ANIE TOOLE // Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

As a mother and an artist, the pandemic has not diminished my making but has changed it drastically. My practice is weaving and printmaking. These activities are accomplished with equipment in shared facilities and artist centers, places that have been inaccessible since March 2020. It is not only the tools and the machines that have been lost, but my interaction in these spaces.

The afternoon they announced my children’s’ school closures, I went straight to the art store. I bought rolls of paper, paintbrushes, markers, clay. What else would we need to get though this?

Restricted in activities and with more time on our hands, our family of five has explored many activities. We have done figure drawing, with everyone taking a turn to be the model, we painted nature mortes, discovered baked clay, altered books for book art, painted with our feet, tattooed ourselves with watercolor pochoir [stencil] and with henna, braided bracelets, created sculptures in papier mâché, drew mangas and comics, participated in mail art, papermaking, ink making from foraged materials, … and it isn’t over. A shelf unit was added to the dining room to store our active projects and to regain space on the table for dinner.  Collective artmaking draws us in, we do it in subgroups or all together, its quieting and introspective, messy and exploratory. Our teenager is always reluctant, but usually he is the one to keep at it the longest as he finds inspiration that reminds him of the joys of creativity.

I do meditative, gestural painting once the children are in bed, as a way to relax and decompress the intense day. Sometimes I quilt. The sewing machine has been reassigned as a tool for mask sewing.

On the mothering front, art has brought us together, and has kept me sane.

On the artist front, I had artwork to finish for early spring, a looming exhibit deadline. Now in a different studio, with different equipment and a different schedule. Smaller space, smaller loom, smaller pots for dyeing, much less time. The speed of my artmaking has diminished. My weaving practice, often with natural dyed threads, was slow and introspective before the pandemic. It’s slowed down to new levels now.

While I work at the loom or at my grandma’s sewing machine, I feel a connection with past generations of textile makers. Repeating the gestures and the sequence of thread manipulations to produce a textile, I carry out the same motions as everyone else who is making cloth at that moment.

Twice so far, I have used the current warp, that I always plan a bit longer than what I need, to make another artwork. The artwork’s starting point is whatever is on my loom at that moment. There is no time to start from scratch, these small artworks are part of a greater whole.

The pandemic has made my work sharper: new space, new tools, less time, I express the same concept only with less. Art is more solitary. I grow tired of online interactions. I’m not sure how I feel about digital exhibits. I send more mail, use heritage techniques, I make do with materials.

Art fills a lot of my time, probably just as much as before the pandemic, but it’s different now. More art with family, slower art and therapeutic making for myself. Art enters my domestic space and the domestic space enters my art. Art allows me to engage, with others, with myself, with the past and the future.

< Comforting, connecting >