Locally Made: Grant Heaps, Textile Artist
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Locally Made: Grant Heaps, Textile Artist

Fabric fanatic Grant Heaps makes quilting look cool.

Grant Heaps was 14 when his mother first taught him how to sew. “I was always obsessed with fabric, even as a child,” he says. Because of his penchant for creating outfits, Heaps initially pursued fashion design, but eventually he became frustrated with the demands of making clothing fit. “I decided to forget fashion and move on to working with flat things,” he says. For more than a decade, he has spent his free time constructing two-dimensional works of textile art, from hanging quilts to ornate, decorative chair coverings.

Heaps, who has a full-time gig as the assistant wardrobe coordinator at the National Ballet of Canada, began developing his pieces in the hours after work. “I just like working,” he says. “I work all day, and then I come home and work some more.” His art also requires dedication; there’s one piece made up of tiny, hand-sewn circles that he’s been working on for more than four years.

His efforts have paid off. Three years ago, he completed a residency in North Carolina, where he worked out of an old thrift store and made pieces using materials that were already there. “A friend of mine who owns WORN Fashion Journal told me about it,” he said. “The experience really boosted my confidence.”

Heaps has no formal art training, so he was caught off guard when the Textile Museum of Canada approached him and asked if he wanted to participate in their current exhibition, “Dreamland: Textiles and the Canadian Landscape.” “I always dreamed of someone finding me through my blog, and they did!” he says. “It’s an amazing show. It’s just through a bit of luck after another bit of luck that I got to be in it.”

When asked where he finds inspiration for his pieces, Heaps laughs. “My own emotional distress, really!” he says. “Well that, and pop music.” He often uses words and lyrics in his pieces, in an attempt to draw in viewers. “I want my pieces to provide an emotional impact, if not a necessarily a narrative,” he says. He’s currently working on a series of 60 quilts, which will tell the story of an audience member experiencing a theatrical production.

Thanks to the scraps he receives from the ballet, remnants from clothing factories and stuff he collects off the street, Heaps rarely has to buy fabric. When he does, he goes to thrift stores. He sees others in his age group (that is, in their 20s and 30s) experimenting with similar ways of reusing materials for crafts. “There are a lot of people trying to do something different themselves—trying to make something handmade,” he says. “You can see it in the emergence of crafting groups.”

Because of his day job and the low cost of his materials, Heaps isn’t particularly concerned with profit. While he has displayed his work in cafes, book stores and galleries, he doesn’t usually sell his pieces. “I think if I needed to sell my stuff, it would drive me insane,” he says. “I like that I don’t have to make money off of it. For me, the idea of just doing it for myself works really well.”

Thanks to Moosehead for making this series possible.