Monday 30 May 2011

Linda Wallace


Linda Wallace


Q So who is Linda Wallace?

First and foremost, I’m an artist.

Before throwing caution to the wind and going to art school in my forties, I was a registered nurse, a business owner in the Canadian High Arctic Islands, a traveller and lived aboard a sailboat for three years. From childhood, I’ve been attracted to cloth and fibre, to stitching, spinning and knitting, to drawing. During my four years at the Alberta College of Art and Design, I explored Japanese natural dye techniques, drawing, painting and sculpture. Then I was introduced to tapestry and life changed.

While my primary medium continues to be hand-woven tapestry, I explore other textile media and work both traditionally and conceptually. In addition to textiles, I also create drawings using fine graphite lines. No matter of what medium I choose to express an idea, the true medium seems to be ‘time’. I am incapable of making work quickly. The methodical building up of a tapestry image, the repetitive acts of hand stitching, the slow emergence of imagery from the layers of fine graphite lines on paper are integral components of ‘who’ I am.

I’m also part of the global tapestry community. A member of the American Tapestry Alliance, I was Co Director for three years and remain on the Board of Directors. This organization, with over 500 international members, gives community to artists often working in isolation. In addition to ATA, I also belong to the British Tapestry Group and interact with tapestry weavers in Australia, the United States and New Zealand.

Beyond the ‘art’ and ‘craft’ worlds, I’m a feminist filled with curiosity and passion, forever researching, learning, questioning, seeking to understand, and using both art and the written word to communicate. I welcome the opportunity to take the role of advocate, to mediate the spaces between the worlds of science and academia and the experiences of individual women. I exhibit and give talks at scientific and philosophic symposia as well as in galleries and textile conferences.

I’m interested and engaged: in my work, in the worlds of art, craft and culture, in working with those promoting a greater understanding and appreciation of ‘contemporary tapestry’, in theoretical writing, in finding threads of concept and trying to follow where they lead. I love to travel, to read, to visit friends whenever I’m not actively working in the studio.

Q Where in the world are you?

Canada. In particular, I live on an acreage, in a rural area on the East side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.


"...frayed..."  16" x 22" x 2.5"  2010.  (photo Tony Bounsall)


Q When did you decide to become a maker?

I’ve been a maker since early childhood. Because I grew up in a family where art and textiles were constant components of daily life, there was never a conscious ‘becoming’. That said, both art and craft were avocations as I pursued careers in health care and business. In my forties – I changed all that and became a full time art student and then artist.

Q What made you choose the materials you work with?

Interesting question! I’ve not really thought this through before this.

There’s a two-fold attraction to luscious yarn: both the visual appeal of colour, texture, light reflectivity and the tactile reward. The ‘feel’ of a yarn is important, the way it ‘looks’ is important. There are conservational factors for some of my work. For the buried/decomposed work, my interest is in the concept and in the reactions of textile and earth.

When I sit in my studio, pull my chair back from the loom – my eye travels across the baskets of yarn on the floor, lingers on the sheen of linen and silk, the richness of the colours. And, I experience a great, simple joy.

For my non-tapestry work: some of the decisions are conceptual (found, domestic linens), some are technical (H pencil and smooth, hot-pressed paper). The rest of the selections are aesthetic and concept driven.

But …. Textiles. Always textiles. They form such cultural touchstones and societal expressions. They project layers of meaning, by a focus on aspects: historical, contemporary, process and material. They are a visual and tactile language. Textiles are deeply imbedded in my sense of self.


"Evolve"  11" x 15" 2009


Q. What other materials would you like to work in?

Metal! I’m always flirting along the edges of the world of metal and have woven with stainless steel. I’d love to find ways of integrating metal and textiles.

Q Where do you get your inspiration from?

The simplistic answer would be ‘everywhere’. I’m intensely visual and see the world in terms of line, form, colour, pattern, and texture. I read: art/craft theory, scientific theory, cultural and feminist discourse, novels. …and they all mix together. I have great online artist friends, with whom I discuss ideas, concepts and thoughts. I listen to women’s voices and remember women with whom I interacted during my years in the health world.

To narrow it down from ‘everything and everywhere’, I would say nature: it’s patterns, cycles and processes, aspects of society/culture/history and the lives of contemporary and historic women. From those components, ideas form into concepts I want to share and building on those ideas, I develop symbolic imagery to express a layered narrative voice.


'Homage to Aubrey" Photo Taken at a Scientific Conference in Alberta, with Aubrey de Grey.


Q What motivates you?

I’m truly driven to create. Even if I knew the finished objects would never be seen, I’d still make work.

But, I do enjoy sharing what I’ve created. Exhibitions, and knowing a deadline is coming up, do increase my progress to completed pieces by imposing focus.

‘Ideas’ are really my biggest motivators. I read, think, discuss, sketch and eventually a concept will gel in my mind, telling me it needs to be expressed. My processes of hand weaving tapestry, hand stitching and drawing are very slow, allowing me ample time to develop new ideas.


