Opening Reception: July 6, 2023 at 7:00 PM
A Weaver’s Library
Bookwork, mailart, and little bits of things by Brandon’s celebrated fibre artist
“I see myself as a spiral person,” Elaine Rounds says of her art practice. “I leave to practice all these different techniques, but I always come back to textile, scissors, and glue.”
Six years after moving to Brandon in 1970, Rounds enrolled in a weaving class at the AGSM (then the Allied Arts Centre). Through that course, a profound artistic talent revealed itself that would determine her professional career for the next 25 years.
She took a break from weaving in 2000, and it wasn’t until she wrote the words, “I am burned out,” in a letter to a friend that she realized the break would be for good. This turn of events glances at Rounds’ most truly prolific practice, which is mail art. She estimates, as of this year, that she has made twenty thousand pieces, and says, “Mail art let me go beyond the borders of Manitoba.” Mail art allowed her to participate in an international community of artists, and, incidentally, enabled her to see her own environment through different eyes, receiving responses from artists across the globe that swooned: “You live in the most incredible place.”
While she was engaging in correspondence art, Rounds was also making connections through bookmaking. She made her first book before she was five years old, taught bookmaking, and helped form The Bookies, who, now in their 15th year, meet once a month to share their book projects and ambitions. Unsurprisingly, the inspiration for some of their most recent work arrived via the post, when Michigan-based artist Rita McNamara, Rounds’ longest continuous pen pal, sent her a soft handmade fabric book.
Rounds’ books are sculptures. Although they contain few words, they are not blank. They invert the process of archiving: rather than filing things away, they expand themselves: a postage stamp becomes a book cover; the trace of a peony leaf records the turn of a past season; a gifted piece of lace surfaces from a drawer to title a book that holds a collection of precious little bits of things.
Elaine Rounds, Stamp Books, 2023. Image: AGSM.