Waterloo-based artist Sharl G. Smith’s practice explores the sculptural potential of bead-stitching. Most commonly found in the form of jewellery, this ancient technique is a form of weaving where small glass beads are stitched together by hand, one at a time, to create diverse objects. By working with contemporary materials and rendering this traditional craft into larger scale sculptures, Smith gives power and presence to a historically underappreciated art form. The works in this installation are woven by hand using hollow stainless steel spheres as beads and industrial steel cable as thread.
Bead-stitching has a rich multicultural history, locally and globally. Coming from an architectural background, Smith focuses on developing the three-dimensional capacity of beadwork, building increasingly larger forms with a strong structural foundation derived solely from the tension of the thread-web, warped by specific combinations of beads. The resulting forms use a distinctive visual language of rhythmic undulations radiating out from central spines simultaneously reminiscent of the rigid vaulted arches in gothic cathedrals as well as fluid organic lifeforms.