Dis/Connect – Drawings and Cartoon for the Tapestry Currently in Progress



"Dis/Connect" Detail. Work in Progress.  This tapestry will measure 30" x 48" and is the first large tapestry Linda has woven in a couple of years


Q. Do you create your work in a studio base or a home base?

Both. I have a studio space in my home. It’s a separate, dedicated space but is attached to the house I live in.

I’ve always found a place to work – even when I lived on boats (we’ve lived on several). The workspace has an effect on the medium and the size of the pieces I make – but I always create.

When I travel, I take something small to weave or stitch and my small sketchpad goes with me everywhere.


Linda in Her Studio


Q Crafts in the 21st Century – what does this mean to you?

Can you hear my giant sigh? I alternate between engagement with the patriarchal binary systems of ‘high’ and ‘low’, with the perceived marginalization of ‘craft’ and, within craft, ‘textiles’ and within textiles, ‘hand woven tapestry’ and … ignoring the entire convoluted issue.

When I’m busy in my studio, everything else fades away. When I’m interacting with other tapestry weavers, with other craft artists, when I’m sending out exhibition proposals or attending symposia/conferences, the importance of the issues reasserts itself.

There is reality to the existence of barriers impeding recognition in the fine art world: as an older woman, working in textiles, making work that is slow and hand woven/hand stitched, I sometimes doubt I have the energy to also battle for a place where ‘art’ and ‘craft’ are considered equal. I can rail against pejorative perceptions of the ‘decorative’, the ‘domestic’, the ‘feminine’ or I can use my time and energy to make the best work I can, present it to the world professionally and just keep on going.


"Re/Genesis" 4" x 20". 2008. Private collection.


Q How do you sell and promote your work?

Up to this point I am not represented by a gallery, nor do I have my own website. The former may never happen, the second, I’m working on.

I apply to have my work purchased into public collections and respond to anyone who expresses an interest in my work. Because I exhibit regionally, nationally and internationally, a wide range of collectors see my work. The quality of the exhibition is important to me and I’ve been honoured to have work accepted into the last four American Tapestry Biennial Exhibitions. The catalogues, accompanying these prestigious shows are used to highlight my work within the context of the international tapestry world. My work has been written about in several magazine articles and that increases the recognition as well.

For those interested, and I apologize for the lack of a much needed website, I offer the following links:

My email address is: and I’d love to hear from anyone, if they have questions or want to know more about my work.


Opening Reception: Dialogue: Tapestry and Human/Nature, South Broadway Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM

Work Shown:  "...hanging by a thread...."  and "...threadbare...."  These pieces are currently on exhibit in the American Tapestry Alliance Biennial 8, at the American Textile History Museum, Lowell, Massachusetts.


Q What does your typical working day look like?

If I’m not traveling, I work pretty much every day. I’m an early riser and the first thing on my schedule is checking emails over morning coffee. As part of a working board, running the American Tapestry Alliance, there are a lot of email discussions and tasks to be done. Once the slate’s clean I go to the studio and begin working. I have pieces at the concept/design stage, several pieces in progress and others waiting to be finished or mounted, and usually have a drawing under way. I spend most mornings in the studio and often return in the afternoon.

My personality doesn’t suit ‘organized and methodical’ so I rarely work on one piece for more than an hour. I’ll reach a point where I feel the need to step back and will move on to another piece, another way of working. Weaving, stitching, drawing. At some point I try to make a daily sketch entry in my journal – those small, impromptu drawings form the base for many more elaborate works.

Periodically, I am back at the computer having conversations, doing research, having ATA discussions. Most days include some time settled into my studio wingchair with a book.

I rarely work in my studio in the evenings but will often take some stitching with me and make productive use of time in front of the television.

Q Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)

Oh, I just can’t answer this. If the designation is ‘favourite’ then it’s impossible.

There are artists who have had a pivotal influence on me: Jane Kidd, Aino Kajaniemi, Sue Lawty, Kay Lawrence, Dorothy Caldwell, to name a few.

I love going to contemporary galleries and there is just so much work, by so many artists, all mingled in my memory. There’s no way I can winnow out particular favourites – they all feed my soul. The world is rich with great artists and I am in awe when I encounter those who soar above the rest of us. Quite often the names fade but the work stays with me.


One of the bird series, on the loom.


Q What music do you listen to?

I have eclectic tastes and the selection process depends on my mood and the kind of work I’m doing. It can range from Gregorian chant to the Janis Joplin to Leonard Cohen. Some genres I dislike and never listen to: opera, country/western, heavy metal.

There are times when I crave a sense of calm and peace and others when I want to be bouncing in my chair, head bopping to the beat, smile on my face. I have music to suit both needs.

Often, I prefer no music at all.

Q 3 likes and dislikes?

Likes: sunshine, solitude, silence (okay, and chocolate)

Dislikes: getting rejected from a juried show, constantly figuring out how to use new technological gizmos, day timers

Q What do you do to relax?

Curl up with a good novel, take my dog (chocolate toy poodle) for a romp, daydream over a good cup of coffee.


"Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" 2008. Private Collection.


AR said...

Beautiful and inspiring interview.

Lesley Turner said...

great interview of an artist who is making a difference

Tash Goswami said...

Thank you AR and Lesley for leaving great comments. Linda is indeed a real champion of the genre and her thoughts and experiences are so inspiring!