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FABRICation

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August 24 - October 24, 2010
Images from left to right: Bev Hisey. Spun floor runner, 2010. Kathryn Walter, FELT Studio. Wall Molding, 2010. Virginia Johnson. Duck Aegean Blue chain stitch pillow (detail), 2010.
Images from left to right: Bev Hisey. Spun floor runner, 2010. Kathryn Walter, FELT Studio. Wall Molding, 2010. Virginia Johnson. Duck Aegean Blue chain stitch pillow (detail), 2010.

Idea Exchange
Design at Riverside
7 Melville Street S, Cambridge, ON
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FABRICation features products, collections and contract installations by 10 renowned Canadian textile designer-entrepreneurs whose work bridges the worlds of art and commercial fabrication.  The exhibition focuses on designs referred to as ‘limited, or studio production’ works, meaning that they incorporate manufacturing processes and technologies, but are produced in limited quantities rather than mass produced.

Each of the studios is represented by several examples of their work, which provides an opportunity for a closer look into their individual design styles.  The works on display were selected exclusively from those developed for residential interiors and architectural & contract design installations and does not include apparel.

Toronto: Bev Hisey | Virginia Johnson | Arounna Khounnoraj (bookhou) | Joy Walker (WORKtextiles) | Kathryn Walter (FELT Studio) | Lily Yung
Montreal: Monique Beauregard & Robert Lamarre (Seri+) | Institute of Everyday Life | Marie-Hélène Langevin (MOTIF Textile)
Halifax: ArchiTextiles lab | Lesley Armstrong and Anke Fox (Armstrong Fox Textiles)
Vancouver: Laura Friedland Design/Moose Mountain

Bev Hisey
Bev Hisey began her career in apparel design where she taught herself patternmaking, garment construction and sewing. She has operated her own retail store and also worked as a production manager at...

Bev Hisey began her career in apparel design where she taught herself patternmaking, garment construction and sewing. She has operated her own retail store and also worked as a production manager at a childrenswear company. In the mid 1990s Ms. Hisey shifted her interest to furniture, studied upholstery, and began producing a collection of soft furnishings and custom designs for several Toronto home décor boutiques.  In 2002 she launched her first home textiles line under her own Bev Hisey label and distributes her work through select design stores across Canada and the United States and directly to designers and architects on-line. She is committed to producing as much of her work in Canada as possible.

Virginia Johnson
Virginia Johnson is a Canadian textile designer whose colorful prints decorate clothing, shawls, a home collection, and children’s wear. Her work is carried in more than 100 stores worldwide,...

Virginia Johnson is a Canadian textile designer whose colorful prints decorate clothing, shawls, a home collection, and children’s wear. Her work is carried in more than 100 stores worldwide, including Barneys, Takashimaya, Holt Renfrew, Liberty, Selfridges and Net-a-Porter. Each Virginia Johnson print begins as a watercolor painting, which is silk-screened onto fabric, then cut and sewn in Toronto or India. She draws inspiration from her travels and from nature, particularly birds, water, trees, flowers and animals. 

Virginia attended New York’s Parsons School of Design and worked for designer Helmut Lang before founding her own line in 2001. In addition to textile and clothing design, she works as an illustrator. Her illustration clients have included magazines Vogue and InStyle, as well as designer Kate Spade and retail store Holt Renfrew. 

Arounna Khounnoraj
Arounna Khounnoraj received her art education from The Ontario College of Art, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and an MFA from University of Waterloo. She is the recipient of numerous awards...

Arounna Khounnoraj received her art education from The Ontario College of Art, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and an MFA from University of Waterloo. She is the recipient of numerous awards and has exhibited her work in solo and group shows across North America and Europe. Her textile and sculpture work is included in both public and private collections. She currently resides in Toronto and runs her design business bookhou with her husband John Booth and their children Lliam and Piper.

bookhou is a multidisciplinary studio (textile, wood, letterpress, art) that emphasizes handmade and small production pieces made from natural materials. bookhou was cofounded by John Booth and Arounna Khounnoraj in 2002 as a means to showcase their individual and collaborative work.  In 2008 boohkou opened a bricks and mortar retail shop, gallery and studio/workshop space in downtown Toronto.

