Katherine Soucie showcases her art exhibition Cast ON, Cast OFF

Katherine Soucie in her textile installation.

Katherine Soucie

is an award-winning textile designer who specializes in zero-waste eco-fashion. She’s also a visionary, artist and creative force. Soucie’s art exhibition,

Cast ON, Cast OFF

was officially launched March 31 at the offices of

HCMA Architecture + Design

, an architect agency on the cutting edge of creativity, after a three-month artist residency. The residency is part of

HCMA’s TILT Curiosity Labs

(more on this later). Cast ON, Cast OFF is on view at the HCMA office gallery, and is open to the public Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 Soucie’s Cast ON, Cast OFF, an installation made of waste hosiery.

Cast ON, Cast OFF is a two-piece sculpture/installation consisting of a 6.5ft high x 4ft wide hand-dyed knit waste hosiery (the hosiery was originally white and Soucie dyed each piece a different colour by hand). The 75-pound structure contains approximately 15,000 inches of hosiery, mostly using the waistband due to its durability and flexibility. An armature supports the sculpture; it was made to resemble the circular knitting machines Soucie used during the creation process. Staff at HCMA helped construct a web of energy-efficient LED lights that crowns the artwork, giving off a celestial glow. The second portion consists of “seating devices” stuffed with natural latex foam bedding. These are made of 10,000 inches of hand-dyed and hand-printed waste hosiery, which Soucie says is left over from her garment-making process.

 Soucie poses inside her art installation, Cast ON Cast OFF.

So why waste hosiery? “My research since 2002 has focused on transforming waste hosiery (women’s castoff pantyhose) into functional usable textiles,” Soucie says. “Hosiery is a unique textile formation and product designed to perform as a second skin.” Soucie wants us to experience what it’s like to be inside the garment that’s not a garment, which she believes can lead to rumination: “It is a journey that causes an immense amount of self-reflection.”

Part of Soucie’s journey was reflected on a wall-sized chalkboard, on which she spelled out her thought process in a stream-of-consciousness.

Soucie’s time spent at HCMA felt comfortable, like a second home. You wouldn’t at first marry an eco-fashion designer with an architect firm in its fifth decade, and yet according to Soucie, it was the perfect fit, telling me, “Architecture has always informed my work as a textile designer.” This residency enabled Soucie to undertake textile research and development that she felt she would not have had the opportunity and time to produce in her own studio, saying, “It gave me the time, space and place to create and experiment.”

 The wall-sized chalkboard where Soucie captured her thought process during her residency.

I found this particular artist residency interesting because I expect artists to take up a residency in an academic setting, or some kind of institution, not a functioning architect firm. I had the opportunity to speak with the director of TILT Curiosity Labs, Mark Busse. After 40 years in the business, HCMA recently expanded into interdisciplinary practice. “With that comes a commitment to community and creativity,” Busse says. “Part of that process and evolution resulted in the creation of TILT Curiosity Labs, and along with TILT, an artist-in-residence program,” he continued. Architects, after all, are artists in a way. Busse touches on something here – evolution. It’s eerily similar to Soucie’s own vision of how she wants the garment industry to emerge out of its current fast fashion and excessive waste rut, becoming a more sustainable production. Soucie, and programs like TILT, are leading the way.

Mark Abbott is a journalist, writer and editor covering arts and culture. He lives in Vancouver.

Follow Mark on Twitter: @markabbott604

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