Ella Swan is an artist graduating from the Kootenay School of the Arts Textile Studio program. As a child she was taught to hand sew by her grandmother and began collecting fabric and creating little stuffed animals. In her teens she began sewing clothing. Her priorities in design are using second hand cloth, cutting to reduce waste, and making efforts to reduce water use in dying. These practices are due to her background in environmental studies and time spent working with a watershed protection non-profit. She also follows the work of Fibreshed, an organization that aims to increase regional production of both dyes and fibre. Swan draws on the minute details of plants and insects for her inspiration. Her garments attempt to bridge the divided human and non-human worlds in durable, well made and beautiful designs.
“I have been drawn to fabric and colour since I was very little. My family encouraged me to try many mediums, from painting to fly tying. We also spent a lot of time outdoors and my parents, both naturalists, taught me about plants, birds, geography and ecosystems. When I began sewing clothing for myself I discovered I loved the combination of spatial thinking and designing my own style.
Since as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by insects, plants and the tiny worlds they co-create. My home was up on a hill with few neighbours except for the local wildlife. Many hours in the grasslands chasing beetles and ants have shaped what forms and patterns inspire me.
When I started sewing I sourced most of my fabric at the thrift shop. I still love second hand fabrics since working with what is available and designing backwards to fit the fabric is how I learned to sew. I’m very sentimental and love to connect emotional dots. Clothing offers range from utilitarian to pure art. I aim to make pieces that combine comfort, care and a time investment that are apparent to the recipient. I have focused much of my work so far on making pieces with someone particular in mind.
My current work has grown out of last summer, where I spent my days working on a farm as well as maintaining my own garden. Over the season watching the same piece of ground progress and grow food and flowers, be affected by weather, and be changed by people’s hands has become my inspiration for my practice – letting the seasons govern what I do and when. I seek to highlight the connection between the smallest forms of life and humans: we are all subject to the light, to the climate, and to the finite amount of time we are here.”
Photos by David Gluns