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Lizz Aston is textile artist and designer from Toronto. She is extremely inspired and capable. Her particular talent is to create a continuity between past and present.
Lizz, when did you understand that you would be pursuing a creative career? And why did you choose to become a designer and textile artist?
As a young student, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into an arts-based high school. The time I spent there, immersed in a specialized arts program came to inform the beginning of my life as an artist working within a craft-based medium. Focusing on exploring my ideas through the use of fibre and stitch – final projects were spent doing embroidery on paper and leaves, while reflecting on the fragility, ephemerality and transformative qualities of my materials. Although I was unaware of textiles and contemporary craft as a meaningful and relevant form of expression, I eventually learned that there was a larger identity at play in the work I had been making all along. It wasn’t until I attended the Crafts and Design Program at Sheridan College that I finally found a voice in what it is I do. Upon finishing my degree in Textiles, I applied to a three-year artist residency in the Textile Studio at Harbourfront Centre, and was accepted. The experiences I had working in the Craft Studio at Harbourfront pushed me to innovate on my work, as I worked collaboratively with my peers in the adjacent Glassblowing, Ceramics, and Jewelery studios. The Craft Artist-in-Residence program at Harbourfront is the only one of it’s kind in North America. Looking back on the time I spent there, the ongoing experimentation and cross-studio collaboration is what pushed me to continue my studies and enroll in Industrial Design.
One of your projects that I find most fascinating is the Lace Mirrors. Especially from a metaphorical point of view. What does the mirror represent for you?
In making this project, I’ve actually never thought about the Mirror from a metaphorical point of view, but I think that is an extremely compelling idea, and would like to look into that further. When I first began working with mirror, I was thinking about playing with mirrored patterns, and tessellating shapes. The original pattern I used for the mirror has been manipulated into a wholly new form, mirrored from top to bottom, and side-to-side. I was interested in creating a mirror out of a mirrored image. When I look at the finished work on the wall, the mirrored pattern feels like I am looking into a portal to another universe – because the pattern pushes your eyes towards the intersecting lines at the center. Is that a weird thing to say? In the future, I would like to design an entire wall of mirrored patterns that tessellate and repeat in surprising ways.
Do you have a favorite technique to work with? Or a favorite stage in your process?
My favourite stage in my process is the discovery that comes out of experimentation and play. This is actually something I haven’t had time to do in a very long time. I love to take an idea, and play with materials, make a ton of samples, and learn how to work with the materials instead of against them. I did get a chance to do a bit of this in design school while working in the metal, plastics and woodshop however; I was working within the constraints of a school project and a strict deadline, which is very limiting. At the moment, I feel like I have a bunch of starting points for projects, and not enough time to continue to play.
What is the material that you are most comfortable with, the one that - so to speak - resembles you the most?
Paper will always be my favourite material! I love paper because of its transformative qualities - it can be easily manipulated from its most basic form in really dynamic ways! In my work, I have stitched on paper, burned paper, cut paper, crumpled and starched it into new shapes, molded it around objects, applied saturated dyes, made large-scale installations, applied clay slip to paper-cuts and fired them in the kiln, spun paper into thread, and crocheted it into new forms! It can be used as a map, template, a stencil, a maquette, or a surface to house your ideas; the possibilities are endless!
Paper, clay, and textiles are the materials that recur most often in your work. Is there a material you would like to experiment with but you haven’t been able to use yet?
In the future I would love to work with industrial materials such as metal, concrete, marble, and glass.
You have received many awards. What is an award that you have not received yet but that you aspire to win?
I would love more than anything to win a Sobey Art Award, or the Design Exchange - Emerging Designer Competition, in Canada.
Can you tell us something about your future projects?
At the moment, I am working on a number of large-scale commissions that I am really excited about. This summer I will be exhibiting my work at the Foothills Arts Centre – Fine Craft Invitational in Golden, Colorado, USA; as well as a solo exhibition at Centre Materia in Quebec City in 2017. My goals for the future include approaching my work more architecturally, working on large-scale projects, and public art commissions.
Is there an artist with which you would like to collaborate?
I would really love to collaborate with my friend Jeff Garcia at some point – he goes by the moniker of Mango Peeler. I would also love to start a small design collective of people that I would like to work with once we are finished our studies. Another project I had in mind was to actually launch a social-based website that facilitates peer-to-peer collaboration between artists, designers and manufacturers - but at the moment, that is still a pipe dream.
What’s your last thought before falling asleep?
What is on my to-do list for tomorrow, and that I hope I have more weird and crazy dreams!
If you like this article, you might also be interested in the Meredith Woolnough interview.