Wrapped in Threads

Tara
Tara Bradbury
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Textile students at Anna Templeton Centre wrap up their studies with graduating exhibition

Ever since she was a child, Kayla Walsh says, she would plug her ears when people talked about cancer, sickness or people suffering, because her mind would race with bad thoughts. She couldn’t Google a health symptom, because she’d make herself believe in the worst case scenario and panic until she was able to see a doctor. She hated travelling too far from a hospital, worrying that if something happened to her, she’d be unable to get help in time.

They were all irrational fears, she recognized, but with a strong family history of cancer, they were the things that scared her the most.

Over the past year and a half of studying textiles at College of the North Atlantic, Walsh has learned a lot about herself, and has been able to take her anxieties and turn them into a muse, giving herself therapy at the same time.

She’s part of a group of nine students graduating from the Textiles: Craft and Apparel Design program who are presenting Wrapped in Threads, their graduate exhibition opening Saturday and running until June 15 at the Anna Templeton Centre on Duckworth Street.

The last semester of the two-year program is a self-directed one, during which students — with guidance from their instructors — choose a theme, come up with a proposal and create a body of work. Each student specializes in two of five possible areas: apparel, design and construction, knit and weave, print and dye, and surface embellishment.

Walsh, majoring in knit and apparel, chose to explore her fear and anxieties as her theme. Her work is varied, and ranges from pencil and graphite pieces on paper to sculpture to felted merino wool and hay. She makes a depiction of a cancer cell under a microscope look beautiful in one pastel piece, and sewed a white dress with belted straps up the back, reminiscent of a straight jacket. She created a plaster cast of her own torso, arms and head for another piece, placing small pillows in the head of the sculpture, each embroidered with her thoughts.

“The idea was to see inside my head,” she explained. “(The thoughts) are kind of silly, like, ‘Don’t Google this symptom,’ ‘Is this how a stroke starts?,’ ‘Is that a tumour?,’ and little silly jokes. It’s dark and funny at the same time.

“Going for this and using it as my theme really helped me to be less anxious. I’ve learned to cope with it and it has been a lot better since I’ve done this. It has helped me get through it and face it and instead of hiding from it, I learned to push through. It was awesome and so much fun.”

Student Alexe Hanlon, who specializes in print and dye and apparel, chose menagerie as her theme. She has created a line of dresses in sumptuous, natural, hand-dyed fibers like silk and wool.

“I use a lot of natural dyes,” Hanlon said. “There’s a whole process behind preparing the fabric for it and then dying it and letting it sit for the right amount of time or cooking it to make sure that the colour will stay in it. I also print a lot of my fabric, whether it be screen printing or some type of resist technique or whatever.

“I started off focusing on a collection of animals and a lot of my pieces are inspired by different exotic and unusual animals. As I researched menageries a bit more, it grew into including a lot of elements of luxury and curiosity. I try to put a lot of work into them so they’re really special when people look at them.”

Other students have chosen themes of anatomy, environmental awareness, books, and the tropics. Two students, Ana Perez Rico of Mexico and Kumi Stoddart, a native of Japan, explored culture with their pieces, which range from paper cuts to embroidery to needle-felted wool.

The work is a culmination of their time in the program, explained instructional assistant Sarah Minty.

“In their first year they basically touch on all kinds of different media so they can then choose what they want to focus on in their second year. The whole way along, they’re followed with drawing and design in every semester, and there are also academic courses that they do, like portfolio development and art and craft history and entrepreneurial studies, to round out what they’d need to become a practicing craftsperson.”

Many of the students do become working craftspeople after finishing the course, while others go on to continue their studies or work for other designers. Some return to the program to major in the areas they

didn’t choose last time around.

“Our craft industry here in the province is really strong, so they’ve got a pretty good set-up,” Minty said. “If they want to go out, there’s a community waiting to support them.”

Many of the pieces in Wrapped in Threads are for sale. The exhibition opens Saturday with a reception from 2-4 p.m., and will be open daily until June 15 from noon to 6 p.m.

June 5, the students will hold a fashion show featuring their apparel at the LSPU Hall. Tickets are $17 and can be purchased by calling the Hall at 753-4531 or booking online at www.rca.nf.ca.

Back at the Anna Templeton Centre, on June 6 from

7-10 p.m., they’ll hold “Walking With Our Sisters,” an evening of moccasin top stitching to support missing and murdered Indigenous women of Canada, and on Friday, there will be a cocktail party and boutique opening, where attendees can try on and purchase the clothing.

June 9 will feature a free children’s craft day from

2-4 p.m., with all craft materials supplied. Wrapped in Threads closes June 15 with a tea party from 2-4 p.m.

 

tbradbury@thetelegram.com Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Anna Templeton Centre, Google

Geographic location: Duckworth Street, Mexico, Japan Canada

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