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 patchwork invite



18th annual Carrefour Europeén du Patchwork

September 13-16 2012

 Ste Marie aux Mines, Alsace, France

“Tradition in Transition: Contemporary Canadians Textiles in France"

curated by Sandra Reford








 Doris Budden

Quilt work by Doris Budden  from Fogo Island , Newfoundland, Photo taken by Yvonne Mullock*

 Tradition in Transition: the freezing blue by Christina Colizza

   What is Canada if not the freezing blue of our waters or the white snow covering our landscape? Or is it the red of our flag, our autumn maple leaves? Or the deep evergreens of British Columbia? In a country where landscape and tradition are inextricably linked yet vary from region to region, inspiration for Canadian makers stems from the geography of the land they love. 

Toronto-based textile artist Sandra Reford surely must have had these ideas in mind while curating the Canadian collection for this year’s 18th annual Carrefour Europeén du Patchwork textile exhibit. Every September, tens of thousands of visitors from around the world travel to the valley city of Ste. Marie aux Mines in the Alsace region of France to be inspired by textile work from around the world. A certain country, artist, or textile community is chosen every year to exhibit their work in the large exhibition space of L’eglise de la Madeleine, and this year it’s Canada’s turn.  

the village

The village of  Ste Marie aux Mines, Alsace, France 

Reford has been familiar with the yearly festival since 2007, when one of her own pieces was selected for the “A Garden, Passionately,” theme that year. Along with 34 others, Reford’s piece was chosen from a pool of over 100 applicants, evidencing the high caliber of talent that the festival showcases. Yet the atmosphere is by no means competitive, but open-minded and a place in which artists can explore textile trends from other countries, cultivate friendships, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Ste. Marie aux Mines and the surrounding area.  

Gül Laporte, international public relations manager and consultant for the European Patchwork Meeting, had met Reford on several occasions in Italy where Reford often teaches and exhibits her works. Never one to turn down an offer, Reford accepted the invitation from Laporte to curate a show at the Carrefour as Laporte was interested in Canada and Canadian textiles and was confident that Reford would rise to the challenge of curating a Canadian collection. “I never say no to an opportunity, despite not knowing how much work it may be (laughter). Gül knew me as an artist, as a teacher, as an Italian, and also as a Canadian, and that’s how I got to curate the show,” explained Reford.

 night drawing

Night Drawing # 3 by Jayne Willoughby-Scott 

After much deliberation and numerous phone calls across Canada to different quilters and textile artists, Reford’s final outcome, “Tradition in Transition,” offers a diversity of textile work, from patchwork, to contemporary quilts, to avaunt-garde pieces. Besides the difficulty of acquiring pieces in all provinces and territories, cultivating a unifying theme amongst the pieces was challenging, albeit fun for Reford. She explains how she “wanted to show the diversity of Canadian artists because the country is just so big. I could have done a full exhibit on one province, so it’s been really hard to just pick one or two pieces from each province and territory.”

 Reford’s final product, “Tradition in Transition,” illuminates the different styles in Canadian textile work. For example, on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, makers are reproducing antique quilts and sourcing their fabric from thrift stores to make their patchwork covers. Eventually, these quilts will be used in a local hotel.

 Other pieces, such as the work of Jayne Willoughby-Scott, Martha Cole, and Judith Tinkl offer more contemporary quilts than traditional, yet have their roots in patchwork. 

detail of repair

Detail of Sandra Reford “Reflect and Repair,” 2009 Photo by D. Mendini

Reford’s own contribution to the show, entitled, “Reflect and Repair,” comments on the consumerist nature of North American society. Rather than buying new materials, Reford works with scraps given to her from a home decor store and mixes her own paint, making sure she mixes only what is necessary to cover a particular piece of fabric, and consequently creating a slightly varied color with each batch. In “Reflect and Repair,” Reford incorporated bubble wrap and photographs taken at a recycling plant by photography artist Heidi Leverty to emphasize her notion that society must reflect on its waste. To see how Reford suggests our society repairs, one has to look closer at the piece in person.

 Amanda McCavour "Accumulate", 16 x 8 x 5 feet, thread, 2011 installation view Gladstone Hotel, Toronto On.  Photo By Sandra Reford

Furthermore, three avant-garde pieces will be shown, including the work of young artist, Amanda McCavour. In her work, she makes colorful stitched circles, which hang from the ceiling. Although her work contrasts greatly from the other works in “Tradition in Transition,” she uses a technique commonly used in quilting.

 With so many different styles of work from different regions of Canada, Reford hopes that all the pieces in “Tradition in Transition” will exist harmoniously. She admits, “It takes so long to make these works. My own work takes about four months to do- from developing the concept, to colouring fabric, and completing stitching. There was not enough time to offer a theme for this exhibit and so we are not all linked by a specific topic. Our influence of nature and landscape is really what I think joins us together more than anything,” she explained.

Iris newman

Ouilt work by Iris Newman, Fogo Island, Newfoundland photo by Yvonne Mullock*


The Carrefour offers a space in which to showcase Canadian textile talent, as well as a place to distinguish our textile culture from textile traditions in Europe. “For us, the landscape and the outdoors are really a part of what we do. Using elements of our outdoors to dye fabric, as influence in shapes and forms or to create a more pictorial scene is something you see more of in Canada than in Europe. As an example of this influence, when I asked people to send me pictures of their work so many sent photos of their quilts outside- and some even displayed on the snow.” Reford concluded by saying, “The people attending the event, which includes the Canadian show, are very knowledgeable. They really know their stuff and I think they will be very impressed at the level of workmanship of the selected works and the creativity of the makers.”


“Tradition in Transition” will appear on Canadian soil this fall at the Joshua Creek Heritage Art Centre in the Greater Toronto Area. 


poplar 1 Martha Cole


Curator: Sandra Reford http://www.sandrareford.com/Welcome.html

European Patchwork  http://www.patchwork-europe.com/?lang=en

 Select participants websites

Martha Cole  http://www.marthacole.ca/

Amanda McCavour http://www.amandamccavour.com/

Judith Tinkl  http://tinklsgallery.com/

Jayne Willoughby-Scott  http://www.jaynewilloughbyscott.com/index.html

*Yvonne Mullock is a Scottish Photographer   http://www.yvonnemullock.co.uk/index.html

Yvonne Mullock; Fogo isalnd quilt project http://quiltyquilts.blogspot.com/

All images provided by Sandra Reford and used with permission, 

About the author:

Christina Colizza is the Culture Editor at The McGill Daily , a 4th year McGill student


Image to the left is by Martha Cole;

Poplar 1
Year: 2009, Size: 22" x 60"

Unbleached cotton, Setacolor fabric paints, coloured pencil, assorted threads, needlepunch polyester batting.

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