Connecting With The Viewers Through Their Memories W/Rachael Speirs: Artist Spotlight

Artist Bio: As a child Rachael stole scraps of fabric from her mother’s sewing, filling her spare time with making and creating. Rachael would submerge herself into nature or a piece of music, allowing her imagination to run wild. As a self-taught artist, Rachael looked to her childhood picture books and her grandmothers embroidery work for inspiration and to practice her skill.

As an adult art never left her. Rachael’s creative inspirations include Carson Ellis, Kate Bush, Shary Boyle, Frida Khalo, Amy Cutler and David Blackwood. Although she has a background in social work, she maintained her love and passion for art.

Rachael’s education and working career in social work is reflected in the humanitarian elements of her work. Her pieces will forever showcase her need to share a human experience and to connect with the viewer. Rachael has participated in multiple exhibitions and received multiple awards and grants including best mixed media at Riverdale Art Walk, top 5 installations for DesignTO and has received grants through the Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council. Rachael is the 2021 recipient of the Craft Ontario Helen Frances Gregor award for textile art. Rachael is the current recipient of the Ontario Arts Council’s Emerging Artist Project Grant

Artist Statement

Within my work I use scrap fabric, which I cut, layer and paint with gouache to create textural and narrative pieces. Embroidery and paper is added. The result is a collage-like piece that creates a visual metaphor, connecting current events and human experiences. The use of textiles is intrinsic to my work. It allows me to connect with the viewer, as it appeals to their sense of nostalgia; it connects them to something that is in all our histories — the handiwork, embroidery, quilts and other objects our grandmothers and great grandmothers made that were, in essence, art.
My artwork has a strong humanitarian and narrative element. This ties into the storytelling aspect of the work. The work is inspired by vintage children’s book illustration and this, in combination with the traditional textile handicraft, references the haunting experience of sifting through our memories — poignant and evocative; difficult to ignore or forget.

What are your “Treasured moments” & how do you connect it to your work?

My treasured moments are the moments where we connect with others, where we realize that what we experience in shame and isolation is actually a shared experience that resonates with those around us. In my work I explore these themes through visual metaphor. I use storytelling in my work to connect with the viewer through their memories, mementos and nostalgia. Through my work I often examine family narratives and histories and I present the work in a way that can seem ubiquitous yet deeply personal. These are treasured moments, these family experiences, these personal narratives, these things that we keep tightly held to our chest, guarded and hidden. Yet when they are exposed to air and light the stories become shared and connects us deeply.

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