Saturday, May 29, 2010

Interview series: Lorraine Roy - Textile and Fiber Artist

Lorraine Roy is an award winning contemporary mixed-media textile artist from Dundas, Ontario,Canada who incorporates sewing, collage, embroidery, photo transfer, quilting and thousands of fibre and thread snippets into her work. Lorraine is a full-time textile artist with many international exhibitions to her name. She works from her home studio with her husband fine art photographer Janusz Wrobel.

As many of you know i've become a bit of a Facebook junkie in recent months and part of the reason for that is the frequency i've been stumbling upon some of the most amazing artists and their works. I found Lorraine Roy this way and after taking a look through her website and reading the quite unique techniques she uses I just knew I had to ask her to do an artist interview.

Lorraine's horticultural background and subsequent research regularly inspire her wonderful imagery. Landscapes that combine realism and abstraction combine with symbols from dreams, mythology and memories to create organic conceptual pieces that make the most of the rich medium combinations.

'The Seven Days of Creation' 69x80" (175 x 203cm) 
2008 Wall hanging, Commission, SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle. Cotton batting. This is Lorraine's favourite work. Five separate quilts were created and then hung together.

  How long have you been quilting and what first drew you to it? 
I have never NOT worked with fabric, beginning with sewing (from the age of 6), but ironically I never learned to make a proper quilt. I have been a professional textile artist for just over 20 years, but my formal education is in Horticulture.
'Between Now and Then' 36x48"  (91 x 121cm) 2009 SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 How would you describe your style now? 
Painting with fabric… it’s a mixture of machine collage, appliqué, embroidery and quilting. I call my main technique "collage with nets". I love how it allows me to explore the freedom of line and shape that exists in the world of painting without compromising the intensity of colour and texture that you can achieve with fabric.

I begin with a plain fabric ground. On this surface I drop hundreds, sometimes thousands of tiny bits of cut fabrics and threads (of any kind – natural, synthetic, metallic) until I reach a depth and texture that pleases me. I then pin transparent netting on top, usually nylon tulle, which holds everything in place. The layers are then machine stitched together. This new fabric is now ready for further surface work: machine applique, embroidery, collage, and, more recently, photographic transfers from my photographer husband’s huge collection of natural images ( The finished surface is then quilted over batting and backing to fix the shape and enhance textures and lines. 
The above shows snippets of threads, scraps of fabric and yarn scattered over a backing fabric. Below is the same piece after being covered in netting and partly stitched.

 How has your style evolved? 
After many wearable fashion disasters, I learned that I had an aptitude and passion for hand embroidery. During my teens and onward I absorbed nearly every embroidery technique and was even teaching them at one point. But as you may suspect, it’s a slow medium. The transition to my new techniques took a number of years and lots of experimentation.

 Apart from quilting what else to you do within the industry? 
I occasionally teach workshops on a freelance basis (teaching my techniques or design). Lately I have been organizing my own, by renting facilities in a lovely historic church just around the corner. I even provide excellent lunches and it’s lots of fun. Also, I do some public speaking and presentations, and trunk shows, about my work and/or about native trees and art.
Red Maple  2008  28x32" (71 x 81cm)  Wall hanging  SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle. Cotton batting.

 What's the best advice you could give someone who wants to try quilting or textile art for the first time? 
Don’t let anyone burden you with rules.. if you feel excited and it’s breaking a rule, then go for it.

 Do you exhibit your work? 
Over the years I have exhibited extensively… in commercial and public galleries and plenty of unlikely places too. I love showing my work and it’s the way I connect with viewers and clients.
Buried Treasure  30x10" (76 x 25cm) 2009  $725 USD
Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 How do you go about finding and selecting galleries? 
Sometimes galleries approach me directly or via my website, but more often I approach them. First I make sure they are a good fit for my work, then I speak to other artists to find out what their experience is with the gallery. After that I follow the protocol that most galleries post on their site. I haven’t needed to do that in a few years… I now have just the right number and quality of commercial galleries.

I also do a few very carefully selected Commercial fine art shows (where each artist has a booth) – this is an excellent way to meet the public and increase my mailing list. I only do shows that are well juried and have high standards. They are not cheap, but well worth the investment.
Sacred Tree #1  12x12" (30x30cm) 2010  $425 USD

Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 Do you belong to any quilt associations? 
No, I don’t belong to any quilt associations. Although I do miss that kind of camaraderie, it’s more useful and interesting to belong to Naturalist clubs, Fine art clubs, or any groups outside the textile community. This keeps my ideas and work fresh.

 What would you recommend people do who want to seriously get into textile art? 
Hang out with artists in all media. Learn and study all kinds of things, not only textile art and techniques. Bring in every experience you have. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do and how to do it. Be very selective of your critics. Try to build a broad income base by diversifying, using all your strengths and passions.
Sumac Ridge  24x41"  (61 x 104cm)  2010  Wall Hanging  SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle. Cotton batting.

 What inspires you? 
Over the years, my work has become a blend of all my interests: nature, science, spirituality, literature, arboriculture, botany, environmental issues, my childhood on a farm … It’s a long list! I am best known, however, for my portrayals of native trees. Since my BSc in Horticulture, I’ve done a lot of research on culture, symbolism, mythology, native uses, stories, poems… and the more I learned, the more fascinating trees became. So that’s an ongoing inspiration.
Spring Aspen  30x15"  (76 x 38cm) 2010  Framed textile SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 What sewing machine / threads etc do you use? 
I have 2 Berninas: an old regular one (made in Europe), and an even older industrial one. Both have free motion options. I don’t need anything fancy, just a strong motor and reliability. I use all kinds of threads, but prefer rayon for its shine and strength.
Lorraine's home studio
Her smaller scraps are bagged by colour and stored by shade. Bigger pieces are sorted into wire draws.
Below is a close up of her bagged scraps and a photo of her Hillcrest studio in the summer time.

