Featured Curators

Curator Interview Archive

5  Gareth Bate (Part 2)

4  Gareth Bate (Part 1)

3  Stanzie Tooth

2  Evan Tyler

1  Dawne Rudman


Xiaojing Yan, Cloudscape, paper and reed. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Xiaojing Yan, Detail: Red and White Melody. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Curator: Stanzie Tooth, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Interview 3: Exhibition: Material Connections.
2012 World of Threads Festival.
gallerywest, Toronto.
To see the official photo album:
click here.


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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.




Stanzie Tooth is an artist based in Ottawa, Ontario. Stanzie graduated from the Ontario College of Art & Design in 2007 with an award for excellence in painting. Her work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. In June 2013, Stanzie presented, Into the Forest, her first solo exhibition with General Hardware Contemporary. Her work was also featured in 60 Painters, at Humber College, an ambitious overview of contemporary Canadian painting. Concurrent to her painting practice, Stanzie worked as the Manager and Programming Coordinator of Lonsdale Gallery from 2008-2013. In the Fall of 2013, Stanzie relocated to Ottawa to begin work on her Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Ottawa. Website | In Canadian Art.


Artist and Curator Stanzie Tooth.


Tell us about yourself.

My name is Stanzie Tooth, I was the Programming Coordinator for Lonsdale Gallery at the time of the 2012 World of Threads Festival. I  recently left the gallery to do a Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Ottawa.


Xiaojing Yan, Cloudscape, paper and reed. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Tell us about Lonsdale gallery. Does the gallery normally exhibit fibre art?

Lonsdale Gallery is located in the Forest Hill Village neighbourhood of Toronto. Established in 1995 the gallery specializes in contemporary art. Fibre art is something the gallery has been exploring more recently. We started working with Amanda McCavour a few years ago and this was the gallery's introduction to fibre art. The Director of the gallery, Chad Wolfond, and I both have an interest in work that marries a strong conceptual framework with craftsmanship/technique. So, our interest in fibre art is more about seeing a trend of interesting artists who choose to work in fibre, and not specifically about seeking out a type of media.


Material Connections at Lonsdale Gallery, curated by Stanzie Tooth & Amanda McCavour. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Artists in Material Connections.


Xiaojing Yan, Detail: Red and White Melody. Photo: Gareth Bate.


How would you define curating? And what is your philosophy or approach?

I tend not to refer to myself as a 'curator' since the exhibitions I coordinate are generally for a commercial venue and do not necessarily follow academic definitions of curation. The motivations behind putting together a commercial show are necessarily different. For any of my programming, commercial or not, the point of interest is always creating a platform for important work. The best part of my job is identifying artists who I feel are creating something new and interesting and being able to highlight these artists and provide an outlet for the work.

At times I did put together group shows under a theme, but these arose from seeing a trend in the themes being employed by our gallery artists or other artists from the community. Curators are people that follow their local art scene and either identify current trends in art, or, identify coming trends and artists who are on the cutting edge of these trends.


Xiaojing Yan, Detail: Red and White Melody. Photo: Gareth Bate.


What were the overall themes of your exhibition for the 2012 festival?

Amanda and I had discussed the idea of putting together an exhibition about contemporary fibre art for a couple of years now. The World of Threads Festival 2012 was the perfect opportunity for us to finally execute this idea.

The exhibition, titled 'Material Connections', did not have an over arching theme. Instead, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight artists we are really excited by. We wanted to show the inventiveness and diversity of how fibre arts are being used in the contemporary fine art world.


Anna Torma, Transverbal 7, hand embroidery. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Anna Torma, Detail: Transverbal 7, hand embroidery. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Working your way through the exhibition, can you speak about the artist's work and how they fit within your show?

There was a really nice interplay in the exhibition. I thought that the artists really complimented and enhanced each other's work. While each of these artists work in a very different ways, it was interesting to see how similar concerns regarding the language of fibre could be seen in the work of all three artists. Attention to line, structure and form could be seen throughout the exhibition. Also, there was an unanticipated connective vein throughout the exhibition as each of the artists were exploring dualities between the structured and the organic.

