Meet the fibre artist who made a sweater of her favourite Maud Lewis painting | Arts + Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Tompkins sporting the sweater she says took 100 hours to create.

Meet the fibre artist who made a sweater of her favourite Maud Lewis painting

Grace Tompkins didn't expect to go viral for making a wearable version of "Three Black Cats"—now strangers are asking how to buy it.

Fibre artist and avid crafter Grace Tompkins wasn’t expecting to go viral when she started sharing pics-in-progress of her latest creation, a crochet sweater inspired by Maud Lewis’s famous painting “Three Black Cats”. “I think the best part has just been connecting with other people and their love for something that I made: That's so amazing. I can't thank everyone enough. I've had so many kind messages, from near and far, people I know, people I've never met. I connected with Maud Lewis’s great granddaughter and had a really sweet conversation with her,” she says, speaking with The Coast by phone days after the finished sweater has gained what Tompkins estimates as 200 requests for purchase and has landed on a national news cycle—with her original tweet being viewed 522,700 times. “I just feel so connected with Maud now: To hear from one of her family members that she thought that I did her great grandmother's art pieces justice was incredible. I've been a fan of Maud’s work for as long as I can remember. I think a lot of Nova Scotians can relate to that.”

“There was a pattern that was released for a famous Keith Haring painting and I did a wall tapestry of it. And then I thought, well, I could probably do my own favourite piece of work, which is Maud Lewis’s “Three Black Cats”. And I was like: ‘I should put this on a sweater. That'd be so cute.’ And I cannot expect the reach and the reaction from it,” Tompkins, who calls Lewis her favourite artist, says. She estimates the entire project took 100 hours to complete (“which sounds like a lot to non-crafters, but I don't know if people realize how many hours go into a crocheted or knitted sweater”)—and, after discussions with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is considering adapting the piece into a pattern. (She is not, she stresses, selling sweaters—as the time investment is too great. But she is thinking about ways to make selling or sharing the project more possible, teasing a wall hanging or tote bag as options she could consider.)

And while Tompkins’ project feels very modern in both its virality and Lewis’s own post-Maudie fame, it’s also an arm reaching into the past: For decades, rug hook patterns have sported Lewis reproductions, one of Nova Scotia’s longest-standing craft traditions holding gaze with its most famed folk artist. “I come from a pretty long line of crafters; my grandmother was a knitter. I have a big Cape Breton family and there's a lot of them that are very talented fibre artists and my sister’s a digital artist—like, painting artist—and to have a sense of community, or a connection to the crafting community as a whole, has been amazing. I have been talking to some of the rug hookers who have pioneered the original Maud Lewis hooked rug kits,” Tompkins adds. “It's been amazing. I think especially for the younger generation, to be able to carry on a craft that has been happening for hundreds of years: It's great. And [to be able to] kind of give new life and make it their own. There's so many creative artists out there, especially coming from the Maritimes, that are just really keeping this simple, amazing craft alive.”

About The Author

Morgan Mullin

Morgan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She’s been with The Coast since 2016.
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