Text Size

(Re)Member Spotlight - Heather Nagel; Fibre Mixed Media and Remembrance

By Taryn McIntosh

All images and copyright: Heather Nagel


Heather Nagel is a mixed media visual artist living in Eden Mills. She sat down with me to talk about her art and the pieces she’s made in remembrance of our veterans.

Taryn: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your artistic background?

Heather: I guess I’ve always been creative – my sisters, who were very academic, called it making a mess.I realize that was probably my creative side. And back when I was growing up we didn’t have access to many art supplies, so I just kind of made do. I grew up on a farm and a lot of it was found stuff. You never knew what would turn up under my bed.

T: What inspires your work generally, and do you have a favourite subject or theme in your artwork?

H: I really love doing fibre art. It’s the texture with felting because wool has a wonderful feel and the dyed wool is very vibrant. But then I incorporate things like bamboo and silk and flax linen and found objects for interest. I think nature based and even if it’s an abstract piece it still has to have a little bit of nature in it. Even this morning when I did the silk dresses, they’re on a clothesline outside with blue sky and blowing grass.
heather nagel

T: Could you expand a little bit on your Wall of Art submission pieces?

H: When the hundredth anniversary celebration came out and they announced the theme I thought ‘that’s really interesting!’ We’ve learned about that time period through a lot of stories and books but the art brings it to a different level. When my daughter was in grade 7 the teacher told them stories about WWI and they were just riveted, they were fascinated, and he passed the stories and history along that way. So then, because I’m a visual person, I put the stories into a visual art form. I did the poppy one, which is at the museum as we speak and it incorporates letters, because the letters were the only way people had to communicate. And they were away for years, sometimes they were away for five years, so the letters were precious. The next one was “Home Front” and I had old sheet music from WWI which I incorporated along with linen and stuff like that. For the theme “We Remember” I thought well, everybody remembers the parades of soldiers coming home and how exciting it was just to see someone after that long, but what about the people who didn’t survive? So I thought ‘I’ll do a piece about that.. That was the background of the piece. I wrote a little description “Young man coming home surrounded by family and friends” so that would be like “oh a celebration, you know, like it would be so exciting and everyone’s hugging each other but it wasn’t, it was a young man coming home who didn’t survive, is the background of that. I felt that it was maybe offensive to some people because people want joy in art, they want to see happiness. And in my piece they’re in uniforms - there’s a lot of negativity around young men wearing uniforms - and then a family meeting a person coming off an airplane in a casket, that’s sadness. It’s like oh you can’t do that, you can’t put that in art.


Till the boys come home Heather Nagel wall of art smaller

Til The Boys Come Home

T: I know what you mean. When I was at the play In Flanders Fields at McCrae House, I was disturbed by the thought that the trees in the backyard covering this recreated trench were the same that John McCrae would have seen as a child. I think feeling disturbed or feeling those negative emotions is sometimes necessary to respect those who were in that situation and felt that way themselves.

H: Exactly, and the topic was “We Remember” so we should remember the sadness as well as the celebration, because no one wants war, no one wants a repeat of that, no one wants to remember that someone is not alive, that people have died, but you have to respect their life in their death, in that way. So that’s why I did that piece. They were little two-inch windows, they were a bit ragged, and then I put silk over the pictures to make them look distant, so it wasn’t easy to see what was in the pictures, you had to really look at it.


heathernagel2 shrunken

Coming Home

T: I was wondering what inspired that format, the way you layered it.

H: Well the layering is just, it’s a very complicated issue because the young man in the picture who died, he joined a peace-keeping mission and he was excited about helping women and children with schools and roads and things like that so they could have more freedom. And then the peace-keeping mission turned into more of a combat mission and he was killed. So there were layers of, even in that peace-keeping mission, it wasn’t clear what was going to happen. It definitely wasn’t a safe place to go, and the whole situation was unclear. Also, a lot of young men went who survived have come back, and they’re veterans, but they’re young, and that’s complicated too. So that’s why I took the window approach, there are many different ways of looking at it.

T: So it’s kind of fragmented bits of images to represent that.

H: Yes exactly.

T: And you use photographs too, just to play with different concepts like that?

H: Right, so I don’t ever have rules about what I can put together and where it goes. I mean it still has to have composition and balance and your colours have to work…

T: Yes, of course you still have certain aesthetic choices you’re making through it.

