There is a fanciful garden blooming upstairs at the Lynn Valley Branch of the North Vancouver District Public Library. Fabric artist Kirsten Chursinoff’s exhibit Garden Escape is now on until Dec. 6, 2022.

From craft to art

The fabric and thread creations are a colourful burst of energy in the display space. At first glance, they appear to be traditional works of drawing or painting but a closer look reveals the intricate stitches and layers of textiles. 

kirsten churisnoff“It is like painting with thread and fabric,” she said. “People think of fabric as being for useful things, like tablecloths, bed coverings, clothing. Seeing textiles on the wall in the same sort of format as paintings can put them in that ‘art’ category more than the ‘craft’ – which are more useful artifacts. It’s a very tactile hands-on material but it’s displayed in a more artful way.”

The intricate pieces combine a variety of techniques. 

“I use quilting techniques but the pieces are smaller than a quilt. There is a lot of detailed embroidery. Some of it is done using a sewing machine but a lot is done by hand, pulling the thread through the cloth. The machine work goes a lot faster, it’s great for piecing together the background. And the handwork is much slower and I can be more intentional with the flowers or leaf shapes adding details.”

 Being a working mom with a creative space filled with both stacks of fabric and bins of Lego, the option to work fast or slow has been an important part of creating her pieces. 

“I think they work well together. I am also a mother of two children so life can get busy. It’s nice to be able to go back and forth between techniques according to what is happening in my life.” 

Garden Escape

This month’s exhibit was very much influenced by what was happening in Chursinoff’s life. 

“Most of the pieces in this exhibit were completed during the pandemic, I was searching for beauty in a time of uncertainty and staying close to home,” she said. “I have always been drawn to flowers and nature. I have been drawn to botanical gardens. I only have a small balcony garden myself, so I am jealous of larger spaces to grow flowers – it’s an endless resource of inspiration. There are so many possibilities.”

As an artist, Chursinoff enjoys the challenge of capturing movement in a ‘slow’ art form.

“There is tension between using a technique that takes a long time and capturing a moment in nature. I am trying to capture something, more of a feeling,” she said. “There is a lot of movement in flowers in leaves, as the wind goes by or a bird flits past. It’s trying to capture those moments of motion or whimsy working in a technique that takes a long time to do. 

“There are real and imagined flowers and I want to capture the spontaneity of a garden or a flower growing out of place or weeds growing at the side of the road. Those moments of beauty you sort of stumble upon when you aren’t expecting it – like when you are walking kids to school or when mushrooms pop up in the fall. It’s those moments of surprise out in nature.” 

She hopes the use of thread and fabric in unexpected ways delights observers. 

“I like the moments of surprise when they see it is not actually paint or traditional ‘art’ materials. They see it’s fabric and come a little closer to see how it’s made and figure out what is going on in there. They look at the techniques and how it’s made. The ‘That wasn’t what I expected it to be!’ and they lean in to figure out and try to solve a mystery.” 

Adding how she is pleased to be at the NVDPL this month. 

“I enjoy exhibiting at libraries because in a way it is more accessible,” said Chursinoff. “Not everyone would go to an art gallery but there is a broader representation of the community that would go to the library. Sometimes they just stumble on it and get to have that art gallery experience in a place they feel comfortable.” 

Garden Escape is on at the Lynn Valley branch of the NVDPL until Dec. 6. 

Images courtesy of Kirsten Chursinoff.

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