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Unique fabric art exhibition lands at MAC in Parksville

‘I Love Mondays’ by Kate Bridger on display until Oct. 29
Fabric artist Kate Bridger, left, has an exhibition titled ‘I Love Mondays’ at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville. (Submitted photo)

Fabric artist Kate Bridger loves Mondays.

She’s depicted landscapes, wildlife, houses, old cars and a lot more since she took up her unique art form in the 1980s.

Her latest exhibition, I Love Mondays, includes scenes from around the Comox Valley, where she lives, and is on display at the McMillan Arts Centre (MAC) in Parksville.

From a distance, they look like paintings, but are actually intricately stitched fabric works, with some taking upward of 60 hours to complete.

“When I used to own my own gallery, I used to tell people to get their nose up to it and I would wipe the smears off the glass at the end of the day,” Bridger said with a laugh. “A lot of people think they’re paintings.”

The exhibition’s title comes from a project she started in 2015, when she challenged herself to create fabric art every Monday for 52 weeks.

“That way it would sort of start my creativity for the week and allow me to experiment with techniques and styles in a small format,” Bridger said.

She no longer makes fabric art each Monday, but over the years she created 288 pieces and inspired others who saw her work online to join in.

Bridger curated many of submissions for her Made on Monday website.

“It turned into something quite exciting, really,” she said.

Bridger said she still uses the practice regularly as a creativity stimulating exercise.

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She begins with a photo or sketch as a reference point, but only for a day or two — then it’s up to her.

A misplaced stitch can be frustrating, she said, since stitches of that size and density can’t be undone.

“Once you’ve put it down, you’ve committed,” Bridger said.

“Maybe a shrub gets planted where there wasn’t one before.”

Often one such error can take her down a path that makes things more interesting anyway.

“Fabric is very fickle. It’s very shifty and there’s so many textures to work with anso many opportunities,” Bridger said. “I just have to go with the flow of the fabric after a while.”

More than 30 years ago while living in northern Ontario, Bridger became interested in fabric art.

“I didn’t frame with glass or matting or anything, I had it stretched over boards, and I was rejected from the local art club in the small town I lived in,” Bridger said.

“I was told it wasn’t art because it wasn’t paintings.”

Bridger began to frame her work and soon enough was accepted for an exhibition.

“It’s much easier for people to see something that sort of looks like a painting, and to imagine it in their own home,” she said.

She relocated to the Comox Valley from Nelson, her home for 25 years, mere weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Art was very helpful during this isolated time and she took the opportunity to explore the area and take lots of photographs. Bridger has enjoyed her home and meeting new people through the art community.

“One of the reasons to move is I’d been in Nelson for so long that I felt like I needed a new adventure,” she said.

Bridger was born in the UK and moved to Canada with her family in the late 1960s.

She studied landscape architecture at the University of Toronto and later worked in publishing as an art director.

While living in Nelson, she published four books, raised two sons, owned a downtown gallery, offered interior design consultations and worked in real estate, all while creating art. Her work has appeared in numerous exhibitions in B.C. and Ontario.

I Love Mondays will be at the McMillan Arts Centre (133 McMillan St.) until Oct. 29.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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