something that I valued and appreciated so greatly had little to no involvement within the production of my embroideries. As I approach the beginning of my next embroidery I have been taking mending elements such as darning and patches and into consideration.

Something that I’ve been feeling is missing from my work is a spontaneous, responsive element. Mending in its truest form is extending the functional life of an object by repairing areas of wear. These repairs, when not made invisible, can feel like invasions across the cloth and create a sense of tension.

My next series of smaller scale embroideries focuses on playing with exploratory mark making that interrupts the linear construction of the linen. The stitches are in favour of mending a cloth that doesn’t require mending but instead embraces the techniques and aesthetic elements of mending.


Weaving and plant Dying for Luxury Home goods

We all know how difficult it is to produce work that is for sale, and keep it marketable and priced at a salable price. It is hard to balance production technique with hand finishing every little detail. I often find myself making work that is either so detail oriented and labour intensive that it is impossible to sell or work or work that I feel I have to make too many compromises on to sell at an appropriate price. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that there is a place for both kinds of work, it’s a matter of choosing, or balancing both.

It is always encouraging to find other artists that have found ways keep the processes and ethical material sourcing as the most integral part of the work. One of my favourite examples is a brand called Matson+Palmer. Christy Maston and Jane Palmer work as a pair in Los Angeles. Jane is a natural dyer and Christy a weaver. Together they create luxury hand-made blankets and pillows. They are able to incorporated hand work at every stage of production in their work which makes their work distinct and beautiful.

They are one of my favourite examples of contemporary makers/designers who are working at a luxury goods price point.



Matson, Christy and Jane Palmer. Blanket. 2016. Plant dyed and hand woven cashmere. Matson+Palmer. Web. 7 Oct. 2016.


Matson, Christy and Jane Palmer. Pillows. 2016. Plant dyed and hand woven cashmere. Matson+Palmer. Web. 7 Oct. 2016.


Matson, Christy and Jane Palmer. Pillows. 2016. Plant dyed and hand woven cashmere. Matson+Palmer. Web. 7 Oct. 2016.

For more info visit their site matsonpalmer

or instagram @matsonplamer


The Art of Stillness



In conversation with Pico Iyer and Laurie Brown on Stillness at the Banff Centre Photo Source: personal.


This past weekend I was very fortunate to be able to attend a conversation with writer Pico Iyer and CBC broadcaster Laurie Brown (from The Signal) as they discussed Stillness at The Banff Centre. Pico Iyer (of TED talk fame) has long been an inspiration to me for my written material and content behind my embroideries.

Several years back while working through concepts of home within my work I came across Iyer’s TED Talk called “Where Is Home?” his perspective shook me out of a writer’s rut and helped me work through my own definitions of home. I have since been following his publications closely.

When I later came across his second TED Talk, “The Art of Stillness”. I discovered how we aligned for a second time as I was starting to work through my embroideries on movement. When Iyer’s book of the same title was released I was quick to pick it up, hunkered down with a pizza and read it from beginning to end.


Processed with Snapseed.

Photo Source: personal.

The biggest takeaway that I had from my experience at The Banff Centre and Iyer’s talk was the importance of slowing down in our fast paced digital world. I often look to an embroidery as a source for my personal removal and overstimulation from technology. Embroidery cannot be sped up, no amount of technology will make those handstitches go in any faster without losing their precise nature. I find myself working on my embroideries losing a sense of time and my surroundings and coming to my own definition of stillness.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the talk, comment below!



Fibre can be conceptual. Here’s a book that reminds me of this truth.

As some of you may or may not know I really struggled with choosing a major.  I went back and forth mentally (and physically) between Sculpture and Fibre for over 2 years.  I loved the ruthless, heady space of sculpture and felt it was a comfortable place for someone like me (someone with no particular skill set, an aversion to paint and a tendency to think too much).

After a couple years of gearing myself towards a Sculpture major I took Mackenzie’s Weaving I class for some “material therapy”.  I just wanted to make something beautiful and useful.  I wanted to make something I didn’t have to explain to my Mom. I made a scarf and some pillows. I fell in love with weaving.

Porter, Jenelle, and Glenn Adamson. Fiber: Sculpture 1960-Present. New York: Prestel, 2014. Print.

I was completely torn between conceptual art making and the idea of functional craft.  It took me another year to realize I didn’t have to choose between the two and that fibre work could be just as conceptual as any other type of art.  Had I found a book like Jenelle Porter’s Fiber: Sculpture 1960 – Present earlier I might not have struggled so terribly with my decision to stay in Fibre.

I found this book quite by accident one day while browsing my life away on Amazon. I saw the title and added this 256 page beauty to my cart with little hesitation.  The inclusion of Eva Hesse as a fibre artist is what pushed me to the “checkout” button.

The first half of this book contains several essays and is absolutely busting with full color pictures from over 30 artists.  The second half includes a one page write up on each of the artists as well as more photographs of their work. Although I have yet to read through all of the artists essays I do enjoy looking through it with some regularity.  I find it a great source of inspiration!

Unfortunately, our library doesn’t own a copy of this book but if you see it sitting on my desk feel free to have a look at it.


Quilter Land

I finally have a better idea of what I would like my quilt to look like! Julie gave me a couple of artists that she thought I should look at; I fell in love with Debra M. Smith’s work. Most of her work is pieced from vintage kimono silks.  Below are some examples of her work that I enjoyed.

Debra Smith 2014

The Edge Of Thought, Series #1 35 x 26 inch 2014





Yielding Resistance series, #4, 2009-2010



SO with those two pieces in mind I came up with a rough draft of what I am aiming for with this quilt.


Fear not, these are not the colors I’m aiming for. Illustrator just wasn’t cooperating with me so I kept it fairly neutral. I would like to use cochineal as my main source of dye. I read online that distilled water is the key to a cochineal red so I will be giving that a shot. The shade I wind up with will determine the rest of the color plate.


Vik Muniz ‘Garbage Portraits’

Vik Muniz is a photographer and mixed media artist from Brazil. In this documentary he uses garbage to depict the Brazilian pickers. Vik Muniz’s succeeds not only in portraying the workers’ physical struggle, he also utilises the individual profits from each photograph to pay the worker back in hopes for a new working future.

From a research perspective, the materials we continue to waste daily can financially change the lives of the those who physically suffer from their toxins. Whilst this piece increases awareness, it does not directly influence the consumption of plastic on a global scale, despite the workers extracting at least half of every garbage truck in recyclables.

This is the official site for images and the movie. I do have a personal copy. Let me know if you would like a copy and I can bring it on a USB stick.

“Screenings.” WASTE LAND :. Almega Projects, n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2016. <>.



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