Textile artist Amanda McCavour discusses her thread drawings and domestic transience through her 2011 CUTMR room installation.
You did your degree in fine art at York University and from what I understand your background is not in textiles or the like. What led you to work with thread?
I went to York University to get my Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in Visual Arts. I studied in lots of different areas but mainly in photography, printmaking, and drawing. In my final year I was focusing more on drawing and installation work.
In a drawing class with professor Michael Davey I started thinking about how thread could be an interesting line to work with in the context of drawing. The class that I was in was exploring drawing as any medium that utilized line weather it be in performance or painting, printmaking, or in my case, embroidery.
I thought that it would be interesting have a thread drawing that didn’t have a background, a drawing that would exist in air. At the time, I didn’t know how I would be able to make such a thing, so I did some research and found a water-soluable fabric called Solvy. The material allowed me to sew into the fabric and then dissolve the base after I was done, leaving behind the drawn thread image. I liked the idea of working with thread, creating a fragile line that had the strength to hold the image together. The idea that an image could unravel was interesting to me as well, making things that are on the verge of falling apart, or things that are seemingly so fragile.
My Fourth year projects were based around Solvy and sewing, exploring images of hands making things, pod forms and density studies. With these projects I was able to apply to the Harbourfront Centre’s Craft Residency program. I was awarded a Residency in their Textile Studio and was there for 3 years learning more about what the fabric and embroidery could do. While I was at Harbourfront, the scale of some of my work changed, I started working on some larger projects like some life sized self portraits and large dioramas of living spaces.
What is your process like, do you start with a hand-drawing or a photograph?
With most of my projects, I usually start with a photograph. From that photograph I move to a line drawing of the image on the the fabric. I like to have photographed images of the work so that I can go back and look at them for reference when making the larger piece. From the drawing, I can block in different areas of colour, moving from lighter colours to darker colours. I tend to think of the filling in as shading and cross hatching. The threads have more strength when they intersect from different angles so its a little bit like cross hatching with a pen and paper, lines intersecting at different angles to create different densities.
With working on large scale drawings, I have always worked on the piece as a whole. In many ways it would be easier to work on the piece in sections and then assemble the smaller units to create the final work but I find working on the piece all at once gives the lines a more consistent flow.
Most of my time is spent on filling in areas with different colours of thread so that when I dissolve the base, the image will be able to hold together.
What’s the story behind your 2011 CUTMR project?
My piece at the Gladstone Hotel was a piece based on my old living room space. I recreated many of the objects that existed in that space, chairs, side tables and other nick nacks out of thread and hung them from the ceiling so that they were layered on top of one another, mimicking the space in my old home. Each of the objects were created on a 1 to 1 scale. The objects act as a trace or record of a space that used to exist. Part shrine or monument, the thread drawings acted as tribute to a room that once was.
I have come to think of my rental apartments as places of temporary stay, which is why I thought the Gladstone was an appropriate place to display the work. Hotel rooms are places that are home for a brief period of time; they have a bed and a nigh table, things that sort of reference a sense of home but really aren’t the real thing. I think that this piece acts the same way as a hotel room does, it references or reminds you of a place like home.
What’s next for you?
I will be creating a site specific installation based on ice crystal forms and frost patterns. The snow crystal forms will reference cut paper snowflakes and also the facets and structures found in minerals. This work will be for a solo exhibition for MADE in May in their old walk in fridge that has been converted into an exhibition space.