H: Mhm! You might encounter something and just go “wow” and then use it for a piece. So I’m not afraid to try different things.

T: The poppy seems to hold different importance for everyone, but I’ve seen it throughout your work. What meaning does it hold for you?

H: Well, as the symbol in the poem In Flanders Fields. In some of my work I try to use it as a symbol of remembrance not just on November 11 but year round. And I love poppies, they just come in so many colours and they’re so rugged but they’re so… delicate, more delicate than silk. I love working with silk and silk is stronger than most fabrics; they used to make parachutes out of silk. So the poppy is kind of like the fibre I use. It’s deceiving how strong it is.

T: I thought it was really interesting and beautiful the way you used poppies in that last piece, because like in the poem, the poppies contrast the death, as if this life is growing because of the death; the poppies wouldn’t have grown if it wasn’t for the destruction and disturbance in the field. I think you incorporated that really well.

H: Thank you. Yeah, that’s why I put it on top of the image. When everything else is gone, we still have these poppies.

T: What art/other artists inspire you?

H: Oh, that’s really hard to answer! There are a lot of fibre artists that are amazing. Fiona Duthie, from Salt Spring Island, she does the most creative and imaginative work, it’s just stunning. I live in Eden Mills, so I’m inspired by a lot of the local artists there. I love hearing their stories about their art, and they’re all different media artists. I am inspired by them because they are all very generous and kind and supportive. Jim Reid is very cool because he does all kinds of different things, he looks at the history of old buildings and their significance, and he’s local. So those people, and then some contemporary artists too, like Arman…I saw Arman’s work in Ottawa at the gallery and it was just so different and so inspiring. There are the masters too, like Monet. I love looking; it’s always a feast for the eyes looking at the masters. I just like a variety, everything is inspiring to me.

T: So is it mostly visual art that inspires you or other types of art like music, or literature…

H: I like all types of music too. It depends on what I’m working on. Sometimes it’s classical, jazz and then there’s just out-there music like Apocalyptica, things like that. I think I’m a variety person, I love change. Even when I think of graffiti, if you know the story behind it, or if you really look into it, you know? Is a plain brick wall more beautiful than someone’s art, something that someone worked on? People see different things as art, it might be a tattoo, it might be graffiti, or it might be a piece of furniture. So it’s important to me to respect other people’s opinions about what they think is artistic and beautiful. We all see differently.

September - Listen: An Artful Pledge Update

September welcomed two of the Fab Five Festivals: Guelph Jazz Festival and Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. Each festival offers opportunities to enjoy the sounds and words of the musicians, poets, and writers who participate.

If festivals and crowds aren’t your thing, why not treat your ears to the sounds of one of Guelph’s talented musicians or groups? Check out Guelph Chamber Choir, Guelph Symphony Orchestra, Tannis Slimmon, the barber shop musings of The Over Tones, or the great stylings of The Funky Mamas. There is so much to choose from when it comes to Guelph’s music community. You can also check out the selection of local musicians at The Bookshelf.

Here's what we listened to in September.

Patti Broughton

On September 19 my two boys and I headed to Downtown Guelph on a mission. The Guelph Jazz Festival had recruited us to pedal stationary bicycles to power the sound equipment for the Youth Stage. I was thrilled to represent the Guelph Arts Council in this musically and environmentally awesome initiative, and Nathan and Daniel just thought it was cool.

In our enthusiasm we arrived quite early, and so had the chance to take in a Main Stage act. We were grooving to some fabulous globally inspired jazz-funk tunes – not quite sure yet what we were listening to – when the afternoon suddenly went from overcast to rainy to absolute downpour. When things started to get a little windy onstage, the band commented that they were used to it, being from Newfoundland. That grabbed the attention of the boys, because St. John’s was our home from 2010 until this past April. A quick check of the schedule revealed that we were listening to Ouroboros from St. John’s. At that moment I thought about the great capacity of festivals to bring artists from different places together, to learn and grow from each other. I thought about the remarkable talent that exists in both my new and my old home cities, and was delighted that they were coming together at the Guelph Jazz Festival. Still grooving, we dashed for cover and then dashed again for the Youth Stage at our appointed time.

