Members of the public (of all ages!) are invited to weave, tie, pull, wrap, knit and sew textiles to create a 14-foot canoe over the course of the next couple of weeks at The Canadian Canoe Museum.

The museum is welcoming Ottawa artist Vanessa Coplan to lead the unique community art project, which will begin on August 22 and culminate in a temporary exhibition at the museum starting September 21. This activity is suitable for participants ages eight to adult, and younger children will be encouraged to take part with parent/guardian supervision and assistance.

“It is truly a unique opportunity to work with Vanessa and as a community to create this collaborative sculpture,” says Karen Taylor, Director of Public Programs. “Participants are welcome to bring pieces of fabric that have personal significance or, they can use the recycled fabric we’ll have on hand for all. We look forward to seeing this canoe take shape before our eyes.”

Ms. Coplan works in mixed media textiles that incorporate three-dimensional properties. Hand-sewn patchwork blankets, soft sculpture and sculptural textiles are focal points. Her practice has grown from a studio-based setting into one that is community-oriented and encourages collaboration, interaction and play.

“It is the accessibility of these creative acts; anyone can participate and see results and feel the creativity flow. You don’t have to know how to draw or paint to make something meaningful,” says Ms. Coplan.

Members of the public are invited to join in the project, included with admission to the museum, on the following dates:

  • • August 22nd – 5:00-8:00pm, with the artist (free admission Thursday evenings)
  • • August 24 – 10:30am-1:30pm, with the artist
  • • August 25 – 12:30-3:30pm, with the artist
  • • August 29 – 5:00-8:00pm (free admission Thursday evenings)
  • • August 31 – 10:30am-1:30pm
  • • September 1 – 12:30-3:30pm
  • • September 2 – 10:30am-1:30pm

Registration is not required, but space is limited. If you would like to reserve, please contact Karen Taylor, Director of Programs, (705) 748-9153, ext. 219.


Vaness Coplan laying her head on a multicoloured blanketArtist-in-residence Vanessa Coplan sat down with The Canadian Canoe Museum to share her background as an artist, what inspired her to create this project, and the meaning behind it.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your art practice?

I have been interested in the visual arts my whole life. My mother is an artist and I grew up in a community devoted to the arts.  I spent a lot of time watching my mom’s art develop as well as her career as an art teacher. We would take family vacations over the Christmas holidays to New York where I would visit art galleries and museums, an adolescent-hood filled with culture and wonder.

By my early 20s, after finishing a degree in Anthropology from McGill University, I began sketching. I was hooked on the act of seeing, thinking, and visually manifesting what I was looking at in front of me, as well as what I envisioned in my mind’s eye. I went to OCAD for a 4 year diploma in drawing and painting. I moved to Ottawa in 1999. I got an MA in art history from Carlton University and since then I have spent the last 20 years raising a family and building my art and teaching practice.

Over the years my interests have turned from working in two-dimensional mixed media to focusing on work in mixed media textiles that incorporate three-dimensional properties. Hand-sewn patchwork blankets, soft sculpture and sculptural textiles are focal points.  My practice has grown from a studio-based setting to one that is community-oriented and encourages collaboration, interaction and play. I am particularly taken with the ideas of fragmentation, cohesion and how to bridge those and other seemingly polarized concepts.

The Textile Canoe we’re creating is an idea that grew out of a couple of previous pieces. Where did it come from, and how did we get here?

The Textile Canoe grew out of my first large scale project called “I, Canada” which was a series of hand-sewn patchwork blankets that marked Canada’s 150th in 2017. I worked on half of these blankets with 100s of school agers from grades 4-12. It was an incredible feeling to be involved with so many creative minds and hands all working together towards a common goal. It fuelled my passion for working with many hands on deck and for experiencing the act of thinking and making together. It also made me understand the importance of bringing together bits and pieces to make a whole (patches that are sewn together to make a blankets), and the act of mending as it fosters cohesion, strength, and bonds in fabric and amongst artists working side-by-side on a creative endeavour. The healing balm this manufactures is simply in the act of being and working together.

The blankets led to my creation of patch work people (piecemeals), Nest and now Canoe.

So… what will participants in this art process be actually doing?

There are many different ways of participating: working with wire, fibres, building. To go through the whole process is to start by making a wire shaped in the letter ‘x’; connecting those X’s together; weaving, winding, tying, sewing, knitting, and wrapping fabric through and around the X’s to ensure strength; decoration and adhesion — all to build these connected bits into our canoe.

What makes this project meaningful to you? 

It is the accessibility of these creative acts; anyone can participate and see results and feel the creativity flow!  You don’t have to know how to draw or paint to make something meaningful.

What do you hope for participants to get out of making this canoe together?

Hopefully to spur their creativity and see that it’s important in daily life.  To have it be an enriching experience — the take-away being that acts of collective creation are worthy and of value in enhancing and bettering our lives for ourselves and for each other.