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Julie Rosvall - 10 Questions for Artists

If you've been around the Nova Scotian arts and crafts community for any length of time, you will recognize Julie's name. But it wasn't until a few years ago that I discovered HER work. And I gotta say, sorry Julie, I didn't quite get what she was doing. Was she a knitter? A printmaker? What were all these spidery things on paper anyway?!? And then Julie posted a series of process videos on Instagram which made me sit up and really take notice. They were DAYS in the making. And that's just the prints! That isn't taking into account the time to create the intricate lacey shawls. There is something about a complicated, time consuming 'start to finish' process that woos and inspires me. Perhaps it speaks to my back-to-the-land/homesteading soul that feeds my need to know and do #allthethings but suddenly those "spidery things on paper" were making me swoon. Someday, I hope to be able to create a body of work as personal and intricate and so obviously laboured over with love and in the meantime, I'll be watching from the sidelines cheering Julie on. Enjoy her answers to 10 Questions for Artists.

1. Favourite artist. Living or dead.

I have always wanted to create texture on paper using knitted samples.  I have obsessed about it, and researched every option available to me.  I thought for some time that I would simply create a relief of the fabric on plain paper, no ink.  I was then introduced to Betty Goodwin, a fabulous artist, whose notebooks alone were breathtaking, and whose printmaking nearly brought me to tears.  She printed anything, gloves, hats, vests, shirts, tarps, even unwrapped packages went through her press to make a soft ground impression, etching the plate and then printing and manipulating the images. Upon seeing her exhibition at the Dalhousie Art Gallery I immediately began work on knitted samples to create my own prints.

2. What's one thing in your studio you REALLY should throw out?

I am most definitely never going to make it as a minimalist, so there are probably a few things that should go.  I did a purge of old newsprint proofs from my flat files this past winter, burning them to start the studio wood stove each morning in January, very satisfying.  And while I don’t think I’d ever throw it away, I do have a General Electric antique metal enamelled rotary ironer that I found on spring cleanup day a few years ago, it should probably go to a good home, if only to make space for my next found treasure.

3. Best studio snack. (creative nutrition is important!)

Right now it is most definitely fresh Annapolis Valley sugar snap peas, better than candy.

4. Favourite studio smell.

With Zoom meetings being so prevalent this past year I’ve made a habit of keeping fresh flowers in the background of video calls, normally the cheap tulips from the grocery store that really don’t smell like anything.  This week I cut some wild roses as I rushed to get ready for an online meeting.  The sweet smell the next time I walked up the stairs was a pleasant surprise.

5. Least favourite studio smell.

I use soft ground, an asphaltum and beeswax mixture, to coat my copper plates.  I use a hot plate to warm the copper, and apply the soft ground, there is a point if you leave the plate on too long that the ground starts to bubble and smell.  The smell itself isn’t that bad, it’s knowing that you have to start again, degreasing the plate, and applying the ground from the beginning.

6. Most used art related app on your phone.

Obviously Instagram has had a great impact on finding inspiration, tips from fellow artists, and sharing work, but before that comes the camera.  Before digital photography I used to use the prepaid processing film from the Superstore, which always came with double prints, so in drawers and boxes around my studio and house there are thousands of blurry photos, usually with at least one or two pet pictures from the end of each roll because you didn’t want to waste them on something important, just in case the count was off (maybe that’s what I should have said I REALLY should throw out). Digital photography has made it possible to capture as many images as you’d like without the fear of cost or waste.  Now if only I could learn to delete more of them.

7. Top song in your studio.

I am a fan of Sarah Harmer, but honestly I rarely play music in the studio.  I mostly listen to CBC Radio 1, if anything at all these days.  I’ve found as time goes by I’m distracted by background noise.

8. Favourite art-related author, podcast(er), YouTuber.

As a knitter a stitch dictionary is integral part of my life, there is always one nearby.  The one I use the most, and love is Barbara G. Walker  A Treasury of Knitting Patterns.  If we want to add in aesthetics, Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns, first published in 1943 is my favourite.  It has a woven linen cover, and the hand drawn illustrations of charts and knitted fabric are detailed and beautiful.

If you’re looking for a couple of good local to Nova Scotia podcast/video projects, through my role at Craft Nova Scotia I recently worked with Duane Jones of Art Pays Me to create a mini series of Craft Pays Me podcasts.  And with former broadcaster Crystal Garrett I pulled together a series of video matinee’s that feature check ins with the six craftspeople who were part of the Craft Nova Scotia / Craft Alliance Atlantic documentary series Life’s Work back in 2015.  We shared each of the documentaries and Crystal caught up with the craftspeople to see where they are now.  You can find all of the videos on the Craft Nova Scotia Facebook page.

9. Least favourite part of art-making.

Finding the time and energy.  Unfortunately the way that my quirky body works no matter how much mental energy I have for something, my body doesn’t always agree, so carving out time when I don’t need to worry about other personal or professional obligations can be a challenge.  So I tend to work in spurts, mid winter and late summer are the times when Craft Nova Scotia work is the quietest, so I can focus on the studio.  Covid has certainly changed that a lot, so we shall see what the future brings.

10. Describe THE thing that would make you think: "I've Made It."

I’ve sat in rooms with many craftspeople over the years, and have learned that for almost every one of them as soon as you reach THE thing, it suddenly becomes irrelevant and the target moves ahead.  I used to think it was when someone bought one of my prints, but then when that happened it didn’t count because the person knew me, so it had to be when someone I didn’t know bought one.  When that happened I moved on to when I had my first solo exhibition, or got my first grant, but as those things happened, the goal moved once again.  Hopefully that just means that I’m learning and growing as a craftsperson.

More about Julie:

Born in New Brunswick, Julie Rosvall moved to Nova Scotia in 1998, settling in Wolfville, the home community of Mary E. Black, for whom the province’ craft focused public gallery is named. Julie had just begun weaving before making the move and immediately sought out and found master weaver Jackie Mackay’s studio and gallery Summer House. Julie spent much of 1999 volunteering at Mackay’s gallery, with the intention being to apprentice as a weaver in exchange. Unfortunately, Jackie Mackay became ill and passed away soon after. Julie’s first spinning wheel was one given to her by Jackie’s family. It was then that Rosvall began her career as a textile artist, moving from weaving to spinning and finally to knitting.

In 2010 she began experimenting with printmaking, exploring the concept of transferring the patterns and textures of textiles to other media.

Rosvall has always had an interest in mark making on paper, and for many years envisioned using textiles to emboss paper. After seeing the work of printmaker Betty Goodwin in 2010 Julie was inspired to explore soft ground etchings with her knitted swatches. Through her explorations she has created a body of work that uses a variety of printmaking techniques to transfer her knitted swatches to paper.

When she is not in the studio Julie Rosvall is an advocate for the crafts community, and has worked for Craft Nova Scotia in some capacity since 2003.

Social Media: @shipstondesigns
Gallery: Iterations Show

Thanks Julie!

Interested in joining in 10 Questions for Artists?

Email or message me and I'll send you the details!