Joy Walker
Joy Walker is a Montréal born, Toronto-based, multidisciplinary artist. In May – June 2019, Walker, produced artist projects at the TextielLab in Tilburg, Netherlands and at the Van Eyck...

Joy Walker is a Montréal born, Toronto-based, multidisciplinary artist. In May – June 2019, Walker, produced artist projects at the TextielLab in Tilburg, Netherlands and at the Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands. In January 2020, Walker was the recipient of the Chalmers Arts Fellowship awarded by the Ontario Arts Council.

Her work has been exhibited widely, including 8eleven Gallery, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (Toronto), Plug-In Institute of Contemporary Art (Winnipeg), Truck Gallery (Calgary), Dunlop Gallery (Regina), Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, (Halifax), Rodman Hall (St. Catharines, ON), Cambridge Galleries (ON), Venice (Italy), NYC, Chicago, and Miami (USA). Walker’s works are held in several private and public collections including those of Cambridge Galleries (ON), le Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal (QC), The National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives (ON), BMO Financial Group Corporate Art Collection, Grant Thornton LLP, and TD Bank.  She is represented by MKG127 in Toronto.

 

 

Kathryn Walter
Kathryn Walter was born in 1963. She has maintained a studio practice since 1990, working at the intersection of visual art, design and material culture. She received a BA in Art History from Queen...

Kathryn Walter was born in 1963. She has maintained a studio practice since 1990, working at the intersection of visual art, design and material culture. She received a BA in Art History from Queen's University in 1985, and has since worked and studied in Vancouver (BFA, Emily Carr College of Art and Design, 1989), and Montreal (MFA, Concordia University, 1993). 

In 1995, she returned to her home town of Toronto where she currently lives. In 2000 she founded FELT, a company, a studio and a label, to explore modern industrial felt through exhibitions, a product line and feature wall installations, collaborating with architects across Canada and the United States, including Levitt-Goodman Partners for Native Child and Family Services, Lemay Michaus Architecture for Google Montreal, superkül for Aesop Toronto, Johnson Chou Architects for Red Bull Toronto, Yazdani Studio for The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and Diller Scofidio + Renfro for their office in New York. Walter's work has been exhibited at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, the Banff Centre for the Arts, Oakville Galleries, Idea Exchange, the Textile Museum of Canada, Royal Ontario Museum, The DX Design Museum and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in NYC.

In 2015 she founded dittybag, as a division of FELT, with her partner Greg Woodbury to develop a series of projects about mending, and make use of remnants and stock her design projects. Walter and Woodbury's combined backgrounds in textiles, design, art and film provide a unique set of tools to shed a modern light on a fading practice. dittybag takes the form of events, partnerships and an on-line magazine with an aim to resonate in a world where so much stuff with so little meaning is produced in excess everyday. 

Walter walks a line between the functional and experimental with some projects exploring form and others using irony and humour to raise questions about the world we live in. She has found a balance in a viable and critical art practice. 

Lily Yung
Originally from Hong Kong, Lily Yung was an active member of the Toronto arts community for many years. She was a founding members of *new* gallery, co-producer of the Talk Craft lecture series, a...

Originally from Hong Kong, Lily Yung was an active member of the Toronto arts community for many years. She was a founding members of *new* gallery, co-producer of the Talk Craft lecture series, a contributor to Craft journals,  and is the 2010 recipient of the prestigious John Mather Award for Lifetime Achievement from Ontario Crafts Council. While completing her Ph. D. in Immunology at the University of Alberta, Lily studied printmaking and subsequently began designing and making jewellery.  In 2004, she received an Artist in Residence for Research project grant (supported jointly by the Canada Council for the Arts and the National Research Council of Canada), that launched her exploration into the design and fabrication of objects through Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM). Her main focus of her textile work was the creation of unique and limited edition works using Rapid Prototyping (RP) systems, though she also utilized die and laser cutting, CNC milled molds for casting and water jet cutting in her work. The aim of her design work was to integrate the skills of the craft artist and the technologies of manufacturing.

