Thursday, August 6, 2009








I love seeing how the artworks and the makers get celebration when the framing is done. The completed creative journey now can be easily mounted on a wall to enjoy for years to come.


Karen worked with raw silk applique, stitches and beading details to bring her Fire elements to life.
Her artwork pure with rich hues of colors celebrated the joys that burning passion can manifest.





Rita brought the Fire element to a similar concept.  Burning love.  This part of the canvas has a embossed stitched flaming heart which was later accompanied by a felted embroidered heart beside it. Dark and rich against the black canvas background.








My love for trees is the focus of a series of canvas that allow me to do some work at times.
Here is abit of my process along the way.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Light inspires the Fire Element



Atelier Gwendolyne creates space for inspiration in people's lives.  I enjoy watching and supporting the journey people move through to create their artwork portraying the element of choice.



Many like to complete the four elements, and with each new artwork some like to learn new skills and bring that into their pieces.







In the Victoria era Stump work ie. dimensional building with fabric, was popular but not celebrated historically. It pleases me to see people exploring techniques to execute their concepts for the Element they are expressing.





Louise wanted her Fire element to inspire the brilliance that the light of a fire can display. She chose the Sunflower as her symbol. The center was stitched with freshwater pearl beads in assortment of colors and shades. The luminosity was spectacular. She framed this center with linen wired petals.





Her creative journey unfolded naturally as I captured photos along the way.  When the artwork was finally framed all we look at it and admired it's joyous energy.


Creation with thoughtful ease can be a very uplifting experience.  I love how it keeps giving even after it is completed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Elements

testimonial by: Dawn Davis

Gwendolyne Preboy’s
 textile art class:
The Elements



The premise of this class is very simple. Gwendolyne gives us a beautiful hand made pouch containing different packets of embroidery thread to represent each of the elements, a variety of needles, an embroidery hoop, wax, a transfer pencil and a beautiful book she produced which includes a wealth of how-to-do different embroidery stitches and many blank pages for notes and sketches.

We are to draw a design of each of the four elements, choose fabric, transfer the design to fabric, practice embroidery stitches, decide on the colours we wish to use, embroider our design, finish off the back and frame it. That is the premise.
But the reality is vastly different.

When I began this class my sewing skills were weak, drawing was a challenge and my sense of colour was indifferent. Art is not my field and I thought if I could learn a few different embroidery stitches and make a few simple pieces that would be enough.

When I think about it now, there was nothing simple about my designs, yet Gwendolyne was right there showing me what I thought was impossible, could be done. I now have three completed pieces before me. I have been taught embroidery, beading, the manipulation of fabric to form three dimensional objects and in my fire canvas, there is even a twig from my garden, helping me to personalize my experience even more.

This is a course that called forth every bit of my creative energy and every time I was stumped, confused or discouraged Gwendolyne was right there with suggestions, help and encouragement. I have taken many courses and yet this one was strikingly different from any that have come before.

Why did I feel that?

Here are my answers.
This class flows freely and each participant works at their own speed. There is a lot of time for conversation and laughter.
It was also perfectly fine to feel frustrated and confused in the course. I felt comfortable to ask for as much help as needed. Gwendolyne let us all know there is never just one way to achieve our vision.

There are bins of fabric to look through, books to study, music to inspire, and the studio space itself to absorb - almost like a fairy tale with its wonderful hats and bags and pillows, buttons, toys, sewing machines, prayer flags, tall windows, warm light and comfortable chairs.

In essence there is a feeling of comfort and security here – it is okay to be different, it is okay not to know, it is okay to move forward.


Taking this class has been a tremendous adventure for me. It has also been transformative in ways I never anticipated. I look forward to continuing in January.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hand and the Heart

In Toronto, we are privy to have our creative world in this city’s Medina. Looking out of our southern facing windows, we can see the CN tower (for 30 years it was the tallest free standing building in the world). In the evening, the tower is light up like a flashing disco stick in many spectrums of the color wheel. A visitor to our city, could think there was a party going on if they did not know better. This landmark is a gentle reminder for me that our multicultural city is so special.

