Studio Visit 1

Amanda McCavour, Textiles

Amanda McCavour is a textile artist. Her installations have been shown in New York, Chicago, Romania, South Korea and all over Toronto. She’s been featured in Design Lines, The Globe and Mail, designboom and Elle Canada. She has a BFA from York University and currently attends Tyler School of Art’s Material Arts and Design MA program in Philadelphia.


Thread is a really interesting line because it’s also sculptural–it’s flat, but you can view it from multiple angles. In a drawing class I decided I was going to do embroideries. It ended up being a bigger project than I thought it would be.


I researched to find a material that I could sew into and then remove. There’s this fabric called Solvy that’s water soluble. When it touches water, it turns into gelatin. It’s this bizarre material and lots of people use it to stabilize embroidery. It just gently washes away in water. If you’re sewing into paper, you have to tear and rip it which can pull your drawings or embroideries.


I sewed a bit when I was a kid but doing this is a different kind of struggle–to work with a machine and get it to do what you want it to do. Sometimes it will just eat the fabric or if the thread gets too thick, it will do something weird and destroy it. Most of the time I can predict what it’s going to do but when I first started I tested everything. My stuff was really dense because I was worried about it unraveling.


I bought two sewing machines from this guy who used to fix them in Mississauga. It’s great to have sewing machine repairmen as friends because when I started, I needed so much help. I would break a machine every project. I’m thinking about my tools and how an industrial machine would probably be a good investment. I have three backups now. Before I only had one and when it would break, it would be the end of the world.


Micah and I work side by side in our home studio. Sometimes I feel bad because the sewing machine makes a lot of noise. It’s a small space, but it works for us. I need to work a lot because the installations take so much time. Sometimes I’ve worked all day and I’ve made 10 pieces but I need a thousand. It can be discouraging but it’s just what the work is.


For three years, I worked at the Harbourfront Centre’s Textile Studio. When I left, I was really excited to have a home space so that I could do other things. I had these weird notions that I would be baking and then come back to my work or doing laundry. I thought I’d be really good at multitasking but it’s actually much harder.


When I was here and just working on my stuff, without an outside job, I felt like a weird girl with a hobby. I was working in my studio all the time but it didn’t feel like work. It felt relaxing because I was at home, so that was a bit confusing. I always felt like I needed to be doing more.


My ideal studio space would be at home but in a separate room where I can shut the door at the end of the day. In terms of pure work space, I don’t need too much. Other people working in textiles need more room for washing machines or 10 foot print tables but I feel pretty lucky because I just need a sewing machine.


–Amanda McCavour, as told to Studio Beat

Photos by D.A. Cooper


Visit Amanda McCavour’s website here.

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