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Gaerbhyth ~ Ambassador for Peace, 62" (h) x 56" (w), 2009



Gaerbhyth ~ Ambassador for Peace (detail)

Artist: Hilary Rice,
Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada

Interview 23: Hilary Rice exhibited Search for Light II in the 2009 Common Thread International Juried Exhibition.

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Hilary Rice, an award-winning self-taught fibre artist, has an experimental, even playful approach to her use of a multiplicity of techniques and unusual materials, only made possible through her eclectic background. Her classical music training at Queen's University is evident in her colour filled, skilfully embellished, flowing textile-based works. The diverse results, while strongly connected in design and style, offer a wide audience appeal.

Over the past 8 years, Hilary has developed a strong presence in the quilt art world across Canada, marketing her line of art quilt patterns under the "Mother Earth" label, teaching art and design based workshops and judging quilting events. She has exhibited widely, with work in national and international shows.


Artist Hilary Rice.


With fibre as the basis of her work, Hilary is able to combine an array of textiles, techniques and materials, often allowing the experimental results to direct her actions. Hilary writes: "I respond, feeling grounded and at the same time illuminated. When I am working on a piece, it feels as though my soul is singing in harmony with the rest of my being, often accompanied by a sense of meditation. Art making, for me, is a way of connecting with the world, a way of connecting what is inside, with what is outside. My work touches and links me to the holy."

Inspiration comes from somewhere deep within, often in response to a piece of text, a beautiful melody or the natural world. Time is spent with a thought, and as it swells and swirls inside, focused images emerge. Hilary's response is at times thought provoking, using a calming colour palette and gentle, moving lines. At other times it can be celebrational, with a melding of materials that radiate magical delight! It is always accompanied by an experience of ever-deepening spiritual and metaphysical relationship with the creator, strengthening the connection with each progressive piece. This relationship is revealed through a complex layering, often exposing intense detail through harmonious colours, intricate stitch and flowing shape. Website


Overcoming Fear, 2010, 22.5" (h) x 22.5" (w), Materials:  Hand dyed silk; Commercial textiles; Pewter; Painted Heat Away stabilizer; Various threads and metallic cord; Mounted on fabric wrapped wooden frame, Techniques:  Collage; Hand dyeing / manipulated (shibori); Thermo-fabrication with heat gun; Free motion embroidery and Bobbin stitching; Sheer overlay; Couching; Embossing powder addition to Pewter

Artist Statement:
Wisdom comes with experience. The ageing process requires us to move through our lives rapidly. It is a gift to be able to pause, transcend the boundary of time, and reflect on the path that we have followed to this point. It is grace that enables us to accept that path and so overcome the fear of what is to come. When we feel the 'thinness', we can be changed by it. Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.


Overcoming Fear (detail image), 2010, 22.5" (h) x 22.5" (w)


Tell us about your work?

I often say that I came to quilting through the back door.  I had no intention of learning to quilt.  And some would say that I still don't quilt.  In fact, I even say that I am not a quilter.  I happen to use textiles (and other things) that combine in a similar way that quilts do - the official definition of a quilt is that it has three layers of materials, and mine have that (and often more layers than five).  My work started off with dyeing and painting my own cotton.  But I moved to using more unusual materials and techniques, after an extended trip to Britain in 2004.  It was there that my eyes were opened to new possibilities offered using textiles.  I just had fun trying new things - I would purchase a book and read it and try stuff!  Before I realized it, I was creating work that had a look of its own.  I have been very fortunate to be able to focus on building my skills this way.  I have taken risks, and most of the time it has worked out. 

As far as connecting to traditional quilting, my work incorporates many of the basic ingredients that a quilt from years ago did.  I purchase used clothing and use that as a beginning source for my textiles.  It is pretty neat to think that this connects to one of the key elements of why a person made a quilt over a hundred years ago!  Another part of what my textile art is about for me is connected to my spiritual life.  I like the idea that there is an association to the use of textiles in the ancient church.  I enjoy using linen and gold threads for that reason.  So, is there a link to tradition?  Most definitely there is.  But to be able to take the tools we have available now and combine them with modern imagery, is a wonderful and exciting journey.  It is an honour to be connected to such a rich tradition. 


