"I wanted women to see themselves as a part of nature and art. I wanted to celebrate what we already have, limiting creating more and questioning the expectation of women needing to be more by augmenting themselves."

What was your previous (or current other) career, training or background?

I was an actor first. Trained for theatre and film from the ages of 18 to 21 in Edmonton and Vancouver. I worked in major theatres but also co-ops where we did our own work. I also worked at Second City.

In the 1980s, I co-wrote a theatre program to go into schools to educate children about sexual abuse. We did scenarios and, with the children, identified decision or action points to help keep themselves safe. I took my teacher training at SFU in 1980 so I used those skills to write the accompanying Teacher Handbook for the program. It was called “Feeling Yes, Feeling No” and, for the first time, brought social services, schools and police together to help children facing abuse. At Green Thumb Theatre, I did a play called “New Canadian Kid” by Dennis Foon. It was about the story of immigrant children for children in schools. The Canadian kids spoke gibberish and the New Canadian Kid spoke English. We took that show to Europe. It was written to help non-immigrant children understand the experience of new Canadians.

In theatre and teaching, I loved the creativity but felt bound by the government’s curriculum and/or the playwright’s vision. After taking our children on a converted troller to Alaska for 3 months in 2000, I realized I wanted to tell my own stories through art. I went to Textile School at Capilano University and Dahlia Drive was born out of that.

Why textiles? Looking at my children, I realized that I had taught them to knit and dye and sew and weave and realized that was my own muse. LOL! I was taught very young to sew. I was always making things: I made my own clothing in high school, my wedding dress, bathing suits, jewellery. In the late ’70s, I aspired to one day have my own shop where I worked and sold my wares.


What change are you seeking to create through this initiative?

With Dahlia Drive, I wanted to celebrate the female body by revealing the layers underneath the surface. I wanted to take pre-loved garments and augment them to create an opportunity for discussion and to question who we are, what we express and how to push the envelope of “normal.” I wanted women to see themselves as a part of nature and art. I wanted to celebrate what we already have, limiting creating more and questioning the expectation of women needing to be more by augmenting themselves.

Slips which were once worn under dresses, but were beautifully and lovingly crafted, were brought to the surface, clearly defining our shape and beauty. I initially printed skeletons or innards on the slips to show yet another layer under the slip.

I had lots of slips I had saved and there were many in second hand shops. There were also a lot of curtain sheers, which, when cut and shaped, could reveal the sculptural shape of women much like sheer curtains revealed the inner sculpture of one’s home. On the outside, I printed stories of nature, water, trees that danced around the female sculpture. When we went to Haida Gwaii and I started working with Reg Davidson, Dahlia Drive became a conduit for celebrating the formline and culture of the Haida People on women. Mythical creatures’ stories danced around the wearer. Also, traditional celebration wear for the Haida women was very heavy. Reg wanted Haida women to feel beautiful in lighter clothing that still celebrated their culture. We developed a company called Yaahl, Guud, Tsai and a legal contract of equity and acknowledgement to demonstrate respectful co-creative relationships between indigenous and settler artists.


What does the concept of ‘the greater good’ mean to you?

The greater good is to be thoughtful and kind. To help and to serve. To be present for others and for oneself. To listen and act with consciousness for the whole. To be thankful for everything.

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