Meet Paulette Sauve in our Artist Showcase

Meet Paulette Sauve in our Artist Showcase

Know the Weaver # 20

Paulette Marie Sauve is a mixed-media painter and tapestry weaver born in North Bay, Ontario, Canada. Currently residing near Montreal, she was awarded her Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Quebec in 1992. In 2002, she was awarded Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 50th Golden Jubilee Medal.

She has received grants from the Canada Arts Council, and is a four time recipient of grants from the Government of Quebec. She has given workshops in several countries and, in 2005, gave a presentation about her work at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Israel. Her work is found in corporate, government and private collections in several countries.
1. When and how did your tryst with textiles happen? The body of work that you’ve created is rather diverse, where you employ different materials, techniques and styles – but is there somehow a common thread that runs through what you create?

Since 1972, I have studied weaving with many much admired teachers who taught different techniques: I am very grateful to Soeur Cecile Auger of the Congregation of Nuns of Notre-Dame de Bonsecours in Montreal, who taught me how to read hundreds of weave patterns, and showed me the joys of creating my own weaving drafts, selecting colours of yarns, winding warp threads on the warping reel, threading the heddles, and weaving my cloth on the loom.

In 1974, I studied Industrial Weaving in a course taught by Gaby Dion at the “Institut des Textiles, Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe”. His course illustrated how industrial cloth is made and how to identify countless weave patterns.

Weaving loom techniques

Paulette at work creating off-loom fiber art, 1984.
Photo: Daniel Bilodeau at Maison de la culture de Notre-Dame-de-Grâce

Since 1972, I have also studied off-loom fiber art techniques as well as painting, silkscreen, sculpture, ancient dyes, photography and computer weaving programs.

I am grateful to Jean Dufour, who in 1974 was the Master Dyer (Teinturier) at the Manufacture des tapestries Gobelins in Paris, France. He taught me how to dye yarns with ancient dyes. I prepared my own dyes for many of the tapestries that I wove during the 1970s and 1980s.

Jacquard loom manufacturers

Lieu Sacré (1984). High-warp Gobelins tapestry, hand spun and hand-dyed wool, silk and cotton. The silk was not spun, but after dyeing dark blue was attached to the surface of the work.
Photo: P-M Sauve

The common thread linking my work is perhaps found in the colors I use, such as the iridescent shades of reflected landscapes on water. I live near the Saint-Lawrence River which has inspired my interest in indigo dyes for beautiful shades of blue, and cochineal for shades of red and purple.

2. You seem to have gone deep into understanding the history of the art of creating textiles and then sharing it in the form of the DVD titled, “From Colonial Fabric to Virtual Cloth” – could you share with us briefly about what you learnt along the way?

At first, from 1970 to 1977, I wove cloth on a floor loom with 4 shafts and learned many 18th and 19th century Colonial weave patterns for 4 shafts.  Then, from 1978 to 1989, I wove the ancient technique of high warp tapestry with only two shed openings, and the wool weft completely covered the cotton warp. In the 1990s, I studied dobby weaves on a 16 shaft loom, and learned to create dobby peg plans on computer with the software called Fiberworks PCW.

Since 1976, I live on a farm in a tiny village near Montreal, and I have learned about sheep and spinning wool and other fibers. From 1992 to 2002, I directed a small textile museum with programs that presented 18th century textile techniques in New France, as well as high warp Gobelin tapestry weaving. In 2000, I created a DVD titled, “From Colonial Fabric to Virtual Cloth” in which I presented this museum program, dressed in a 17th century New France costume.  The program included carding wool on antique cards, spinning wool and linen on antique spinning wheels, dyeing yarns of hand-spun wool in an indigo vat, weaving this wool into fabric with either plain weave or twill patterns, using an 18th century 4 shaft floor loom from Eastern Quebec, and explaining the process of creating the collection of antique coverlets and shawls in the museum. I also show on the DVD the work of making dobby peg plans on computer with the software called Fiberworks PCW, in order to create Virtual Cloth.

Jacquard weaving machine

Paulette weaving tapestry on Gobelins style loom.
Photo: Claude Gagnon

3. Referring to your recent works depicting old Montreal, Retired Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal Francois Cloutier writes, “the works reveal her unique talent for marrying an ancient craft with modern themes. Her canvases are very timely, even while depicting Montreal’s architectural heritage”. Could you tell us more about this series? 

Montreal is situated on the Saint-Lawrence River which has inspired my interest in sketching the ships in the port and the reflections of the bright colors of the city on the water.

Cotton warp, bamboo weft design

Iridescent Blue City (2019) Cotton warp, bamboo weft
Photo: P-M Sauvé

In order to create the Montreal waterfront series, I paint different aspects of the river and the city in mixed media on canvas, and I take a photo of the painting with a digital camera. Then in order to calculate weave structures that I need to weave my sketches on the TC2, I work with the digital photo in Photoshop to reduce the colors to eight shades to be able to insert weave patterns into each color area.  In most of the sketches with water scenes, I used patterns in Weftbacked weaves for three shuttles.

