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In Her Shoes, 2012, 15 H x 25 W x 9 D cm, Tissue Paper, Encaustic Wax and Rusted Nails.


Fallen Leaves, 2010, 60 H x 40 W x 3 D cm, Copper, Thread and Dye.




Artist: Nancy Yule of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Interview 69: Nancy exhibited in the major 2012 World of Threads Festival exhibition Memento mori at The Gallery at Sheridan Institute in Oakville, as well as the major exhibition Quiet Zone at The Gallery at Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre in Oakville, Ontario.

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Nancy Yule is a self-taught fibre artist living in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Nancy began her journey surrounded by an artistic family, progressing to sewing wild and colourful clothes for her boys. When they no longer appreciated being unique, Nancy took up quilting. Bored by the rigidity of traditional quilting, she moved on to more free form quilts.

Today, with a strong technical sewing foundation, Nancy’s work is bound together with stitch, but has moved far beyond the quilt. Fascinated by the potential of anything that a needle will go through, her materials have included, metal, paper, fabrics, wood, bamboo and hog intestine. A walk with Nancy often results in finding something that will become part of a piece. Nancy believes there are no rules when it comes to creativity and she will try anything with any material to see what happens.

Nancy is pleased to have her work purchased and sent all over the world, and in 2010, had her first solo exhibit, Random Acts Of Stitchery at The Cambridge Centre For The Arts. Nancy’s work has been included in many exhibits in Ontario, including Hard Twist 2011 at the Gladstone Hotel and Masterworks Southwest 2010 (OCC). Nancy's website.


Artist: Nancy Yule. Photo: Adam Gagnon


Tell us about your work?

My work is primarily material-driven and my focus is on process. I choose to work with a variety of materials to discover their endless possibilities and their limitations. As a self-taught artist, my journey includes exploring my own possibilities and limitations. I challenge myself through each piece of work and am not afraid of risk or failure. I am often described as an 'out of the box thinker'. It is because I haven't been instructed on the rules that I unknowingly break the rules.

My definition of growth as an artist is always to question. Is this the best that I can do? What am I learning about me through this piece? Am I being true to myself, my soul? My aim is to stretch beyond what I think I am capable of.





From where do you get your inspiration?

It sounds like a cliché, but inspiration is everywhere you want it to be. Inspiration is an experience rather than some thing that you can own and control. I believe that you have to be willing to allow inspiration to enter you. And that means letting go of your expectations of the finished work, letting go of your desires, and ignoring your ego.

My personal experiences inspire me. How I feel towards a material. What emotions it evokes in me. Does the material remind me of a past event? I allow myself to be open to what the material wants to be.


Emergence Triangles, 2010, 25 H x 25 W x 25 D cm, Hog Intestine and Thread


Why did you choose to go into fibre art?

Fibre art chose me. Sewing and fibre have always been accessible in my life. Through years of sewing and creating I've been able to expand on my technical abilities and open doors into my imagination. The more I create, the more potential I can see to create more.

I love to manipulate items with my hands, to shape and mold. Being able to transform the seemingly nothing, or something not noteworthy into another form, the unexpected.


My Life Down The Toilet, 2011, 70 H x 20 W x 10 D cm, Silk organza, graphite and thread.

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

For many years I was completely submerged in sewing and then quilting. Less than five years ago, my eyes and hands were opened to the wonderful world of fibre art. And in the last year my network of friends has expanded to a variety of artists that work in other mediums. This has given me a completely different outlook on how I work with fibre. Fibre is such a wonderful, versatile medium that can translate and fuse well with other mediums.

Recently I've discovered the centuries old technique of encaustic wax, a combination of beeswax and resin. Through exploration and experimentation, I am excited with what I've been able to produce with the fusion between wax and fibre. Fabric is fluid and loves to fall and drape. I try to make fabric conform into shapes it doesn't particularly want to be in. In the past I've worked with armature wire, metals, plastics and adhesives. But wax is wonderful because it 'freezes' fabric into a desired position. I see this as a new journey, an exciting path for my artwork.

Fallen Leaves, 2010, 60 H x 40 W x 3 D cm, Copper, Thread and Dye.

What bridges the works that you have created in differing media?

Stitch has always bridged my work together in the past. Having always tried to incorporate some sort of stitch in my work whether it is with thread, metal wire or paper. The physical motion of piercing the material, inserting material into it and forming a loop has not only joined pieces together but has been the bridge between the differing media.

Currently, I question myself as to why I am so attached to the element of stitch in my work, thinking perhaps I need to release my inner seam ripper to undo those attachments. Am I limiting my creativity and myself by always trying to incorporate stitch in my work?

