I am happy to have had the pleasure of interviewing artist Liz Toohey-Wiese, shown here washing one of her hand woven blankets in the pacific Ocean. Liz is an artist out of Vancouver and does an impressive variety of work that you will no doubt fall in love with, just as I have. See for yourself.
RI: First of all thank you for taking part in this interview. I stumbled upon your work and I immediately felt a connection. Do you hear this a lot?
LTW: Thanks! I make a lot of different work, weavings, paintings, drawings, and I think people connect with the different pieces in a lot of different ways. A lot of my work draws on landscapes and the places I find myself connecting to. To me, that is a pretty universal feeling, and maybe that’s what people connect to when they are looking at my work.
LTW: For the past two years I’ve been working on weavings and paintings mostly. I like these two art forms because I think they compliment each other in unexpected ways. For me, painting is a constant process of decision-making – what to leave in, what to leave out. Weaving is more physical and meditative, all the planning happens at the beginning before you make the work. Once the piece is started, the challenge is in finding a meditative space to finish a piece.
RI: This actually sounds rather relaxing. How long do some of your tapestries take to create?
LTW: Generally a few weeks. I think my longest took about two months.
LTW: I like spending time outdoors, feeling immersed in natural landscapes. Usually I need to feel grounded to make something, so lots of travel outside means I’m generally not working in my studio or on big projects. It takes a few weeks after returning home and settling back into my own space before those experiences come out into my work.
RI: I see that one of the things you love to create are books? You must explain.
LTW: I’ve illustrated some children’s books, and also have made custom books for friends and loved ones. It’s another slow craft, like weaving. My bookmaking supplies have been in storage for two years, to be honest. It might be time to get back into it.
RI: Sounds good to me. So one of the aspects I love most about your art is your use of color. It’s so very whimsical, even when maybe it isn’t supposed to be. For example I am in awe of “4th at Yew”. It’s so dark but still manages to create a sense of joy and serenity. Is this your intention?
LTW: Colour is pretty intriguing and sometimes feels so subconscious. For example, if I’m working on weavings and paintings in my studio, I find the colour palettes start overlapping and I’m not even aware of it until after the pieces are finished. I like exploring dark scenes in a lot of my paintings, such as in “4th at Yew” because of the way night diminishes the details in what you can see. Sometimes those experiences outside at twilight are just so weird because of how you can discern forms with barely any light. In my weavings I often like pairing neutrals with bright colours. I like the colour of un-dyed wool, it has a warmth to it, and reminds you that it came from an animal.
LTW: I started exploring using acrylic paint in high school, but I’m sure my parents would tell you I loved painting long before then.
RI: Living in Vancouver you must have some amazing places to create your pieces. Does the landscape often show up in the things that you do?
LTW: Yes of course. For a long time I was thinking about the mountains here, and they showed up in a lot of the work I was making. I moved to Nova Scotia to do my Masters degree in 2013 and that was an entirely new landscape. What I connected to out there was the islands everywhere, in lakes, in the ocean, at various scales. They reminded me of the islands off the coast of Vancouver, so there has been a lot of islands in my paintings lately. Usually there are trees, usually there is water. My work is sort of about the place I’m from, and also distilling it down into snapshots of a place. I’ve been bringing my watercolour paints with me this summer on some travels, making plein air work, which is always a nice practice to pay attention to the places you are in.
RI: You have an Etsy shop; do you do many gallery shows?
LTW: My weavings and my paintings find their space in different venues. I think the “high-art” world is still a bit shy with crafts, so I focus my Etsy shop on showcasing my tapestries. My paintings have been shown in galleries across Canada, and I had shows in Montreal and Halifax this summer.
RI: What are your plans over the next year?
LTW: I just moved back to Vancouver after my two years away doing school in Halifax. I moved into a nice house with a shed and a garden and some beehives in the backyard. I spent the summer traveling around British Columbia and actually haven’t been home much, so I’m looking forward to actually spending some time staying still this Fall. I’m going to be teaching some weaving classes in Vancouver, some kids art classes, and making time and space to work on my own projects as well. I’m heading to Scandinavia next spring on a travel research grant, so that’s my big project I’m looking forward to this year.
RI: Wow. That’s crazy exciting. Well good luck and thank you so much for your time. I know others will fall in love with your work like I have.