Updated: Oct 13, 2021
The first thing one quickly understands about the fibre artist, Samantha Gullekson, is that she’s unafraid to speak her mind or ask important questions. Growing up in rural Alberta, her parents’ encouraged her inquisitive nature, and urged her to engage in respectful discussions without fear of judgement. This, combined with her background in biological sciences, and her experiences as the mother of three, has influenced her voice as an artist.
The Waterloo, Ontario artist began her journey in felting after she began making needle-felted ornaments. Samantha loves learning new things.
While visiting a friend on Vancouver Island, she took a workshop and learned some more about the form. This only added to her enthusiasm. She says she loves how freestyle felting is. Along with felting, Samantha weaves, knits, crochets, and embroiders.
Samantha’s work has been exhibited in the United States and Canada, earning numerous awards in juried competitions.
Samantha’s recent work examines subjects such as grief, infertility, and loss. Subjects that some people might prefer to keep hidden. Her work speaks to all aspects of the female experience, including the visceral.
She believes staying quiet can be dangerous. To her, it’s important to face hard topics. She understands that by talking about these things openly we remove the stigma. She says “My artistic practice is fuelled by deep introspection, my propensity to question, and search for understanding. Refusing to be confined by arbitrary rules or social constructs, I explore materials and subjects instinctually, gleaning inspiration from my life as a woman, role as a mother, and examination of the world around me.”
In order to make sure her pieces don’t overwhelm the viewer, Samantha uses soft textures, a limited palette, and a simple style. This helps to make her work appear approachable and safe, though her subject matter is frequently graphic and unsettling.
It’s through the marriage of comfort and shock that her work elicits a visceral reaction in the viewer, helping to encourage them to examine social stigmas and hidden personal struggles. As well as this, the medium —wool— may also play a role in this strange dichotomy of ease and unease. After all, what other medium is both so luxurious and so common place.
She says she works slowly and thoughtfully, becoming enveloped in the repetitive motions and the feel of the materials in her hands. She enjoys moving freely from one project to the next.
As Samantha’s subject matter can make some people uncomfortable, it tends to elicit strong reactions. Sometimes it brings up things people would rather bury. Others complain the subject matter is too sad. But there are also people who need her work, people who thank her for making them feel less alone.
She says of her work, “my art is the transformation of my temporary thoughts into something tangible that has the potential to provoke thought, promote understanding, and generate discussion about the raw realities of our shared humanity.”
Currently Samantha is working on a black crochet continuous spiral. The piece is dedicated to her Mother, who is battling a very serious case of cancer. She is using her favourite crochet stitch (half-double) so she does not have to worry about maintaining any particular pattern and can let her mind wander to process her feelings. She says, “There are over 10,000 stitches so far, and it will likely be around 20,000 stitches when it is finished.”
We will be keeping Samatha in our thoughts as she works. We are grateful for her help with this interview.
To learn more about Samantha’s work follow her on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/samanthagullekson/