Our Atelier is located in the heart of Toronto's downtown. The first phase of it was built in 1880 by an industrious Scot. The
history of the 401 Richmond building is very interesting. That it remains in the heart of our city is truly a blessing of good fortune. We are grateful for this treasure.



During the last weeks, I have been busy with more hat creations. I am pleased with the fabric I have chosen for this years’ fall collection. The weaves speak volumes for their color and composition.

Every hat I produce is the only one in the world. I truly believe in the power of the individual. Here is Rita who has owned her Gwendolyne Hat the Rusalka for over a decade. She inspires many people every day and I am glad to have created this hat especially for her.








On one of our Sunday Salons ~ Fiber Art workshops, I captured her putting the finishing stitches on her artwork inspired by the element
EARTH. She embraced her life journey in her artwork. As an open and generous spirit, she is one of the most special people I know.




That sunlight that streams in while we stitch during the afternoon workshops, has been most comforting during these last cold winter months.

One day William and I were talking to another tenant in our building about our courses. The person remarked "a stitch and bitch”. I giggled, as I had never heard such a rhythm before.

Our gatherings are just the contrary. We share stories that have shaped our week and our lives. We find our common threads while focusing on our creations. A newly discovered expression emerges without us really realizing it. The hand, needle and thread are the motions in-between. The sharing of the space with our intentions is what makes our workshops most gratifying.

For years, my desire of presenting this course series kept recurring. Then last year with the collaboration of another woman who gave art classes to children, I created a needlecraft class. It was very insightful, and it clarified what I didn’t want my classes to be.


The hand is one of our bodies’ most amazing tools. I am not sure if many of us think about it this way. Our mind tells us what to do and we have mastered its’ ability so well, that we rarely give it much thought. In our workshops, I am watching how the hand is silently celebrated. Through patience, a meditative calm state is created.

This experience we call life is an opportunity to co create the world we desire. In our workshops, the heart is the center of our workshops. Together our dynamics and intentions create the space that open and express ourselves. We put our egos aside and create with mental hugs of love. We now understand more about the essence that lies under the quilting bees.

Last year at the Toronto Outdoor Art Show, I met a fiber artist Amanda McCavour. She constructs her art using needle machine embroidery. I was in awe when I first laid my eyes on her these images. Here is "Cat's Cradle". The work is very sculptural as the threads are held above the background surface by pins. The subject matter opens my playtime memories. Wonderful how a string with a knot can amuse oneself.





I will be sharing more about her art in my next post. Presently she is an artist in residence at the Harboufront Center's Textile Studio. On the 13th of this month the show Still will open at Torontos’ Harbourfront Centre Vatrines. Works made by Amanda will be on exhibit. I know I will be visiting as it is up until May 3.

When I began my AIR element Amandas' artwork inspired me to research and experience the technique of needle embroidery. I selected two linen canvases. I did a blue wash on one, the other kept plain. On the latter I worked the each color thread and followed that needle motion carefully. Sadly I felt disconnected from the others in our class. The machine was physically between us and I was not getting that emotional connection I normally experience when I work with hand stitches. My focus was on the needle; my hand disconnected to my fourth heart charkra. This experience made me appreciate even more what it takes to work in needle machine embroidery.




Like a game of “Go” easy to pick up, but to master takes great focus. The analytical and isolating nature of the technical process is not for me. I thrive on the emotional connection. Hand stitching does that and more for my senses.

My
Fire element artwork was such a pleasure to create. Doing the outer running stitches was a total free flowing experience. Now my element Air is beginning to take off, you can only guess what my imagery might be.

Wishing you a most creative day where ever you are! Be sure to drop a comment if you are so inclined.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Needle Power

We are experiencing a renaissance for the needle as a tool in the textile arts. The movement is alive and all generations are involved. I recently increased the number of my textile art workshops this year. It has been a delight to share this magnificent space with other like-minded and spirited people.

Thirty years ago, artists Judy Chicago, Joyce Wieland and other women around the world, shifted the patriarchal paradigm and inspired the needle tool to have power. Their art spoke loud of women's equality, society's gender role-playing and the essence of being a modern woman. Through their work, they showed that the textile arts could convey more than a pretty picture; the medium could acknowledge profound concepts, metaphors, and feelings. These roots have taken hold and the movement is embracing many lives. We are at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and perhaps women coming into their own, are a sign are of this shift.

