As our main dining hall, the iconic Whale Room often serves as a display space for marine and West Coast themed art. Our most recently featured artist, Suzanne Clarke, is a textile artist from Godfrey, Ontario, but has close ties to the Lodge. With both an eye for aesthetics and a mind for sustainability, she blends her passion by creating handcrafted textiles from wool, which she sources from local farmers in Eastern Ontario.
“Wool is naturally fire resistant as well as lofty, making it an excellent material to make acoustical hangings from,” says Clarke. “It’s also a renewable resource, and at the end of their lifecycle, they will biodegrade and could even be used as mulch.” For this reason, much of Clarke’s wool goes undyed, and she often incorporates the natural colours into her pieces, working with the greys and creamy whites of the sheep’s wool.
Using Pique weaving techniques to achieve the desired design elements, she creates a thick-layered textile by using eight weaving shafts on her Leclerc Colonial loom. This technique allows Clarke to create a simple, plain weave surface, while using stitcher threads to create patterns, and stuffer threads to add thickness, and improve acoustics.
Clarke’s two larger hand-felted panels, featuring realistically rendered whales at play, along with her four smaller geometric wall hangings, work with the Whale Room’s long-held marine theme. Alongside the bones of the juvenile Gray Whale, found in 1976, the colours chosen by Clarke reflect and accentuate the age-bleached bones, and echo the coastal atmosphere of the room. The red of a sunset, the white of a snowy peak, and the bold blues of the ocean allude to British Columbia’s coveted geography, but still allow the imagination to roam.
In many ways, it’s just another way to do more with less.