This re-enforces how I am always re-evaluating my work and myself. I am always questioning who I am and what it is I want to say with what I create. That is how I measure my growth. If I still question, I am still growing.



Slice Of Tibett, 2011, 23 H x 31 W x 4 D cm, Maps and Encaustic Wax



Which is your favourite fibre medium?

I stitch on so many surfaces. I stitch on fabric, metal, paper, organic material, whatever I can find to stitch on, I will try it. Which is my favourite to work with, is like asking which one of my three children is my favourite.

Each material has possibility and restriction. But if I were forced to decide to only work with one, it would be paper. Paper has limitless transformations yet it is still challenging to work with and keeps me stimulated.


In Her Shoes, 2012, 15 H x 25 W x 9 D cm, Tissue Paper, Encaustic Wax and Rusted Nails



What specific historic artists have influenced your work?

Having recently attended the Picasso exhibit at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto), I am truly inspired to continue the work that I do. I particularly loved the assemblages he did. I never realized what a range of medium and style he explored. This re-enforces in my mind the notion of not standing still and rigid, but remaining soft and flexible.



In Her Shoes Detail, 2012, 15 H x 25 W x 9 D cm, Tissue Paper, Encaustic Wax and Rusted Nails


What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work?

Although I am drawn to Christo's earlier works of small, mysterious packages, I admire the impact his art has on the masses. He has been able to showcase fibre on such unique life-size canvases that one cannot possibly ignore. His work stands out for instigating major impact on transitioning fibre into contemporary art.

El Anatsui's work speaks to me on the level of using seemingly worthless materials and making something extraordinary from them. His outstanding work confirms in my mind that inspiration, creativity and materials are found anywhere one chooses to look for them.



Skeletal Remains,


What other fibre artists are you interested in?

I have never had an emotional reaction to artwork until I met Rosie Godbout, a felt artist from Montreal. It is hard for me to describe in words how I felt when I saw her work, but it spoke to my soul and brought tears to my eyes. I have great admiration for Rosie's technical ability, her sense of colour and design, but most of all what she can create in her art form. I am a better person and artist for meeting Rosie, a treasured experience.

My eyes are just being opened to the incredible medium of encaustic wax and the artists that work in it. The first artist that came to my attention was Daniella Woolf (Santa Cruz, California). Daniella, a fibre artist who has since moved to the USA, works in encaustic wax. I am intrigued with how she is able to combine stitch and fibre into wax, particularly in her large installations.


I Wish I Could Think Straight, 2010, 20 H x 30 W x 20 D cm, Hand made journal, cotton fabric, wire and calligraphy pen


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

Fibre art is in an exciting, transitional phase. When I was a child every household had a domestic sewing machine. Today, I meet children who are unfamiliar with a sewing machine and an iron. Traditionally sewing and mending have been viewed as a domestic chore. As society replaces these skills with alternative ones, acts of stitch will have an elevated status. Fibre artists are still pioneering the road ahead for what fibre art will be in the future. I am proud to be a small part in this change.

Fibre art will have a major role in contemporary art as it is redefined and finds its niche. It is breaking down barriers, educating the public and being fused with other mediums that will allow the warmth of fibre in art to really shine.


Spool Of Life, 2012, 5 H x 5 W x 5 D cm, Wooden Spool, Ribbon, Thread, Mothers Obituary


Can you talk a bit about the commercial viability of fibre art and do you find it more difficult to show and sell your work than non-fibre artists?

It is incredibly humbling and satisfying when someone makes a connection to your work and wishes to purchase it. Unfortunately fibre art is still not seen in the light that other mediums are perceived. Art versus craft is a never-ending debate with no possible resolution.

I am optimistic that perceptions will change as stitch transitions to an art form. Fibre artists and art shows that showcase the artwork in fibre are crucial to elevating the status of the work and educating the public. It is a worthwhile struggle.


Spool Of Life Detail, 2012, 5 H x 5 W x 5 D cm, Wooden Spool, Ribbon, Thread, Mothers Obituary


What is your philosophy about the Art that you create?

I am a selfish artist. I only listen to my soul, my thoughts and see through only my eyes. I feel that I speak through my work. My voice. I believe in my creativity and my ability to stretch beyond my own expectations. I try my best to show my soul through my art.


When did you first discover your creative talents?

Every person has a creative spark; it is their choice whether or not to foster that flame. After suffering numerous personal losses, I chose to feed the creative spark within me, making creativity a top priority in my life. After years of listening to people convey the words "I can't" in conversation, I realized that I do think differently. My first reaction to new situations is "I think I can". It has been through a process of opening myself up to possibility that I've discovered my own creative talents.