The installation The Dinner Party created by Judy Chicago was a collaborative effort of many female artists. The art celebrated women’s accomplishments throughout history. Their choice of medium was the textile arts. There was a lot of buzz when the show opened at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1982. Having just having left the Arctic a year earlier, I had already fallen for the work with the stitch.

Since then, I have watched the climb of gender equality in the art community. It has been a good time historically to be a woman as well as an artist. The textile arts is being recognized more then ever before. The stigma that was attached with Needlecraft, a term coined in the Victorian era, has now been lifted.



The 80's were a happening decade for the arts. Women were getting the recognition and financial support from the public art sector. Some of the art made by women, examined sexual taboos and the place of women in society. How fortunate have I been to be born a woman in this period of human history, as well as be an artist?

Sometime last year William showed me the artworks of
Orly Cogan in the Art section of New York Times website. From the recent art I have seen on her website, her approach to embroidery is refreshing, whimsical and pensive. Her use of narrative speaks volumes, as her protagonists are women of different stereotype eras.






Orly’s year has begun with a bang. Her yearly calendar is full of expositions; published articles in books and magazines, talks and it all started this month.

Presently in New York, you can see her in a group
show called im Material which runs until Feb 14. at Black & White Gallery, in Chelsea. Here are several photos of Quantum Entanglement the installation she created.





I have always been partial to installations. The complexity and parts involved to create them, tend to drive the my personal experience to a greater height. Once in the gallery space, I have the opportunity to reflect and question my own experience inside. I see a great catharsis from these images of her work. The energy and intention of respecting the medium of thread and fiber is brilliantly expressed by her. I am getting excited looking at the close ups. Too bad that I am not there to see it in person. It definitely would have been a treat.

Also also in New York this month she is exhibiting in a group
show called Narrative Thread at The Lyons Wier Ortt Gallery. Recently on display at the Wignall Museum in California, is a large densely embroiderer artwork that Orly created for the group show Raised in Craftivity.

New on the shelves published by Black Dog, is Contemporary Textiles - the fabric of fine art by editor Nadine Monem. Besides the several pages of Orly's work, she told me it's a book worth owning. There are many great fiber artists featured, a good addition to ones creative library. Here's the link to order a copy from the Amazon website.

Orly's artwork is on the cover of January Artpress magazine. The article inside discusses contemporary embroidery.



Just the other day she was mentioned in the
NewYork Press an article Taking a Craft. If you double chick on the image, then go to the bottom right corner and hit on the box, you can see the artwork larger. How wonderfully romantic a composition it is. As for the article I found it to have some interesting thoughts. I am not sure if the writer is aware of the arts and crafts revival that has been going on for the past 15 years though. In this month's issue American Art Collector, Orly's work is highlighted with a visual in an article titled Art at the Crossroads.

One of my favourite sayings
“A stitch in time saves nine” was included in The Textile Society of America's conference title. At The Contemporary Craft Museum, Annin Barett created a slide presentation A Stitch in Time: New Embroidery, Old Fabric and Changing Values. The discussion considers historic and current social values as evidenced by the embroidered art of Orly Cogan, Ghada Amer and Louise Bourgeois. So nice to see all this celebration of the stitch happening in North America.

It has been a great pleasure to share this acclaimed artist in my writing. Orly's artwork shows so much more then the power of the narrative stitch. The juxtaposition of her imagery brings both satire as well as a cheeky sense of humor. To embroider on delicate lady’s hankies requires great attention and skill. What a challenge using a canvas such as that. I find Orly’s imagery spiritually uplifting and empowering. She is exciting the world by her art today and embodies my fervor of Needle Power to the fullest.