Monique Beauregard
In 1974, Monique Beauregard & Robert Lamarre started their own business, SÉRI+ designing and hand printing textiles for interiors. Monique and Robert were both born in Montreal. Monique...

In 1974, Monique Beauregard & Robert Lamarre started their own business, SÉRI+ designing and hand printing textiles for interiors. Monique and Robert were both born in Montreal. Monique graduated in interior design from L’Institut des Arts appliqués in Montreal and then studied textile design and print at the University of London, Goldsmiths’ College. Robert graduated in exhibit design from L’Institut des Arts appliqués, followed by studies in graphic design at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

SÉRI+ is considered a ground breaking firm, first penetrating and then influencing the closed clique of the Canadian textile manufacturing and distribution industry. SÉRI+ has been widely recognized for their work internationally and have twice (1986, 1994) been invited by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to provide complete samples of their contemporary textile lines for the museum’s collection. 

In 1985, Beauregard and Lamarre founded the Centre de Recherche et de Design en Impression Textile de Montréal (The Montreal Textile Printing Design and Research Centre). Monique Beauregard continues to serve as the Director of the Centre.

Robert F. Lamarre
Robert Lamarre was born in Montréal and studied at l'Institut des Arts Appliqués de Montréal and at l’Université du Québec in Montréal.  In 1974 he began a business with Monique...

Robert Lamarre was born in Montréal and studied at l'Institut des Arts Appliqués de Montréal and at l’Université du Québec in Montréal.  In 1974 he began a business with Monique Beauregard called SÉRI+ in which they designed and hand printed textiles for interiors. SÉRI+ is considered a ground breaking firm, first penetrating and then influencing the closed clique of the Canadian textile manufacturing and distribution industry. In 1985, they founded the Centre de Recherche et de Design en Impression Textile de Montréal which is dedicated to research, innovation, diffusion, and the teaching of contemporary textile design and printing. Lamarre’s own work uses new printing and dyeing techniques. In 1986, and again in 1994, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London accepted the complete SÉRI+ textiles samples in its contemporary textile archives.

In 1985, Beauregard and Lamarre founded the Centre de Recherche et de Design en Impression Textile de Montréal (The Montreal Textile Printing Design and Research Centre). Monique Beauregard continues to serve as the Director of the Centre.

Institute of Everyday Life
The Institute of Everyday Life (IEL) is an art-ideas studio/lab led by Ingrid Bachmann. IEL looks at the everyday as a site to generate, create and present artworks. IEL also serves as a metaphoric...

The Institute of Everyday Life (IEL) is an art-ideas studio/lab led by Ingrid Bachmann. IEL looks at the everyday as a site to generate, create and present artworks. IEL also serves as a metaphoric umbrella for a range of activities that includes interactive installations, site-specific projects, the design of functional items, and the-re purposing of existing goods and machines into art to rethink value, in a climate of consumer excess and waste.  IEL is a lively, somewhat chaotic, dynamic, multidisciplinary studio/lab that explores the potential for art in all aspects of daily life.

It is currently housed at Hexagram-Concordia in Montreal, Canada. The Hexagram Institute is the largest arts and design based new media lab in Canada and is recognized internationally as the Canadian pole for interdisciplinary research in new media art, design, and interactive performance and technologies.

