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Red Canyon   Translucent




Artist: Allyn Cantor, Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA

Interviews 15: Allyn Cantor exhibited in the 2009 World of Threads Festival Common Thread International Juried Exhibition Part 2. She also exhibited in the 2012 exhibition Fibre Collage at Abbozzo Gallery.

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Allyn Cantor is a mixed media artist whose work reflects the modern landscape through abstract compositions. Inspired by patterns in nature, Cantor's work is characterized by the juxtaposition of painted and fabric surfaces. Allyn Cantor was born and raised in New Jersey not far from the rich art and history of Manhattan's many museums. She attended Syracuse University in upstate New York to study art, graduating with Cum Laude honors. After receiving her BFA in 1997, Cantor relocated to the West Coast where she has been living ever since. In 2004 Cantor crafted a home on the scenic coast of Oregon, just west of Portland where she maintains her studio today.

In 2005 Cantor received and Individual Artist's Grant from the Cannon Beach Arts Association to assist the development of her fabric based paintings. In 2007 the American Craft Council chose Cantor as a Searchlight artist; one of fifteen artists nationally selected to represent emerging talent in an exhibition at the Council's Baltimore show. Cantor was also selected as a 2008 artist-in-residence at Peter's Valley Craft Center in New Jersey. Her work has been shown nationally in many distinguished juried exhibitions. Cantor is also a visual art writer for Preview: The Gallery Guide, a Vancouver, B.C. based publication. Website


Artist Allyn Cantor.




Tell us about your work?

I combine fabrics I created through various dyeing and printing methods with reclaimed or found pieces that I've been collecting for years. My compositions are machine sewn and assembled with canvas or linen, then stretched and primed. The finished pieces are textural assemblages that reference topography and the juxtaposing forms in modern landscapes or cityscapes. My work is generally abstract, giving weight to the many formal considerations of two-dimensional abstraction, although recently I have incorporated my photographs of delicate trees and natural patterns into my compositions through the fabric elements that I print.


Caverns & Corridors



From where do you get your inspiration?

Inspiration comes from so many places. Sometimes the shape of a fabric scrap will remind me of something architectural and I will build a piece around it. Sometimes it's just the simplicity of a colour and texture combination when I group certain fabrics together. Other times I will just see something mundane, like a crack in the sidewalk, that looks like a pattern of lightning and I'll get inspired by the beauty of that line.





Why did you choose to go into fibre art?

During college I studied both painting and textiles. I realized that I wasn't interested in working in a commercial textile field, so I gravitated toward fiber art since there was much more freedom to experiment and learn about many techniques that were new to me. I had been painting since I was 16 and decided against a painting degree because I felt there was more to gain from studying fibre art. When I was 16, I also taught myself to sew on my mother's machine, so the primary interest was already there.

At that same time - during my first two years at Syracuse University - Fuyuko Matsubara was teaching the fibers program. I saw one of her pieces in a campus gallery and thought it was such a wonderful and fluid piece. It looked like a painting yet was completely woven. That year I took her weaving class and also took a course called "Experimental Textiles" that's when I first realized that textile techniques could be used to create art rather than just being applied to design or function. The next year I went off and studied abroad at the University of Newcastle in Australia and concentrated on felt sculpture. I've been using fiber in my artwork ever since.


Deliverance, 38 x 48"



Which is your favourite fibre medium?

My favorite fiber medium is probably felting, although it is not where my focus is anymore. I find that painting with fabric dye directly on canvas and also machine and hand embroidery allow me to express with more immediacy, so the combination of these surface embellishment techniques are my favorite methods that are consistently part of my recent work.


Elusive Boundaries



What other mediums do you work in, and how does this inform your fibre work?

I work with painting, drawing and other various 2-D mixed media like collage and resin. Many of my fabric pieces contain acrylic transfers of my drawings. I also collage thread lines into some of my painting canvases, then highlight areas by embroidering the canvas. Often I will also collage fabric remnants from pieces I dyed or screen printed into a work.


Water Under the Bridge



What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

My first influence when I was a teenager was Gauguin. I was enthralled by his sense of colour and how it furthered the emotional aspect of his work. I later became interested in Georgia O'Keefe, for the way she enlarged natural objects to create stylized abstractions. This perspective, or way of seeing, continues to inform my work. When I discovered Diebenkorn I think I was engaged by his work for a similar reason – the reduction of landscape or natural forms into abstraction. Rothko has also been a favorite of mine for the purity of lightness and colour and how the seemingly simplistic can resonate so thoroughly.


Parameters, 26"h x 22"w x 1.5"d, Fabric Assemblage with Collage: dye painted & machine embroidered canvas, linen, reclaimed fabric (pieced & assembled, stretched & primed)



What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work?  