Echoes from Beyond Within, 2011, 10" (h) x 14" (w) – 3 panels, Materials: Hand painted linen; Commercial fabrics; Pewter and brass mesh; Silk fibres; Various threads; Glass beads, freshwater pearls; Mounted on fabric wrapped wooden frame, Techniques: Collage; Acrylic textile paints; Thermo-fabrication with heat gun; Free motion stitching; Sheer overlay; Handmade silk paper; Couching; Bobbin stitching; Hand beading.


Artist Statement:
I wonder what it would feel like, to step into the 'beyond'... what would we see... what smells would we take in and make into a part of our being... what sounds would envelop and hold us there. Text embedded under 'sun' image:  We reach out, cutting through the fog of our mind, hoping to ride the rhythm of our heart - calling to our secret strength. It is difficult to keep our breath calm, controlled. We must let our need speak for us - send it spiraling into the mist.


In my textile art pieces, I incorporate a variety of unusual materials - for instance, I paint a thin layer of glue (a product called "Wonder Under") and then bond that with synthetic sheer fabrics, and apply heat to that using a heat gun (normally used for paint stripping).  This results in a most interesting material to then tear apart and collage into the art.  I also use Tyvek this way (yup!  The stuff that is used on the outside of houses as a vapour barrier)!  Other materials I love to add are metals (copper, brass, aluminum and pewter) that I heat, emboss and colour.  These are just a few of the most unusual things I use.  Why do I do this?  I love the texture it creates, when adding heat to things.  And the addition of this, together with metals, makes my work unique.  One of my friends used to say that the only reason I "quilt" is so that I can embellish!  I think now, there is little left of the "quilting" part - it is all embellishment!


Gaerbhyth ~ Ambassador for Peace, 62" (h) x 56" (w), Quilted wall hanging, Hand dyed and hand painted cotton and other synthetics, textile and watercolour paints; Commercial fabrics; Various threads and cords; Angelina. Techniques: Machine piecing, Paper piecing and appliqué, Collage, Free Motion Embroidery, Bobbin stitching, Couching, Flour paste resist, Block printing and rubbing, Thermo-fabrication (heat applied), Hand dyeing and manipulated painting, Fusible web painting/bonding, Watercolour painting, Machine quilting.

Artist Statement:
Inspired by the calligraphies of The St. John's Bible and the sculptural wall of Coventry Cathedral's chapel, my faith and concern for world peace combine in this modern-day icon. Symbols of peace and community are incorporated throughout. Subtly placed as well as concealed from view, they suggest a global effort is essential. The Seraph has endured much, but hope remains; light penetrates and breaks down the wall. Peace will prevail. Hours and hours of work were dedicated to each separate part of this art quilt... Several different processes went into the creation of the background fabric alone. The androgynous body of the angel was projected onto the fabric, hand painted with the tribal tattoos, then stitched over in a filigree of thread. The arms had to be cut away, to place the collage that formed the wings underneath. Each step in Gaerbhyth's creation was an adventure!


Gaerbhyth ~ Ambassador for Peace (detail image of head and shoulders), 62" (h) x 56" (w)


From where do you get your inspiration?

I struggle with this question every time I am asked it – mostly because it seems like my ideas come from within.  Sure, I see things in my surroundings – often a shape, or a textured surface – that drive me to create something connected with that.  However, I mostly am attempting to create a feeling or thought, using a variety of textiles and surface design techniques. 

Ideas seem to flow ceaselessly - I gather thoughts, ideas and images like daisies from a summer field!  It is fascinating how much of my inner being is reflected through my art.  It has become a bearing of my soul.

My serious study has been in music – I have a Bach of Music degree, my major was vocal performance.  I play the harp as well.  In a mysterious and profound way, my music and my art are deeply connected.  A beautifully orchestrated melody makes my soul soar, equal to the sensation which overwhelms me, as I seek to create its equivalent in fibre.


Blessings, 2010, 45.5" 10" (h) x 14" (w)


The terms ‘flowing’, ‘undulating’ and ‘rhythmic’ are often used to describe my artwork – these refer to my use of line.  The way that I work ends up being a layering process and the final part often includes the addition of a line that weaves its way around/across/through things already in place.  This produces the 'flow' referred to, and often results in waves (repeated lines) that can give a sense of undulating pulse.  It seems natural that my art reflects my classical music training.  There are also very many musical terms.  I sometimes think the line is representing a melody, and a group of lines, a sustained chord or tone cluster.  I also sometimes think of my textile creation in terms of composing an orchestrated piece, with repeated motifs, an underlying drone of bass, a trill.  The other thing that works for my use of line, is its tendency to create a path, which can be ‘searching’ through things on the surface – it symbolizes the journey. 

