Q So who is Lizz Aston?
I’m a fibre based artist, currently in my second year as an artist-in-residence in the textile studio at Harbourfront Centre. I was originally born and raised in the greater Toronto area. Growing up, I had the good fortune of being accepted into an amazing and forward thinking high school for the arts, Cawthra Park S.S.
The time I spent there, immersed in a specialized arts program came to inform the beginning of my life as an artist working within a crafts-based medium. After high school I went on to study fashion, worked as a sheet metal apprentice and developed my skills in a number of other avenues. It wasn’t until I eventually went back to school for Crafts and Design at Sheridan College that I finally realized there was a larger identity at play in the work I had been making all along.
My current body of work employs the use and manipulation of paper surfaces in an attempt to reference a series of ideas inspired by traditional knotting practices. In my work I am interested in exploring the implications that these two material practices carry in combination with one another and the tension or relationship that may exist as a result of this juxtaposition.
Through my work I am interested in exploring the multifaceted relationship we have to paper and its archaic practices, as I work to discover this material through an in depth examination of its inherent transformative, resilient and simultaneously ephemeral qualities. This convergence of ideas along with an innate love of discovery through material process can be seen as the ever present theme that propels my work forward.
Crochet 2010: Paper Fibres (Free-Motion Embroidery, Cotton Thread, Burn-out.)
Q Is there any other medium you would like to work in?
I am currently at the beginning stages of learning to work in metal at the jewellery studio down the hall from me. I’ve really enjoyed revisiting this material on a much more refined scale, working alongside a fellow jewellery-studio resident Alisha Marie Boyd at the Harbourfront Centre.
I am also currently about to begin working on a collaborative group show entitled Studio Remix, in which six craftspeople pair up to teach each other our respective material processes as we work in one another’s studios. The end result will be an exhibition at the Ontario Crafts Council, a prominent Canadian craft gallery in Toronto, in August 2011. For this exhibition I have been paired up with a wonderful ceramics artist by the name of Sylvia Nan Cheng. I’m very excited to begin working in this new material as I feel it will open up a lot of new doors for me in the ways I approach making my work.
Antiquated Notions 2, 2009 (Paper Fibres, Free-Motion Embroidery, Polyester Thread, Burn-out.)
I work primarily out of the studio space at Harbourfront Centre, but tend to carry my work around with me wherever I go. I have also been known to cart my sewing machine along with me to my day shift at the bar I work at, in lieu meeting rapidly approaching exhibition deadlines!
I feel very lucky to be surrounded by such a great community of artists, musicians and makers both at the studio and at my work in Kensington Market. If anything, bringing projects along with me to work adds to the atmosphere of the already oddball Kensington market crowd I have grown up with over the years.
Degraded Muffin Cup Forms, 2010 (Paper, Muffin Cups, Burn-out.)
Q What is your typical working day look like?
Wake up. Drink coffee. Get to the studio. Read 35 emails. Eat a bagel from Tim Horton’s. Write an extensive to do list. Freak out about how much I have to do. Put on some good tunes. Cross off the list one by one. Laugh with my studio mates. Get some research, samples or a project a little further along to completion. Take a break. Look at the list again, before going home and thinking about what’s left to do tomorrow.
Q What is your working style?
Anybody who has ever worked alongside me in the studio would tell you that I am driven by an incredibly compulsive need to work on meticulous, fragile and generally insane, labour intensive projects that would make any normal person go cross-eyed and give up.
I love spinning delicate paper into thread, burning tiny holes into paper surfaces to create a network of lace-like structure. Counting the threads in finely woven piece of linen and binding it back to create larger patterns of negative space, as well as crocheting thousands of tiny structures before starching them into intimate little sculptural forms and so on.
Q How do you sell and promote your work?
I am primarily focussed on creating work that is intended for galleries and exhibitions. I tend to use exhibition deadlines as an avenue for which to research and explore new ideas and directions in my work. I also have a website which I am currently in the process of updating, as well as a blog which I began in the summer.
Q What is your greatest achievement to date?
All of the decisions that have lead me to exactly where I’m at in my life right now. Being afraid to take risks, living with the fear and just doing it anyways...
Paper Bark Grouping
As makers, we are constantly engaged in an ongoing dialogue that exists in the creation of meaningful objects; challenging the application of traditionally learned skills, to expand upon a greater definition of art and design.
Contemporary craft continues to evolve as it has become a celebrated practice that is of-the-moment and vital. This marks a turning point for a community of makers, whose work charts out and advocates a larger discourse in the ever evolving landscape of contemporary art and design.
Crocheted Sekishu Fibre Hatpin/Brooch
I listen to a lot of 1960’s, punk, psychedelic, garage rock and shoe gaze. As well as medieval, folk, jug and blues. There’s also a really amazing local music scene here in Toronto with a diverse range of bands such as the Hoa Hoa’s, the Saffron Sect, Flowers of Hell, Planet Creature and the Constantine's. As well as bands like the Born Ruffians, Sports: the band and the Meligrove band....Wow, I guess you can tell I’m plugging all my friends? But really, it’s worth a serious listen.
Q 3 words of advice for an aspiring Craft artist/maker...
Self-discipline, the support of family and friends and a deep passion for what you do are essential to living an inspired and successful life as a craftsperson.
Sekishu Paper Fibre/Yarns
Q Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)?
To name a few: Jeannie Thib, Jean Shin, Tara Bursey, Shary Boyle, Arounna Khounnaraj, Eva Hesse, Doug Guildford, and Catherine Heard, as well as the larger community of crafts people and artists that I have been acquainted with here in Toronto over the past couple of years.
Q What do you do to relax?
Meeting up with friends in Kensington Market for a pint, listening to good music, cooking and sharing good food with the people around me, is an essential part of my day to day life. I am especially looking forward to a fun and wholesome winter full of Mixed CD Swapping on Sundays, impromptu dinner parties and home-made Soup Trades.
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition - July 2010.