Art & Design by Neroli Henderson

Interview series: Lorraine Roy – Textile and Fiber Artist

Lorraine Roy is an award winning contemporary mixed-media textile artist from Dundas, Ontario,Canada who incorporates sewing, collage, embroidery, photo transfer, quilting and thousands of fibre and thread snippets into her work. Lorraine is a full-time textile artist with many international exhibitions to her name. She works from her home studio with her husband fine art photographer Janusz Wrobel.

As many of you know i’ve become a bit of a Facebook junkie in recent months and part of the reason for that is the frequency i’ve been stumbling upon some of the most amazing artists and their works. I found Lorraine Roy this way and after taking a look through her website and reading the quite unique techniques she uses I just knew I had to ask her to do an artist interview.

Lorraine’s horticultural background and subsequent research regularly inspire her wonderful imagery. Landscapes that combine realism and abstraction combine with symbols from dreams, mythology and memories to create organic conceptual pieces that make the most of the rich medium combinations.

‘The Seven Days of Creation’ 69×80″ (175 x 203cm) 
2008 Wall hanging, Commission, SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle. Cotton batting. This is Lorraine’s favourite work. Five separate quilts were created and then hung together.

  How long have you been quilting and what first drew you to it? 
I have never NOT worked with fabric, beginning with sewing (from the age of 6), but ironically I never learned to make a proper quilt. I have been a professional textile artist for just over 20 years, but my formal education is in Horticulture.
‘Between Now and Then’ 36×48″  (91 x 121cm) 2009 SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 How would you describe your style now? 
Painting with fabric… it’s a mixture of machine collage, appliqué, embroidery and quilting. I call my main technique “collage with nets”. I love how it allows me to explore the freedom of line and shape that exists in the world of painting without compromising the intensity of colour and texture that you can achieve with fabric.

I begin with a plain fabric ground. On this surface I drop hundreds, sometimes thousands of tiny bits of cut fabrics and threads (of any kind – natural, synthetic, metallic) until I reach a depth and texture that pleases me. I then pin transparent netting on top, usually nylon tulle, which holds everything in place. The layers are then machine stitched together. This new fabric is now ready for further surface work: machine applique, embroidery, collage, and, more recently, photographic transfers from my photographer husband’s huge collection of natural images ( The finished surface is then quilted over batting and backing to fix the shape and enhance textures and lines. 

The above shows snippets of threads, scraps of fabric and yarn scattered over a backing fabric. Below is the same piece after being covered in netting and partly stitched.

 How has your style evolved? 
After many wearable fashion disasters, I learned that I had an aptitude and passion for hand embroidery. During my teens and onward I absorbed nearly every embroidery technique and was even teaching them at one point. But as you may suspect, it’s a slow medium. The transition to my new techniques took a number of years and lots of experimentation.

 Apart from quilting what else to you do within the industry? 
I occasionally teach workshops on a freelance basis (teaching my techniques or design). Lately I have been organizing my own, by renting facilities in a lovely historic church just around the corner. I even provide excellent lunches and it’s lots of fun. Also, I do some public speaking and presentations, and trunk shows, about my work and/or about native trees and art.

Red Maple  2008  28×32″ (71 x 81cm)  Wall hanging  SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle. Cotton batting.

 What’s the best advice you could give someone who wants to try quilting or textile art for the first time? 
Don’t let anyone burden you with rules.. if you feel excited and it’s breaking a rule, then go for it.

 Do you exhibit your work? 
Over the years I have exhibited extensively… in commercial and public galleries and plenty of unlikely places too. I love showing my work and it’s the way I connect with viewers and clients.

Buried Treasure  30×10″ (76 x 25cm) 2009  $725 USD
Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 How do you go about finding and selecting galleries? 
Sometimes galleriesapproach me directly or via my website, but more often I approach them. First I make sure they are a good fit for my work, then I speak to other artists to find out what their experience is with the gallery. After that I follow the protocol that most galleries post on their site. I haven’t needed to do that in a few years… I now have just the right number and quality of commercial galleries.

I also do a few very carefully selected Commercial fine art shows (where each artist has a booth) – this is an excellent way to meet the public and increase my mailing list. I only do shows that are well juried and have high standards. They are not cheap, but well worth the investment.

Sacred Tree #1  12×12″ (30x30cm) 2010  $425 USD

Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 Do you belong to any quilt associations? 
No, I don’t belong to any quilt associations. Although I do miss that kind of camaraderie, it’s more useful and interesting to belong to Naturalist clubs, Fine art clubs, or any groups outside the textile community. This keeps my ideas and work fresh.

 What would you recommend people do who want to seriously get into textile art? 
Hang out with artists in all media. Learn and study all kinds of things, not only textile art and techniques. Bring in every experience you have. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do and how to do it. Be very selective of your critics. Try to build a broad income base by diversifying, using all your strengths and passions.

Sumac Ridge  24×41″  (61 x 104cm)  2010  Wall Hanging  SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle. Cotton batting.

 What inspires you? 
Over the years, my work has become a blend of all my interests: nature, science, spirituality, literature, arboriculture, botany, environmental issues, my childhood on a farm … It’s a long list! I am best known, however, for my portrayals of native trees. Since my BSc in Horticulture, I’ve done a lot of research on culture, symbolism, mythology, native uses, stories, poems… and the more I learned, the more fascinating trees became. So that’s an ongoing inspiration.

Spring Aspen  30×15″  (76 x 38cm) 2010  Framed textile SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 What sewing machine / threads etc do you use? 
I have 2 Berninas: an old regular one (made in Europe), and an even older industrial one. Both have free motion options. I don’t need anything fancy, just a strong motor and reliability. I use all kinds of threads, but prefer rayon for its shine and strength.

Lorraine’s home studio
Her smaller scraps are bagged by colour and stored by shade. Bigger pieces are sorted into wire draws.
Below is a close up of her bagged scraps and a photo of her Hillcrest studio in the summer time.

 Do you have any formal art training? Do you think it’s necessary? 
I don’t have formal art training. I don’t think it’s necessary but I’m sure it can’t hurt.

 What’s the most rewarding thing about your career? 
Art is my way of sharing how I see and feel about the world. When people see it, they know something about me, much better than when I open my mouth. This makes it easier for a shy person like me to make connections and bring those fine souls my way. Everything evolves from there.

 How did you learn the techniques you use? 
Mainly through experimentation and looking at other artists’ work.

 What are your favorite / least favorite parts of the quilting process? 
Endless pinning. I don’t enjoy pinning. :(  Or putting on the sleeve at the end… (huge sigh). But frankly, there is very little I don’t love about every stage of my process.

Associated Links:

Lorraine’s website 

Collage with nets technique in detail

Lorraine’s book ‘Saving Paradise’

Follow Lorraine workshops and artworks on her Facebook page

Email Lorraine to sign up for her workshop mailing list or to purchase art

I hope you enjoyed this interview and love to read your comments, please leave them by clicking on the ‘comments’ link below. –Neroli Henderson

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