‘Generation’ is a two-person exhibition by Hamilton-based artist and weaver Amanda Rataj and her late grandfather, master woodworker and furniture designer Rudolph Rataj.
“In the 1960s my paternal grandfather became the principal designer and shop manager for a successful furniture company in Toronto called Brunswick Manufacturing. For the following two decades, they supplied locally made, well-built institutional furniture to universities, community centres, and hospitals throughout the GTA.
In my home I have six chairs built by Brunswick Manufacturing that are covered in their original fabric — each of my grandfather’s children got a matching set of chairs, and I have my father’s set. I have designed, sampled, and hand woven yardage to reupholster these chairs. The original fabric is plain, brown, and synthetic — very representative of the late 1970s when they were made. The new textile covering for each chair takes its cues from the coloured light in shadows, and is made from natural fibres and padded with local wool felt.
My grandfather died before I was born, but his material influence has always been a part of my life, through the family cottage he designed and built, and in the countless chairs, tables, and furniture I have lived with, slept on, and used in my day to day. I’ve always taken this material landscape for granted while knowing very little about the maker.
Ultimately, this exhibition contributes to a conversation about Toronto’s small-scale industries, institutional furniture, and craft history. Through this exhibition, my work may help viewers identify items of Brunswick manufacturing that they know through offices, classrooms, and boardrooms, creating a conversation about the crafted environment of our institutional spaces.”
– Amanda Rataj
Amanda Rataj is an artist and weaver living and working in Hamilton, Ontario. She has studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design University and Kawashima Textile School in Kyoto, Japan. Amanda has developed her contemporary craft practice through research-based projects, artist residencies, professional exhibitions, and lectures. She has exhibited at the Textile Museum of Canada, Royal Ontario Museum, and the Art Gallery of Burlington, among others. Amanda regularly writes about textiles and publishes her textile designs online and in print, working with companies like Gist Yarn and Fiber in Boston, MA, and international publications like Väv Magasinet in Sweden.
The artist would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council.