Members: Dana Dal Bo – undergraduate student | AF Wauthy – undergraduate student | Sarah Comfort –graduate student | Val Boxer – undergraduate student | Jonathan Villeneuve- graduate student | Martin Peach – programmer, staff researcher

Associate Members: Chris Flower | Pal Thayer | Alan Groombridge

Ingrid Bachmann Director

Ingrid Bachmann’s work is polymorphous and multi-disciplinary. She works across a range of materials, techniques and ideas. Her interests span ob­solete technologies and new digital media. She is interested in a lateral model of art where interactions between artist, audience, artwork and the site of production and dissemination become more fluid. Ms. Bachmann has published numerous essays on textiles and cultural analysis, and is co-editor of Material Matters, a critical anthology on the relationship between textiles and culture now in its third edition. She is a founding member of the Interactive Textiles and Wearable Computing Lab of Hexagram and is the Director of the Institute of Everyday Life, an art/ideas lab at Hexagram/Concordia.

Marie-Hélène Langevin
Marie-Hélène Langevin graduated from the Centre Design & Impression de Textile de Montréal in 1995 and opened her own atelier 1997. She has received numerous exclusive contracts to produce...

Marie-Hélène Langevin graduated from the Centre Design & Impression de Textile de Montréal in 1995 and opened her own atelier 1997. She has received numerous exclusive contracts to produce garments and textile designs for the film industry and has frequently worked with interior designers and architects on custom commissions. With the expansion of her atelier to new premises in Lachine, she decided to build on her passion for decoration and expand her production to create a coordinated collection for the home.  In 2009, she opened MOTIF Textile, a boutique/showroom adjacent to her atelier. MOTIF offers Marie-Hélène’s line table and bed linens, and drapery and upholstery fabrics to the design trade.

ArchiTextile lab
The ArchiTextiles lab, or @lab for short, was established in 2008 as a centre for the design and development of electronic textiles for architectural applications. Over the past decade, the...

The ArchiTextiles lab, or @lab for short, was established in 2008 as a centre for the design and development of electronic textiles for architectural applications. Over the past decade, the field of electronic textiles has undergone a boom world-wide, integrating new materials, fibres and fabrics with electronics to create textiles that can adapt and transform themselves. @lab builds on this emergent technology of electronic textiles to create large-scale applications such as walls, ceilings, and architectural enclosures. The lab brings together specialists from the fields of architecture, textiles, electrical and mechanical engineering, and jewellery in an interdisciplinary team. Robin Muller and Sarah Bonnemaison are the directors.

The lab is funded for a three-year period, with the goal of developing a number of prototypes to be manufactured in Atlantic Canada and then marketed nationally and internationally.

Robin Muller

Robin Muller received a BFA in Textiles and Jewellery from Virginia Commonwealth University and a MFA in Textiles from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is a full professor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) specializing in weaving and book arts.  Her woven textiles and artists’ books have been exhibited extensively in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. In 2008, Ms. Muller received an Atlantic Innovation Fund Grant with Sarah Bonnemaisson to explore Electronic Textiles for Architectural Applications.

Sarah Bonnemaison

Sarah Bonnemaison (BSc (Concordia, BArch (Pratt), MSc (Arch) (MIT), PhD (UBC)) has a special interest in lightweight, collapsible structures and set design, which she pursued in numerous designs for dance and theatre groups in New York City, and in the architecture office of Bodo Rasch and Frei Otto in Stuttgart, Germany. Recently, her work in tensile structures has extended to installations which resulted in a book titled Installation by Architects (Princeton Architectural Press,  2009).  Ms. Bonnemaison is an associate professor of architecture at Dalhousie University.

Sarah Bonnemaison
Sarah Bonnemaison (BSc (Concordia, BArch (Pratt), MSc (Arch) (MIT), PhD (UBC)) has a special interest in lightweight, collapsible structures and set design, which she pursued in numerous designs for...

Sarah Bonnemaison (BSc (Concordia, BArch (Pratt), MSc (Arch) (MIT), PhD (UBC)) has a special interest in lightweight, collapsible structures and set design, which she pursued in numerous designs for dance and theatre groups in New York City, and in the architecture office of Bodo Rasch and Frei Otto in Stuttgart, Germany. Recently, her work in tensile structures has extended to installations which resulted in a book titled Installation by Architects (Princeton Architectural Press,  2009).  Ms. Bonnemaison is an associate professor of architecture at Dalhousie University.