Meghan Price's work reveals both the playfulness and structure of fibre materials. In Material Connections she presented two series of works. The first were woven and embroidered works, which employed interferences in the weave and weft of fabrics to describe action. My favourite of these, "Woven Flight", was a large digital Jacquard weaving where areas of the weave and weft of the fabric were left loose, their intersecting lines describing the flight pattern of birds. I liked how she used the material to describe the structured yet organic nature of bird migration. Her other series of works were lace wire pieces. Alongside these wire works were prints, which were created by inking the wire forms and running them through a press. There was a wonderful interplay between original object and print, with an interesting play between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional.



Anna Torma: Installation view of quilts. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Anna Torma showed works from her latest series, Transverbal. These pieces were hand embroidered wall hangings that seem to use the language of doodling, blind contour and free consciousness studies. Looking at these recent pieces, I'm reminded by my favourite quote by Picasso: "It took me my whole life to learn to draw like a child." Though Torma's pieces have an engaging exuberance and free form feel, upon closer inspection one sees the intense consideration and the amazing technique behind the work. I appreciate the contrast in these works - the openness of the drawing and the time-intensive and skilled execution.


Xiaojing Yan, Flux II, paper and reed. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Xiaojing Yan presented a series of her fibre paper and natural reed sculptures. The concept of duality is at the core of Xiaojing's work. A Chinese artist living and working in Canada, Yan's works draw from her cultural heritage as well as her experiences in North America. Yan's work uses the delicate techniques and translucent materials found in traditional lantern making and implement these to create abstracted sculptural forms. Her sculptures take on the shape of organic forms (butterflies, chrysalises, seed pods) and at the same time seem informed by modernist art and architecture. Particularly in her most recent pieces, the forms are becoming increasingly complex and precarious.


Xiaojing Yan, Detail: Flux V, paper and reed. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Xiaojing Yan, Flux VI, paper and reed. Photo: Gareth Bate.


How did you come up with the title for the exhibition?

Material Connections is a play on words since the connective 'thread' of the show is that all of the artists are using fibre in their work. As we continued to develop the show, it also sparked our interest that all of these artists had very different backgrounds and experience. Part of what is fascinating about fibre is that all cultures both current and past have a connection to fibre/fabric. It is part of ceremonies/traditions as well as an every day material that is familiar to all. Fibre is also multi sensory – it is a visual and tactile medium. I think for these and a myriad of other reasons, contemporary artists seem to be identifying with the material more and more.

In short – we wanted to show how the artists, though very unique, were each using the language of fibre in their work.


Meghan Price, Detail: Woven Flight, Jacquard woven cotton. Photo: Gareth Bate.


What advice would you give to artists for working with curators?

Be open to collaboration. A curator's primary objective is to display your work in its best possible light. Sometimes they will have suggestions on things like presentation, placement, etc., that will help to best display the work in the context of the exhibition. Visual art is all about communication – a curator is a messenger helping to connect you with your audience.


Meghan Price, Acting Like Starlings. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Meghan Price, Acting Like Starlings. Photo: Gareth Bate.


What advice would you give to artists about the submission/selection process? Are there common mistakes that artists make?

I have three main pieces of advice.

Read Submission Guidelines Carefully
Make sure the call for submissions or mission statement of the exhibition/venue apply to you. I have been on countless juries where artists try to present work for a show that has nothing to do with the call for submissions – or, presenting work to a gallery far beyond their experience level (i.e. emerging artists applying to competitions for mid-career of senior-level spaces). While artists may be eager to get their work out to the public, approaches should be targeted to suit your work and your experience level. Often artist submissions are disqualified from a jury because their submissions are incomplete. Make sure you read the requirements carefully and only include materials that are requested.

Get a non-artist to read your statements/applications.
Artists have a bad habit of overusing/relying on "art speak" in their submissions, applications, etc. Writing for a submission or grant should be clear and communicate the aims of your project. A great tip is to have someone outside of the art community read your statement to make sure that a wider audience can understand it. Submission panels are often made up of people from various backgrounds and you want your statement to be relatable.

