Research: Dorothy Caldwell Textile Artist

I have long been drawn to the work of Canadian textile artist Dorothy Caldwell whom I met in New Zealand some years ago.  I like the ruggedness of the work the detail of the mark making and the addition of stitch and appliqué in many of her works.  I appreciate the story behind the works. The photograph taken of the cover of a recent Studio Art Quilters Associates Inc Journal shows to some degree the scope of her work. This work A Red Hill/A Green Hill is 9 feet 3 inches x 9 feet 6 inches.

SAQA COVERDorothy recently did a series of work based on using earth to dye her fabric.  She undertook residencies in the Australian Outback and the Canadian Arctic.  Her process was to fill many small journals with images, drawings and paper dyed from natural sources thus recording fragments of the places she was studying.  Many of Dorothy’s art pieces are large as evidenced in the Cover photograph above. She references objects she finds on her walks in these remote areas and indigenous art.  Dorothy sees the stitch as very important to the mark making seeing it as a dot, a line and a texture.  The stitches are like running stitch, kantha stitch, darning and mending stitches  and she is quoted as being inspired by this Louise Bourgeois quote:

“I have always had a fascination with the needle, the magic power of the needle.  The needle is used to repair the damage.  It’s a claim to forgiveness.”  Louise Bourgeois

Her technique outlined in the SAQA Magazine (2016, No4) journal article is to first create the base cloth using printing, wax resist, and discharge and dyeing.  With the base complete she hangs the piece on the wall and continues by adding appliqué, stitching, and drawing with thread.  The work created is powerful and connected to place.

Dorothy’s work inspires me to want to travel to Outback Australia (I have never been) and see for myself the red ochres of the earth and try dyeing fabric with the earth.


Dorothy is a Canadian artist and I have not been able to see her work in person much as I would have liked to.  What draws me to her work is the subtle colour scheme she often uses in many of her works, the bold large shapes and the way she uses stitching to add to the texture of the work.  She creates a story with each large piece and that is something I find difficult to do –  to create the feeling and the atmosphere in a textile work it is something that I aspire to do and adds to the richness of a piece in my eyes.  The bold large shapes in the piece pictured above create immediate impact and draw the viewer I would imagine from across the exhibition room.  The smaller areas of colour add movement to the piece I particularly like the small green pieces and the fact that they are    mottled colour.  The way the green colour is depicted in this uneven way adds more interest for me to the piece.  I note that she also subtly varies the shading of the neutral large areas on the above work and this adds I think to the complexity of the work.


SAQA Journal 2016/Volume 26, No4

One thought on “Research: Dorothy Caldwell Textile Artist

  1. Pingback: Research – additions to Sally Blake and Dorothy Caldwell research notes | oceanbluetextiles

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