The women in my family have always sewed and/or worked with yarn in a variety of forms: while I was growing up, there was frequently a quilt being worked on in the attic and always a pair of hand-knit mitts being blocked under the seat cushion of Dad's favourite easy chair. During the psychedelic 60's and early 70's my own passion for colour and cloth flourished and I took courses in dressmaking, quilting, ceramics and weaving in a variety of college settings both in England and around Ontario.
My formal weaving training began in 1970 in the Ottawa Valley with a retired French Canadian woman named Claire Culhane on the old floor loom in the local community centre. I was immediately "hooked", and bought a 40" Swedish loom on which I developed the prototype of the pillows that I weave today. With a husband in school and several children at home, I sold my pillows in stores in Ottawa and St.Mary's for a few years and took more courses - at the Haliburton School for Fine Arts and with Sasha Hayman here in London, in Tapestry weaving, spinning and dyeing.
Colour – rather than pattern – has always been my primary passion, and this has been fostered by a wide circle of artist friends, by designing and decorating our own house 5 years ago, and through assembling a broad collection of contemporary Canadian art with my husband, John. I am also an avid gardener and at our new house I am working on a shade garden with native trees, shrubs, ground covers and drought tolerant perennials, along with numerous splashes of lilies in every colour I can find.
Fourteen years ago our youngest daughter, Katy, graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in textiles and she introduced me to "sculptured weaving". Perhaps it was her influence; but after 25 years of detours - an M.A. in English, 6 years as a school board trustee, and 12 years in residential real estate - I have returned to weaving. Through the London and District Spinners and Weavers' Guild (of which I am an active member), I took refresher courses in weaving and spinning, and bought a 45' Louet countermarch floor loom and an Ashford "Joy" spinning wheel. The first new pillows and scarves came off the loom, the business cards arrived and "Only Connect" was born.
A secondary but critical influence has been my friend, Sheila Harris, who, after retiring from teaching, became a potter and a shepherd on her farm outside Sault St Marie. We have had some wonderful and hilarious times together delivering lambs, and a lovely corollary is that I now have a direct and very real connection to the beginning of the whole process through her fleeces that I spin and then use in weaving my pillows!
Connecting has always been an important concept for me - with people, with ideas, and with the natural world. Weaving in its very essence is all about connecting; and the icing on the cake is that it also provides me with infinite opportunities to play with colour - my other passion. I truly feel as if I have come home.