Old Port Of Montreal TC2 design

Old Port Of Montreal (2018) Digital weaving on TC2 loom. Bamboo weft, cotton warp
Photo: P-M Sauve

4. You’ve had a background of over 45 years in creating textile art – are there any individuals, events or places that have influenced your approach towards Art?

Lucien Desmarais, a fabulous weaver of fabric for high fashion couturiers, taught me the Gobelins tapestry technique in 1974.  He was president of the Biennale de Tapisserie de Montreal in the 1980s. Then in 1986, I studied at the University of Quebec with Andree Beaulieu-Green, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She taught computer-assisted drawing, and that same year I purchased my first computer, a used Apple IIe computer with two floppy disk drives.

Also in 1986, two art teachers from France introduced me to digital painting on the surface of two tapestries I had woven.  They presented their invention of a computer-driven robot with catheters connected to plasma bags filled with the three primary colors of acrylic paint that were connected to airbrushes.  This event took place at “Images du Futur”, Cité de l’Image, in Montreal.  This inspired me to study multi-shaft weaving on a computer program, and a few years later, I met Ingrid Boesel and Bob Keates, creators of Fiberworks PCW, the weaving software that is used to create sophisticated weave patterns with multi-shaft and Dobby looms.  I learned how to use the Fiberworks PCW program to weave many beautiful fabrics on my 16 shaft Dobby loom.

Handloom weaving

Paulette weaving on a 16-shaft Dobby loom.
Photo: Rosaire Turcotte

In 2015, I read about the fabulous tapestries woven by Bhakti Ziek using a hand operated electronic Jacquard loom called a Thread Controller (TC1) loom, built by Tronrud Engineering in Norway.  This marvelous loom was invented by Vibeke Vestby, an accomplished weaver who travels worldwide to give seminars.  I contacted Bhakti Ziek who lives only a few hours drive from my home. Bhakti gave me a two day workshop on her TC1 loom.  Her expertise is amazing and she is a tremendous inspiration.

tc2 loom machines

Paulette weaving on TC1 in Bhakti Ziek’s studio (2015)
Photo: Bhakti Ziek

5. What got you to set up your weaving studio, Atelier Artweave, amidst an idyllic setting in the countryside? Could you share some pictures of where your studio (and home) is based?     

When I was studying at the “Institut des Arts Appliques” in Montreal in 1974, I met my future husband, and we decided to move to the country in 1976.  He purchased a farm and began to raise sheep, and in 1978, I found an abandoned barn which I renovated. Then I moved my painting and weaving equipment into it and called it Atelier Artweave.

6. Could you name three of your creations that you thought were the most engaging to work on and why would you say that? What’s coming up in 2019?

In 1974, as a young art student, a jury for a Government of Quebec building project selected my maquette (small scale painting for a tapestry) for the “Insitut de Tourisme et d’Hotellerie” in Montreal. It measures 1.8 high by 6.9 meters long, and it took me one year to dye the wool and to weave it. It was installed into a semi-circular wall in a lounge and was a tourist attraction for more than twenty years!

Handloom weaving designed fabric

Feux Doux (1974) Hand-dyed wool-cotton warp.
Photo : Ministere des Travaux publics

In 1983 I created a tapestry called ”Mutation”, measuring 183 cm high by 366 cm long. This was woven with hand-dyed wool weft on a cotton warp.  For the next three years, this work was in travelling exhibitions to museums in France, Norway, Africa, England, and the Canadian Embassy in Madrid, Spain. I was very pleased that this work was seen in so many countries!

Weaving loom mutation wool

Mutation (1984) High-warp tapestry, hand-dyed wool weft, cotton warp
Photo: Yvan Boulerice

In 1984, I was commissioned to weave a tapestry triptych for Cadillac Fairview in Toronto, Canada.  The three triangular works, completed and installed in 1985, measured as follows: the left hand panel measures 305 cm high by 335 cm wide, the two panels on the right if placed together measure 305 cm high by 914 cm wide.  On their website the work is described:

“The Toronto Dominion Centre is made up of six buildings in the financial core of Toronto. The architect of the buildings was Mies Van der Rohe.  Within and around the buildings are a variety of artworks all by Canadian artists… 

(7th paragraph) …Paulette-Marie Sauve’s interpretation of the Canadian landscape is a triptych installed at the Commercial Union Tower.” I was thrilled with this contract and all of the attention that it got as it was located (for twenty years) in a glass walled building in downtown Toronto.” (see photo below)

Cadillac fairfiew view

Iridescent Marsh/Marais Irise, triptych (1985) for Cadillac Fairview.
Photo: P-M Sauve

In 2019, I am very excited about weaving waterfront Saint-Lawrence landscapes on my TC2.  My sketches of the waterfront cities of Toronto and Montreal give me exciting woven artworks!  I have also created works with ballet dancers. I am currently creating new sketches for a retrospective of my work scheduled for next year. Since 2016, I have woven several of these works:

Handloom Weaving

King Street Bell Lightbox 2018, Cotton warp, Bamboo weft
Photo: P-M Sauve

7. How is it working on the TC2?

My TC2 loom brings me much joy and I am pleased with the brilliant workings of this lovely machine.