Exhibit highlights Montreal-based embroiderer PDF Print E-mail
Written by STEVEN HOWELL, Contributing Writer   
Thursday, April 19, 2007

ST. LAMBERT, QUE. — Here's an exhibit that will leave you in stitches — ornate, colorful, meticulous stitches.
The Museum of Costume and Textile of Quebec in St. Lambert presents "Radical Traditionalism: Art Embroidery," an exhibit that highlights the work of Montreal-based embroiderer, designer and artist Jeanne Bellavance.
We're not talking your basic bowling shirt name tag embroidery here — we're talking intricate, painstaking creations that combine equal parts sculpture and often wearable works of art.
The exhibition displays some three dozen items including waistcoats, an ornate dress made entirely of embroidered samples, glass bead bracelets, 16 wrist cuffs, window décor and objects d'art. The materials run the gamut as well, from fishing line to fine silk, packaging made from compressed cork to window screening.
Bellavance trained at Ecole Lesage, an atelier devoted to embroidery in Paris. She has also worked for designer Jean Paul Gautier. Incidentally, Bellavance titles most of her pieces.
"Her work is traditional, but she's changing the outcome," museum director Suzanne Chabot said. "There are pieces that are absolutely classical, but she's using that traditionalism and taking it one step further."
Bellavance often uses the tambour hook embroidery technique in her works, including three brightly colored waistcoats on display. "Goethe's Waistcoat" was inspired by German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
"She was inspired by Goethe's love of plants," Chabot said.
For the vest, Bellavance used a pattern appropriate from the 1830s. She even sought assistance for the piece from a Goethe expert. The vest boasts a rich magenta base with chartreuse stitching that resembles an ivy vine crawling up the side of a building. The back of the vest is unfinished.
"Goethe loved colors," Chabot said. "He would have worn that waistcoat."
Another work, "Anatomy of a Waistcoat," blends clothing into art. The vest design, which is not meant to be worn, is made of metallic screen and light blue fishing filament. It resembles a three-dimensional life-size Grey's Anatomy sketch that examines the muscles of the torso.
"This is a perfect example of embroidery transcending its usefulness into art," Chabot said.
Clothing accessories include decorative wrist cuffs. Examples range from basic black Goth designs to lemon yellow with bright turquoise trim — a colorful coral-like textile cousin that could similarly be found on the Great Barrier Reef.
"They are like pieces of jewelry," Chabot said.
Another accessory is a crystal, glass bead and silver thread necklace made for a client in Toronto.
"The inspiration came from Audrey Hepburn's character in 'My Fair Lady,'" Chabot said.
Bellavance creates artistic embroidered works for the home, too. A number of three-dimensional window treatments made of screen and colored wire filaments are on display.
"They are made to go on a sunny window," Chabot said. "The shadow becomes a piece of art in itself depending on how the sun is moving."
Finally, the work titled "Tsunami" offers a six-foot wide rolled up screen that creates a hollow tube and evokes a surfer's dream wave.
"Radical Traditionalism" continues until June 10. Bellavance will offer a tambour hook embroidery demonstration and talk about her work May 26 at 2 p.m.
The Museum of Costume and Textile of Quebec is at 349 Riverside St. in St. Lambert on Montreal's South Shore (15 North to Highway 132 East — Exit 6). Open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $4 for adults, $3 for students and seniors and $2 for children 6 to 12. Call (450) 923-6601 or visit



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