• Coconut Mask & Miagros, 1993
  • 58.5" x 60", fabric
  • Wendy Toogood

Artist Information

Wendy Toogood

In 2005 I was invited to teach a design workshop to quilters in Columbus, Ohio. To prepare for the workshop I started to sort out the elements I wanted the students to be aware of during the classes, such as: negative space, colour, texture, composition, etc.. I produced five small fabric constructions or collages to symbolize the content of what I wished to cover each day of the five day workshop. As I was creating the collages I became hooked on working in the small format.

In 2006 I moved to Nakusp from Calgary. That same year I was invited to exhibit a body of work in Calgary at Stride Gallery. I decided I would continue working with the small 5.5 x 8 inch format and requested a year of studio time to construct 100 new cloth constructions which I titled: A Nakusp Narrative.  The works documented my day to day activities and interests in my new environment.

 Drawing has been a crucial aspect of my practice for many years, really since art college in the sixties. I have always employed drawing as a vehicle to document my vacations when I was traveling. For example, when I visited Mexico at the end of each day I would create a drawing in my sketchbook/journal to help me remember the events of the day. 

My working process for the fabric constructions involves generating numerous quick line drawings representing a specific activity or theme. I start by drawing with my left hand. I am right handed but using my left hand forces me to simplify the drawing and I really enjoy the exaggerated shapes which result from this approach. These drawings are rough but they have an energy I enjoy. I then develop the drawing by employing tracing paper and drawing with my right hand until I am satisfied with the results. Next I transfer the drawing onto canvas which I embellish by hand embroidery, stitching and appliqué. I complete each fabric collage before I start a new one. The initial drawings are done very quickly but after that the process is somewhat obsessive and time consuming. It is important to me that each unit has significant evidence of being created by hand. The central image in each of the units is a stylized figure which represents me. Some of the themes I employed are: gardening; news items I heard on the CBC; thrift shop purchases; volunteer work; activities with friends and family; cooking dinners or special dinners I attend; common household activities. I work intuitively documenting everyday events as I want to remember these experiences and make them special which I endeavour to do through my working process.

-Wendy Toogood

My first textile cloth construction was created while I was a student at the Alberta College of Art in 1969.

I was inspired by the freedom and energy of children’s drawings and felt that I could create something interesting with appliqué and embroidery techniques. I was not attempting to imitate children’s drawings but wanted that energy and excitement in my work. I also realized that working with textiles I could work anywhere and set up a studio within a few hours and develop large works which could be folded up and stored or moved easily. It was important to me at that time that I would not need printing presses or silk screen tables to continue with my practice.

My experience at art college was positive but at that time there were not many galleries exhibiting works created by women and most of the art did not look much different from works done by male artists. It was a very different time. I wanted to create works which were obviously done by a female and celebrated the female perspective. I was told by friends that they liked what I was doing but perhaps the art world wouldn’t take me seriously. At the time this didn’t matter to me as I liked what I was doing and enjoyed the process and I was taken seriously.After college my husband Don Mabie and I spent four months in San Miquel de Allende, Mexico in 1970 where I continued to create colourful textile works. We then moved to Toronto where we stayed for four years. Toronto was a real eye opener and a powerful experience as we were able to see so many contemporary artworks that were both challenging and inspiring for me. I started exhibiting my works there and in 1970 the National Gallery of Canada selected a large cloth construction from an exhibition I was in to tour Canada for a year in the “Four Hangings” exhibition.

In Toronto I had very limited studio space but still felt free to create works without any size restrictions.

We decided to return to Calgary for a break from Toronto in 1974. The break turned into a more or less permanent return to Calgary until we moved to Nakusp, BC in 2006.

In the mid-eighties I decided I wanted to explore working abstractly, or non-objectively, as I was inspired by the wide variety of fabrics available to me at the time. It also freed me up to work with new materials without the need for imagery. Fold, Glitter and Africa are from this time frame.

I find myself wanting to try something different from time to time and after an exhibition of the abstract works I decided I wanted to explore and celebrate my enthusiasm for Mexico. I had returned to Mexico several times since my first visit in 1970 as well as travelling to Peru, Bolivia, and Guatemala. The richness of these cultures amazed me. I purchased numerous objects from those cultures which I have always displayed around my home. I hadn’t thought of incorporating references to these other cultures until I realized how much I enjoyed these items and decided to celebrate them as subject matter in my art works. Most of the objects I have are tourist items, but they are handmade with the simplest of materials such as masks made from coconut shells or papermache skeletons and dolls. I loved the environment, walking down a cobblestone street while viewing beautiful 200 year old handmade doors. You never knew what was behind the doors, was it a hacienda courtyard with  garden full of flowers, or a courtyard full of chickens and children living in poverty? Mexico was full of surprises for me and it inspired my work for years until we moved to Nakusp 2006.

In 2005 I was invited to teach a design workshop to quilters in Columbus, Ohio. To prepare for the workshop I started to sort out the elements I wanted the students to be aware of during the classes such as: negative space, colour, texture, composition, etc.. I produced five small fabric constructions, or collages, to symbolize the content I wished to cover each day of the five day workshop. As I was creating the collages I became hooked on working in the small format. In 2006 I moved to Nakusp from Calgary. That same year I was invited to exhibit a body of work at Stride Gallery in Calgary. For the Stride show I decided I would continue working with the small 5.5 x 8 inch format and requested a year of studio time to construct 100 new cloth constructions which I titled: A Nakusp Narrative. The works documented my day to day activities and interests in my new environment. What I didn’t realize was that eighteen years latter I would still be intrigued and inspired by working small.

The sewing techniques I employ for my textile works are very simple, anyone could learn them in a short space of time. What is unique is my drawing style, composition, colour and fabric choices. When I start a work I allow myself the freedom to change anything along the way of developing each work. Nothing is written in stone. This process keeps me engaged and I enjoy it until the work is complete.