From July 15 to August 29 the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design on Charlotte Street in Sydney is hosting an exhibition of watercolour paintings, hand painted silks and handmade jewellery by Sydney artist Lynda Lou MacIntyre. The exhibition, called Pomegranates and Sakura Blossoms, was inspired by trips MacIntyre made to Japan and Israel where she was struck by the beauty of the landscapes and variety of plant life.
WGO: Your new exhibition, Pomegranates and Sakura Blossoms, opening at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, was inspired by a trip to foreign lands. What brought about your visits to Japan and Israel?
LLM: Family! My daughter married a lovely man from Israel and we wanted to meet his family. They were amazing and welcomed seven of us with open arms. As soon as we returned from that trip, I left for Japan and the birth of our grandson, Myron.
WGO: What were some of the aspects of the two cultures that inspired your focus for this exhibition?
LLM: These two cultures were so different than our Canadian culture yet people are so similar. We met fine, loving, friendly people everywhere. Use of space really struck me in both places. Agriculture was so paramount in both Japan and Israel. People grew food in very unlikely places. Nothing is wasted. We could learn a lot of lessons from how other cultures deal with this. In my show, I have focused on the beauty that I saw. I wanted to share a little of that with viewers of my work.
WGO: Did the experience change your approach to your work? Did you learn any new techniques that apply to your work as a result of the trip?
LLM: As a result of these travels, I started to branch out from doing mostly Cape Breton landscape paintings. As well, I let these experiences inform my jewellery making. While in Japan, I also learned the ancient craft of GYOTAKU, making prints of actual fish! (Note: Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese fish printing originally used by fisherman to record their catches)
WGO: You work mostly in watercolour painting, jewellery-making and hand-dyed silks, what has drawn you to those techniques?
LLM: It seems that metal-working is in the blood! The pioneer John MacIntyre, who eventually settled in Big Pond, was a blacksmith and this trade continued down the generations. My father and grandfather worked in Sydney Steel and my brother Tony still works in the steel mill in Edmonton. When I first took a class in jewellery making I was hooked! I felt like metal was made for me. Now, two of our daughters are also jewellers. I left jewellery for a number of years while I brought up my children because I found that I couldn’t spend 30 hours on a piece in the studio and have children ignored by their mother. Watercolour painting was a good fit at that time as it was so portable and didn’t demand space. I had excellent influences here in Cape Breton; Patsy MacKinnon, Bill Rogers and Chris Gorey all contributed to developing my painting skills. Silk painting is very similar to watercolour painting only maybe even more demanding. My sister Maribeth taught all the art teachers in the area this technique when she returned from Ryerson University. Many students over the years have benefited from this as the art teachers incorporated it into their curriculum.
WGO: How long have you been working as an artist?
LLM: A very long time! I began my studying at Holy Angels High and continued with part-time classes while I worked in Boston. I attended the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School. I returned to Canada in 1969 to go to the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design University where I majored in Art Education and metal-smithing. Upon graduation I pursued a career as an Art educator, first with the Northside-Victoria District School Board and after amalgamation, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. I felt like I was a “binge” artist as I only worked on my pieces sporadically during school breaks like Christmas, Summer and March break! I began to show my work in the late 1980s and participated in group shows since then. My first solo show, “Wellspring”, was at the Sueandalies Gallery in North Sydney in 2005. Since then, I have shown in group exhibits at Cape Breton University and at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design. This current show, Pomegranates & Sakura Blossoms is being hosted by the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design.
WGO: Do you have any advice for young artists hoping to build a career with their craft?
LLM: My advice is to work at something artistic every day and to write about your work as well. I have been doing this since 1998 and it has made a tremendous difference to my development.