 Do you have any formal art training? Do you think it's necessary? 
I don’t have formal art training. I don’t think it’s necessary but I’m sure it can’t hurt.

 What's the most rewarding thing about your career? 
Art is my way of sharing how I see and feel about the world. When people see it, they know something about me, much better than when I open my mouth. This makes it easier for a shy person like me to make connections and bring those fine souls my way. Everything evolves from there.

 How did you learn the techniques you use? 
Mainly through experimentation and looking at other artists’ work.

 What are your favorite / least favorite parts of the quilting process? 
Endless pinning. I don’t enjoy pinning. :(  Or putting on the sleeve at the end... (huge sigh). But frankly, there is very little I don’t love about every stage of my process.

Associated Links:

Lorraine's website 

Collage with nets technique in detail

Lorraine's book 'Saving Paradise'

Follow Lorraine workshops and artworks on her Facebook page

Email Lorraine to sign up for her workshop mailing list or to purchase art

I hope you enjoyed this interview and love to read your comments, please leave them by clicking on the 'comments' link below. –Neroli Henderson

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  1. Thank you, Neroli! I thoroughly enjoyed this interview, and working with you. Very professional!

  2. Wow some great tips in this interview and i really enjoyed reading outstanding is Lorraine's work and i love the fact of "dropping hundreds, sometimes thousands of tiny bits of cut fabrics and threads" Also i think my favourite piece is Red Maple.

    Thanks for doing this interview off to check out Lorraine's links now x

  3. Neroli,

    I found your blog and Lorraine's beautiful quilts owing to Facebook. Your interview is well written and informing. Thank you for sharing.

    Glenda Rae

    I just realized Ear is my last name spelled backwards. :)

  4. Hi Neroli
    Thanks for providing this insight into such an inspiring quilter's work.

  5. Loved the interview Neroli - such beautiful and interesting work, so we do need that collections of pieces after all- Sylvia

  6. Great interview Neroli... really interesting. I loved all the work but, my favourite was Spring Aspen. Thanks for sharing.

  7. What a fantastic interview Neroli. Until now I'm afraid I hadn't seen any of Lorraine's work - such a different technique. For me much better than trying to paint a background which I'm not comfortable with. Now I know I will NEVER through away any of my snippets of thread of material. Am going to check out her site.

  8. Lorraine's work is wonderful. Your interview is most informative and engaging - thank you!


  9. Fabulous work! Thanks for doing our homework for us and trawling Facebook. This was very interesting and inspiring, especially the part where Lorraine says that art training is not necessary - I usually find that I am intimidated by people with fine arts degrees.

  10. Lorraine's art is stunning. The interview was very informative. Thanks.

  11. Thank you, all! I am so pleased to have some exposure in Australia... it's a country I have always wanted to visit. Wouldn't it be fun if I could teach a workshop there some day? Just putting it out there.... :)

  12. Oh... and to answer Mary's comment... I have learned that many artists with Fine Art degrees end up teaching. Not because they are not great artists, but because they find it easier to make a living that way. It IS easier. The path of professional artist is the hardest, but it's not impossible if you persevere. That, after talent, is THE most important quality to possess.

  13. I hadn't come accross this artist before but love her work! Thanks for bringing her to our attention Neroli.

  14. Thanks for all the positive feedback! As always puts a smile on my face and makes me want to do more interviews :)

    Mary that's interesting to note, I have a graphic design degree and did a TAFE year of art and design before that, but I would actually quite like to do a fine art one as well. Promise if I ever get to do that I'll try my very best not to be intimidating if you meet me :) (also promise to never use the word 'juxtaposition' in any description of an art piece ever!) :)

  15. Wow - Thanks for bringing this artist to our attention. Having saved tons of tiny snippets of fabric/thread I did a couple of ATCs and a postcard using similar techniqueand subject matter - poplar trees. Hope someone can bring her to Australia so I can learn to use the rest of them

  16. Yes, yes, someone bring me to Australia!

  17. Do it in Melbourne and I'll be there! :)

    I'm guessing there may well be others but I only know of one tutor / textile artist who works in a similar way to you, however she doesn't tend to use snippets of yarn etc as much and sandwiches between water soluble and thick stabiliser backed cotton. That's Caroline Sharkey who I was lucky enough to do a class with at the AQC in Melbourne a couple of years ago.

  18. Wonderful Neroli. What a great artis you have brought to our attention.
    Love all of it.

  19. I like it very much quilt your works .
    I like it what you do gladly freely that your soul is and who you sew it and you express your own feeling, your emotions .
    There is not a border only freedom .

    Marika Hungary

  20. Thank you Marika! Lorraine's works are very expressive and free. I think that's one of the things I love most about textile art - the medium can be used in so many ways and there are no rules about the best way to make a piece. It really frees up the creation and allows you to think about the best way to show the feeling you want, rather then thinking of the best way to do it with a set product or medium.

  21. By the way it's lovely to see that someone from Hungary has read my blog!! That's a very long way from Australia, so thanks again for commenting. I feel all international! :)

  22. I love how social networking (twitter) brought me to your blog to read your interview with Lorraine Roy. I had the privilege of taking a class with her in a church basement in Guelph, Ontario, and found that she opened my mind to possibilities with fabric and other bits. Her trees 'in person' blew me away. Thanks for sharing.


  23. I just chanced on this interview through Facebook--absolutely wonderful and inspiring. I loved the depth and texture of her work. Thank you so much.