Sunset-inspired weavings and abstract patchwork fabric murals will fill the Cannon Beach Gallery this month. It’s part of a textile show from the Cannon Beach Arts Association, on view now through Sept. 26, that brings six Oregon artists together to showcase vibrant and varied works. Two of the artists are residents of the North Coast, and shared the process and meaning of their creations.
Kyla Sjogren: Art and environment in harmony
At 18, Kyla Sjogren faced a choice. She could attend college for environmental science, or pursue a degree in fine art.
She chose the latter, and her passion for natural dyes and weaving blossomed. However, decades later she’s found her decision still allowed her to indulge in her more scientific interests.
“The natural dye aspect uses botany and chemistry and learning how to figure out how to apply those pigments onto fibers,” said Sjogren.
The 42-year-old creates each of her pieces from her home in Wheeler while pulling from her environmental science knowledge. She carefully considers how her work might affect the surrounding ecosystem by asking questions about how using a certain plant for pigment might lead to overharvesting, or how to keep carbon emissions low by sourcing wool from local farmers instead of trucking it in from out of state.
“I don’t want to cause any harm, selfishly, because I feel like you can work in tandem with the ecosystem you’re in and not really cause too much of a disturbance,” she said.
In that way, textile art is more than just the end product for Sjogren. She views the process of sourcing materials, researching natural dye ingredients, choosing to apply materials in a certain order and documenting her discoveries as significant parts of her art making.
Her artwork has taught her how St. John’s Wort produces a “great red-brown color,” for dying yarns and how nettle can be grown then spun into a fibrous yarn. Occasionally, she grows a crop of plants for fibers. She also forages for ingredients she can use in her dyes, like the red elderberry, which can be mixed to create a special shade of green.
“It makes me feel like I’m living the life I’m supposed to be living. I’m in harmony with my surroundings,” she said.
Sjogren plans to exhibit five pieces in the Cannon Beach textile show that represent her work in the last three years. Two pieces feature a new technique she uses to create a “sculptural” tapestry that combines perpendicular and horizontal tapestries.
Most of her work is inspired by nature, whether that be horizons, tidelines or landscapes.
Sjogren settled on the Oregon Coast several years ago. She said her home in Wheeler inspires her art every day, and she doesn’t foresee that changing anytime soon.
“I just feel very lucky to be here and making work and being continually inspired,” she said. “I’ve never been to a place in my life that has just made me want to stay (until now).”
Allyn Cantor: Abstract fabric assemblage
Allyn Cantor’s long career in textile art originated in high school, when she handmade some of her own clothes. As a long-time painter, Cantor focused her attention on textiles in college because she found it to be “broader” than painting.
“I had been making a lot of handmade clothing on my own since high school, but I had been painting since high school too,” said Cantor. “But I didn’t want to major in painting. There just seemed like a lot more to explore in the textiles department.”
Cantor, 45, lives in Cannon Beach and calls her unique style “fabric assemblage.” Most of her pieces are abstract designs made of a patchwork of fabrics and canvas. She admits she has a giant collection of fabric.
“I save every bit of scrap, because they become the gestures from the line and scissor marks,” she said.
She received a grant from the Cannon Beach Arts Association in 2005 to develop her body of work, and she’s been showing in the local gallery since.
Cantor sews together repurposed fabric with pieces of painter’s canvas and stretches them like a traditional painting would be stretched. Then she adds embellishments, such as embroidery or screen printed images. She likened some of her designs to the layered topography maps of mountain ranges.
“It can take months for a big one, but the smaller ones go pretty fast,” she said. “A lot of it is pinning it together and sticking it on the wall, then living with it for a while to see if it feels right.”
Cantor still uses the same machine she used in high school to make clothing. It’s an older model, but she knows how to adjust the needles and threads just so to create the types of stitches she wants to see in the piece. The result is usually more subtle and natural than the orderly stitches of a quilt or T-shirt.
She also occasionally uses scraps from the fabrics she used to make clothing from, though she no longer sews her own apparel.
“That is something from the past,” she said. “But that’s kind of what started it all. I was looking at all this fabric and saving my canvas scraps, and suddenly it all came together.”