Archive » Arts and Entertainment

From Mexico to Canada: local woman shares textile art journey

March 30, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Life in Mono, coming back to Canada, began just since Covid for Lynn Gilbank and her husband John, “After 10 years in Mexico.”

Ms. Gilbank elaborated, “First, we just love Mexico and we were running a motorcycle touring business, which was fun. We met some wonderful people there.”

The main motive for their return to Canada is that “actually, our kids started having babies. So, we came home to babies. It was time to move but we had 10 wonderful years.” 

Returning to Canada with a street dog they rescued. 

It is Ms. Gilbank’s textile art that prompted the Citizen’s interview with her, and so the conversation turned to that, with her admitting, “Basically you make it up as you go along. You use colour with fabric instead of paint. With the sheer fabrics, I can overlap and create a blend. People take the basic principles and manipulate fabric as they please. Sometimes things turn out or you start again.”

Her interest in creating with fabrics began early, as she told the Citizen that she was always making clothes for herself. When friends started having babies, she began making teddy bears of different themes, based on the teddies from the song The Teddy Bears’ Picnic. By the time her two sons were in hockey, she was making hockey-themed teddies and other items.

Then, it evolved into hockey scenes and commissions of houses or cottages. She found herself “working out these pieces freestyle. I could never do quilting, all those straight lines,” she commented. “I did workshops for new ideas and new fabrics.” 

The trip to Mexico came at a time when Mr. Gilbank had retired from Canada’s Foreign Service [“what shall I do next?”] and their two boys are going to university.

We took a moment to catch their sons’ stories.

Ben graduated from the University of Toronto and started his own company in the green energy business, outfitting large buildings with geothermal installations and solar power. He is now involved with “big, big organizations, doing huge projects,” his proud mother told us.

Rich graduated from Ryerson College (now Toronto Metropolitan University). He was one of the first “techies” in Shopify, now with his own business, creating apps.

“He’s even back to Shopify, trying to improve it,” she said.

Her own career as a textile artist really started to take off in Mexico. She began to make wearable clothing. A friend of hers in Mexico had a boutique. They held fashion shows, and a thriving enterprise grew with Ms. Gilbank’s charming pieces.

“I did Freda,” she added. “I entered Freda in the last Headwaters Arts show, Light into Dark; I entered a parrot too.”

Harking back, her very first panel was a teddy bear picnic theme. This first panel came from the winter that gripped the land that year. She was in a fabric store, and there was beautiful green material. She took it home and made a Caribbean scene, put that on the wall and pretended it was a window.

Returning to Canada from Mexico made Lynn Gilbank want to be involved in an arts group. It was Pat Hertzberg whom she knew from the days when both their sons were going to the same school, and both of the ladies are fibre artists. She contacted Ms. Hertzberg, and it was she who really got her going on this. Last summer, Ms. Hertzberg encouraged Lynn Gilbank to participate in the annual Headwaters Arts Fall Festival.

We wandered back to the Mexico days and their motorcycle tours: “I didn’t drive a motorcycle,” she assured us. “I drove the support vehicle,” adding, “We wanted to go to Mexico; I hate the winter and I had even met [my husband] John on a blind date in Mexico.”

The tour company was hard work. They had 10 BMW motorcycles. Customers came from Canada and the US. To publicize the business, they went to trade shows, but, as she said, people mainly came for their tours via word of mouth.

There was a tour schedule for their November to March season with a variety of rides, including five-day tours, coast to coast, going in all different directions. Clients signed up for tours; the Gilbanks booked the hotels and entertainment. A welcome dinner and a windup celebration of the tours were part of each end.

“We’re still good friends with all of them,” she said. “In any six months, we did 10 to 15 tours. We were the largest company [and the only one] doing this.”

Sometimes, volunteers drove the support vehicle, so she would not need to.

“Sometimes, I took my sewing machine.”

Is making textile art addictive? The straight answer is yes. Once you get into the zone, some of the works are great and some are not.

It is fun to experiment with techniques. She has bought a soldering iron to melt synthetic fabrics, using it to go around so the material doesn’t fray. That worked well in the Toronto scene for the windows. 

She noted, “We have to be our own best critics and my husband is a good critic.”

In any day, her biggest ambition is to get going down to her workroom.

Pictures provide a lot of basic ideas. She posterizes a picture just to get the gist of perspective and proportions.

“I use tulle to get the effect of the water and as a net to hold things down and then just stitch over top.”

Many of her panels feature animals; she loves animals. They have three dogs and live on a property with lots of birds and wildlife.

To a person wanting to dip their creative oar into textile art, Lynn Gilbank advises, “You just have to not be too inhibited. Go to workshops, trade shows, people giving classes.”

She offered, “Just open up your imagination.”

See her at her website:

Instagram: lynngilbankart

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.