Weaving the Colors of Nature: Sylvia Emard’s Personal Geography

By Rebecca Conant
I recreate in my weaving my experience of the natural world, incorporating randomness, asymmetry and balance in designs that express memories of my personal geography. –Sylvia Emard

Emard's work with indigo

Emard’s work with indigo

The one line that defines a brand may sum up an artist on a jury application, but it does not begin to define the richness that Sylvia Emard brings to her work.  From dye pot to loom, Sylvia plays with color like a painter painting a landscape.  Indeed, landscape has been her source of inspiration in playing with color as living or traveling at one time or another in most of the Western states, Sylvia has taken in the wondrous variety and combinations of color that exist in nature.
Many of us first love the colors that look good on us and make us happy.  Were she to work only in those colors, Sylvia exclaims she would make everything blue—perhaps allowing the occasional purple with accents of copper.          So, preparing to weave a project her process is very organic.  Sylvia will stand before her cones of yarn like a patient project leader, waiting to see what colors come forward and volunteer for a project.  It may not be until the weaving is completed, and she sees how the colors play out that she realizes, “Oh, these are the colors of the bottom of that lake.

a wide, shallow spot in the Athabasca River, along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada inspired…

a wide, shallow spot in the Athabasca River, along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada inspired…

…a scarf of mixed greens and blue-greens

…a scarf of mixed greens and blue-greens

Or, when weaving a commission for a person who doesn’t wear vivid colors, all the neutrals stepped forward resulting in a scarf with every color of mushrooms—and which the client wears when mushroom picking.
Occasionally inspiration comes in more mundane settings, such as the view outside her office window of autumn maple leaves of the trees surrounding a parking lot.

The view outside the office window

The view outside the office window

The warp in the photo at top of article became this jacket

The warp in the photo at top of article became this jacket

Shibori

Shibori

When you visit Sylvia’s basement studio you will marvel at how she is able to bring her personal geography to life in the colors of her textiles.  In addition to weaving, she also dyes fabrics using a variety of techniques, including shibori, creating veritable works of wearable art as the scarf shown in this photo suggests a gentle interplay of Earth, Wind, and Fire.

 

 

Sylvia Emard is perhaps most in her element when summer comes; and she can spread her garden fairy wings and paint the colors of nature into the warp threads of her loom.

the garden fairy paints

the garden fairy paints

To see what is on her loom and learn more about her process, visit Sylvia Emard’s studio during Portland Open Studios October 8-9 and 15-16.  She is artist #23 on the map.

rainbow loom

rainbow loom