Unfortunately, after the boys had pedaled for a few minutes, the Youth Stage was unplugged because of the downpour. Despite the rain, the intrepid and excellent young players of Guelph Jazz Links carried on acoustically. Although we may not have fulfilled our mission, Nathan, Daniel and I were thrilled to experience the Guelph Jazz Festival, both for the pleasure of listening to innovative music, and for the inspiration it will provide in our own musical journeys.

Katie Wilde

I happened to be out of province at this busy time for great listening. September is the time of Jazz Fest, the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, and other great performances by local and visiting artists. While I didn't miss the wet weather, I did miss being here for those events. So I took the long distance approach. Inspired by an enthusiastic young volunteer here at GAC, I decided to discover some local musicians whose shows I might want to attend. Besides asking for her recommendations as an insider at DISTRICT Guelph, I went on my own little discovering spree through the Guelph section of the website called unsigned.com. This is where I found myself listening to Black Cactus Killer more than once, especially enjoying the mysterious intro http://www.unsigned.com/blackcactuskiller. On musiclives.ca I had to give a listen to this band whose name I had seen around, Common Deer. I'll confess that Indie music isn't actually my favourite genre, but I really enjoyed this well-shot video, and the strings made the song for me. Have a watch on your lunchbreak and you might just feel your stress diminish a bit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbYmYnesOMI

On a more philosophical note, I recently returned to rehearsal with Guelph Concert Band after our summer hiatus, and what struck me is how quickly we forget to listen to each other. As a musician, a little rusty from a summer off, you're there looking at your music, trying to play all the right notes and get a feel for it, and you're trying very hard to do a good job. But by focusing in so tightly, you actually miss an opportunity to play better by hearing what other parts of the band are doing. Their part is different from yours, and that might seem distracting or irrelevant, but when you make room for it in your mind, it can influence the way you understand your own part, and change how you play for the better.

This idea resonates with me particularly at this point in time, having had an opportunity this month to listen to voices that are often silenced at an event called Redefinition: Arts, space and the telling of our stories, hosted at The Making Box co by CFRU and featuring a panel of six amazing speakers. The panel discussed issues of marginalized people and voices in arts spaces, and sparked a conversation that will continue, on ways to further diversify programming in Guelph. We talk so much, and sometimes it's really important to just make space and listen. So I will keep listening, and I encourage you to come out and do the same at future events.

Next up...

October: Engage

In October, we’d like to engage Guelph in: things you wanted to know about art/artists but were too afraid to ask. Send your to questions This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (we’ll protect your anonymity) and we’ll do our best to answer them all month long. You can also tweet us at @guelpharts or find us on Facebook.

Now that we are in the midst of an election, the theme of Engage could not be any more relevant. Please engage with the election this month, and check out our article where we share tips on how to go about it.

Engaging in the arts takes a pretty wide definition, and we encourage you to catch up on a month you may have missed, such as Join, Learn, Listen, Share, Attend. And most importantly, we want you to engage with us by telling us what the artful pledge has meant for you.

Culture Days Continues to Grow in Guelph

by Katie Wilde

Guelph Culture Days was hopping this year, with people of all ages and abilities coming out to have a taste of arts and culture. Founded in 2009, Culture Days is both a national non-profit organization and national annual event occuring in communities all across Canada on the last weekend in September each year. During Culture Days in Guelph, you could listen, watch, make, or learn, and we were so pleased to see artists having the chance to engage with dedicated followers and new audiences alike, and to see those new audiences begin a transition to dedicated culture-lovers!

The Studio Tour held a preview show at the Joint Café, with opportunities to meet the artists all weekend long; #HappyMaking pianos filled the air with ballads and honky-tonk tunes; and all over Guelph, people were discovering new artforms while having some free, family fun.

Guelph Arts Council was pleased to present a Public Art Walking tour on Sunday. Developed by past staff and volunteers of GAC, Meaghan Griffin, and the City of Guelph, and presented by Faith Cameletti, this freshly updated walking tour introduced visitors and Guelphites alike to the City’s collection of public art, as well as some special pop up projects such as HATCH, and the Wilson Street underpass.

We heard from some of the people who hosted Culture Days events on how the weekend was for them, and would like to share that with you here.

