I’ve been a textile artist most of my life. I grew up as a 5th generation South African, beside the warm Indian Ocean in the luscious tropical city of Durban in KwaZulu Natal. I had a natural affinity for cloth and needle from the age of 12. As a teen I visited the African and Indian markets of Durban buying traditional indigo shwe-shwe fabrics. These fabrics, filled with geometric patterns, inspired my first English paper pieced medallion quilts that I paper pieced by hand when I was 19.
In 1975 I left the tropics with a bundle of shwe-shwe, a Lesotho blanket and the warmest clothes I could find to start a new life in Yellowknife, Northern Canada. It is just below the Arctic Circle, and I went there to join my husband. We later moved to live in Labrador where I worked with indigenous first nations craft makers. We left Labrador to settle in beautiful Nova Scotia, our home ever since 1980.
African Threads Art, Textile and Culture Tours:
My connection to South Africa led naturally to creating a fair trade business called African Threads in 2006, which I operated for 7 years. This brought me in close contact with 10 women’s groups in South Africa. I imported a variety of dolls, fine embroidered tapestries, appliqué story cloths, baskets, weaving and beadwork into Canada. I no longer import goods but African Threads has now evolved into offering cultural tours to South Africa since 2013. My long-standing relationships with women’s fair trade craft groups lives on through the tours. We delight in visiting them each year with my tour participants from the USA, Canada, UK and Australia.
I work closely with TAFA member, and internationally recognized textile artist, Odette Tolksdorf. Odette has organized textile tours in South Africa for about 15 years. Our close relationship with artisans and textile artists in South Africa means that many of the artists we visit are dear friends with international art reputations.
Our tours support economic empowerment for the rural and township art collectives we visit. Tour members purchase crafts directly from the makers. In addition, our Tour makes a financial donation to the group to further their aims. I’m committed to showing visitors the insider’s view of South Africa, going off the usual tourist track to special places not normally seen. We offer a rich variety of encounters with rural visits with artisans, sophisticated art/craft galleries in the cities, markets, museums, San rock paintings, wildlife safari, nature, contemporary and traditional crafts, scrumptious food and superb South African hospitality. Our tours are packed with activities and are excellent value with consistent 5 star ratings from all of our past participants. Our tours are quoted in Canadian dollars and are a bargain for US travellers. Visit www.africanthreads.ca for details of the April tour and testimonials.
Special offer for TAFA members: $200 off a single supplement booking for the tour. Discount code: TAFA Tour.
Fine Craft Acquisitions:
I act as an agent to help people purchase fine craft objects from South Africa: large embroidered textile hangings, carvings and fine baskets for corporate and private collections and special installations. I co-ordinate commissions and also buy for clients on my trips to South Africa.
My Quilting Life:
I began making small, framed appliqué landscapes in 1981 and sold them for years at craft fairs before starting my teaching career in 1984. I exhibited and taught internationally for 25 years, a glorious adventure that took me to meet quilters in Japan, Scotland, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Germany and South Africa. I was on the faculty of Houston’s International Quilt Festival for 25 years. I published 2 books on my approach to small appliqué landscapes:
Beyond The Horizon: Small Landscape Appliqué, C&T Publishing 1995
Points of View: Small Scale Landscape Quilts, Martingale Publishing. 2008
Books and non-stick appliqué pressing sheets, are available at my website.
I give talks about Women’s Empowerment and Embroidery in South Africa and about Cultural travelling in South Africa. I am exploring new directions in my work and on downloadable patterns of my landscape designs. Check my website for updates.
– The Dorothy McMurdie Award for Significant contribution to Canadian Quilting.
– Juried by Robert Shaw into Thirty Distinguished Quilt Artists of the World, shown at the Tokyo Dome, Japan.
– Quilt on cover of Patchwork Quilt Tsushin, Japan.
– My quilts were included in the book: 88 Quilt Leaders of the World. Nihon Vogue /Japan Handicraft Instructors Assoc.
– Honorary Life Membership in Mayflower Quilters’ Society of Nova Scotia.
Video at the left: African Threads Tours with Valerie Hearder. Visiting the Kaross Embroidery Group in Limpopo Province, South Africa. We are greeted with a beautiful song by the embroiderers.