Fibres program shows its stuff 

By Karen Herland

Fibre arts students are weaving the interests and messages of contemporary art practice through a different medium.

Above are some of the materials used by fibres students to weave their perspectives on contemporary art concerns. Magnifying glass

Above are some of the materials used by fibres students to weave their perspectives on contemporary art concerns.

That’s how third-year student Emma Dalziel describes the work of the small band of fibre arts majors. She adds that she often finds it difficult to explain work crossing disciplines and challenging expectations by combining contemporary concepts “while referencing the history of textiles.”

With April devoted to fibres and textiles in Montreal there are a lot of activities planned. The publication Art Textiles of the World: Canada will launch next month featuring the work of professors Ingrid Bachmann, Barbara Layne, Patrick Traer and part-time faculty member Barbara Todd.

The fibres program continues to grow and is currently the largest graduate level program in Canada.

Dalziel is one of a handful of students who revived the Fibres Students Association three years ago when the extant members graduated en masse.

"I thought it would be a good way to connect with other people," said Dalziel. The experience was guided by then-LTA Mary Suiyee Wong. Wong put the students in touch with the director of Diagonale, Quebec’s fibre and textile arts gallery. That led to an end-of-year show at the gallery, the first opportunity for many students to show their work off campus.

“There are tons of opportunities for students to show their work at Concordia, but I have been slow and tentative about it. This year is my first time, I finally felt ready to present work outside of the classroom,” said Tessa Santoni, who along with Dalziel got involved in the student association three years ago.

The show has become an annual feature at Diagonale and this is the third time both Santoni and Dalziel have helped organize it. Reprise au cotton/Darn opened on March 7 and runs until March 21 (

This is also the first year that the students turned to an all-faculty jury to assess the 30-odd submissions for the show and narrow them down to 13 exhibitors. The student’s work was chosen by J. Penney Burton, Niki Mulder and new faculty member Kelly Thompson.

“It definitely felt good to submit my work at last this year and to have it selected by a faculty-only jury,” Santoni said.

Burton’s inaugural course on the History of Canadian Fibre Art last fall offered an entirely different opportunity to 68 students who took the course.

Burton used her connection with Fibre Quarterly, an online journal, to submit some of the undergraduate students’ exhibition reviews.

Nine of the students had their reviews of contemporary fibre arts shows selected for inclusion. “I knew what I had written must have been ok, since it was selected, but I was still nervous about it,” said student Allison Book, who got the news on Jan. 1, “It was a great way to start the year.”

The reviews, in English and French, cover a range of shows, including an exhibition of fibres graduate Andrea Vander Kooij’s work.


Concordia University