Featured Artists

Interviews Archive Page

135  Christina Massey

134  Mary Grisey

133  Trina Perry Carlson

132  Anne Kelly

131  Louise Lemieux Bérubé

130  Dorothy McGuinness

129  Penny Mateer

128  Christine Mauersberger

127  Jim Arendt

126  Merce Mitchell

125  Louise Keen

124  Rosemary Claus-Gray

123  Mary Giehl

122  Emily Hermant

121  Robin Wiltse

120  Barbara Klunder

119  Megan Skyvington

118  Rachel Brumer

117  Heike Blohm

116  Shanell Papp

115  Carmella Karijo Rother

114  C. Pazia Mannella

113  Karen Goetzinger

112  Andrew MacDonald

111  Jeanne Williamson

110  Catherine Heard

109  Rosemary Hoffenberg

108  Cathy Breslaw

107  Leslie Pontz

106  Cas Holmes

105  Geri deGruy

104  Suzanne Morlock

103  Barbara De Pirro

102  Kathryn Clark

101  Noelle Hamlyn

100  Judith Mullen

99  Barbara J. Schneider

98  Merill Comeau

97  Beverly Ayling-Smith

96  Barbara Hilts

95  Mackenzie Kelly-Frère

94  Anna Keck

93  Pilar Sans Coover

92  Dolores_Slowinski

91  Leslie Pearson

90  Temma Gentles

89  Tilleke Schwarz

88  Anna Torma

87  Kim Stanford

86  Ingrid Lincoln

85  Anna Hergert

84  Joy Walker

83  Maximo Laura

82  Marie Bergstedt

81  Alice Vander Vennen

80  Xia Gao

79  Leisa Rich

78  Megan Q. Bostic

77  Sayward Johnson

76  Heather Komus

75  Sheila Thompson

74  Kerstin Benier

73  Molly Grundy

72  Nathan Johns

71  Lorena Santin-Andrade

70  Lisa DiQuinzio

69  Nancy Yule

68  Jenine Shereos

67  Bovey Lee

66  Nell Burns

65  Lancelot Coar

64  Elisabetta Balasso

63  Matthew Cox

62  Yulia Brodskaya

61  Lotta Helleberg

60  Kit Vincent

59  Barbara Heller

58  Catherine Dormor

57  Joyce Seagram

56  Yael Brotman

55  David Hanauer

54  Dwayne_Wanner

53  Pat Hertzberg

52  Chris Motley

51  Mary Catherine Newcomb

50  Cybèle Young

49  Vessna Perunovich

48  Fukuko Matsubara

47  Jodi Colella

46  Anastasia Azure

45  Marjolein Dallinga

44  Libby Hague

43  Rita Dijkstra

42  Leanne Shea Rhem

41 Lizz Aston

40  Sandra Gregson

39  Kai Chan

38  Edith Meusnier

37  Lindy Pole

36  Melanie Chikofsky

35  Laurie Lemelin

34  Emily Jan

33  Elisabeth Picard

32  Liz Pead

31  Milena Radeva

30  Rochelle Rubinstein

29  Martha Cole

28  Susan Strachan Johnson

27  Karen Maru

26  Bettina Matzkuhn

25  Valerie Knapp

24  Xiaoging Yan

23  Hilary Rice

22  Birgitta Hallberg

21  Judy Martin

20  Gordana Brelih

19  Mary Karavos

18  Rasma Noreikyte

17  Judith Tinkl

16  Joanne Young

15  Allyn Cantor

14  Pat Burns-Wendland

13  Barbara Wisnoski

12  Robert Davidovitz

11  Amy Bagshaw

10  Jesse Harrod

9  Emma Nishimura

8  June J. Jacobs

7  Dagmar Kovar

6  Ixchel Suarez

5  Cynthia Jackson

4  Lorraine Roy

3  Christine Mockett

2  Amanda McCavour

1  Ulrikka Mokdad


Ocean, 2010, Hand-woven copper wire in doubleweave, dapped and treated with pastels and shellac. 51 cm h by 61 cm w.