I look forward to seeing her artwork this February at the Museum of Textiles
She Will Always Be Younger Than Us. This group show of four women artist begins February 11th and runs through to September. I encourage you to see it if you are in Toronto this year.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Art with the Needle

Life is a treasure to embrace every day. The longer we experience it the more opportunity we have to understand the essence of its presence. Our choices and circumstances along the way create our unique lives.
As a young woman I moved to the Arctic, and lived in a small Inuit village Kangiqsualujjuaq located in the far north above the 57th parallel. During those 2 years I experienced great personal growth. Several of the village women became my close friends. They inspired and taught me to work with the needle and thread. I hand sewed my family’s mitts, boots, hats and an eleven-person canvas tent with their guidance. Finding that quiet time in my head and gaining patience, allowed me to discover the worth of hand sewing. Decorating my creations with wool embroidery became my new form for artistic expression.

On one winter day I went out with my friend to make tea; a social Inuit tradition. The deep snow was up to our calves, as we walked outside the village towards the trees. Sometimes we capture moments in our minds that carry us throughout our life. This was one of those moments. My friend far ahead now, had created a trail of footprints so deep and defined. I stood there in awe and snapped the moment with my camera. Every step we make leaves an imprint and a direction for our future. Knowing this I have been aware of the path I create every day. My decisions and actions have brought me to a place of gratitude. Creativity has been an important part of my happiness. My studio atelier here in downtown Toronto is a sanctuary which breathes new inspiration every day.

The fiber art series that began last year opened many doors of friendship as well as creative process.
"The Elements" is a narrative directed project series to inspire us.


Creative process originates from our thoughts. The intention is first, method follows and achievement is the final expression of the journey. I truly enjoy all three parts. Each brings forth challenges and offers us a deeper understanding of ourselves.

Through experience I have come to understand more about the positive state of mind that can be achieved while working with needlecraft. One is able to let go, experience the present and appreciate it. When we release our many constant thoughts and only focus on the stitch, we are able to be one with the moment and reach an inner peace. This is what the stitch can do for anyone who is looking to quiet their minds and create a lasting beauty with their hands. I believe our fast pace culture can truly benefit from this.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Thread and Needle






My earliest memory of fiber art was a small yarn doll I made at the age of 6. She became my favourite play character. I remember the delight of seeing her complete; 2” tall made from a fine light blue yarn. I glued a set of paper eyes and smile to complete her identity. As a child I had the freedom of discovery. The conception of creating a masterpiece was not in my equation. Without fear one can create with a confidence.












My love of embroidery began in the 60s when I was age 10. Young people were pulling out their needle and thread. Both genders were stitching iconic symbols of love and peace. It was the age of Aquarius and flower power was in. I had just been given my first pair of jeans and on my front right hip pocket I created my first embroidery work. It was a blazing golden sun with curling rays. I can still remember feeling proud about completing this design.













For the past 18 years I have created one of kind cut and sewn hats. My life partner William S Brown and I have established Gwendolyne Hats here in Toronto Canada. As artists we have been lucky to live by our creative intentions. I have always been passionate about the warp and weave of the fabric. Symbolic of the passage of our lives and the events they carry along the way.












My hat designs The Rusalka and The Anoushka are distinguished by hand embroidery. Hand stitching fine wool yarns on the woven wool offers a great narrative expression. Embroidery allows minutia to be expressed. It also brought me to be passionate for 19th century buttons. On any winter day wearing my own Anoushka is always uplifting, as many will send me a smile when they admire it.









Paint and brush, thread and needle, both create art. The gender of the artist brought the artwork to notoriety not the medium. Any thing attached to woman’s work was not given the recognition like that of a man’s. Sadly great-embroidered works do not have the signature of the artist. They’re initials may sewn in, but not much more is recorded about them. Today the public and private Art collections are celebrating this medium to its rightful place.












I created fiber artworks for Toronto’s Museum of Textiles over four years. Each one was a time capsule of my life at the time. In the order of the years they’re titles are: Femme Petalle, My Fathers Garden, P’tah, and Good Vibrations. Donated for their Annual Shadowbox fundraiser it was a very cathartic experience for me.

I feel both alive and grounded when I create with my hands. Finding the time to create for ones self can be challenging in our busy lives.

Last year I brought a personal dream into reality. I established a fiber art course series titled “The Elements”. The intention in this blog is to share with you the stories and journeys of this magical Atelier experience. May the stories inspire your life.
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