“On Saturday of Culture Days weekend, AGG hosted a dedicated group of 20 beadwork enthusiasts, from across Guelph's broad and eclectic community, to engage in a workshop led by Naomi Smith, Native artisan and educator. The workshop took place in the midst of an exhibition curated by Smith, titled Travelling with the Ancestors: An Exploration of Historical First Nations Beadwork (on view at AGG until Dec 13, 2015). The participants each created a beaded emery (pincushion) in the shape of a strawberry, a sacred medicinal plant to the Native community. The beaders, some skilled and others brand new to the technique, enjoyed a day of learning and skills-building, of laughing and community, under Smith's generous spirit and patient guidance. AGG also hosted families and children for an afternoon of "Leaf Art" led by activities creator Sally Evans, which took place in the clerestory gallery at AGG, where participants made leaf animals and festive wreaths from the early autumn leafs in red, orange, and gold.”

- Dawn Owen, Curator/Director, Art Gallery of Guelph

I connected with Laura Paghal, Director of the Guelph School of Art, who was happy to report one of their best Culture Days yet. A busy weekend saw their studio full to the brim of people creating prints. While this might not sound like anything especially out of the ordinary for an arts school, very few of these folks had been to the GSA before, or had any printmaking experience, and they all loved it! So we are pleased to hear that the public in Guelph is taking advantage of opportunities to try new things and engage with culture locally. This is what Culture Days is all about.

“One thing is for certain, Guelph loves culture!With a full slate of free activities, events and exhibitions highlighted through my Culture Days #GuelphCulture program and weather that surpassed all expectations, I drank in the sweet creative energy that is woven into the fabric of our city.

The one thing I noticed while I was making the rounds was the great variety of ages taking in the weekend’s offerings; the woman in her seventies rocking the square in front of me as King Neptune & His Tridents covered hits outside of City Hall Friday night; the 5-year-old playing the piano outside the main branch of Guelph Public Library (with his feet dangling off the bench) on Saturday; the daughter, mother, grandmother and sister at Guelph School of Art’s Make & Take Print Swap on Sunday – they all gave me the impression that Culture Days had cemented itself into Guelph’s cultural calendar.

I can’t begin to express how impressed I was with all of this year’s activity organizers and artists, and how grateful I am for the community’s support. Let’s do it again next year for Culture Days 2016, September 30th – October 2nd.”

- Jen Rafter, Cultural Program Coordinator, City of Guelph

I also had an engaging conversation with Jay Wilson of Pandora’s Sox, famous purveyor of Puppets and Poems (as well as Guelph Arts Council Historical Walking Tours). While it was the Guelph Public Library that hosted the event, hiring Pandora’s Sox to deliver the programming, Jay is a repeat artist participant in Guelph Culture Days. He would like to see the celebration of Guelph’s local culture become a bigger part of Culture Days. He called to mind the experience of tourists in Guelph, here from Denmark, (let’s imagine). They want to discover the local culture. What better way to offer that than through Guelph Culture Days? But they could see a Norm Foster play anywhere in Canada, so why make a point of doing it in Guelph? Maybe there is something more to be gained - both for tourists and locals - from Guelph Culture Days programming which reflects on Guelph’s rich history, current culture, and hopes for the future.

Thank you to everyone who participated, and if you'd like to share your thoughts on Guelph Culture Days, let us know!

What's on in October

October is one of the best months of the year. The summer seems reluctant to depart, and there's every reason to grab a friend or strike out on your own to enjoy some cultural and artistic fun offered by our members.


Bums in seats

Don't miss the first annual Guelph Fringe Festival!

The majority of the performances will be held at the Guelph Black Heritage Society (83 Essex St), with one at To Be Determined Theatre Co.(123 Woolwich). With six different plays, each performed several times over the weekend, you'll definitely be able to catch something. Guelph Fringe Festival is “unjuried, uncensored and open to all voices.” Currently run by 100% volunteer power, the festival passes on 100% ticket proceeds the artists. Part of their mandate is also to champion audiences, keeping ticket prices to $10. They are still looking for volunteer ushers and ticket takers so please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Some of the performances include true stories, such as BorderLine Me, by award-winning artist Robin Zee, which ”tells the affective story of how Robin Zee overcame a childhood of abuse and human trafficking, liberating herself from all of the labels imposed on her as a result of her past.”Veronica Appia- The Theatre Reader Magazine

Another must-see is the two-nights only Fringe Double Feature, Two Shows for $10:

By Paul Hutcheson


By Zabrina Chevannes

Kevin Nunn, director of Guelph Fringe, says Fringe Fest can be like a “treasure hunt. Fringes are much sought-after opportunities for artists, and they bring their best performances to these shows.” Go to Fringe, keep an open mind, and you never know what you'll discover! It could be the next big thing, and you have the chance to see it for only $10. See full lineup here https://www.facebook.com/guelphfringe/events?key=events

There's a lot going on at the River Run Centre - have a browse and make some plans.