Emergence Rectangles, 2010, 25 H x 25 W x 25 D cm, Hog Intestine and Thread


Please explain how you developed your own style.

Never being in a position where I could afford to take workshops or other education in fibre art, I've relied on my own personal experiences, intuition and books to develop my own style. There is a direct link between my work and my life experiences. As I enrich my life with new content and relationships, my work and style alters to reflect that change. I label my artwork and myself as a 'work-in-progress'.


When you were starting out, did you have a mentor?

I have not been mentored, but I was fortunate as a child to be surrounded by family members who loved to create with their hands. My grandmother sadly was disfigured with rheumatoid arthritis, but she still managed to tat, crochet and knit. I never got the opportunity to spend much time with her, but I was the recipient of her handmade gifts. My mother liked to sketch and write poetry and my father carved wood. They never taught me or included me in those tasks, but I was surrounded in a creative energy. I have allowed my inner voice to direct me in my work.


Pulp Fiction, 2012, 80 H x 50 W x 25 D cm, Plastic Mesh, Paper Pulp, Wire


How does your early work differ from what you are doing now?

When I first started to sew it was making clothing for my children, out of necessity. I enjoyed it so much that even when they got to the age where they didn't want to wear handmade clothing, I discovered quilting. I learnt to quilt from other designer's patterns, but I quickly became bored. I learned to design my own quilts and began playing with stitching on other materials. Although I have been sewing for numerous years, I would not consider the work I created to be fibre art until just a few years ago.

I cherish the technical skills I learned from sewing and quilting, particularly the importance of structure, for this is what has allowed me to transition to fibre art with relative ease.


Fragile Childhood, 2010, 100 H x 80 W x 5 D cm, Tea Bags, Paper, Thread


Have you experienced fluctuations in your productivity and how have your expectations changed through the years?

Family comes first in my life. As my children have matured and required less of me, available time for my work has increased. As my surroundings become quieter, it enables my inner voice to speak louder. Darker winter months have always proved to be challenging and leave me feeling empty and uninspired. Productivity is usually minimal during those months.

I believe that we bring energy to our work and I try my best to only work when I feel happy and energized. If negative energy is plaguing me, I only prepare materials to be worked on. I try to release my expectations of my artwork and just appreciate what I can accomplish for where I am now. Striving to be my absolute best for today.



Slice Of Tibett, 2011, 23 H x 31 W x 4 D cm, Maps and Encaustic Wax


What project has given you the most satisfaction and why?

I have had many satisfying moments in my art career. My work has been sent around the world, I have had my work accepted into prestigious shows, made art to raise funds for charity and have had the pleasure of meeting wonderful people who have found a connection to my work.

But personally, sewing for my children at Halloween time has always given me the most satisfaction. I would try my best to fashion whatever their imaginations could conjure up. My satisfaction was in seeing their eyes light up when I was able to translate their imaginations into concrete form and beholding how proud they were to wear those costumes. Sometimes it is the small personal moments that make the biggest impact in our lives.


Workbook and Acetate and Ink images


Tell us about your studio and how you work:

Visitors to my studio comment on how well organized my space is. Because I have been used to working in small snippets of time, I do not like to waste energy looking for things. By keeping my space organized and materials well labeled, I make the best use of my time. The walls are painted a bright yellow, because I love colour and it makes me feel happy. Happy is the place I most want to be. Although I might not be physically in my studio, thoughts of my work are always with me. Thinking is my best tool.


Studio Shop


What do you consider to be the key factors to a successful career as a fibre artist?

Success is subjective. If you equate success with fame and money, then the journey for a fibre artist is an arduous one. I measure my success by how true I've been to myself. Have I been successful in translating my soul, my integrity into the artwork? Financial aspirations, although necessary, being a full-time artist seemingly only result in applying tension to my work and thus, me. Balance in life is not an easy feat.




Where do you imagine your work in five years?

Reflecting on the past five years, I would not have predicted that I could be involved in so many wonderful projects that I am in today. I am so blessed to be able to do what I love. I can only hope that I will be able to continue my journey and continue to grow as a person. I aim to work on my self-confidence and trust in myself to create the best possible work. The best is truly yet to come.


What interests you about the World of Threads Festival?

Educating the public on the art form of fibre is important in elevating its status. I respect the World of Threads Festival for archiving the voices of today's fibre artists and showcasing their artwork. I am humbled and grateful to be a part of this initiative.


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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.