Detail: Ocean, 2010, Hand-woven copper wire in doubleweave, dapped and treated with pastels and shellac. 51 cm h by 61 cm w.




Artist: Sayward Johnson of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Interview 77: Sayward exhibited in the major 2012 World of Threads Festival exhibition De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) at Joshua Creek Heritage Art Centre in Oakville, Ontario.

Subscribe to Artist Interviews here...

Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Sayward Johnson was born in Danvers, Massachusetts. While studying at the University of Ottawa, she fell in love with Canada and met her now husband. In 2004, after a decade spent working in forestry, Sayward decided to follow a dream inspired by her adventures in hand knitting and went to study art at NSCAD university (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada). She has never looked back. After graduating from NSCAD, she moved to Montreal in order to study at the Centre des Textiles Contemporains and take advantage of the studios at the l'École de Joaillerie de Montréal. In 2009 her daughter was born, and soon afterwards she and her husband moved back to his home region of Ottawa. Currently she is focused on her studio practice and making herself part of the artistic community in Ottawa. She has exhibited her work at a number of shows across Canada and sold her work to private collectors in both the US and Canada. Sayward's website.


Artist: Sayward Johnson


Tell us about your work?

In my current work, I use copper wire to create weavings, knitting and small copper forms. These pieces are hammered, dapped, forged, manipulated, patinated, embroidered, shellacked and sealed in wax. Of these three techniques, handwoven copper is predominant and often serves as my canvas. My work addresses the juxtapositions of the new made old, the malleable made work-hardened, and the merging of craft techniques that appear incompatible. It explores my fascination with fabrics that adhere to the laws of metalsmithing as well as those of textiles and plays with traditional patterns in unexpected contexts. More recently, I have begun investigating the craft of embroidery by stitching into my weavings and playing with the contrast of soft thread against aged metal and the subtle effect of broken patinas.


Encroachment, 2011, Hand-woven copper wire with patina, pastels, varnish and embroidery thread. 38 cm h by 38 cm w (mounted and framed).

Detail: Encroachment, 2011, Hand-woven copper wire with patina, pastels, varnish and embroidery thread. 38 cm h by 38 cm w (mounted and framed).


From where do you get your inspiration?

I draw my inspiration from natural forms, lichens, old crumbling walls, rust and the boreal forest. I spent over a decade as a treeplanter up north and my memories of black spruce forests and lone white pines left to seed cut-blocks are forever with me. Lately I have been compelled to recreate them in my own way.

Additionally, often my materials inspire me. The heavy verdigris patinas I create take weeks and they are difficult to control. Consequently, with each of my works, there occurs a moment of surprise, where the accretion of salt or patina creates unanticipated patterns and effects. This element of the unexpected is the most exciting part of my work, as the imperfections may become curiosities and points of interest upon which I layer thread, pastels and wax.

I can't omit music and literature. Where would the creative process be without a mood or a narrative?


Waiting, 2010, Hand-woven copper wire in undulating twill with patina and varnish. 46 cm h by 46 cm w.

Detail: Waiting, 2010, Hand-woven copper wire in undulating twill with patina and varnish. 46 cm h by 46 cm w.


Why did you choose to go into fibre art?

I started off as a knitter. My grandmother was forever knitting afghan blankets when I was growing up, and she taught me to knit and purl, but it wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I decided to buckle down and make more than a scarf. I moved through hats, mittens, sweaters and onto socks. About that time there was an article in the paper about a local textile artist who was weaving custom rugs. It sparked an interest in me and I realized that I had to learn how to weave. A year and a half later, I was in my first weaving class at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. The first time I threw my shuttle through the shed, I felt as though I had come home.



The Message, 2012, Handwoven copper wire in undulating twill with supplemental weft, embroidery and wax. 32 cm h by 40 cm w x 1 d.

Detail: The Message, 2012, Handwoven copper wire in undulating twill with supplemental weft, embroidery and wax. 32 cm h by 40 cm w x 1 d.


Which is your favourite fibre medium?

