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Guelph Mercury
May 26, 2013
Video from The Guelph Mercury
May 26, 2013

Guelph artist Joan Hug-Valeriote works on a quilt on the third floor of the The Mill in St. Jacobs on Tuesday, during the Quilt and Fibre Festival.

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A patchwork of travel experience inspires Guelph quilting artist

Joan Hug-Valeriote has a quilting addiction.

The 64-year-old has bags and trunks full of fabric at her Guelph home and has more quilting ideas than she’ll ever have time to complete.

But this is the plight of a professional quilter.

The Guelph artist estimates she has stitched together close to 200 quilts over the past 35 years, drawing inspiration from a lifetime of travelling and embracing different cultures. She currently has 65 of these pieces showing at the Quilt and Fibre Art Festival, running until Saturday in St. Jacobs.

“Textiles are an expression of who you are,” she said in an interview on Tuesday, adding many of her quilts are a mishmash of memories, interpretations and dreams. Although she often uses a variety of different materials to piece her projects together, she said she can always identify where she obtained each scrap of cloth she uses.

The award-winning quilt-maker is a member of four quilting guilds; two in Toronto, the Royal City Quilters Guild in Guelph and one in France. She’s showcased her work in Switzerland, Italy, New Zealand and will soon be showing in France, but she normally displays her work at local galleries.

Her role as a quilting artist is the seventh career she’s had. On her count, she’s had a career as a student, a secretary while working through university, a housewife/mother, a career in the filming industry, a French teacher, a tutor for child actors while they worked on set, and a quilting artist.

Hug-Valeriote attended high school at Bishop Macdonell and then the University of Toronto. After graduation, she spent time in Switzerland as part of an experiment in international living. She met her Swiss husband just before leaving Canada.

After spending several weeks with a French family and several months working at a watch factory in Switzerland, she went to Paris, France to attend film school. After finishing her classes she moved to Barcelona to learn Spanish and to intern at a Spanish television station.

When she returned back to Canada in 1974, she began her career in the film industry. She played a role in the making of the 1975 film Recommendation for Mercy. Partially filmed in Guelph, the movie was based on the story of Steven Truscott’s wrongful conviction.

When her husband found work in California, she moved out west and began taking courses about quilting as an art form. She learned quilt-making is not only a practical way to keep warm at night, but a marriage of both craft and art, functionality and beauty.

“There comes a point in craft that you get so good at what you’re doing and you choose your colours and materials so well that it becomes art,” she said.

After four years of living in the United States, she settled in the Toronto area. Drawing on what she learned in California, she began taking quilt making to another level. Using a long-arm sewing machine she pushed the boundaries of traditional patterns and experimented with irregular angles and crooked edges.

Photos and textiles gathered during her travels provided inspiration and materials for her newfound art form.

Her friend, Judy Eckhardt, has known Hug-Valeriote for more than five years and has seen her grow as an artist.

“She’s rooted in tradition but expanding those roots in different directions,” she said.

While stitching together a number of commissions and working away at personal projects in her Guelph studio, Hug-Valeriote also works as a visiting artist, teaching students at local schools the history and the art of working with textiles.

“She was a born educator, passing that on through children to adults,” Eckhardt said.

Three years ago she moved away from sewing by hand – arthritis and carpal tunnel had caught up to her, she said. With bags full of materials and a head full of potential quilt ideas, she said she is trying to “use up my stash,” and avoid buying new materials.

Although the festival in St. Jacobs ends on Saturday, her display made up of traditional scrap quilts to modern art quilts entitled Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Repurpose, will be shown until October.

Press Release
Exhibition of Quilts April 2008

Horizons quilting Logo

Traditional and Not-so-traditional Quilts

The St. Jacobs Quilt Gallery will be hosting Joan Hug-Valeriote as the featured artist and Artist-in-Residence from April to July 2008. The opening Artist’s reception will take place on Sunday, April 27th, 2-4 p.m. in 3rd floor Gallery in the Old Mill. All are welcome

To view pictures of this show you can go to the show here.

Joan at the sewing machine
Joan at her studio in Guelph, using her long-arm quilting machine.

Joan’s 2008 show is entitled Traditional and Not-so-traditional Quilts. Some of the traditional quilts include graphic, hand-quilted bed-quilts from the 1990’s and two hand-pieced quilt-tops by Anne C. Bawden, another Guelph resident, which were machine-quilted by Joan on her long-arm Noltings quilting machine.

The show shows the evolution of Joan's quilting with a progression from hand-pieced and hand-quilted bed-quilts through contemporary pieces, done by hand and machine, including art quilts and wall-hangings ranging from small “almost Amish” pieces to Japanese-style quilted wall-hangings, as well as landscapes and framed textile art.

Pieces which make statements of political and social relevance include "Too Much Night Light", a 3-D representation of a fluorescent light fixture thought to be a factor in causing breast cancer in women who work at night, and "Ghosts of Heritage Past", featuring photographs of architectural gems in Guelph that have been demolished, printed on transparent silk organza with her computer and layered over photos of the “shoe-box” buildings that replaced them, set in an old-fashioned "photo album".

"Ghosts of Heritage Past" was inspired by the threatened demolition of the Loretto Convent in Guelph, and was completed while Joan was previously showing and working in the St. Jacobs Quilt Gallery, in 2004. It has been seen in several shows and was exhibited in the main Guelph Public library twice in the interim, as well as having been juried into the Grand National: Constructions show in the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery in 2005. Joan’s next show will be in the Lodge on Amherst Island off Kingston in August.

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