“Queen St was too busy…I walked down Adelaide instead”
Almost a year has passed since we first interviewed exceedingly talented textile artist Yasmine Louis in her Queen West studio, so we couldn’t wait to sit down with her and see what she’s been working on this year. We weren’t surprised at all to hear she’s been busy not only developing new lines of shirts and pillows, but also undertaking commissions for the AGO and Yonge-Dundas Square, both of which combine two of her great loves: screenprinting and Toronto.
Back in the fall of 2008 when Frank Gehry‘s new AGO building was unveiled, the gallery commissioned five artists to each design a t-shirt inspired by the opening. Louis was one of them, and her limited-edition shirt must have been well-received, because she was asked to do another—this time representing the architectural exterior. Just before this past Christmas, the second shirt went on sale at the AGO gift shop, highlighting the bold front facade.
For the Yonge-Dundas Square project, Louis was hand-picked to create a design that will be printed on five thousand reusable shopping bags, slated to be given free-of-charge to customers of the Arts at the Heart summer artisan market. As with the AGO commission, someone at Yonge-Dundas Square already knew Louis’s work and approached her. “They kind of had this vision for the bag and they thought it would be nice to do an artistic project, so I had no limits,” Louis told us. “It was just like ‘we want your vision of the square,’ so that was great.” We got a sneak peek at the design on Louis’s computer (fantastic), but it’s under wraps until the summer when the bags are released.
Aside from all of these commissions, Louis has been hard at work preparing new lines of shirts and pillows that will be seen for the first time at the upcoming One of a Kind Spring Show and Sale. Over the past fifteen years, Louis has amassed a sizable following of Toronto-philes who adore her images of the city printed alongside achingly personal, yet somehow universal, thoughts in her own handwriting. This year, Louis is diving one level deeper and focusing on neighbourhoods, her own—Queen West—in particular.
Top: Louis in Trinity Bellwoods Park taking photos destined to be silkscreened. Bottom: Drafts of her writing. She told us, “I just kind of write, write, write. It’s just like these random thoughts.”
While speaking of her new local designs, she told us she wants people to recognize and connect with the less obvious Toronto images. “If you’re from that neighbourhood, you notice that restaurant and that payphone because there’s not that many phones left. It’s so Toronto, but there’s no CN Tower.”
In addition to the man-made landmarks, every single tree and bird on Louis’s shirts is also based on a real-life local model. “I think it’s cool for people to know it’s a tree from Bellwoods—not a random tree. I like doing work about the greenspace in the city. Toronto is not just all the buildings, but also the trees…the trees on the street, the trees in the park.”
Louis will be at the One of a Kind Show from March 31–April 4 in booth H-40 (centre aisle) at the Direct Energy Centre. If you can’t make it to the show, she also sells from her studio by appointment.
Photos by Ayngelina Brogan/Torontoist.