Image: Colette Boulet, Lisière Bleu (detail).
This week on the blog we interviewed Colette Boulet, a Montreal-based fibre artist who has been creating contemporary tapestries for over twenty-five years. She recently made a video, Weaving Basic Patterns, in collaboration with Textile Museum Canada.
Colette, could you tell us about your design process when you are making personal projects or commissions?
When working on commissions it is important to understand what the client is looking for in terms of shape, size, texture, colour and light: what the end piece should look like, feel like and what kind of space it will occupy. The five senses, especially touch, which is such an important component of any textile, inform all of my work. I think about how I learnt to feel through touch — just like Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah, “I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch”. I usually have a song or album I listen to throughout the duration of weaving a piece. So, each piece has a song or album associated with it.
For personal projects I tend to experiment and deliberately practice thinking outside the box to push my creative process further.
What influences you?
Rhythm - light - texture - space.
Having good balance is important to me in my work. I often create pieces in three panels, for example Red Triangle. Each panel of a triptych represents the mind, the body, or the soul - together in balance.
How did you find your style? Did it develop naturally or did you make a conscious decision to work in a particular way?
I have chosen to work on a floor loom where I work with light and texture and integrate weaving and tapestry techniques. My warp is my canvas composed of experimental patterns or plain weave that I then build my visuals on.
My work is a form of personal expression: intended to evoke emotion and reflection. I view my weaving as sculpture and incorporate movement, harmony, balance, pattern, texture, form, space, shape, color, value and line. Weaving enables me to ground myself and work through my thoughts — to connect with my rhythm.
Tell us about the educational collaboration you are doing with the Textile Museum of Canada.
I undertook an internship at La Manufacture des Gobelins which was of special interest to the educational program at Textile Museum Canada as they were looking for artists with alternative study in the arts. We talked about my experience and I put together a video on ‘Basic weaving techniques’ to teach and inspire people to weave.
Video: Weaving Basic Patterns with Colette Boulet. Filmed and produced by Elena Petković.
What materials do you use, and where do you source them?
I work with all sorts of fibres, from linen, to bamboo, to polyester, but for the past 5 years I've been striving for sustainability in my work and have been consciously moving from synthetics to all-natural fibres. I recently listened to a Selvedge Instagram live talk where Polly interviewed Frances van Hasselt on Angora mohair in Karoo, and I found myself galvanised to continue my search to find sustainably produced fibres for my weaving. Frances creates beautiful products that are created sustainably at every stage of production and I found that deeply inspiring.
Looking to buy local, I found angora, linen, alpaca, cashmere is produced in Canada but ready to use yarn is available only in small quantities and sometimes only in roving format. Spinners are not readily available and in view of adding more options to my palette I’ve decided to start spinning some of my yarn from roving produced locally as much as possible.