Good, accurate documentation photos are the most important part of any submission.
Ultimately, submissions are about having your artwork seen by the jury. Take time to take good images of the work. Also, make sure that your images are formatted to the correct size being requested by the jury. Often times, submissions will be disqualified for consideration because the images are not clear – or the file size of the images provided are too big or not the right format. It is not the job of the jury to reformat your images. Most artists could benefit from taking a course in basic image correction and the computer skills necessary to building a digital portfolio.


Meghan Price, Acting Like Starlings, (installation of small works), enameled copper wire. Photo: Gareth Bate.


How would you suggest artists deal with rejection?

The best and worst part of visual art is how subjective it is. Always keep in mind that rejection is not necessarily a reflection on your work.


Artist Xiaojing Yan at the opening of Material Connections. Photo: Dawne Rudman.

Xiaojing Yan chatting to Festival Chair, Dawne Rudman at the opening of Material Connections. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Can you talk about the status of Fibre in contemporary art?

I think that there is a huge trend right now of contemporary artists engaging or reengaging 'craft' materials and processes. In part, I feel that this is a response to advancements in technology. We are so saturated in digital media that many artists are retreating into more tactile, more 'analog' media. People want to feel the hand of the artist now more than ever. I think that fibre is a big part of this trend.


Artist Xiaojing Yan chatting to viewers at the opening of Material Connections. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Can you talk about the commercial viability of Fibre Art?

Again, I don't have extensive experience in this area, but I do see more galleries working with fibre artists. In my personal experience at Lonsdale, the biggest factor with fibre work is finding an appropriate way to display the work, which will show potential collectors how different types of work can be displayed in this homes/spaces. Fibre can be intimidating to some collectors because it can be viewed as fragile or hard to maintain/clean. Finding appropriate display cases and hanging systems relieves this apprehension.

That said – I can't speak to the marketability of fibre art as a whole. I think, like with any type of work, its about the individual artist.


Curator Stanzie Tooth with Xiaojing Yan at the opening of Material Connections. Photo: Gareth Bate.


What is your view on the whole Art vs Craft debate?

My personal view on craft vs art has everything to do with the question of content. I feel that 'fine art' or 'high art' can be made of anything as long as the materiality of the work supports the conceptual meaning of the work.


At the opening of Material Connections. Photo: Dawne Rudman. Left Chad Wolfond, owner of Lonsdale Gallery.


What interests you about the World of Threads Festival as a whole?

I appreciate any festival or exhibition that gives an in depth look into a medium and all of its facets. I really appreciate how the World of Threads creates a platform for fibre arts. I think it is also important that the World of Threads reaches out to international artists. It is so important for artists of a medium to communicate cross culturally - I think it a fantastic initiative.


At the opening of Material Connections. Photo: Gareth Bate.


How do you balance the 'double-life' of artist and curator?

My answer to that one is always "with varying degrees of success". I try to set a schedule for myself to dictate "gallery hours" and "studio hours" and this usually works pretty well. However, there are certain seasons of the year where one side of my practice overtakes the other. But, I find that if I continue to think of my studio as a "second job" and set real hours for myself, my schedule stay pretty consistent.


Opening at Lonsdale Gallery. Right: Gareth Bate, Festival Curator. Photo: Dawne Rudman.

Artist Jodi Collella from Massachusetts chatting with Festival Chair, Dawne Rudman at the opening of Material Connections. (Jodi had artrwork in THREADSpace and De rerum natura exhibitions of Festival 2012). Photo: Gareth Bate.


In terms of curating, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I have been doing some lecturing and events on a post-secondary level and this is something I'd like to continue as well. I like the idea of incorporating an educational or community component to the work that I do.


Installation View of Material Connections.. Photo: Gareth Bate.


What's coming up for you in the future?

Right now I am focusing on my MFA at the University of Ottawa.

I am also curating a project for the Canada Council Art Bank. They are opening a new gallery space in Ottawa and I am curating the inaugural exhibition, Land Reform(ed), which will open in April 2014.


Xiaojing Yan, Cloudscape, paper and reed. Photo: Gareth Bate.


To see the official album for Material Connections? click here.


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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.