Anke Fox
Born in Germany in 1963, Anke Fox has been a resident of Canada since 1986. Since graduating from the NSCAD University in Halifax in 1992 with a Major in Textiles and a Minor in Art...

Born in Germany in 1963, Anke Fox has been a resident of Canada since 1986.

Since graduating from the NSCAD University in Halifax in 1992 with a Major in Textiles and a Minor in Art History, Anke has been actively pursuing her career in textiles as an artist, designer and educator.

She has created textiles for over 25 years and has developed a very high level of craftsmanship in her field. Through her exploration of cloth she has acquired a broad range of techniques, from felting to screen printing large scale photographic imagery, from dyeing with lichens and rust to heat transfer dye sublimation, from back-strap weaving to digital weaving and laser cutting.

Anke has exhibited her textiles widely in North America, Europe and Asia, has received numerous grants to pursue her craft and won various awards for her work.

In recent years she was drawn to work collaboratively. She co-owned Armstrong Fox Textiles with Lesley Armstrong and created textiles for public and private art commissions.  In 2006 they won the national Textile Design Competition for the Hespeler Public Library Expansion Project in Cambridge, Ontario.

From  2009 to 2011 Fox was part of the @lab research team at the Centre for Cultural Technology & Innovation in Halifax to develop electronic textiles for architectural applications. During this interdisciplinary project she collaborated with architects, engineers, electronic artists and jewellers. She designed and created the majority of the textile components for the various projects, including The “Warming Hut” which was one of the finalists of the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award in 2012.

Anke strongly believes in education and presenting work to the public. Her position as textiles technician at the NSCAD University provides her with endless opportunities to share her knowledge with the students and inspire them.

Her most recent project working as Artist-in-Residence with the Medical Humanities students at Dalhousie University in 2013/14 clearly demonstrated her sincere appreciation for the creative process and for tactile knowledge.

Her work has practical applications as well as the ability to provoke contemplation in the viewer. The textiles carry the sensuality of a finely crafted object as well as thought and emotion. Anke is interested in creating simple images, objects that will carry a sense of the intangibility of our existence, images that will evoke basic human emotions. Focusing on conveying tactile sensations and the passing of time, she strives to offer a sense of intimacy and preciousness.

Lesley Armstrong
Lesley Armstrong fell in love with weaving when she wove her first cloth in Halifax, Nova Scotia years ago.  Lesley graduated from the NSCAD University in Halifax and during this time studied...

Lesley Armstrong fell in love with weaving when she wove her first cloth in Halifax, Nova Scotia years ago.  Lesley graduated from the NSCAD University in Halifax and during this time studied weaving production methods in Scotland, visiting and studying with weavers throughout Scotland and its’ Western Isles. Lesley then pursued further studies in hand and power weaving at the then Philadelphia College of Textiles & Sciences and continued her stay in Philadelphia, receiving her MA in Art Education at the then Philadelphia College of Art, studying with fibre artist, Warren Seelig.  Lesley returned to Nova Scotia and worked on private and public textile commissions, ran a weaving business, and has been an adjunct faculty member in the Textile Department at NSCAD University since 1983.

In 2004 Lesley Armstrong and Anke Fox, long-time friends and colleagues, formed Armstrong Fox Textiles to pursue the creation of innovative woven fashion accessories and interior furnishings.  In 2009 Lesley continued the company as sole owner and has most recently completed a drapery commission for the Hosting Center in the new Telus Tower in downtown Toronto.  Her passion for weaving is sustained by “endless delight in the physical nature of this medium—one is building cloth from humble strands of yarn and the element of surprise is always present.”

Laura Friedland
Laura Friedland was born in New York City. She credits receiving the ‘Most Artistic’ award in kindergarten as setting the direction for her life. She originally studied Art and Dance,...

