Billows of Grace

Sam McNeish
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Amherst native Laura Smith is hosting her first ever exhibition of her art works titled Billows of Grace from Sept. 25 to 29. Laura is the daughter of Wendy and Francis Smith of Amherst.

The following is an overview of the exhibit and information pertaining to the artist and personal data on its inspiration:

Q - How did you get interested in your field and what exactly do you call it?

A - I am currently finishing my last year of Fine Art studies at Nova Scotia school of Art and Design (NSCAD) university; majoring in textiles minoring in fashion. Originally, when I prepared my portfolio and was accepted for enrolment, it was with the intention of obtaining a degree in graphic design. However, in my second year of studying weaving, I fell in love with the process of working with a loom and the tactile relationship with cloth and texture. Before I had completed my first weaving class, I purchased a second- handloom and it has remained a passion ever since.

Q- How many pieces will be in your exhibit?

A - The show is not so much a display of a variety of pieces. Rather, I have purposely repeated one particular technique using the tools of volume and quantity to make a statement. There will be 50 woven pieces suspended from the ceiling, inviting quests to walk amongst them.

Q - What is this work specifically about?

A - Weaving is a means of expressing the personal joy I feel from having a close spiritual walk with the Lord. The entire process of weaving new life from even the simplest of threads, brings a spiritual awareness of The Weavers Hand. As God is the master of an infinite spectrum of colours, complex designs, and patterns, so too are our lives reflective of His handiwork...

...Volume and movement in "Billows of Grace" celebrate the weavers connection to the Creator, and evoke deeper exploration of ones own faith.

Q - What are your inspirations?

A - First and foremost, the biggest source of inspiration for my work is my strong faith in God. My inspiration has also developed from working closely with other students and faculty in sharing ideas and techniques. I need to make special mention to Lesley Armstrong, an educator who worked closely with me for three years. She has greatly encouraged and inspired me. Another major inspiration for my weaving has really been a movie - a film called "Textile Magicians".

Q - Do you have favourite artists?

A - Textile artist Anna Torma, who recently had an exhibition at Mount St. Vincent. Fashion designer, Issey Miyake, Newfoundland painter, Mary Pratt and Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian.

Q - Has preparing for this exhibit been tough?

A - When I first learned I was approved for an exhibition of my work, I only had five completed pieces. I wove the entire months of July and August, 25 to 64 metres each week, working six days a week, eight to 10 hours a day. They were long, hot days in small room without air conditioning. I quickly learned that weaving is very demanding on your body, especially the back. In addition, each completed piece had to be washed by hand in hot water and hung to dry. On humid summer days, it took anywhere from a week to two weeks for the drying to be complete. Now I understand why weaving should be done in winter months. Weaving numerous hours with wool of the same colour and design, 698 meters in all, hour on end, could have become really quite boring. However, because I could listen to music, each piece became individual and new everyday.

Q - What is your favourite work that you have completed and why?

A - This project has been the most exciting for me because it is totally different from all my previous work. I had to learn a new weaving technique for this project - double weave. This process, which weaves two, layers of cloth simultaneously. Three dimensional work and sculptural forms are the theory behind the project. This exhibit is by far the largest undertaking I have attempted to date. In spite of the pattern and technique being repetitious, each piece became unique in the process of shrinking the wool.

Q - Will your pieces be for sale if someone is interested or is that allowed by a student?

A - The pieces will not be for sale during the show for various reasons. Foremost, the Anna Leonowens Gallery is an art gallery which is intended for the display of art by students and faculty. It is not meant for commercial sales. Also, I plan to keep the exhibit intact allowing it to be further displayed. If someone is interested in commissioning my work, they are welcome to contact me privately.

Q - Once the exhibit is over, where do you go next? Is it back to school or are you now officially an artist in the working world?

A - I will be finishing the remainder of this semester, completing my degree in December. There may be more schooling in the plan but a break for a short while would be welcome. If I have any requests to display the current exhibit again, I would welcome the opportunity. I have already received interest from one gallery in Toronto and initial inquires from another in B.C. Definitely, I will continue to weave as a hobby as it is very relaxing and therapeutic to me. I have many ideas, which were inspired from this undertaking, and I am looking forward to continuing forward with the next project.

To obtain an entrance into a professional career in the arts field somewhere would be most rewarding and I am willing to relocate to do so. Getting a break for any artist is the door each of us aspires to obtain.

Organizations: Nova Scotia school

Geographic location: Amherst, Newfoundland, Toronto B.C.

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