In a few words - my work seems to be about life energy in its many forms: nature, music, creativity and moods too.


Cathedral Woods, 36.5" (h) x 37" (w), 2010, (Mounted/stretched on a wooden framework), Hand painted linen; Commercial fabrics: synthetic satin, tulle, organza, chiffon, lamé; Copper, pewter and brass mesh; Painted landscaping fabric; Painted Heat Away stabilizer; Painted fusible web, bonded with chiffon; Mica flakes; Various threads and metallic cord. Techniques: Collage; Hand painting of linen (textile paints and watercolour pencils); Thermo- fabrication with heat gun; Free motion embroidery and quilting; Sheer overlay; Couching; Bobbin stitching; Copper embossing.

Artist Statement:
Many hours have been spent walking in the woods, with my dog, and each trip holds a new wonder and closeness with the Creator. In order to share some of that experience with others, and link that with the holy, "Cathedral Woods" came into being. Text by Rumi, is stitched in gold thread, written into the background and obscured, refers to the many paths we take, but the goal is one. The use of the Chartres Labyrinth imagery relates to this as well. The domed ceiling image originated from a trip to one of the many ruins in Ireland, several years ago.

Cathedral Woods (detail of work-in-progress), 36.5" (h) x 37" (w)

Cathedral Woods (detail)


What specific historic artists have influenced your work?

To be honest, I don’t feel I have been influenced by any historic artist.  I have not studied art, not even at the secondary school level.  All my education in this field has been through reading and experimenting – the only workshop I ever attended was on a weekend, to learn to spin.  Otherwise, I am completely self-taught. 


Meditations of All our Hearts, 2010, 20" (h) x 24" (w) Materials: Hand painted linen; Commercial textiles; Acrylic textile paint; Transfer foiled Felt; Pewter; Various threads and metallic cord; Mounted on fabric wrapped wooden frame, Techniques: Collage; Hand painting of linen (textile paints); Free motion embroidery; Discharge; Block printing; Sheer overlay; Couching; Manipulation with heat (blowtorch)


Artist Statement:
Hope. Peace. Comfort. Transform. Forgive. These are things for which we lift our hearts, declaring our dreams, taking risks in faith. We all live for a better outcome in life. At times we experience pain. Other times we feel heard. This piece is an introspective commentary - our private, most inner thoughts are given voice, if even only within our own hearing. And somehow this gives us strength in the journey.


What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work?

I would say current work that I enjoy looking at would be by British textile artist Maggie Grey.  I find her use of texture most appealing, and her techniques intriguing and unusual. Texture is a big part of what I like about working with textiles, and so I have enjoyed exploring some of Grey's techniques.  But I find I can be inspired by many things that I encounter in day-to-day life.  If that happens to be another artist’s work, then for a short time, I think about that person’s work.  These past several months, I have been creating a new body of work for two exhibitions coming up within the year.  These shows will be in conjunction with a metal smith, and friend.  I have found that as we share ideas and design thoughts, my work easily reflects some of his silver work.  It has been an intriguing project.


Strands of IF, 2011, 39" (h) x 47" (w) - 2 panels

Strands of IF, (detail) 2011, 39" (h) x 47" (w) - 2 panels


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

I wish that it played a stronger role, actually.  I find it most frustrating to have my work considered, at best, fine craft.  In Canada, there seems little support in the commercial gallery scene, for textile art.  I think we [textile artists] are still pioneering.


The Go Between, (70" (h) x 65" (w), 2010, Hand crafted oak framework, acts as a room divider; Folds into 3 panels, 21.5 inches wide, Hand painted silk; Commercial fabrics: synthetic satins and lining, lamé, chiffon, organza and tulle, metallic mesh; Copper; Painted Tyvek; Painted Heat Away stabilizer; Angelina; Glass beads; Chenille cord and Rayon heavy thread; Polyester, metallic and monofilament thread, Techniques: Collage; Copper embossing; Hand painting of silk; Thermo-fabrication with heat gun; Free motion embroidery and quilting; Sheer overlay and Encasement; Couching; Bobbin stitching; Hand beading.

