Biography for Margaret Vant Erve
Painted and Embroidered Images
Growing up on a farm in the Ottawa Valley, I was immersed in country life. Those early days, nourished in me a strong attachment to Canada’s rural and natural landscape. Many of the subjects that find their way into my work are the rural things that I grew up with. I find inspiration in the still quiet places, the ordinary objects and details that surround my life. My landscapes embody a space in time; an atmosphere that conveys the beauty and uniqueness of this country, particularly the Southeastern Ontario area, where I reside. I want to capture the simplicity of landscape in a way that combines a strong composition that can be viewed from a distance yet on closer inspection permits a playful exploration of the endless details contained within each piece.
I studied textile arts at Sheridan College, the Ontario College of Art and through a small private embroidery school. I combine my painting skills with my mastery of stitching. I chose this medium because I love the rich history, the technical challenges, and the wonderful three-dimensional quality that embroidery offers.
My textile repertory also includes botanical studies in silk hand embroidery along with painted and machine embroidered quilts. Each technique is a lovely, complex medium to work in and has its own unique characteristics.
In this impatient world of ours, it is a gift to work with techniques that are labour-intensive and to create images that reflect a beautiful world where there are still good things to be discovered.
My work is labour intensive so before I begin a piece, I first need to be captivated by the subject I am considering. I take many photographs and then file them away in subject folders, drawing them out as I feel compelled to use them. Some works are inspired by specific places and the end result closely resembles that place, other works are more of a montage, bringing together ideas and images to convey a feeling. When I lay out my photographs, I first determine what atmosphere is desired and then I develop a simple line drawing on paper. Once this is complete, I discern how I will translate the image into paint and embroidery. I always begin with painting on stretched silk or cotton. I use Pebeo silk paints, which have fluid translucency and are wonderful for skies and water, followed by Pebeo transparent and opaque textile paints which are more viscous and used on fields or for more opaque background areas. Pencil crayons are also used to add detail and texture. Once the painting is complete, I transfer the outline of all my focal points onto the painted fabric and I begin the embroidery. Free motion machine embroidery is used for its coarser texture, specifically for foliage in trees and shrubs and sometimes grasses. Primarily I use hand embroidery, working with single or double strands of cotton flosses or fine silk threads. I usually have several needles working at the same time to achieve the desired subtle color blending.
I am often asked how long each piece takes. This is a hard question to answer because there is always so much work beforehand in thinking through or discovering the image and then working through all the technical challenges, and again after completion in determining the appropriate framing and bringing it to you, the viewer. It can take from two to six weeks to complete a piece, depending on the amount of hand embroidery involved.