Laura Friedland was born in New York City. She credits receiving the ‘Most Artistic’ award in kindergarten as setting the direction for her life. She originally studied Art and Dance, receiving a B.A. from Connecticut College, followed by studies in Textile Design from Parson’s School of Design and a degree in Fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York where she specialized in knit fabric design. She worked for many years in the apparel industry in New York and was a recipient of the Design America Award sponsored by the National Knitwear and Sportswear Association of New York. She moved to Vancouver, Canada in 1994, and started her own knit studio in 1995.

Moose Mountain Company and Laura Friedland Design

In 1995, Laura Friedland was a working as a contract designer at Jantzen Sportwear in Vancouver when Jantzen U.S. decided to close and sell off its’ Vancouver manufacturing operation. Laura purchased a number of machines intending to develop her own line of apparel. Her focus quickly changed after receiving a significant retail commission for specialty lap warmers favoured by Japanese tourists.  Moose Mountain Company was formed to design and manufacture high-end Canadiana textiles—luxurious Merino wool Moose, Bears, and Maple Leaves with a modern twist. It was at Moose Mountain that Laura developed the unique brushed Merino Fabric that she and the company would become known for. The Moose Mountain Line expanded and was soon available at resorts, museum shops, and specialty stores across Canada and the U.S.

In 2000, a new line of throws and pillows was launched under the Laura Friedland label. These new designs were modern and featured a bold use of colour. Defying economic pressure to shift production abroad, Moose Mountain and Laura Friedland designs were proudly manufactured in Canada.  Tragically, the manufacturing facility was destroyed by fire, and while alternative solutions were found in the short term, it was deemed that it was ultimately not financially viable to rebuild and production ceased in 2009.  Laura Friedland is currently exploring various design opportunities.



  • FABRICation (installation), 2010. Photo: KJ Bedford
    FABRICation (installation), 2010. Photo: KJ Bedford
  • FABRICation (installation), 2010. Photo: KJ Bedford
    FABRICation (installation), 2010. Photo: KJ Bedford
  • FABRICation (installation), 2010. Photo: KJ Bedford
    FABRICation (installation), 2010. Photo: KJ Bedford
  • FABRICation (installation), 2010. Photo: KJ Bedford
    FABRICation (installation), 2010. Photo: KJ Bedford
  • FABRICation (installation), 2010. Photo: KJ Bedford
    FABRICation (installation), 2010. Photo: KJ Bedford

Curatorial Writing

Introduction by Esther E. Shipman, Curator.  This exhibition features the work of established textile designer-entrepreneurs from across Canada, whose work bridges the worlds of art and commercial...

Introduction 
by Esther E. Shipman, Curator. 

This exhibition features the work of established textile designer-entrepreneurs from across Canada, whose work bridges the worlds of art and commercial fabrication.  The focus of the exhibition is on designs referred to as ‘limited’, or ‘studio production’ works, meaning that they incorporate manufacturing processes and technologies, but are produced in limited quantities rather than mass produced.  These designs are generally created within an art studio setting, but are developed as commercial collections, or ‘lines’ destined for the design specifier  (professional interior designers, architects, facility managers and building contractors), or home décor retail markets.  Each of the studios is represented by several examples of their work, which provides an opportunity for a closer look into their individual design styles, products and collections. 

Textile design and manufacturing has a long and vibrant history in Cambridge, which inspired the development of Cambridge Galleries’ extensive collection of Contemporary Canadian Fibre Art and a myriad of ongoing textile-related education and exhibition programs at each of its galleries.  Within that historical context, FABRICation links the ambitions of art and industry, and focuses attention on a lesser known sector of the textile world. 

Design at Riverside is one of the few venues in Canada dedicated to the display, discussion and celebration of limited, or mass produced design.  In recognizing that the commercial intent of design does not diminish its important creative contribution to our culture, we plan over time to provide a forum for designers working in many diverse disciplines and exploring both traditional and new materials, techniques and technologies.  Design at Riverside is also committed to the production of written and visual materials to accompany its architecture and design exhibitions as a permanent record of the ideas and work presented, and a means to disseminate this information to a broad public audience.

