A solo exhibition of quilt works in Swift Current highlights the artistry and skill of Cadillac artist Linda Duclos.
The exhibition is hosted by the Arts Gallery of Swift Current (AGSC) in the West Wing Gallery at Kinetic Park until July 25. It features a variety of selected works made by Duclos during the past two decades.
Her artworks have previously been displayed in group shows at the AGSC main gallery, the West Wing Gallery, the Lyric Theatre and in exhibitions across Saskatchewan. This is the first solo show of her work hosted by the AGSC.
“It's just nice to let people see them, because a lot of people would see one or two of mine at something in Swift Current lots of times,” Duclos said. “I've just been poking away at it all these years, but it's nice to have people see them, because often people would say they'd sure like to see more of my quilts, but then you'd have to come and visit me to see them.”
The exhibition description for the show, which was written by AGSC staff, notes Duclos has mastered the artform of quilt making.
“Through her quilt making Linda Duclos has pursued technical and craft challenges, aesthetic and storytelling purposes, traditional and modern design and processes,” the exhibition description explains. “Duclos creates unique variations on classic and modern patterns as well as designing original patterns for her quilts.”
Duclos said her approach to quilt making has always been to view it as more than a craft and she considers it to be a form of art. She still remembers the surprise from some artists when she entered her quilts for art shows in Swift Current in the 1990s.
“That's when people were just starting to think of quilts as an art form, and I know some people were quite annoyed that I had won with my quilts,” she said.
Her interest in quilts already started in her childhood, when she saw her grandmother on her father’s side made quilts.
“One of my biggest memories is of a quilt that she made me, it was called a Sunbonnet Sue pattern,” she recalled. “It's of a little girl, on each block there would be a little girl dressed up, and that's one of my favourite patterns. I didn't learn anything from her, because when she died I was only 12. So I decided when I got older that I would try to learn how to quilt, and that's what I did actually. I just tried to do it by myself and I had a few people tell me some information and just kept learning by myself.”
She lives on a farm near Cadillac with her husband Roger, where she uses a large room in the basement of their home as a studio. She started quilting around 1984 and have made over 300 quilts.
“I have sold and given lots away as gifts,” she said. “And this is all different sizes, so even baby quilts. Lots of them are very big, and some of them are like wall hangings, but I have lots of things here in my house.”
She might work three to four months on a large quilt. She still has a preference for classic patterns, but she also creates her own designs.
“I still like the old traditional patterns, but you can jazz that traditional pattern up by using real modern crazy fabric, and so you get a different look,” she said. “There's hundreds of patterns and there's no end to the way you can put a whole bunch of different things together. So there's just no end to the ideas you can come up with and the colour schemes, and it's really quite fun actually. It's like an addiction after a while. You can't quit doing it.”
An important part of the appeal of the classic patterns is the simplicity of the designs, which creates an immediate impression.
“A lot of the old patterns were so simple, just like simple stars or simple blocks,” she said. “A lot of times they just use two colours, like a blue and a white. They'd make a pattern with just blue and white fabrics, and the more modern person would probably use just a whole bunch of different colours. Now too a pattern might be something with circles, something wavy looking, or just something you didn't see back 100 years ago.”
Regardless of whether a quilt is based on a more traditional or a modern pattern, the colours still remain a crucial factor in the success of the final product.
“It boils down to the colours, because you can have a very simple pattern, but if you have beautiful colours it's going to shine through,” she said. “You can do something really hard, but lousy colours are just going to look awful. You still have to have a pretty balance of colours.”
She and her husband are planning to move to Swift Current soon, where they will spend the winters. They have been living on the farm since 1970 and will still be returning there for parts of the year. She has therefore been trying to use as much of the fabric in her studio before the move to the city.
“I have to use what I've got and I've been trying to come up with an idea that I could use the colours in an innovative way,” she said. “So this past two or three years all I've been doing is trying to use up my fabrics. I’m stretching my mind to have to come up with some sort of an idea that will use what I've got in a pattern. So it's quite been interesting actually.”
She has always enjoyed learning new skills and carrying out different projects. She previously worked in clay and pottery and taught classes out of her studio. More recently she became interested in felting and watercolour painting. She has a spinning wheel and learned how to spin wool. She also does knitting, rug hooking and crochet.
She is a musician and performs at locations around southwest Saskatchewan. She used to play acoustic guitar, but recently switched to electric guitar. She performs with a band, called The Wild Flowers. Their recent performances during the pandemic at retirement homes were located in parking lots.
“My husband and I do a lot of hobbies,” she said. “We always pretty well have a project on the go and we both like to make things. I started making things when I was a little kid and I can't seem to quit. And even if I have to give it away, I just as soon keep busy as sitting around.”
The exhibition Quilt Works by Linda Duclos is on show at the West Wing Gallery at Kinetic Park until July 25. Admission is free, and the gallery is open from 1-5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.