Artist Statement:
As I sat at my sewing machine, layering stitched detail over the unique fusion of melted materials, I recognized the depth of story that always comes to life while I work on my art. This particular story is about connections between this world and the "other". As this 'divider' sits in my living room, it acts like an ancient interface - a portal, leading us into the depths and mysteries beyond. So, while it divides our living space, it also shifts us between our world and the next. Where does it take you?


The Go Between (detail)



What other fibre artists are you interested in?

I find most of the textile artists I am most inspired by, are from Great Britain.  They seem to be way ahead of Canada – both in making strides in being accepted in the art world, as well as exploring technique and materials.  As I said earlier, seeing publications by Maggie Grey pushes me. 

Also, I find there are a limited number of people in the art quilting and surface design ‘world’ that truly create work that has meaning, rather than making something pretty or simply interesting.  In my work, I strive to make a connection for the viewer, to something with deeper meaning.


The Go Between, (in progress)


Which is your favourite fibre medium?

I am currently fascinated with the texture of melted synthetic textiles combined with natural textiles.  I love the shine and richness of silk, satin and velvets, and the contrast between these when combined with the heat altered materials.  The final addition of metal really works for me.


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

As mentioned before, I also work with various metals – aluminum, copper, brass and pewter.  I apply heat to bring out various colour changes, as well as applying colour other ways.  The addition of texture and pattern by embossing the metals really enhances my textile art.

I have continued to spin my own yarn and knit, mostly for myself and friends/family.  My loom is tucked away for now – I can’t do it all!!



Portal, 2011, 8" (h) x 8" (w) Materials: Silk; Felt; Cotton velveteen; Commercial synthetic fabrics; Painted fusible web; Acrylic paint; Metallic foil; Handmade paper; Oil Paint stick; Gesso with pigment; Acrylic medium; Synthetic stabilizer; Transfer foil; Glass beads; Mylar shred; Gold leaf; Embossing powder; Metallic cord; Various threads; Mounted on fabric wrapped wooden framework, encased in a purchased frame. Techniques: Collage; Free-machine stitching; Thermo-fabrication (heat gun); Toner transfer; Transfer foiling; Sheer overlay; Couching; Hand beading


Artist Statement:
It is true for all those who work creatively - we create best totally immersed, blending body, mind and spirit. This way we work from the heart. Totally immersed in the experience, a portal opens, and we are in the realm of the Muse. This is a visual expression of being in a place of 'oneness'.


Tell us about your studio and how you work:

I am most fortunate to have extensive space available to work in my home.  I have two studio spaces - one is on the main floor, with two large windows and the second is in the basement – both have had daylight lighting installed. 

The larger main floor room is where the majority of my materials reside in cubbies, drawers, cupboards and on shelves.  Because I work with such a variety of materials, I need lots of different storage, but it all needs to be easily visible and accessible.  My sewing machine is set at a height that allows the work surface to extend to 2 larger tables, one in front and one beside the machine.  In this way, larger work is supported during the sewing process. 


Hilary Rice in the studio.



The smaller room is equipped with a sink and washing machine – for my dyeing and painting of fabric.  There is also a metal topped table that is my main work surface when applying heat to my fabrics.  There is an industrial fan installed that exhausts to the outside.  These are two very important safety features!

When I begin an art piece, I make a pile of fabrics, cords, threads and beads, and gradually work through each layer, putting away the rejected materials for each layer, until at the end I have a completed piece of art and a clean work space to begin again.  I love being surrounded by all the possibilities, and it intrigues me that as each decision is made, the focus of the work narrows, and at the finishing step, it couldn’t have been anything different than what it is.  Many people have asked how I know when it is done…and my answer is always the same.  I try to add another element, and it just doesn’t belong.  I know then that the piece is complete.


Gaerbhyth ~ Ambassador for Peace in process.


Gaerbhyth ~ Ambassador for Peace in process.


Where do you imagine your work in 5 years? 

I will always continue to strive for excellence and attention to detail.  I will not compromise this, in order to make my work fit into the ‘fine art’ category.  I believe it is this fact that makes my work considered ‘fine craft’. 

I would like to think that I will also continue to have successful exhibitions in an increasing number of commercial galleries, as I strive to educate the public about textile art.  I have only been working with textiles as an art medium, in my mind ‘creating artwork’ for the past eight years.  So many personal strides and successes have been accomplished in that time!  It is difficult to imagine an additional five years from here… I am sure, however, that my art will continue to develop and mature in some manner.


