Elizabeth Fasken


Published, EAC Communiqué, Autumn 1996


he soft nuances of weaving, gently toned and integrated “like one fabric”, reflect the inner poetry of Elizabeth Fasken. “I’m a minimalist,” she says, “overwhelmingly now, in weaving and in novels and music as well. We have so much, but the things that matter are so few.”

Seeking only the essential and experimental, patterns are not a priority in her weaving. She prefers the “old colours” of natural dyes, quiet and subtle, combining them in her work with the sensitivity of an Old Master.

Elizabeth’s four looms present various options, but her interest in one-of-a-kind pieces makes the easy set up of her Leclerc counterbalance loom which stands in the kitchen her favourite. With it she can do unbalanced, experimental weaving. “I’m an asymmetrical person,” Elizabeth says.

Her home and studio in Elora are in the house by the Irvine River where she was born and lived until she attended Teacher’s College. She returned to Elora in the ‘80s to look after her sick mother and found the village had become a good place for a craftsperson to flourish. “Elora is a gentle place, but there’s excitement here too, which has value. It’s important to have the sympathy of other like minds.”

After Teacher’s College and travel Elizabeth took a degree in Fine Arts at Guelph, majoring in sculpture, studying with John Fillion whose strength and perspicacity in teaching echoes strongly in her work.

Following university, Elizabeth went west, living on Mount Seymour near Vancouver. Without a studio or job, she was fortunate to befriend a neighbour who was a weaver. While the neighbour was away Elizabeth was invited to use her loom. Through this friend she also discovered the beauty of hand spinning on a West Coast Indian Spinner, still a favourite today.

Elizabeth’s subsequent experience in textile design and application at the North Vancouver Fibre School confirmed her path as a weaver. This school was influenced by an early ‘70s show called “Delivered Entanglements”, featuring off-loom, non-functional pieces that were strong and sculptural. “Weaving was taken away from the traditional and given a modern statement.”

Moving east, Elizabeth lived in New England next door to the Rhode Island School of Design. In this area rich with the old textile houses, her respect for the craft of weaving grew. She learned traditional spinning on a big walking wheel valued for the quality of softness it gives to the wool.

Recently Elizabeth has been inspired by the Rya technique, developed for Swedish Rya rugs. In these designs some of the wool is pulled out, looping and making the woven fabric three-dimensional.

This spring, preparing for the “Spirit Valley” show in Rockwood, she worked with metal artist Sarie Marais of Salem. The show was conceived to affirm the energy and life of a valley, appealing to Elizabeth’s love of nature. Striking possibilities for design of off-the-wall pieces woven to drape Sarie’s large welded metal sentinel figures emerged. The contrast in materials worked wonderfully. Soft lengths of woven light wool could respond to changes of wind and light, in sympathy with nature. During the summer these amazing figures, set on loosely anchored styrofoam bases, could be seen floating in the Irvine Pond, Salem. Their mysterious dignity confirmed a splendid alliance of talents.

At present, experiments with Japanese shibori dying techniques and fabric stiffness bring Elizabeth ever closer to the sculpture of student days, this time through woven materials bent and moulded to flowing form.

Sailing and walking, Elizabeth grows, absorbing nature, noticing and translating every detail. Her weavings keep pace in their own way.

“As you get smaller, you realize a new vastness within the microcosm,” Elizabeth says. Through her weavings we are privileged to share the evolution of her sensitized vision.

by Beverley Cairns, Autumn 1996

 Elora is a gentle place, but there’s excitement here too, which has value. It’s important to have the sympathy of other like minds.

UPDATE – 1997

Elizabeth has recently shared an exhibition with metal and ceramic artist Sarie Marais at Leyander’s on Mill Street, Elora. Many of her wall hangings, inspired by the Rya technique, graced the stone walls.

UPDATE – 2005

Each summer “Joie de Vivre” hang Elizabeth’s work in their gallery along the Fundy shore in New Brunswick. In 2004 the Capitol Theatre in Moncton, New Brunswick, exhibited her works with Karen Bach’s paintings.

Elizabeth’s long, woven hangings accompanied the ink works of Mat Nightingale, in a display at Groves Memorial Hospital, Fergus, to the joy of patients and staff. Shibori, dyed warp and paper fibre have been recent areas of exploration.