Copper. It can be woven, knitted, embroidered, forged, soldered, patinated and covered in other mediums. It is fragile. It is strong. It can become anything.


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

I also work with metalsmithing, screen-printing, rust dyeing, encaustic and papermaking. I incorporate as much as I can into my primary artwork.


Study in Encaustic No. 3, 2011. Coiled copper wire with patina, Japanese paper, beeswax. 25 cm h by 25 cm w.


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

First and foremost, copper. I'd also like to believe that there is a common sensibility running through my work.


What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

The Group of Seven, especially Arthur Lismer and Tom Thompson. I am drawn to their visions of the boreal forests. I think it's near impossible to tackle the northern landscape here in Canada and not reference them in one's work.

Vincent Van Gogh: His work is playful and colourful and contains so much movement that it naturally appeals to the textile artist in me.

Robert Smithson: Not only am I moved by his land art, I am moved by words he used to write about it. He's an inspiration in reminding me to reflect on what I'm making and find a voice for it.


Industrial Artifact, 2011, Hand-forged copper sheet with patina and encaustic. 35.5 cm h x 25.5 cm h x 3 cm d.


What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work?

Dawn McNutt, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. I first saw her Kindred Spirits during my first year at NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia). They are life-sized figurative sculptures made of copper, steel and seagrass. Her work was the catalyst for my interest in copper.

Marcel Marois, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He is a tapestry artist and a master of the gobelin tapestry technique. Many of his notable works, such as Passage interrompu, address environmental issues. Even though his technique is centuries old, the way he works, his subject matter and means for adapting it to representation, are entirely modern.

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Poland. Her work has captivated me since my first year at NSCAD when I discovered her series of organic, burlap sculptures titled The Crowd. I love the strange, heavy textures of her figurative pieces and I love their eeriness. She opened my mind to the notion that one could have a fibres background and move fluidly into other mediums, even on the grand scale, all while maintaining a tactile quality so important to fibres. One need never be limited by materials, size or concept.


Wishful Thinking, 2010, Hand-woven copper wire in satin weave with patina and shellac. 51 cm h by 41 cm w.


What other fibre artists are you interested in?

Cal Lane, Nova Scotia, Canada. I've been fortunate enough to see three of her shows over the last three years. In one of her most recent exhibitions, she used a plasma cutter to cut a map of the world into an unfolded steel oil drum. I appreciate that she takes the stereotypically 'feminine' in the form of lace motifs and applies them to a masculine material. She is simultaneously reinventing an ancient craft and applying it to global issues via her appropriation of the oil drums.

Emily Barletta, Brooklyn, NY, USA. She stitches through white paper with red thread and creates exquisite abstract drawings, often with nothing more than multiples of cross-stitch. The stitches move and shift across the paper in such a way that it's easy to lose oneself in them.

Lisa Anne Auerbach, Los Angeles, California, USA. Lisa machine knits everything from sweaters to yurts and covers it all with subversive text. I first discovered her sweater collection several years ago at Ravelry and I have been a fan ever since. Her work can be brash, bold, sarcastic and funny – descriptions I would not typically apply to my own work and that is undoubtedly what makes it so attractive to me.



Ocean, 2010, Hand-woven copper wire in doubleweave, dapped and treated with pastels and shellac. 51 cm h by 61 cm w.

Detail: Ocean, 2010, Hand-woven copper wire in doubleweave, dapped and treated with pastels and shellac. 51 cm h by 61 cm w.


