Current Threads: British Columbia/Yukon SDA Chapter Exhibit

I recently visited Victoria, British Columbia, to see the exhibit Current Threads, an annual exhibition featuring the artwork by members from the Surface Design Association British Columbia and Yukon region, and I am excited to share it with you. Walking into the Victoria Arts Council’s Pat Martin Bates Gallery after a three-hour ferry ride from Seattle, Washington, I was immediately drawn into an interview between Lynda Gammon and the renowned fiber artist Carol Sabiston. It was truly inspiring to hear their conversation about Sabiston’s 40-plus years of artistic evolution, including her exploration of unconventional materials and the creation of multiple large installations. 

Looking around the gallery, it was exciting to see the newly created works by 37 extraordinary textile artists. Each piece was exquisitely crafted and conveyed profound messages on current topics such as war, the climate emergency, plastics in our oceans, freedom of religion, and the relentless search for respite from misinformation and digital connectivity in the 21st century.  

Artist Carol Sabiston and interviewer Lynda Gammon

Many artists spoke and shared insight into their work, discussing their creative process and the personal stories that infused each piece with substance. All their works resonate on a deeply emotional level.  

In his curatorial statement, Kegan McFadden, the executive director at the Victoria Arts Council, eloquently stated, “An artist is a lightning rod, channeling the electric currents of our world.” 

Connection is a recurring theme in this exhibition. Michelle Sirois Silver’s intricate hand-hooked installation, Desire, sits on a swing in the middle of the gallery accompanied by several pieces on the floor. The piece draws upon a profound longing for human connection and happiness. Michelle received the Surface Design Association’s award for excellence.

Mary Pal, A World of Difference; cheese cloth portrait of David Attenborough | @marypal

Thomas Roach, Touch Stones

The membership of the Surface Design Association British Columbia and Yukon region spans north from the Yukon, across the mainland, the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island. Many events are scheduled around the islands’ ferry schedules. Although distance presents a challenge for many in this group, they understand the value of collaboration and working together to stay connected. They attend meetings in person and on Zoom, and connect in Google groups, on social media, at workshops and exhibitions.

It is this connectedness that I find in our textile community wherever I travel. Artistic communities contribute to the overall well-being of individual artists. Participating in the creation of art allows individuals to develop a unique language within their practice. It fosters a sense of belonging within a community that shares their understanding of artist elements such as the use of materials and subject matter. The camaraderie provides validation and inspiration, offering opportunities for growth and connection. Artist groups and communities serve as valuable platforms for discussion, support, education, and exhibition opportunities, enriching the artistic journey and fostering connections among like-minded individuals.

Michelle Sirois Silver, Desire | @msiroissilver

Engaging with fellow artists in group exhibitions and open studio events not only motivates one’s work, it also fosters unexpected conversations that offer feedback, insights, and the opportunity to forge friendships. Additionally, the community offers invaluable support, encouragement, and shared resources, which can contribute to significant artist progress, confidence, and the expansion of one’s practice. 

Collaboration within the artistic community plays a vital role in enhancing the overall creative process. Whether it’s organizing events, exhibitions, or workshops, collaborative efforts offer opportunities for collective growth and skill development. While some artists prefer to work independently, the exchange of ideas and visions through collaboration often leads to new inspirations, innovative approaches, and a sense of fulfillment within the community. 

My visit to Victoria was truly enriching, leaving a lasting impression. The city’s vibrant art scene, coupled with the warmth and hospitality of its creative community, made it a journey to cherish. It was a great pleasure to engage with many of the artists, to hear their stories, and to witness their passion firsthand. Their remarkable dedication and the depth of their work was truly inspiring. These pictures only scratch the surface of the intricate stitching, multimedia, vibrant dyeing, interesting techniques that combine photos with stitching, and the powerful narratives that imbued their creations with meaning.  

It’s great to see the Victoria Arts Council backing the exhibit. Community support, especially from organizations like this, is vital for nurturing a vibrant art scene. This collaboration between the artist and their communities is essential for fostering creativity, cultural enrichment, and tourism. 

Current Threads will be installed in the Il Museo Gallery at the Il Centro Italian Cultural Centre this summer in Vancouver, British Columbia, July 11 through August 28, 2024. A reception on July 11 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. was scheduled around the BC ferry schedule.  @sda_bcyukon


Cami Smith is the Fiber Art Now media manager, a contributing editor, and a mixed-media artist.

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