Tawny Maclachlan Capon – Integrity, energy & craftsmanship
Tawny Maclachlon Capon started out as a ballet dancer before turning your attentions to the world of visual art. She now works with an eclectic range of techniques and materials (including a handmade Japanese paper called Washi) to produce her delightful mixed media work, which she shows on a regular basis at the David Kaye Gallery in Toronto.
Here, Tawny talks about what textiles mean to her in the context of her artwork.
Moved to create
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Tawny Maclachlan Capon: I was a ballet dancer and then followed my passion for the visual arts. This included working in the wardrobe of the National Ballet of Canada. I designed costumes for the companies choreographic workshops and for other modern dance companies in Toronto. Being surrounded by the glorious textures and qualities of fabric has always moved me to create and print on fabric using my own designs. I also worked at the Royal Ontario Museum as an artist where I accessed the fabulous textile collection to use as reference material.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
I was always supported by my family to make art of any kind. My mother is an artist so books and lessons were encouraged. I took art classes at the Art Gallery of Ontario from a very young age. While attending the National Ballet School I was supported and inspired by my art teachers and the creative environment.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
After I grew too tall to dance I moved over to the visual art world and studied at Central Technical School where I received a Diploma in Art. This lead to working in many different art related jobs. I continued to study any technique which would enable me to express my ideas, from paper making to welding!
Sharing an idea
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
I have worked in a number of mediums over many years and have acquired/studied techniques which enable me to use any component to express myself. Wanting to share an idea, a passion. A moment in time using my inventory of experience is very exciting now.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
To begin with most of my ideas are abstract which means I then need to find the best technique at my fingertips to express the thought patterns which drive the process. The most important components of any piece for me is energy and craftsmanship. The work must draw one in to want to investigate, examine and hopefully be moved. Since my work is shown in a contemporary context I don’t know how it could be anything else. I work with many different materials and techniques from Washi (handmade Japanese paper) to fabric of any kind, wood, found objects from the natural world and man made materials. My studio and its surroundings are my pallet.
Tell a bit about about your process and what environment you like to work in.
I have an absolutely wonderful studio which stands alone near the ocean. In it is a collection of everything I love to work with. I have a simple sewing machine, woodworking tools, lots of acrylic paint, oilsticks, papers from around the world, a collection of fabrics, yarns and wool, felting materials, lots of drawing and painting tools.
In other words, it is full and fun and a place to go and make my inspirations. Sometimes I work out doors but most of the time I am inside. I have three drawing boards, one for wet work one for dry work and one for sitting at with my sketch books. Also a high workbench as I like to stand most of the time and move while I work.
Conversations with myself
Do you use a sketchbook?
I have a huge number of sketchbooks collected over many years, which are full of ideas, conversations with myself, and generally cataloging my life’s journeys and art making experiences and shows. Photography is also a passion. I use it to record the world and people around me but I do not work from it when I am creating a piece.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
Nature and the environment I live in inspire me plus my music and caring extended family and friends. I admire and have learnt from so many artists, I don’t know where to start. Not just visual artists but musicians, dancers, writers, animators, the list could go on and on. What is truly amazing now is that at the end of our fingertips we have the ability to watch and learn so much via the internet. But the experience of art making and being part of an event such as a performance or gallery show is what it is all about.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
With every experience in life the work can change, either encompassing a new fabric or learning a new technique the sky is the only limit and even that has new potential. I would love to get my hands on a 3D printer, think of the fun you could have. So anything is possible in the future and I hope I always keep trying and learning. Whatever I make though must have integrity, energy and craftsmanship.
Try the unknown
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Draw everything around you, learn to sew well and then have fun with it. In fact learn as many techniques as you can. So well that they are at your fingertips when you need them. Be adventurous and try the unknown. Have a strong understanding of the materials you want to work with. Store your ideas in sketchbooks. Look at and feel the materials. Go and see how the fabrics are made. Visit the new and especially used fabric shops. Learn to dye your own fabrics. Cut up old cloths and even cloths you love or family heirlooms and put them into a piece of work. Make sure to take time so your work has a quality to it and is well presented, especially if you plan to show it in a gallery setting.
What do textiles/fabric mean to you?
Textiles represent colours, textures and patterns to me. I use textiles as I would paint. They can also represent memory or experiences such as a family heirloom or something I bought on a journey. All fabrics have a meaning within my work. They represent something to me.
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
For any artist or someone who wants to feel inspired look up these books. I could recommend 50 more!!!
Matisse His Art and His Textiles
Women in Cloths – Sheila Heti Heidi Julavits
Gee’s Bend – The Women and Their Quilts
Second skin – India Flint
Living Sculpture – Paul Cooper
Paper and Threshold – Dorothy Field
Just Looking: Essays on Art – John Updike
Resources, tools and exhibitions
What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
I look at websites that are recommended and that I just happen to find. You start with one site and it can lead to all sorts of exciting adventures. I go to our library and order books as we have a huge resource to draw from. Even though I live on a small island I do not feel cut off from what is happening around this amazing world we live in. I visit Vancouver and Toronto on a regular basis to go to all the galleries and events that I can. I had a huge collection of ART magazines from Europe, the US and Canada so eventually I just cut out anything that inspired me and have saved those pages in a binder.
Here are a few website to start with. This is the short list!!!!
An interesting fundraising show for the Textile Museum of Canada
Textile Museum of Canada
ART 21 – You will get lost here forever!!!!!!
World of Threads Festival
1000 Journals project
ART NET resource
Museum of Art and Design New York
Art design and Visual Culture
Textures Shapes Colour
Wool Felt and Textiles
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
Drawing materials, fabulous paper, scissors and my old sewing machine.
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes?
I have given talks and had workshops in the past but I am not at the moment. I am on panels and share with those around me. Too busy at the moment making my own artwork.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I have shown my work in many different galleries and spaces over the past 40 years. Each time the show grew out of an opportunity and hard work and connecting with right person at the right time. I work regardless of an impending show or not. Creativity is what helps me be me and gives me the strength to get through life and share my thoughts and ideas.
Where can readers see your work this year?
You can see more of Tawny’s work on guildworks.ca
Tawny is also featured in Heather Cameron’s blog post Beneath the surface
If you’ve enjoyed this interview with Tawny let us know by leaving a comment below