Attention to Detail

Attention to Detail

Text and Photos by Bettina Matzkuhn (

My favourite thing about being a member of Nature Vancouver, is that when we are on a walk, it’s like walking with an encyclopedia. I know I can get bird and flower apps but it’s much more interesting when a living person points out something I may have passed by. I also appreciate having stops where I can take photos or draw. 

Drawing, which is any artist’s planning tool, forces me to pay attention to proportions, shape, colour and small details that are important. Similarly, natural history is a process of noticing, in order to identify a bird song, a mushroom, or a geological feature. I gather drawings and photographs as raw materials for finished art work.

Textile is my medium, something I learned in childhood and continue to develop. On broad areas I will paint fabric or use machine sewing to fasten collaged pieces together. But details, where I want the viewer to pay attention, are where I invest the hand embroidery. Embroidery is labour intensive, something our swipe-right, push-button society may see as foolish, but it results in a unique, tactile surface. Elaborate embroidery on the robes of emperors signalled wealth and prestige. Nature is vastly more opulent – from cirrus clouds to small lichens. I use this art form to celebrate this common wealth

Some of my work is “normal”, that is, something a person might have in their home. Other pieces are more experimental: sculptural sails, weather maps, interactive pieces all using textiles and embroidery. A recent series depicts bleeding or burnt glaciers. I have gathered clear plastic containers and am filling them with embroidered flowers. Well-worn backpacks are deconstructed to serve as vehicles for stitched landscapes. (I’m still collecting old packs…). With these, I apply for exhibitions in public galleries. How or what meaning they generate, I can’t control, but, as with any of my work, I want viewers to consider our place in the natural world.

Use left or right arrows to see the photos in the gallery. Click on any photo to enlarge it.


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©Bettina MatzKuhn

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