Artists at Home: Kate Carder-Thompson

Kate Carder-Thompson will be a familiar figure to teachers and families who have brought their children through our doors over the years; she served as our Education Coordinator here at KWAG before moving on to complete her Master of Fine Arts at Western University, and remains an active art instructor in our community with a focus on textiles and drawing. Kate is also a member of the Fibre Arts Certificate faculty at the Haliburton School of Art + Design, teaching fundamental sewing skills, project design and surface alteration techniques, and is a Visual Arts teacher with the Bluewater District School Board. Her recent artistic practice explores textile systems and skills, such as spinning and knitting, as entry points to spiritual communication.  

A glance through Kate’s recent Instagram activity is revealing of the many demands of work, family, creativity and care that can collide in home isolation, with textile works in progress entangling with the comforts of pets and children’s art. We caught up with Kate for this week’s Artists at Home interview to learn more about her current projects:

How are you cultivating care in your life? What comforts you?

I find a lot of comfort in keeping my hands busy. Working primarily with fibre and textiles, a lot of my work is slow and handmade. Watching my hands perform repetitive work is soothing and I find it frees up a part of my brain to problem solve and work through tough emotions.

Also, snacks.

Are there limitations or significant changes in your way of working that have made creativity more challenging? How are you adapting?

I will say that the stress of the pandemic has diminished my capacity for creative thinking, so a lot of what I’m working on is in the “just for fun” category, rather than the “art practice” category. I keep telling myself that the art practice work will circle back soon. I’m also really cognizant of my limited access to art supplies. I’m reluctant to do too much online ordering out of concern for the safety of warehouse and delivery employees, and with an eye on my own bank account. The good news is that I have a giant bag of wool to still work through on the spinning wheel!

What have you been creating at home?

A photo of the back panel of a sweater knitted in warm beige woolA cardigan for my husband – two ply, homespun wool, dyed with black walnut (collected from the Schneider Creek area public parks last fall). So far I’ve got the back and one of the front panels done. Now I need to spin, ply, and dye more yarn! As I was approaching the end of grad school last year I made a personal pledge that my first project after convocation would be this sweater. But a few other projects have snuck onto the list!

One of those other projects is duplicate stitching – one of my handknits was accidentally shrunk in the wash. It still fits, but I wanted to give it a proper “second chance at life,” so I’ve started to stitch peonies and magnolias onto it using stitches that replicate the appearance of stockinette knitting. I downloaded the flower patterns from the DMC website, which has loads of free needlepoint and cross stitch patterns available right now. The husband describes it as “stitching a carpet onto a sweater” but I stand by my choices!

The aforementioned husband works in an essential industry, so I have also been sewing masks for him and his co-workers, using leftover corporate t-shirts that were rescued from being thrown out by my quick-thinking mother-in-law.

And drawing – I have always loved to draw and have been making time for it in my life again. I may have done a portrait of the guy I live with.

Have the circumstances of isolation impacted the work you’re making?

Artists often work alone, so that has remained consistent. I have teaching jobs in addition to my art practice, so I’m pretty used to bouncing back and forth between my own work and my paid gigs.

What do you hope to receive by sharing your work with others? What do you hope they receive from your sharing?

The creative community online is amazing. Sharing my work on Instagram is sometimes a gesture of journaling/record keeping for myself, but more often it comes from a place of wanting to share the joy I felt when I made something new or saw something gorgeous. I also just really like to share photos of my doggies.

Are there other artists and creators who are inspiring you online right now?

To be honest, my whole Instagram feed is artists, friends who are makers, and various galleries/museums. I also follow a lot of garment-oriented accounts including knitters, sewers, and historians. For pure fun I follow accounts like @thetinychefshow, @awkwardfamilyphotos, @natemorebikes, @estherthewonderpig and @hipsters_of_ny.