Written by: Lucas Morneau, Exhibitions Assistant
Gazing upon the ceramic work of Claude Morin in his exhibition Grandfather’s Teachings of the Meadow Lark here at the SCC, I find myself reflecting on stories and traditions passed down by my own grandparents. As a child growing up in Newfoundland, my family and my mother’s brother’s family would often visit my grandparents at the same time. With four, loud kids in the house, my Nan found it hard at times to get work done around the house. So, as a way to quiet us and to have our attention preoccupied, she taught us how to knit. I recall always getting upset at the stitches I dropped and would have to constantly get my Nan to cast-on for me because I found it too difficult. My knitting skills were amateur at best.
Fast forward to 2012 ─ the first year of my Bachelor of Fine Arts program at Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook, NL. I found myself learning to knit again, however this time my teacher was Barb Hunt, a fibre artist known for her pink knit landmines. Not only did Barb teach me how to cast-on, something that I’ve been dying to learn, she opened up a whole new world of textiles for me: through Barb’s teachings and my own research, I learned how to knit with a loom, how to embroider, and how to sew. I was photographing myself wearing my creations and creating elaborate costumes to wear (at the time, I was really into cosplay). Sadly, as there were no fibre or textile courses besides Barb’s first year course, I ended up putting all of that aside to create other work. In 2016, I was accepted to University of Saskatchewan’s Master of Fine Arts program.
While I had a plethora of ideas for my thesis, I lacked the interest in executing those ideas. Art, for me, should be therapeutic throughout its creation. Art is a labour of love that, in the past, has helped me in the worst of times. That’s when I decided to re-explore processes and techniques that I had once loved. I picked up a sewing machine. During the same time as I was working on my thesis, I began performing in drag at the local gay bar. I found it exhilarating ─ being able to capture everyone’s attention in a confined space just by moving my mouth and body to the lyrics of a song was not only fun, but it pushed me to think outside the box. The more I performed, the more I became inspired.
With my new-to-me sewing machine, I started creating my first few outfits. At first, I was sewing “stylish” outfits made from prints traditionally used for curtains and table cloths. However, it was when I decided to knit a dress when my love for fibre art was rekindled. In October 2017, I taught myself, through trial and error, how to crochet. I fell in love with the process ─ it was the therapeutic process I needed to help me get started on my thesis. I soon found myself crocheting balaclavas, fishnet shawls, thigh-highs gaiters, and garter belts. During this time, I started to blend drag with the Newfoundland tradition of mummering ─ a practice where men dress as women and women as men in order to disguise themselves. These mummers wear whatever they can find around their house, whether it be the doily from the side table or grandmother’s bra, and go door-to-door and make their neighbours guess who they are while being fed beer and whatever’s on the stove. Through this connection, I created The Queer Mummer, an alter-ego who can be seen wearing anything from a crocheted tentacle dress that references Ursula the Sea Witch and Divine to a black veil that references the Old Hag myths.
If it wasn’t for my Nan making me sit down and knit as a child, I don’t think I would be working here at the Saskatchewan Craft Council today. It was my grandmother’s teachings that helped me fall in love with fibre art and craft in general. Would she have a canary* if she saw my work? Maybe, ahaha.
I’m honoured to be the Exhibition Assistant this summer and look forward to meeting you all and hearing your stories on how you fell in love with craft. If you have any questions or wish to contact me, feel free to send me an email at [email protected] or call me at (306) 653-3616 ext. 9. You can also follow me on Instagram at @thequeermummer or check out my website lucasmorneau.com.
* to “have a canary” is Newfoundland English for “to have a fit.”
Lucas’ position is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Young Canada Works Program.