THUNDER BAY - When artist Heliina Swerdlyk starts working on a new piece, she doesn’t reach for a paint brush or pencils, all she needs is a ball of yarn and needles.
“I’m not good at painting,” she said. “It’s kind of like meditation. It’s very relaxing. So it’s a form of meditation. You get into a rhythm.”
Swerdlyk is one of 22 artists with work on display at the Baggage Building Arts Centre at Prince Arthur’s Landing for the Second Annual Fibre Arts Exhibition.
The exhibit includes works of weaving, sewing, knitting, crochet, and embroidery. Angie Jensen, operator of the Baggage Building Arts Centre, said the exhibition was brought back because of the positive reaction it received last year.
“It’s really popular,” she said. “The artists really love it and the public really loves it. We just really wanted to promote it as almost a lost tradition.”
What seems to separate fibre art from other artistic mediums is how it engages all the senses for the viewer.
“You get more of your senses fulfilled when you look at something that’s textural,” Jensen said. “Although you are not supposed to touch the art, you can see the textures, and the movement in the work, the bright colours, and knowing that some of the pieces are wearable other than just hanging on the wall.”
This year’s exhibition also includes several interactive elements, including the Art Doll Project where kids and adults can make their own art doll using fabric.
Swerdlyk’s own feature piece, Celestarium, a recreation of the night sky on a circular shawl that includes all the constellations as viewed from the North Pole, invites viewers to try and spot one star that doesn’t belong.
“You have to find the International Space Station,” she said.
“I just thought it would be fun,” Swerdlyk continued. “It’s something different to look at. Some people are really into space and constellations and I thought it would be interesting if someone spent enough time looking at it and would notice. There are people who could take one quick look and say: that doesn’t belong with the rest of the stars.”
The shawl was made using a pattern and took Swerdlyk 65 hours to complete. She has been knitting since she was very young and she also enjoys making toys. And while working on fibre art can be meditative, it isn’t always quite as relaxing, but the rewards are always the same.
“I like to make people smile,” she said. “I like to make things like this because it is a challenge to myself.”
The Fibre Arts Exhibition runs until Mar. 26.