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

For a long time, men had the advantage of being the viewers and whenever relevant their ideology of the social order affected the meaning of art itself. Women, on the other hand, had their own spheres of 'less important' works. Not so coincidentally, the mantle hanging over stereotypically women's work (and fibre arts) has been, more often than not, craft. Early fibre artists such as Magdalena Abakanowicz and Lenore Tawney, coming on the heels of Abstract Expressionism, became pioneers of the fibre arts movement. Incredibly, it's only been forty years or so since fibre arts came 'off the wall' and I feel that in the last ten, benefitting from both the internet age and the DIY movement which inspired a resurgence in techniques such as knitting, weaving and quilting, the fibre arts realm has exploded. While the notion that fibre arts are more 'craft' than 'art' is likely still maintained by some in the field of visual arts, I personally see contemporary art as an 'anything goes' arena. Contemporary art is about embracing techniques and materials and reinventing them. It embraces interdisciplinarity and fibre art, with its multitude of techniques, provides endless possibilities. Additionally, while for many years I think process was viewed as a distinction between craft and art, process has increasingly found its way into contemporary art. Process is fundamentally intertwined with fibre arts - be it via weaving, spinning, dyeing, weaving, knitting, or stitching. The sky is the limit.


The Message, 2012, Handwoven copper wire in undulating twill with supplemental weft, embroidery and wax. 32 cm h by 40 cm w x 1 d.


What is your philosophy about the Art that you create?

At the moment, my Art is a journey and process of discovery. I am content to be in this moment and enjoy it.


When did you first discover your creative talents?

I truly believe that everyone is creative, even if they haven't tapped into that side of themselves yet. I began knitting seriously in my twenties and developed my interest in fibre art then. When I began to study at NSCAD, it was as though the entire world opened up for me.


The Message, 2012, Handwoven copper wire in undulating twill with supplemental weft, embroidery and wax. 32 cm h by 40 cm w x 1 d.


Please explain how you developed your own style.

I am still in the process of developing my own style. I experiment constantly. I open myself up to new techniques and try to take at least one course a year.


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

I didn't have a mentor, but did have several studio advisors (Sandra Brownlee, Naoko Furue and Robin Miller) who were accepting of my desire to spend half my studio sessions down in the metal department.


Starry Night, Boreal Forest, 2012, hand-woven copper wire in twill with patina, embroidery and wax. 39.5 cm h x 33 cm w x 1 cm d.


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

I still consider myself an emerging artist. When I reflect on all I want to create and how much I still have to learn, I can't help but view my current work as my early work.


What project has given you the most satisfaction and why?

There is something wonderfully effortless about my small urchins.



Lifeline (I'm Going to Live Forever), 2011, Hand-woven, hand-manipulated copper wire in undulating twill with patina, varnish and red acrylic yarn. 25 cm h by 25 cm w by 3 cm d.


Tell us about your studio and how you work:

My loom is in the finished part of my basement. I have a small studio space for encaustic mediums and paints in the unfinished area. I do most of my detail work and embroidering at my dining room table. I currently work around a toddler's schedule. When she is at pre-school, I weave. While I embroider at the dining room table, she does art projects or plays in the living room across from me. After she goes to bed at night, I knit. I've learned to make the most of the spare moments I have.


Copper Ikat, Red, 2010. Hand-woven copper in undulating twill with oil paint and varnish. 61 cm h by 51 cm w.

Detail: Copper Ikat, Red, 2010. Hand-woven copper in undulating twill with oil paint and varnish. 61 cm h by 51 cm w.


Where do you imagine your work in five years?

I couldn't have imagined what my work now would look like five years ago, so I definitely don't have the foresight to imagine it now. I hope to keep refining it, exploring and learning. At the moment, I do not have access to a metalsmithing studio and I have a number of ideas on hold – ideally I will find suitable space and be able to pursue them. If I don't, I am confident that other aspects of my work will expand and draw my full attention.


What interests you about the World of Threads festival?

It is an honour to be in the company of so many talented artists. It astonishes me that so many talented and varied artists are united under the banner of fibre arts.


Sayward in her studio.

Entry Point, 2011, Hand-woven copper wire with patina, salt and embroidery thread. 15 cm h by 15 c w.


Is there something else you would like us to know about you or your work, which we have not touched on?

It makes me happy. Art making may have its ups and its downs, but it is a constant source of joy in my life.



If you'd like to make a donation to help support our
"Weekly Fibre Artist Interviews" series, you can do so here.


Subscribe To Artist Interviews here...

Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.


Detail of freshly patinated copper.