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$10,000 award comes as surprise to New Glasgow woman

Carley Mullally recently received the 2011 Canada Games Young Artist of Excellence Award from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust.
Carley Mullally recently received the 2011 Canada Games Young Artist of Excellence Award from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust.

Carley Mullally didn’t even know she was in the running for a Nova Scotia Talent Trust award when she received the call telling her she was being given the 2011 Canada Games Young Artist of Excellence Award.

The New Glasgow-raised artist, who is studying woven textiles at the Royal College of Art in London, England, received one of two $10,000 awards this month.

The New Glasgow-raised artist, who is studying woven textiles at the Royal College of Art in London, England, received one of two $10,000 awards this month.

“It was a huge honour because moving overseas is such a huge commitment,” she said during a recent interview while home in New Glasgow for the holidays.

The award is given to two recipients, chosen from the pool of artists who are granted scholarships earlier in the year, who best exemplify qualities embraced by the Talent Trust: “…commitment, promise, exceptional technique, talent and the highest achievement of excellence, (and) … demonstrates the passion and drive to become a professional Nova Scotia artist in their field of discipline.”  

She received a scholarship from them when she started her undergraduate degree at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) University in Halifax, and another as she started her master’s degree.

“They’ve been really generous to me throughout my studies.”

Mullally’s inclination towards textile creation started when her grandmother, who was an avid knitter, bought her a sewing machine at eight years old.

“I couldn’t pick it (knitting) up. I wanted something made now,” the 24-year-old said, recalling that she started taking lessons in Stellarton once a week, crafting pillows and pajamas. She ended up making her own prom dress by the time she graduated high school.

Though it wasn't clear when she was growing up what field she’d end up working towards, an interest in making her own textiles started to blossom before she was a teenager.

She got her fabrics from local stores, “a lot of quilting fabrics and not necessarily stuff for my age range.

“I’d always thought, ‘I wish I could make my own fabrics, so I could make stuff out of that.’”

When she started her fashion degree at NSCAD, she knit her collection as she wasn’t satisfied with the fabric options in Halifax, either.

“I think that's what kind of inspired me to do everything from scratch myself,” she said, noting she’s a bit of perfectionist and doing it herself gave her more control over things like colour and fibres.

During her four years at NSCAD, Mullally had to take classes like weaving and screen printing, introducing her to the textile aspect of the industry.

She enjoys “how big” the industry is, noting her initial thought with making her own fabrics was that she could create clothing, but has since been introduced to many more options.

Between graduating from NSCAD and starting at RCA, Mullally worked for Japanese textile artist Toshiko MacAdam, who is known for her large-scale crocheted playgrounds and now lives in Bridgetown, N.S.

Mullally dyed fibres and helped spin them into ropes before travelling to Hong Kong to install the piece in IFC Mall with a team.

She considers the experience life-changing, noting that was the furthest she had travelled.

While working in the financial district there, she said everyone was always “dressed to the nines,” and at that point, she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to go to graduate school or continue weaving.

“When you go to places like Asia, China, everybody wears these beautiful textiles all the time. So that kind of let me see that there is a market and there is a reason to pursue that degree.”

Making connections through her teachers at NSCAD led her to apply at RCA, noting artist Jennifer Green who graduated from the London school and was able to advise Mullally on what to expect.

“Working for different artists has been a real help because it kind of shows you where you could possibly go in the future,” Mullally said, noting she worked for weaver and notebook keeper Sandra Brownlee, who introduced Mullally to Green, during her studies in Halifax.

It’s those types of connections Mullally is hoping to make while she works towards her Master of Arts, adding that the textile industry is more active in Europe and Asia.

Though she was initially terrified she wouldn’t have as much experience as her peers, Mullally has been living in London since September and says it’s amazing, noting easy access to museums, art galleries, and inspiration.

Her classmates come from all over the world, making group projects fun as each person has a different point of view, she said.

Mullally refers to textiles as a “soft form of sculpture.

“It’s not something that’s completely static. If it’s a fabric, it probably changes every time you move it or every time you touch it.”

Mullally has another year and a half left in her program at RCA. She said she often thinks she has a grasp on what aspect of the industry she wants to pursue after schooling, but it changes every time she meets new people doing new and exciting things.

 

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