Monday, January 21, 2008

QUESTIONS FOR CRAFTERS: quilter grant heaps

Grant Heaps
Grant at work

Questions for Crafters: Grant Heaps
Interview by Lucie Davies

An Assistant Wardrobe Co-ordinator at the National Ballet, Grant Heaps knows a thing or two about sewing. But it was only recently that he decided to ‘out’ his quilt-making past-time to the world. Large-scale, visually-stunning and almost entirely hand sewn, these labours of love were revealed to TCA when we had the honour of visiting his treasure trove home.

Looking around it’s clear you are a real hoarder. How long have you been collecting for?

Since I was a child. I have this funny story actually about when I was a little boy. My grandparents used to live in this big old house in High Park and my grandmother wasn’t very good at throwing things away. So when they moved I took whatever I could, including a light bulb I’d found. Twenty years later, I bought these vintage, pumpkin Halloween lights, but when I put them up I realised one of the lights had burnt out. I thought to myself “I have one of those bulbs”. Sure enough, I still had the bulb from when I was eight, it was the right size and everything!

You’ve also got this huge collection of old photographs and photo albums, what draws you to images of complete strangers?

I just find them fascinating, both the people themselves who are interesting and I am also looking for patterns to use in my work.

And what about your antique sailor doll collection?

You’ll see lots of sailor stuff around. I just think they are amazing because they are unlike any other male costume or uniform in the Western world. Originally they would actually make their own uniforms, so the really clever man would make uniforms for his fellow sailors for extra money.

Grant's fleet of crafty men at sea

You started your quilt-making odyssey about ten years ago, what turned you on to it?

My mom made this quilt for me and I thought wow! The colours were amazing, I like the traditional patterns and it got me thinking about other ways to use fabric. I started off with a small quilt and from there I went big. I am obsessed with the whole basket weave look and there are so many variations. I love striped fabric and I love knots too, so in my second quilt you can see how I just took those three things and stuck them together.

Did you teach yourself to quilt?

Yes. I mean I do know about sewing and the ways of putting things together, but, in a way, I think it’s more akin to carpentry than it is to making clothes.

What does quilting mean to you?

It’s a creative outlet - this thing I have to do. Not a lot of people have seen what I am doing. And while I am ready to let the world see my work, I am not doing it to show to people.

Your quiltwork is incredibly colourful. Where do you find the fabrics that you use in the quilts?

From stores, from the street. When I see a piece of clothing I always take a look just to see, or an old mattress, I’ll sometimes I’ll cut a piece out. Window screening, anything with texture – the orange plastic mesh that clementines come in. Also from work, I get tons of scraps from there, including old dirty face wipes from the men’s change room that the dancers use to remove their make-up! I like them, not only because I enjoy using garbage, but because I like the idea of using something very personal to my life and my work.

You can really see the evolution in your work. And it seems you taken the leap from something purely about texture and design to something conceptual in your current quilt.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how when you look at something you reflect it back in a personal way. Like when you go to a movie you are judging it in a personal way. Film criticism drives me insane because they present it as logical, but it’s really not. It really hit me one day - this is really what my theatre quilt [Grant’s current piece] is all about. It’s about somebody seeing something but what they are actually seeing is what’s inside themselves and not the visions they are being presented with. Hopefully those two things coincide but it doesn’t really matter if they don’t.

This quilt you are working on at the moment is just one part of a series which tells a story about the theatre. What’s this one specifically about?

Because it’s an ever-evolving thought process I have no idea where the story is going. At this point it’s about somebody is watching a performance, the curtains up, there’s one man on stage, he’s obviously in agony. But it’s not all about agony. I think when most people go to the theatre they go with hope because it can give you the greatest joy.

The figure in the middle of the piece comes from a drawing a friend of yours copied from one of your photographs. It’s obvious you enjoy a collaborative approach. What comes next?

I have planned four more sections. I am having an illustrator friend design the next one. And then for another piece, I am collaborating with a whole bunch of people and doing it in very small sections. Each person is going to design a star, so they can do it in two seconds, or, if they like, they can spend two hours drawing it!

double quilt - Grant Heaps

Panel one of theatre quilt project


Blogger Johanna Masko said...

I had the pleasure of meeting Grant at the 401 Richmond Show And Tell back in December. His work is an absolute joy to behold in person, and I look forward to seeing more of this piece as it evolves. Great work, Grant!!

2:03 p.m.  
Blogger toronto craft alert said...

his work is amazing! great job grant!! :)

10:38 p.m.  

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