Protected: Curiously Crafting: Interview with Colette Boulet
Posted: Apr 7th, 2021 | News

Part Two: Weaving as Artistic Practice

Justice Stacey:

Weaving and other textile arts have traditionally been relegated to the realm of craft, but while I was researching this topic, I found the opposite was true in Europe throughout the Middle Ages; tapestries were considered the grandest medium for figurative images before eventually being usurped by painting. Now you define yourself as a fiber or a textile artist. What do you think makes your work artistic? Is it the visuals, how it’s displayed, the thought that goes into it? Do you think there is a difference between craft and art in textiles or do they blend together?

Colette Boulet:

My weaving is a form of personal expression intended to evoke emotion and reflection. I view my weaving as sculpture, and incorporate movement, harmony, balance, pattern, texture, form, space, shape, colour, value and line. I differentiate craft and art by end use. A crafted object is practical and essential, such as tablecloths, napkins, blankets, and scarves. Textile art creates an environment, inducing emotion and reflection. It’s placemaking and it influences the space it occupies. I believe art  in textiles pushes the boundaries of technique.

Justice Stacey:

Earlier you mentioned cartoons. Last year when I was in London, England, I visited the Victoria and Albert museum and I took in their beautiful tapestries. They also have the cartoons created by Raphael – cartoons in this case refer to paintings that are used as a reference for a tapestry weaving. They were commissioned by the Pope at the time and then they were recreated into tapestries. I don’t think the Victoria and Albert has all the resulting tapestries of these cartoons, but they do have one or two. The contemporary tapestries at the Gobelins follow the same process in that an artist’s painting is woven by the tapestry weavers, and it’s not as simple as copying either. It seems the weaver must carefully interpret the painting and make decisions on how to best translate it. It seems now in your practice that you depart from this as you create your own visuals that you then weave. Do you start with sketches and paintings or do you decide on what the weaving will look like another way? Do you ever take someone else’s visuals and create a weaving based off of it?

Colette Boulet:

Yes, I do make sketches. I’ll make a drawing with room for improvisation as I work. Other times I’ll create a cartoon for a specific visual I want to achieve. I have in the past created weavings to respond to another piece of artwork in the same space.

Justice Stacey:

I would also like to talk about the idea of learning and influence across borders. The history of La Manufacture nationale des Gobelins is very tied up in the influence of other countries. When I was doing my research, I learned that Flemish weavers were brought in to ensure the tapestries produced were of the highest quality. I also learned how its 17th century director, Charles LeBron, spent time in Rome, drawing influence from ancient and contemporary art. And now you’re a part of this history as all the skills and influence you gained there you now show your creations, which then in turn influences those who see them. And you’ve shown your work in Canada. Where else have you shown your work?

Colette Boulet:

In Paris and in China.

Justice Stacey:

Can you speak to the experience of learning and living in another country? What drew you to Paris and the La Manufacture nationale des Gobelins?

Colette Boulet:

Paris is a beautiful city filled with people at coffee shops, restaurants, fashion shops, and overflowing terraces at each corner. As I was learning tapestry, I was also experiencing the French culture. I loved it. I also had the opportunity to travel to the countryside to view tapestries on castle walls, which was also an amazing experience. Essentially, I went to Paris to join my partner. At that time, I had been in search of an alternative professional learning experience and the internship at the La Manufacture nationale des Gobelins seemed to be a perfect fit. I was drawn by the fact that master tapestry weavers were working in the studio, bringing to light that tapestry weaving was a current profession, not just one of the past. It put me at ease to know that it was a small group and I was able to work at my own pace. The grounds were impressive and everyone was very welcoming. It was quickly apparent to me after a public tour, seeing master weavers work at such a high standard, that this would be a valuable learning experience. I wanted to be part of it.

Justice Stacey:

I spent some time in France in 2019 as well. I spent time in Paris twice and I was also visited Bordeaux, Marseille, and Carcassonne. I enjoyed it very much and I can see why you were drawn to it indeed.

On your website, you talk about how you create works that become integrated into a space in your client’s home and how they’re consulted on the desired effect, form and theme. It would seem it is a very collaborative process and hearkens back to the relationships between Les Gobelins weavers and their patrons. How do you find the process of creating for a client differs from creating a piece on like for yourself on your own?

Colette Boulet:

When creating for a client, I have a process that includes understanding what the client is looking for, such as shape, size, texture, color, light, what the end result will look like and feel like, and what type of space it will occupy. When creating for myself, there are less boundaries and I tend to improvise and experiment quite a bit more right from the start and as the project goes forward.

Justice Stacey:

You and your work have travelled internationally and across provinces, which brought you to your residency at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain in Winnipeg. For those of us in the creative world, residencies are programs that give us the opportunity to reflect, research and produce work. Often times we do so outside our usual environments and cultures. I see them as valuable learning tools as they give a lot of opportunities to experiment and think differently. I myself am currently doing a residency with the Textile Museum of Canada. Can you speak to your residency experience and what you learned? Did you find that you had the time and space to push your practice more?

 

Colette Boulet:

At the time I lived in Winnipeg, I had a young family and it was great to have a studio outside my home. It was like going to work every morning. I was able to concentrate on my practice and my career, having time for my profession at last. I also felt I was part of society with my studio space being situated among other working professionals. I learned how to think about and define my démarche artistique (artistic approach) with the guidance of my advisor. I also led a weaving workshop. The residency was for a duration of one year and since it ended with a solo show, I had to produce quite a large body of work. It was a challenge, a lot of fun, and rewarding.