Cap's textile arts students are, in many ways, like Rick Ross


About 15 well-aligned bleach prints of an elderly gentleman wearing a dress adorn Jaime Murdoch’s enormous piece of purple fabric. The print has been screened from an old photograph of Jaime’s great-great-grandfather, dating back to the 1870s.

Though she jokes about the idea of 19th century cross-dressing, Jaime explains that “it just makes me want to contact my family, and see if anyone knows the story… textiles really kind of gets us back in touch with our grandmas.”

Fitting, since it was Jaime’s grandmother who taught her how to sew when she was only seven years old.

After work in “ego-driven” fashion shows turned her off a career in fashion, she ended up in Capilano University’s textile arts program, which both her and classmate Sasha Webb describe as “really special.”

The unique and technical-based program encompasses everything from weaving and basketry to fabric surface design and precision dying.

The students speak about “that weird look” that people always get when you inform them you go to textile school. However, they stress the technicality of the program, which makes knowledge of math and chemistry imperative.

Jaime says that her boyfriend, a believer in cooperatives who bemoans the expense and stress of her schooling, has grown to really respect the program for its practical, hands-on nature. “We are really learning skills,” she says “and we get to put them to use, and it’s not just on paper.”

This is especially evident in Sasha’s yardage project, which consists of a deep purple repeating print of “priestessy women” over yards of off-white material. She has opted to use an all-natural dye, made of logwood, and she speaks passionately about experimenting with reductions and pH levels to create it.

The result of all of this is an appreciation for how things are made and where they come from. Jaime insists that it takes you “back to old-fashioned times.” Indeed, the jungle gym of looms in the weaving room reminds me of my own grandmother. “We are all really into our grandmothers. All of us,” they say, only slightly jokingly.

The pace is old-fashioned too. While the rest of the University moves increasingly to online fourth hours and mixed mode classes, Sasha claims that every process takes hours, even days to complete. Like many program students, they spend day and night in the classrooms, their only complaint being that “sometimes we feel like we’re in a convent.”

Jaime and Sasha advise that the program is no place to meet a boyfriend, as the second year consists solely of 20 women, and they speculate that the only male in first year is spoken for.

However, the pace and the tradition of textile arts does not mean that the processes have not changed with technology. As program coordinator Mary Lou Trinkwon points out, “In a lot of ways, textile was at the heart of technological invention, at the turn of the century and the industrial revolution, which the textile industry kind of fuelled.”

There are a variety of computer-assisted looms, and program coordinator Mary Lou Trinkwon explains that the students frequently use graphic software for design projects.

These are smart women. Whether you call it a craft, a trade, or an art, textile work seems far from obsolescence. And to all those who wrinkle their nose at what they call “sewing school,” the girls answer, laughing, “when the apocalypse comes, we will know how to weave.”

Textile Arts students will be selling their work at Portobello West on November 28th and 29th at Rocky Mountaineer Station. For more information, visit http://vancouver.portobellowest.com or the textile students blog at http://studentsale.blogspot.com.

//Natalie Corbo
News Editor

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com