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Get to know Sayward Johnson, 2021 Best of Craft & Design

January 6, 2022

Happy new year!

We are wishing you abundant moments of connection with what matters most to you, especially as we kick off the new year differently than we had all hoped for.

We are here to bring small moments of inspiration for you, our dear community, with the hope to spark your curiosity and offer a pleasant escape through beautiful art, objects and the stimulating perspectives of TOAF artists.

Let’s start with the vibrant, tactile and intricately woven artworks of Sayward Johnson, who took home the Best of Craft & Design Award of $2,000 last summer. Sayward’s beautiful copper wire textiles are inspired by the elements of Canadian boreal forests, especially lichens, crumbling stone and rust.

We give our deepest thanks to Robert K E Mitchell (our dear board member) and Brian H Wade from Mitchell Studios for their generous support of this award.

Continuing with our spotlight on Craft & Design artists, we invite you to explore the contemporary “treasured objects” and ceramic sculptures of Christine Nnawuchi, recipient of the Ceramic Excellence Award supported by The Pottery Supply House, and Émilie Coquil, a French ceramic artist whose poetic works in porcelain and digital photography earned her the Ceramic Excellence Award by ​​Tucker's Pottery Supplies.  Enjoy getting to know their works.

PS. Stay tuned for the BEING+ exhibition next week. It will launch digitally due to new restrictions and gallery closures. 60 Works/60 Years at Market Gallery is also closed for in-person viewing until further notice.


Sayward Johnson
Recipient of the 2021 Best of Craft and Design

"What a dynamic complexity within the hand-weavings of Sayward Johnson. The bright flash of patina and the red accents, with the vibration of blues that emulate from the works. So rich and inviting. The sinewy threads capture movement and a ‘hanging on’ essence, energized with tactility. Each weaving tells a story, and that story differs from viewer to viewer. Combining the oxidized brass wire with the softness of thread is a beautiful dynamic. Each design is intricate and has an energy inviting the viewer to be still."

Simone Elizabeth Saunders, Textile Artist and 2021 Judge of Best of Craft & Design

"I am a copper and textile artist. My work explores my fascination with fabrics and sculptures that adhere to the laws of metalsmithing as well as those of textiles and furthermore, present traditional textile patterns in unexpected contexts. I am interested in the juxtapositions of the new made old, the malleable made work-hardened, and the merging of fine craft techniques which may appear incompatible. I believe there is beauty and meaning in natural processes that cannot be controlled, such as decay and the transformation of surfaces through erosion and new growth."

Left: Presomnial No.5Sayward Johnson, 2021. Handwoven copper wire, green patina, thread on canvas; Right: LurkersSayward Johnson, 2021. Handknitted copper wire, patina, wax.

 

"My textile-based works are made primarily with hand-woven and hand-knitted copper wire. Weaving and knitting are techniques which interlace two distinct groups of threads and create functional or ornamental fabrics. In this way, a single wire can transform into a larger, stronger entity. For centuries, handicrafts were situated at the bottom of art's hierarchical totem pole, but now more than ever, they are at the forefront of the art world, perfectly suited to the adoption of profoundly political topics and subversive art. I believe that traditionally female handicrafts such as knitting, weaving, crocheting and embroidery serve not only as expressions of art, but as cathartic methods of coping and transferring grief, investigating women's personal experiences, and reflecting on political and social issues.

Originally from Danvers, Massachusetts, I am a graduate of the University of Ottawa and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. I am an active member of the Ottawa-based collectives, the Enriched Bread Artists and 44.4 Mothers/Artists. In 2016 and 2021, my work was added to the City of Ottawa's collection. I have received grants from the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Ottawa, Craft Ontario, and the Canada Council for the Arts."

An American Security BlanketSayward Johnson, 2020. Handwoven and handknitted copper wire, doubleweave, copper bullets.

"To Robert Mitchell and Brian Wade, thank you for your support of TOAF as award sponsors.

Like so many, the past two years have partially reshaped my creative processes and practice. I have dearly missed the experiences of collaborating and sharing work with my local communities and peers. During the latter part of 2020 and early 2021, I focused on creating works that were explorative in nature and provided a respite from the uncertainty of the world around me. Until TOAF, I had not exhibited my work in almost two years and these newer works made up the majority of my entries. Winning the Best of Craft & Design Award was a wonderful surprise and an honour, as well as encouragement to continue moving forward with my latest studies. I recognize how difficult it must be to judge and appreciate work online as opposed to in person and only wish this had been possible. I am still beyond thrilled several months later."

- Sayward Johnson, on receiving the 2021 Best of Craft and Design Award

View more of Sayward Johnson's works


Émilie Coquil and Christine Nnawuchi
Recipients of 2021 Ceramics Excellence

Left to Right: Entrée du clubÉmilie Coquil, 2020, Black ceramic pigments, glaze, porcelain, maple wood; Exit 3Émilie Coquil, 2020, Blown, Black ceramic pigments, glaze, porcelain, maple wood.. Both still available for purchase at TOAF.ca

 

"I am so honored and thankful for this award! It definitely gives more credit to my own practice. It also brings more self-belief as an artist. I have been strongly dedicated to my artistic work these last years and now I will be even more!

Also, TOAF is a great opportunity to show my work outside of Quebec, to a larger community of artists, art enthusiasts, and professionals in the art world. I discovered TOAF through the website and was amazed by the quality and diversity of the art selection. Some works resonate with me deeply even though artists were using very different techniques than mine. I had great artistic conversations, and I hope to come in person next year to reinforce this feeling of being part of a community!"

- Émilie Coquil, 2021 Ceramics Excellence, supported by Tucker's Pottery Supplies


Left to Right: Speaking StonesChristine Nnawuchi, 2020, Ceramics; Hunting SpearsChristine Nnawuchi, 2020, Ceramics. Both still available for purchase at TOAF.ca

 

"To have received the 2021 Ceramic Excellence Award has been a beautiful achievement, a surreal experience, one that has propelled me into a new realm. I have met so many incredible artists on this journey and look forward to future collaborations that are a result of the exposure that this award has granted.

TOAF is a beautiful example of what we as artists do, especially during tumultuous times. We persevere, we reinvent, we pivot and proceed with hope and optimism. Art in all forms is a healer, from its creation to its viewing, art is a form of therapy, and during the times we currently live in, TOAF means something different to me than it has in the past, TOAF is a facilitator of healing showcasing the beautiful light that each talented artist has to offer the world."

- Christine Nnawuchi, 2021 Ceramics Excellence, supported by The Pottery Supply House


January is Design Month in Toronto

DesignTO 2022 is coming up!

From January 21-30, art and design will turn Toronto into a hub for creativity with installations viewable from outdoors and online events, such as 'DesignTO Symposium: No Such Thing as Normal'. Check out the 2022 Schedule now, and start planning your Festival Week.

DesignTO 2022 Festival Schedule

Harbourfront Centre's Craft & Design Call for Artists-in-Residence | Deadline: March 11

Craft & Design at Harbourfront Centre is a special program unique to the arts community in Canada that assists recent graduates (or emerging artists with equivalent experience) in establishing their professional artistic careers. Artists-in-Residence can enjoy access to affordable studio space, receive mentorship, participate in exhibitions and be part of a supportive community.

Residency Program Information

Public Funders

Foundations & Corporate

Major Award Partners

Programming Partners