In The Woods at Night by Bev Hisey
by sabine7 / February 9, 2010

Bev Hisey's talent for textile design is not something you want to walk all over. However, given that Hisey's energies do often go into floor coverings, it is not difficult to appreciate this Toronto-based designer's work from the ground up. Hisey has a knack for combining great colours with clever themes to create carpets, runners, cushions and other textiles for the home (including new seating) that can catch your attention and keep it.


It is clear that nature is a huge inspiration for your work, but you are not afraid to tackle the less pleasant aspects of the natural world, such as disease or our limited natural resources. With your talents you are able to make these negatives more palatable by creating works, such as rugs, that are aesthetically pleasing. How can we avoid falling into the trap of looking at such work through rose-coloured glasses? Will we fail to see the issues if we are distracted by the beauty you have created?

In nature survival often depends on an organism's ability to please, attract or trick. That rule can play itself out in a number of different instinctual manoeuvres, i.e. duplication, procreation, interdependence, sustenance or destruction.

By making Dirty Dishes or Blue Gold attractive, the viewer is drawn in and hopefully encounters the fine line between beauty and ugliness. My goal is to prompt the viewer towards a dialogue that might otherwise go unspoken.

My embroidered ant cushions are a good example of how something that appears beautiful may not necessarily posses any beauty. From a distance, my ant cushion motif looks like a lovely Japanese flower motif, but it isn't until you are up close to them that you realize the motif is made out of embroidered ants. Considered by some people to be creepy.


Tell us about your Blue Gold rug that depicts Canada's fresh water assets. The title is taken from a book by Maude Barlow about the commodification of water and the global water crisis; how did you translate this into a visual narrative? Are there plans for a series of pieces based on this topic?

Blue Gold is a hand-knotted wool and silk 6' x 9' carpet which depicts the fresh water rivers, tributaries and lakes in Canada. Canada has the 3rd largest supply of renewable fresh water resources. This piece was my submission to the Radiant Dark design show. This year's theme was Assets and Values.

Natural resources are a huge asset and of great value to the survival of peoples world-wide. Fresh water resources and their distribution are crucial to each individual's ability to survive. Fresh water is a fundamental human need and, as a result, the U.N. has declared it a basic human right. The control and commodification of this natural resource has already begun. It is inevitable that disputes over this resource are bound to ensue.

I made a point of not using any blue in "Blue Gold". The fresh water resources in "Blue Gold" have been knotted in gold colored silk. We are all aware of the monetary value of gold and of silk, but not necessarily the value of protecting and sharing access to a resource critical to human, plant and animal survival. The first question I am usually asked in relation to this carpet is why is it called "Blue Gold"? The dialogue continues.

I am currently working on the U.S. version of "Blue Gold."


Your use of bright colour in pieces such as In The Woods At Night or Dirty Dishes adds an element of fantasy to the natural component. What is your starting point for these, or any, palettes?

I did 9 pieces in the Dirty Dishes Series. Final color decisions can be difficult. I got to use all the crayons in my pencil case; it was very satisfying.

In the Woods is about the inward journey of exploring family legacies. The pieces came from a two-sided painting that my grandmother painted. I used a lot of colors in re-creating the paintings. That said, each carpet has 16 different colors per design.

The first In the Woods was all bright reds, oranges greens and pinks. The second one was all neutrals. Offering a different color palette seemed like a good idea. Once the colors were chosen, it made sense to call it In The Woods at Night (on acid maybe?). When you are up north and looking into the woods, depending on the moonlight, the colors of shadows are varied and quite compelling. If you were to be lost in the woods at night, I suspect the beauty of the colors in the shadows would become rather frightening.


From rugs, cushions and other textile-based work, you have made a transition to seating with your new Butterfly poufs. Is this a direction you will explore further? What's next?

I have always had furniture/seating design aspirations. On my few attempts, I had a number of resolution problems. Perhaps the butterfly poufs are an attempt to sneak out from under my furniture failures, while remaining in the safety of my preferred material. Further exploration is mandatory.

Aside from flogging butterflies, I have a couple of Canadian design exhibits I am taking part in this year. This spring my hubby and I are starting our house renovation. As long as we don't kill each other in the process, I will continue to design and produce new pieces. I imagine all kinds of inspiration can come out of dry wall dust and debris?



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