Touching the Face of the Stars, 2010, 23.75" (h) x 13.75" (w), Materials: Hand painted cotton; Hand dyed cheesecloth; Acrylic textile paints; Tulle; Pewter; Various threads and cord; Mounted on fabric wrapped wooden frame, Techniques: Collage; Free Motion Embroidery; Bobbin stitching; Flour paste resist; Sheer overlay; Thermo-fabrication (heat applied); Hand manipulated painting


Artist Statement:
The other world seems to be so near, when we consider the depth and expanse of the cosmos. We feel compelled to reach out, connect to something greater than ourselves. It is effortless, and almost palpable. To feel, in these moments, a mysterious power pervading everything - we feel it, but do not see it. It transcends the senses. Our human spirit is awakened and we are diminished. Truth abides here.



Is there something else you would like us to know about you/your artwork?

Somehow I think the sacred belongs in this conversation.  Names I have given to my recent bodies of work include Landscapes of the Soul, Seeking the Holy.   

I am not trying to proselytize with my art, but rather make a visual expression of my inner being, in respect to my spirituality and my understanding of the sacred.  And again for me, this connects me to the holy.  It is very much to do with connectedness and my strong desire to bring some beauty into this spiritually barren world of ours.  It is very much personal expression.  In some ways I am creating mandalas, that don’t happen to be round.  So, much of my art depicts some elements of the search/journey, or leads into a space that might be called the “Other”, or sacred. 

I think, too, for me, so much of my process is an act of meditation. I would like to include two quotes. One from Lenore Tawney (one of the original people to begin to work with textiles as a form of art making): "I become timeless when I work with fibre. Each line, each knot is a prayer... " And the other quote, also from her writing about her own work fits here as well: "I'm following the path of the heart. I don't know where the path is going." It is personal, the path of the heart, searching. And it is journey, too.


Soul Mates, 2010, 10" (h) x 8" (w), Materials: Commercial velveteen; Tyvek; Acrylic paint; Transfer foil; Mika flakes; Glass beads; Embossing powder; Various threads; Mounted on fabric wrapped wooden frame, encased in a handmade beech wood shadow box, Techniques: Collage; Free motion embroidery; Thermo-fabrication (heat gun); Transfer foiling; Sheer overlay; Beading


Artist Statement:
How often does a person feel drawn to another, beyond any understanding, forming an immediate bond? Those meetings are few, but precious. There is a sense of communion, of deep harmony, of oneness. To connect with another soul so deeply, folllowing the way of the heart, momentarily transports you into the presence of the world beyond. Roots are planted. A soul mate is found.


Which World of Threads Festival have you exhibited in?

My piece “Search for Light” was exhibited in the 2009 World of Threads Festival.


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

Up until my submission to the World of Threads, the only juried shows I had entered were connected to quilting.  I was very keen to find another venue that might reflect a stronger connection to more serious art making.  I was also very pleased to have found an international show connected to textiles that I was able to enter.


Search for Light II, 2008, 21" (h) x 27.25" (w). Exhibited in the 2009 Common Threads International Juried Exhibition.



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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Heart Song, 2011, 18.5" (h) x 16" (w), Materials:  Cotton; Various synthetic textiles; Fusible web; Heat Away stabilizer; Acrylic textile paints; Metallic pen; Encaustic crayon; Pewter; Tulle; Various threads; Mounted on fabric wrapped wooden frame, Techniques:  Free Motion Embroidery; Rubbing; Thermo-fabrication (heat applied), Hand stitching


Artist Statement:
Sometimes I just feel an overwhelming, calming connection to things around me, and I write down my feelings, and make art to go with it. "Heart Song" is the result of one of those sessions. There is a strong sense of touching the beyond, while grounded in the reality of the process of creating. Time is lost - I am lost, and yet found.



Heart Song (detail image), 2011, 18.5" (h) x 16" (w)


Text on the piece:
Why do I need to understand in my head when often - more than often I am able to design artwork, over and over, with you as the central figure? Once I began thinking with my heart I used my inner eye to see the real you among the others. You present yourself to my consciousness as a halo of light allowing me to explore the darkness without fear, letting my inner being, my true self radiate and grow until my heart overflows.