I don't know if I can honestly pinpoint a well-known contemporary artist who has had a great influence over my work. I am also a visual art writer and I look at so much contemporary art - there are many elements of many pieces out there that have touched me on a more personal level. It has become part of the visual stream of life that leaves impressions – some pieces of art make a mark in your memory while others do not. I do recall seeing an exhibit in New York of paper / mixed media installations by Jacob Hashimoto. The pieces were so luminous and textural – a myriad of small delicate paper and wood forms were hanging in a layered installation that was set against the wall. They were so meticulously engineered and well crafted. I appreciated the orchestration and materiality of the work as well as the "handmade" quality of these pieces. I do also admire the work of light and space artists very much - like James Turrell and Hap Tivey. I think I'm drawn to these pieces for the same reasons I love Rothko – the subtlety of light, space, and colour.



Mapping Lucidity, 46"h x 24"w x 1.5"d, Fabric Assemblage: dye painted & screen-printed canvas, linen, reclaimed fabric (pieced & assembled, stretched & primed) hand & machine embroidery, fabric & thread collage




What other fibre artists are you interested in?

Judy Cooke is a Portland (Oregon) artist who is well known in the region as an abstract painter. She did a series in the 1970's called "Tarps" that had a great deal of influence over my current methods. She assembled pieces of weathered canvas tarps and left the rivets exposed on all the edges. She used charcoal to draw loose geometric forms on the surfaces and the pieces were left in their natural state to hang on the wall like a large-scale tapestry. Many years ago I learned about the body of work when her Portland gallery had an exhibition of the series. I also saw one of the pieces in the collection at the Portland Art Museum. I loved the idea that a canvas is really just another piece of fabric and there is no reason it can't be treated as such. Canvas is so textural unto itself - most people just cover it up with layers of gesso and primer. I remember that she had referred to the idea for Tarps as "coming in the back door on painting"


Urban Ridgeline



What role do you think fibre art plays in contemporary art?

It seems that less people are afraid to incorporate fiber media or techniques into their work. I think when fabric and fiber material are used in a mixed media context that people associate it less with craft. This is good in my eyes. It's encouraging to see wonderful art created from traditional fiber techniques exhibited alongside the painting or sculpture that historically has dominated the art world.




Can you tell us about your studio?

My studio practice varies. Most often I am working on several pieces at a time and I enjoy how the pieces relate to each other while they are being created. Sometime I focus on a particular process, like dyeing and printing and I work to create a various "library" of fabrics based on a theme that can later be used in one of my assemblages - most often the use ends up being rather spare because the real impetus behind a piece derives from the combination of fabrics that I have made and the ones that I find or repurpose. I always combine these elements with canvas and linen because it provides physical structure and makes the art feel more like a painting to me, as well as providing visual 'breathing room.' Embellishments vary and that is where the painting, embroidery and collage elements come into play.

My studio is currently in Cannon Beach, Oregon on the 3rd floor of a historic building on the north end of town. The building is infamous for the gallery housed on the ground level which has been in the same location since 1971! This scenic town and this authentic building have attracted many artist over the years, helping to develop the current art community.


Allyn Cantor in her studio in Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA.

Allyn Cantor' studio.

Work in progress.

Work in progress.

Work in progress.


Where do you imagine your work in five years? 

That's a little hard to imagine – but I'd like to keep developing the relationship between painting and the thread work in my canvases. I have also fantasized about creating fabric assemblages that could become light-box pieces. There are many layers and overlapping elements in my sewn constructions, sometime I highlight them with thread but when I hold them up to the light they almost act like stained glass windows - you can see all nuances of each overlapping piece and the organic, rough-cut edges. I've often thought of how I could push that – the idea of backlighting the work always excites me, but I have yet to come up with a way where a piece could be shown with the element of light in play.

Canyon 1,


What was your motivation for submitting your work to the World of Threads Festival?

I have found that my work is better appreciated by the fibre art world and I wanted to participate in an international show. Other fibre artists seem to naturally understand the process involved in creating my work, where the art world at large usually thinks I'm just making another collage, so it's not often appreciated for the process behind a piece.


Leaf View 1


Is there anything else you would like us to know about you or your work?

I am attracted to the rough edges of fabric remnants and how tactile material responds to liquid, creating movement and gesture. The aspect of piecing reclaimed materials together, reminds me of Depression era quilts, where it was a necessary act, and had an element of survival. I feel that need now in our society's standards of excess. Reclaimed fabrics also contain traces of life that has been lived, so their history feels warmly familiar.


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Reckoning, 20"h x 14"w x 1.5"d, Fabric Assemblage with Collage: dye painted & machine embroidered canvas, linen, organza, reclaimed fabric (pieced & assembled, stretched & primed)