Monday, June 30, 2008


Here is the second instalment in our Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition artist interview series.

Lee Meszaros

Interview by Amy Borkwood


What draws you to work with textiles?

I think I've been drawn to working with textiles for quite a few important reasons. The one that immediately springs to mind is the versatility of fabric as something to work with creatively. It allows such a variety of methods to work with- printing, machine sewing, hand sewing, painting, embellishment, felting, knitting, weaving.... It's a really good material to work with for me, since my attention has the habit of being yanked in many directions at the same time.

picnic purses
Picnic purses

I've always had a love affair with drawing, but was always a bit frustrated with the final product of work on paper. That was all it could be to me, was work on paper. But a work on fabric can have so many different possibilities after its created. That's one of the other main reasons I love textiles- That they can be beautiful, as well as serve a purpose beyond that beauty. It's the functionality of fabric that's always held my interest.

Can you tell me a little about your Merit Badges?

The idea for the badges came from a shopping trip I had at a
Halifax thrift store in my last semester at NSCAD. I found an old brownie sash with all of the badges still attached, and was immediately struck by all of the work that went into earning those badges, and how wrong it felt to know that someone thought of them as disposable. I began to think about what may be more important to me than tasks completed or techniques masters- I came to the conclusion that I value emotional triumphs and failures far more dearly.

Be Proud Badge Series

I set out to create something that people could take real pride in giving and receiving, not just because it was cute or nice to look at, but because it held some kind of emotional significance to them. I looked at brownie, cubs, scouts, and Girl Guide badges for inspiration, and I really liked how most of the images on them meant nothing unless you knew how it was earned- random tea kettles, dogs, girls holding hands, cakes, frying pans, magnifying glasses, hobo sacks, books. I adopted that idea as part of my badges- I like that if the meaning is truly personal, it won't be given away by someone just seeing the badge on your shirt. It gives the person who wears it the option of keeping the meaning a secret, or sharing the experience and telling their story.

I also thought a lot about what makes a textile object more precious to me, and I decided that I value visible qualities that show it was made by hand- that's how I decided it was important to hand paint and embroider them all. Even if it's just a small stitch detail, I feel like it's important for them to be the opposite of mass produced badges- hopefully that makes them more dear to people.

I read about an artist book which you put together: Double Dutch, which deals with the "fragile relationships that exist between humans in search of love". Can you tell me more about this project, as well as your work within the book arts?

Double Dutch was my graduating project while I was at Sheridan College studying textiles. For a few years before that project, all of my textile work relied heavily on storytelling. I suppose my work still does, though it relies a bit less on entire stories, more just phrases now. I love to write, and have always worked with writing and text in combination with illustration.

Double Dutch consisted of one large book with eight sections- (It's pretty complicated to explain, but I'll give it a go!) Each section contained one large page picturing a two people involved in some kind of relationship together, some were ending, some were just beginning, and some were at a crossroads. Surrounding that couple there was a small story describing their situation. All of the large pages had secret flaps, pockets and passages containing pieces of the story. I was inspired by old children's books with different interesting places text could be hidden. On the opposite page to each couple were two small books, one for each character. The small books told of experiences, thoughts, character traits, and secrets each character experienced outside of the relationship. I thought it was important to individualize the characters for each other and from their relationships. I liked the idea of stories within a story, and of a very large book juxtaposed with the 16 small books within. That's where the title came from, was the idea of two stories being told at the same time, like the two ropes jumped in double dutch.

The large book was silk screened on a variety of fabrics, and paper. The small books are made entirely out of silk screened cotton, and are bound by machine stitching in gold thread. I hadn't had any experience with book arts until then, and basically taught myself rudimentary book binding techniques as I went. The clothes on the characters were collaged fabrics with silk screening over top. The book was made in an edition of three, and I donated one of the editions last year to Sheridan for an auction they have annually to raise money for awards given to the current students.

cake small

Lee’s work will be on display at the upcoming Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition from July 11-13 at Nathan Phillips’s Square. Her badges are also available through Souvenir Shop & our very own goodEGG industries.


Amy Borkwood is a bookbinder and freelance arts-writer living in Toronto. Her bookworks can be found at her online shop, Nightjar Books.


Blogger fiona bailey said...

Lee! You are the best, I can't wait to see you at TOAE!

7:07 p.m.  
Blogger Holly said...

These artist interviews are the best. Keep them coming!

9:50 a.m.  
Blogger Andrew said...

you should interview Kat O'Shaughnessy -
she's in booth 226 blue south...
her work at the OCAD ASE show and at Edward Day Gallery was SO contemporary!

11:23 a.m.  

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