Chronicling Transition by Esther E. Shipman, Curator.  All good things come to an end. The modus operandi for an independent textile designer or small production studio seeking success in the home...

Chronicling Transition 
by Esther E. Shipman, Curator. 

All good things come to an end.

The modus operandi for an independent textile designer or small production studio seeking success in the home décor, or interior contract markets has changed.  There has always been a delicate balance required when juggling design, production, marketing, sales and delivery. So many external factors have the power to exert influence on the outcome.

In recent years, everything from the value of the dollar, to the reduced availability of materials, increased off-shore competition, the implosion of design boutiques across the continent and, in some cases health issues, have taken a toll on even the most robust in the sector.

Once upon a time, acceptance into the design or museum section of a significant American trade show was tantamount to a guarantee that key retail buyers and design specifiers from around the world would attend, find you and buy your wares--no more. Suppliers to the trade were plentiful and they carried a wide array of yarn, fabric and accessories in stock--no more. Mills that could and would produce small production runs for independent designers existed in most urban centres across Canada--no more.

Buyers were experienced, knew their market, held sway in their department, and sometimes industry wide.  They valued unique and innovative work and were willing to pay the price dictated by limited production…….

FABRICation features twelve exceptional Canadian textile designers and/or studios from Vancouver to Halifax.  Collectively they have over two centuries of experience in the field under their belts.  They have all achieved notoriety for their design accomplishments within the industry and in the media, and have been recognized as innovators by their peers. Nearly 50% of the studio production businesses they founded no longer exist.

FABRICation is a celebration of remarkable textile design and a chronicle of a field in transition. The exhibition was originally built around the work of a core group of designers/studios that have for descriptive purposes been labeled The Harbingers: Seri+, Bev Hisey, Lily Yung, Joy Walker/WORKTextiles, Kathryn Walter/FELT, Armstrong Fox Textiles and Laura Friedland Design.* These designers broke new stylistic, technological and philosophical ground, set a very high standard and showed that there was room and demand for studio production textiles amongst the mass production offerings.

After a period of relative prosperity and propping open the door for others to follow, external factors began to come into play and forced change. The economic downturn affected everyone, though each of these core designers/studios has an individual story.  For an adaptive few, it is business as usual. For others it was time to teach, to pursue different types of textile related work, or to make art.  Partnerships ended, or tragedy in the form of fire, sickness, and death cut promising trajectories short. 

Within the last five years, two other options have materialized for studio production designers.  The first is the emergence of textile research labs where teams of designers in partnership with government, commercial enterprises and/or academic institutions, employ the latest, science, technology and design methodology to investigate and develop the textiles of the future. Included in FABRICation are selected works from The Institute of Everyday Life in Montreal and the ArchiTextiles lab in Halifax. The scale and research capability of these labs is a breakthrough for Canada, allowing our designers to compete with international endeavours in this promising area.

The second option is an offshoot of the original production studios, but with a twist.  The Next Generation is represented in the exhibition by Virginia Johnson and bookhou both of Toronto and MOTIF Textile of Montreal.  This new group of textile entrepreneurs have their own retail stores, distribute their products via the internet and each have a successful secondary aspect of their business that feeds and supports the home décor component (i.e. international apparel collections; furniture and apparel collections, teaching; textile and apparel design for the film industry and extensive design specifier clientele respectively).

The Harbingers deserve to be recognized for their important contribution to design in Canada and the excellence of their work. The longterm prospects of the Research Labs and the Next Generation are encouraging and optimistic.  The only certainty is change.

*Sadly, two other studios of note “Studio Stampa of Toronto and Calgary, and Looolo of Montreal” closed their doors before their work could be collected for the exhibition.




Funders

City of Cambridge Canada Council for the Arts Ontario Arts CouncilWaterloo Architecture