Guelph Chamber Choir is still offering season tickets. Did you know that tickets for students and people under 30 are only $10? Their soaring voices will give you goosebumps!

Guelph Youth Singers are joined by Suzuki String School of Guelph and SATB (SopranoAltoTenorBass) to kick off their 30th Anniversary celebrations with "Heartstring" on October 25 http://guelpharts.ca/event/heartstring



Shoes on feet

Guests coming for Thanksgiving? Walk off that turkey on Sunday afternoon, and show off Guelph to your friends and relatives. You'll learn a secret or two about the history of this town, to be sure. This is your last chance to go on a Guelph Arts Council Historical Walking Tour in 2015. Catch Tour V: Brooklyn and the College Hill this Sunday October 4, and Tour VI: Ward One Guelph the following Sunday, October 11. Tours meet at 2 p.m. and last about 2 hours. Cost is $5 for person. Tour V meets at 108 Water Street (John McCrae House), and Tour VI meets at Tytler School. For tour descriptions see http://guelpharts.ca/gac-programming#walkingtours

Take the Guelph Studio Tour this month, and discover local art and artists in their natural environment. October 16-18, 2015. These people are fantastically skilled, and so friendly. You'll never regret an outing to the Studio Tour. This yearthey feature an incredible set of 42 local artists opening their doors, putting their work out there to be discovered, and their faces out there to meet and greet you. Go, ask questions, get behind the scenes, and take home some beautiful work! Although thankfully the carols have yet to strike up in the shopping centres, it is not too early to pick up a present for the loved ones, or even a present for yourself.
Keep an eye out for new HATCH artists exhibiting in Downtown Guelph.


Day trippin'

Fall is the perfect time for a weekend jaunt to a nearby village. Grayce Perry is holding an open studio in beautiful nearby Elora,

The Elora Fergus Studio Tour is on this coming weekend, and features many artists from Guelph and Wellington County http://guelpharts.ca/event/elora-fergus-studio-tour-2

Guelph artist and educator Grazyna Adamska-Jarecka will be showing her work at Homer Watson Gallery in Kitchener. Join the artist for her opening or closing events for a more intimate and involved experience, or drop in during gallery hours http://guelpharts.ca/event/echoes-of-growth-art-exhibition

Local artists Nancy Farrell, Barbara Shaw and Barbara Bryce present a month-long exhibition of painting and glass, INTRIGUE3, at the Bartlett Gallery in the beautiful Alton Mill.


Get your groove on

Visit Silence for an evening show, or start your week right by joining them for Monday Morning Music. You can even see an exhibition of visual art while you're there.


Feast your eyes

Guelph Arts Council's visual artist members show off their work at Guelph Civic Museum during Wall of Art: Celebrate, running October 6-January 10. Wall of Art is a quarterly juried exhibition of GAC members. Artists are paid exhibitor fees, and the work is displayed for three months, including a Fourth Fridays opening which is free to attend.

The newly renovated Art Gallery of Guelph boasts four fascinating exhibitions in addition to their ART/CRAFT show, which is a fundraiser featuring work for sale by prominent local artists. Get collecting!

In its 67th year, Expressions is a juried art show and public exhibition held each fall by the Guelph Creative Arts Association. Enjoy fine examples of paintings, photography and craft artistry.

Last chance to see Brenna Stalford at renann isaacs contemporary gallery


Hone your skills or learn something brand new

Life Drawing Days, Young Artists 1&2, , and other classes from Guelph School of Art.



October is truly a month to Engage and Celebrate!

It is the year of anniversaries! As we celebrate our 40th here at GAC, and Guelph Youth Singers Celebrate 25, Guelph Studio Tour turns a grand 30 years old.

We encourage you to support and celebrate our local artists and our cultural economy by going out and enjoying what's on offer, buying a ticket, bringing a friend, or taking home a piece of art that’s within your means.

Sign up for e-news

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
GCF logo horiz BW