The Queue: Amanda McCavour

The Queue: Amanda McCavour

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.
Blog post cover graphic for The Queue featuring Amanda McCavour

An early look inside our Winter issue

We're thrilled to provide a peak into the upcoming issue of American Craft in this week's Queue post by introducing you to an artist included in its pages. The Queue is a biweekly interview series where we invite the artists, curators, organizers, and others featured in our magazine to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now. Our upcoming series will follow the Winter issue of American Craft, centered on the theme of "Wonder."

Stitching a sense of wonder into everyday life

Amanda McCavour is a Toronto-based artist who works with stitch to create large-scale embroidered installations. Don't miss experiencing her work in the pages of our Winter issue. Subscribe to American Craft by becoming a member of the American Craft Council.

amandamccavour.com | @amandamccavour

How do you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
I create thread drawings and immersive installations. I stitch into a dissolvable fabric, so I can build up embroidered lines on a temporary surface. The crossing threads create strength, so that when the fabric is dissolved, the thread drawing can hold together. My work speaks to themes of memory, environment, colour, and line.

Portrait of Amanda McCavour posing against a desk in a studio with embroideries hanging on the walls

Amanda McCavour. Portrait by Christine Lim (@chrissylim).

Person in a large hall observing and installation of many hanging embroidery ornaments

Amanda McCavour, Pink Field, Blue Fog (2018), thread, machine embroidery, 14 x 40 x 30 ft. (dimensions variable). 108 Contemporary, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo by Rebekah Hogan.

The past 18 months has presented many challenges, from a global pandemic to renewed urgency around issues of racial equity and police brutality. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
I’ve been working on a project for the Chazen Museum of Art (@chazenartuw) in Madison, Wisconsin, based on herbarium specimens of prairie plants. In the studio I’m looking closely at these flowers. When I go on walks around my neighbourhood, I’ve been identifying the plants and seeing them change and grow this summer. This has kept me looking for beauty and has grounded me in the moment.

This summer I also started working with wire to create sculptures for a new installation work at Harbourfront Centre (@harbourfrontcentre) in Toronto. With this new way of working, I don’t need much equipment. This allowed me to take my studio outside to a local park. I hung pieces from the trees and really felt the summer start and end while creating these works. Being outside and getting to know my neighbours more helped me to feel connected.

Outdoor waterfront lawn with large colorful sculptures made from wire creating circles around the picnic tables

Amanda McCavour, Harbourfront Floor Mural: Spirals, Loops and Circles. Photo by Brian Medina (@brian.medina.to).

The theme of the upcoming issue of American Craft is "Wonder." Can you reflect on that theme as it relates to your work and practice?
I wonder a lot in my studio. This is often just being curious and asking questions about concepts and processes. Testing techniques was a big part of my earlier career and is how I came to working with embroidery. I still try to test the limits of the technique by creating experiments in my studio. Asking the question “What if…?” has also helped with progressing through many projects and has added to my collection of samples. This summer I’ve been working with different materials, so there are new sets of questions to explore.

When I think of wonder I also think about surprise or encountering something unexpected. I want my works to bring viewers into a playful, imaginative, dream-like space filled with line, colour, and texture and to be surprised by something unfamiliar. In my installation work I invite people to walk through paths that I create in the installation works. They are also invited to lay underneath the pieces and look up at the artwork. Generally, viewers like this option for interacting with the piece in different ways—through movement or a different perspective on the floor.

Person lying on a floor taking a photo of from beneath an installation of hanging embroidery ornaments

Amanda McCavour, Floating Garden Detail 1 (2012-2019), thread, machine embroidery, 14 x 30 x 20 ft. Cornell Museum of Art, Delray Beach, Florida, produced with the support of The Surface Design Association, The Ontario Arts Council and Maison des métiers d'art de Québec. Photo by Matt Sturgess.

I think there can be something playful about wonder, too. Often viewers will blow on the embroideries and they will move with the air. The works start to spin and move as you walk around them, this movement starts to animate the work.

What has been the biggest barrier you have had to break through to get to the place you’re at with your career?
The biggest challenge? Going BIG!! I’ve wanted to create immersive works, so in many of my installations I work with multiple parts to create environments. And this takes a long time.

So, I’ve been exploring some different methods this summer. In June, I designed an outdoor floor mural for Harbourfront Centre based on radial forms. I’m interested in radial patterns and how they exist as patterns found in nature and textile processes.

I’ve also been experimenting with scanning my embroideries and then digitally printing them onto fabric to increase scale in a different way for my project at the Chazen Museum of Art.

artist working with large-scale prints of prairie plants on fabric in a studio space

Digital print of prairie plants on fabric. Photo courtesy of the artist.

What’s an exhibition or art project you think the world should know about, and why?
I’m so excited by Tau Lewis’ work (@taulewis). I walked by their installation Triumphant Alliance of the Ubiquitous Blossoms of Incarnate Souls at Cooper Cole Gallery in Toronto one evening in 2020. I was able to see the sculptural figure made of pastel fabrics, beads, shells, and buttons surrounded by cascading flowers from outside. Seeing this work in person after an extended period being inside was a gift!

If you could purchase any artists' craft work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
The whimsical, colourful works of Anna Torma (@Tormaanna) continue to amaze and excite me. Her stitched and appliqued pieces are full of texture, energy, drama, and character. I know the works take a long time to create, but somehow she is able to capture a feeling of spontaneity. I would love to purchase one of her large stitched works and look at it everyday!

Cover of Fall 2021 issue of American Craft

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