Cloth in Context
Free admission | Everyone is welcome
Artists: Charis Birchall, Jolie Bird, Natalie Gerber, Bill Morton, and Irene Rasetti
Curator: Natalie Gerber
Fine craft demands of its maker that they are the artist, the designer, the craftsman and the technician. Where then, does such hand-crafted work live within a culture that celebrates convenience coming from ‘fast’ design and ‘fast’ making. A culture where traditional craft knowledge and skills have been marginalized by mass production and mass consumption?
As curator and a maker, Natalie Gerber has chosen not only spectacular examples of contemporary surface and textile design but to highlight the often discounted aspect – the value added to fine craft by the slower aspects of fine craft making. Although working with different techniques, what these makers have in common is that the materials and processes that they have chosen to use exact their own rhythm – indifferent to the speed, technology, and efficiency that defines so much of our modern age.
To this end, she decided that the artists, Charis Birchall, Jolie Bird, Bill Morton, Irene Rasetti and herself would keep journals recording their processes – including time investment. Through these notations one becomes privy to not only the maker’s commitment to their medium but their high regard for rituality and the repetitive gesture that defines craft. It is hoped that these journals will inspire a greater appreciation of authenticity and the legacy of fine craft as distinct from the ‘fast’ consumer-driven production that promises instant, if fleeting, gratification.
For in these works of fine craft we see that “each mark made and each word spoken are born of a gesture or utterance through which a fabric of history unfolds, simultaneously both very old and very young, marking a passage of lived time and remembered rhythms.”
Upon proposing this exhibition Gerber deliberated for some time over the title, finally settling on the word cloth, perhaps the most mundane of labels for what curators have spent decades re-framing as unique conceptual works of textile-art, art-fabric, or fibre-art. There is no doubt that the textiles that make up Cloth in Context fulfill the art criteria; nonetheless, by their very nature, they are destined to move beyond the frame and away from the pedestal, for these works have a role to play in the art of everyday life.
Excerpt from exhibition statement by Dr. Jennifer E. Salahub, Professor Emerita of Art and Craft Histories at Alberta University of the Arts.
About the artists:
Natalie Gerber began her studies in 1995 at The Natal Technikon, in the Fashion Design program, Durban (South Africa). After immigrating to Canada her interests in textiles and design developed while studying at the Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts), formerly known as Alberta College of Art + Design. Gerber earned a BFA Degree (with Distinction) in Fibre/Textiles in 2003, and later in 2007, a post-graduate Certificate in Creative Pattern Cutting for the Fashion Industry, from the London College of Fashion in London (England).
Charis Birchall is a textile designer based in Calgary, Alberta. She earned her BFA in Fibre from AUArts. Her work has been shown at Arts Commons, the Leighton Arts Centre and the galleries at the AUArts. She has also participated in several self-directed, juried residencies. She is an active volunteer in the arts community, including her role as Vice President of Contextural, a dynamic group of textile artists who foster a cooperative, creative environment in support of the production of new artistic works.
Jolie Bird is a fibre artist who lives and works in Calgary, Alberta. She completed her MFA at NSCAD University, Halifax in 2013 and had also studied at the Alberta University of the Arts, Calgary and Capilano University, North Vancouver. Bird works predominantly with textiles and fibre but also includes other mediums, found objects, and installation into her practice. She is drawn to slow techniques like hand-stitching, weaving, and wrapping for the investment of time needed to complete the work.
Bill Morton is a Calgary-based artist and teacher. His work is collected and shown in the United States, Japan, China and Canada. Bill's Morton's training in art was at the former Alberta College of Art, circa 1967. Prior to that, in the mid-1960s Morton trained and worked as a sign painter for five years. Having a deep interest in Japan, Morton arrived in Kyoto in 1969 where he assisted Mr. Kunio Isa in his studio designing and executing hand-dyed kimonos until 1983. Since 1983 he has been a member of Alberta University of the Arts faculty.
Irene Rasetti designs and produces a small batch, ethically made clothing line with a key focus on natural dyeing and botanical contact printing. Rasetti spent eight years in Milan, Italy where she received a diploma in Fashion Design. She won an internship at Genny and went on to work for various design houses including Gianfranco Ferre and Gianni Versace. After a decade of working in fashion, Rasetti moved back to Canada and continued her exploration with fashion and textiles through varying degrees.
Image courtesy of AB Craft Council