My passion for textiles has been lifelong. I am grateful to have had people in my life that instilled in me their love of handmade and homemade goods. My Mum and Nana both sewed, knitted, crocheted, darned and mended. Sewing clothes and home furnishings, often out of necessity, was a way of life. The tactile nature of sewing and working with fabric felt natural to me.
In high school I sewed my own clothes, repurposed old/vintage clothes, made kids clothes and soft toys for craft shows. As much as I would have loved to pursue a fine arts degree, I completed a degree in Chemistry. I joined the Canadian Conservation Institute as an analytical chemist.
I particularly enjoyed following the work in the textile lab. I was especially fascinated by the variety of textiles that came into the lab, from household textiles to magnificent historic costumes and ancient textile relics.
I continued to sew, embroider, paint and sketch. Inspired by a family friend, I finally discovered that the stitch, sewing was my medium. I chose to use a needle, hand stitching as well as free motion machine embroidery as my tool, just as a painter would choose a paint brush. I love to sew.
I have practiced and continue to explore new ways to stitch. There are so many ways to create using thread.
I no longer evaluate myself in terms of other artists using more traditional media. I let my chosen medium and my experience take me on my own journey.
‘It’s almost like art’ is something I have heard numerous times from visitors at art shows. My motivation and inspiration is the same of most artists. I observe the power of the natural landscape. I endeavour to create work that honours those observations.
I use stitch to challenge the viewer with the old perceptions that the textile arts are just as valid as any traditional media.
Embroidery is an excellent medium to interpret the beauty of nature. I aim to create landscapes, rich in colour and texture to evoke emotion and capture a moment in time.
Now when a visitor, perhaps unfamiliar with textile art says ‘it’s almost like art’, I say ‘it’s exactly like art’ and enjoy the opportunity to have a conversation.
I have been asked to write about myself…don’t you get a little apprehensive when asked to do this?… lets start at the beginning…just kidding:)
Firstly, I am thrilled to be a part of such a diverse and talented group of artists our 7 Works Collective. We learn so much from each other and now we are putting ourselves out there to share with you. I hope that you are enjoying our newsletters and our art, I find that it is diverse and for most of us very different from what we usually do.
With regards to me lets begin with a word- Creative- this word has been used about me for as long as I can remember. My favourite time as a young girl would be sitting under the willow tree in my backyard and just write, colour and of course dream. As I got a little older I would “teach” to the neighbourhood kids using the steps up to the porch as desks. I was also a competitive swim team member of two teams and even had the pleasure of teaching “tiny tots” one summer. I have stripped furniture, calligraphed historical and important documents. I have painted in different mediums and still write poetry/short stories, songs all not published but just for the sheer joy of it. One other item that needs mentioning is my love of photography. I will always be a “student’ of photography- I have been out in nature, taken workshops, been on walks about with a group of photographers and even was lucky enough to photograph a model. I love taking photos for reference and for fun!
For me, art is painting, writing, designing art classes, partnering with other artists to teach and to run events as well as my own participation in shows, pop up shows, galleries and studio tours, demonstrations at conferences and Art Society’s here in Ottawa.
I have volunteered for Associations over the last 25 years and I have had the pleasure of meeting artists and calligraphers from a lot of different places and a myriad of different practices. I never tire of hearing about how other artists make their art. I don’t know if you have had the pleasure of just listening to someone talk about their art, it is fascinating to learn and “see” the process. If you haven’t attended an artist talk give it a try for fun!
Teaching has also been a great learning experience for me- the joy, frustration, eagerness and love of making art fuels the creativity and then ta da! the final piece. The pieces are so varied and I am always amazed at how one idea then becomes a part of many diverse works completed, it is captivating.
I also think that art is so much more than the finished product. It is the stories that accompany the pieces that are absolutely fascinating. Next time you attend an art show and see a piece that resonates with you ask the artist for the “story” behind the piece and I promise you that you will learn a little more about not just the art but the artist too.
I am influenced by what I love - family, friends, nature, music, writing, other artists and this thing called life. If you are at all curious about the “stories” behind my art I have made it easy for you to find them. The stories behind the art page here: https://www.karenwynnemackay.com/paintings
I was the child who loved to make mud pies, build sandcastles, hold frogs and let the lake minnows bounce off my feet. If I sat on my hands, I couldn’t carry on a conversation – my hands had to be moving for the words to flow. Often, I unconsciously make decisions based on touch – the drape of a fabric, the firmness of a chair, the softness of a fruit.
Today, I am a fiber artist drawn to the tactile nature of my materials. Working with many different fiber textures to create, brings me inner peace. Similar to the hand movements that accompanied speech as a child, hand movements as an artist, help me crystallize my ideas and create art. If you find yourself waving your arms as though you are an orchestra conductor or if you make a grabbing motion in air when you are searching for a word or a memory, maybe like me, you see with your hands.
Where do artists find their inspirations? Some have specific muses but Catherine Gutsche finds her inspiration in her every day surroundings. These can be nature’s transient and unpredictable characteristics at home or on holiday that spark her creativity.
When it comes to nature it is the way imperfections stand out and become so captivating. Favourites are lichens on rocks, old crumbling bricks on a building or rusting metals as they melt and change colour. Often these layers of history can be scratched, rubbed and peeled back coming to life in a new way.
I never replicate my surroundings as I see them, I use their improvisations to spur on my painting process with my choices of colour, painting instruments, and feeling for the subject. Have you ever been in a place that you just had to preserve?
So many novels and movies have been set in England around the historical River Thames, particularly in London. The waterway has been used for centuries by merchant ships and barges, influencing commercial pursuits and the location of important buildings and villages that were settled by the Thames. All of these activities have contributed to the contents in the water and the River’s mystery. Because of pollution the Thames is anaerobic - meaning, no oxygen. Items from centuries past, dropped or somehow left in the Thames, have been well preserved in the mud. Every day as the tide goes out a new bounty is revealed on the foreshore of the river.
I often went to the Thames when I lived in London, mostly for walks during lunch at work or taking a water taxi to Hampton Court Palace with my son! During my last trip to London I spent a day on the Thames foreshore under Tower Bridge looking for pieces from the past - this practice is known as mudlarking. When holding a pottery shard, or piece of clay pipe, the sense of history was palpable. I imagined the Roman artisan who created the ceramic bowl or the spice trader who smoked the 17th century pipe. The river holds many beautiful secrets. I have collected items which I have used in mosaics and some of which I will keep when I have a yearning to visit the Thames. Do you collect treasures from the water?