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Kootenay Studio Arts Joins Lost Thread Exhibit at Touchstones

Kirsten Hildebrand
By Kirsten Hildebrand
November 9th, 2018

Lost Thread, the latest exhibit showing at Touchstones Nelson, inspires participating fibre artists from Selkirk College’s Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) to explore a richness of textiles while reflecting on the history of the school that fuels their creative passion.

Robin Wiltse, an alumna of the Textiles Studio, is immersed in a month-long residency in her studio at the Langham Building Kaslo in preparation for Lost Thread opening November 9. Along with access to KSA Instructor Angelika Werth, Wiltse feels invigorated by reconnecting to the place where she was first “enchanted” by felting fibres.

“I found the shifting transformation of loose unruly fibres into something of structure using bare hands to be very magical,” says the 1998 KSA graduate who originally enroled in the local art school intending to be an illustrator. “I became enthralled with felting the first time I learned how to do it that first year at KSA. I had previously been unfamiliar with felting, but I now saw it as an exciting and limitless medium.”

Wiltse is using her time in the studio to personally process the recent loss of her daughter to cancer.

“To have this rare opportunity to completely set aside three weeks for the purpose of making a new piece of art has been quite fulfilling. I have been able to give it my undivided attention and completely submerge myself,” says Wiltse. “It has been important to piece together this part of my life story.”

The rich story behind Kootenay Studio Arts similarly involves piecing together physical space, official name changes and funding agreements with inspiring leadership and eager students.

What exists today officially began in 1958 as the Nelson School of Fine Arts. Under the guidance of the first principal and director Zeljko Kujundzic, by the early-1960s it had evolved into the Kootenay School of Art where the studio method of learning was born, emphasizing the use of local materials and trained multi-disciplined artists as instructors who favoured applied learning. An internationally acclaimed artist in his time, Kujundzic drew students to Nelson from across Canada and the United States. 

In the early-1900s, the building now occupied by Kootenay Studio Arts originally served as the Nelson City Police department and jail, housing drunks and petty thieves. Its solid stone foundation still rooted in the community, in 1996 the building on Josephine and Victoria streets was transformed into the art school’s permanent home.

This legacy and educational style continues more than 50 years later at KSA, now part of Selkirk College. Instructor Angelika Werth specializes in fashion, fibre and wearable art. She has worked for Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, France and received her degree as a Master dressmaker-designer.

In addition to teaching at KSA, Werth is dedicated to her own practice and also teaches in the United States and Australia when time permits.

“I love teaching,” says Werth. “Students are an important part of my life. As part-time KSA instructors, we dedicate a large portion of available personal time to our own studio practice. We exhibit and sell our work and bring our studio practice to the classroom. This further enriches students’ learning experience.”

Werth is thrilled to join artists from across the country for the Lost Thread exhibit where she presents her work called Ashes to Ashes. It represents the spirit of place, history and memory. Her found materials come from horsehair interfacings from Harris Tweed Jackets, vintage lacrosse armor, mother of pearl buttons, deconstructed paintings and more.

Working with her former student has also been gratifying.

“It is such great joy spending time with Robin. She was one of our early star students at KSA and it is a great pleasure to witness her creative success,” she says.

Lost Thread opens with a reception on Friday, November 9 starting at 7 p.m. in Gallery A of Touchstones Nelson at 502 Vernon Street. The Lost Thread residency is funded by Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance and Columbia Basin Trust.

PHOTO CAPTION: When the latest Touchstones Nelson exhibit Lost Thread opens on November 9, two Kootenay Studio Arts inspired fibre artists will bring their expertise and creativity to the show. Artists have been honing their skills at KSA for more than five decades in Nelson. — Submitted photo

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