The ocean has always been a draw for Kimberly Leckey, who's spent time living on the coastlines of Costa Rica, California and now Tofino, Canada. It's the sea and surf that inspire her woven work. She shares her journey to creating fiber art.
WC: What drew you to fiber art? What role did art have in your childhood?
Kim: It seems like such an inevitability to me now, looking back on my journey, that fiber art would find me at just the right time. My childhood was full of play and experimentation with all kinds of art forms. Summers were spent at day camps where my sister and I would run wild catching crawfish, sing and dance in full production musicals, winning putting competitions at golf camp, and of course making friendship bracelets galore. That was my first experience creating with knots and I was obsessed. Bus rides became my meditation time of picking out colours, learning intricate patterns, and gifting my creations to friends and family. In elementary school I dreamt of being a fashion designer, opting to stay inside at recess to draw fashion illustrations from magazines, and I always thought I would ‘end up’ with my own collection or line of clothing. In a way I feel I have fulfilled that dream although not in the way I originally imagined it. It’s funny how our interests evolve but ultimately our dreams stay the same.
I have always been a very tactile person, the act of touching and feeling is my brain's favourite way to communicate information and making sense of the world, so naturally fabric and clothing became a very important part of my life. Weaving as an artform is so satisfying. My creations tend to take on a kind of ‘textural overload’, when the eyes can’t help but feel the art, not just see it. Macrame is a return to all the knots I used to make over and over as a meditation on the long bus rides but now I create my own patterns with the knots, drawing lines with fiber.
WC: You initially worked in the fashion industry, how did you make the change to producing your own art and creating Sea Woven?
Kim: The creation of clothing is a three-dimensional art form I have been in love with since adolescence and I enjoyed my time learning all the elements that are involved in the process of designing immensely. I particularly enjoyed the endless roaming of Toronto’s Fashion District in the basements of fabric shops, digging through the rolls of chiffon, cotton, wool, tool, and leather to find just the right colour or texture I was imagining in my mind. The freedom to create anything that pops into the mind is my dream job, however, working for a business can be very limiting in this way unless you are very lucky and work for a business you are aligned with aesthetically or you work your way up to the position of head designer.
I felt my values pulling me away from the corporate world of fashion and more into the creative realms of an art career. I didn't yet know what this looked like but felt it so strongly that I could not compromise my soul work for a comfortable job at this point in my life. After finishing my degree in Fashion Design from Ryerson University and working in the industry throughout my time at school I felt the calling to explore different avenues of my being.
I packed my bags and headed for Central America with an open heart and mind to all possibilities. Leaving my fashion life back in Canada, I felt stifled without my sewing machine, pins and scissors to play with, always in search of creative expression. My gypsy soul found its way to California where I found the world of fiber art as a career and seeing people thriving by making their art. Where fashion design is something you need to be very grounded and stable, fiber art has the ability to be a mobile craft. After learning from a few artists in the area and investing in my own loom, I couldn't put my needles and wool down. Practicing every chance I got, finally feeling confident enough to put my work up for sale in local shops, I felt it was time to create a platform online to share my work. The name Sea Woven was thought up by my friend Janessa, who I should mention is a professional mermaid (WHAT)! It was the perfect name for my pieces that seem to come out looking like the bottom of the ocean floor.
WC: Can you tell us about the move to Costa Rica?
Kim: I have family members who made the move down to the Pacific side of Costa Rica in the 90’s, started businesses and created a life for themselves. They were my first example of people I knew who made a radically different life for themselves from what I was brought up to believe the way life should be experienced and were successful at it. My first visit was when I was about 15 during a very impressionable time in my life. Roaming the warm streets at night with new friends, dancing, eating patacones, and taking my first surf lessons with Gustavo Casillo, a Costa Rican champ who I would later work for, learning how to surf from and teach surf myself. From that first trip I was hooked on the feeling of freedom the country and beach town gave me. I would return many times before deciding to make the move after I was feeling the call to change my lifestyle from city life. I spent the next four years there with surfing being the main motivator. Traveling up and down the coast, into Panama, and up to Nicaragua where I worked teaching for a time at a women's surf camp. Always coming back to the beach town of Jaco, Costa Rica which had my heart and dearest friends and family.
During my time in Central America I became obsessed with the ocean. I knew I could never live very far from her beauty ever again which influenced my move to Vancouver Island and finding the town of Tofino. You can see the progression in my work, the style and colours I use, directly reflect my experience of a place. The feeling of Sea Woven is starting to take on the qualities of Tofino. The darker colours of winter, the tangled textures of the kelp strewn beaches, and the long lines of waves never ceasing to kiss the shoreline.
WC: Why is surfing important to you, what does it give you?
Kim: Surfing is the hardest thing I have ever learnt and continue to learn. It humbles you every time you paddle out; some days you have a great session and it feels amazing, some sessions you have two left feet or the waves aren’t the best, but the ocean always has a lesson to share. Which is why it is so very rewarding. Having learned to surf in my early 20s, during a time in my life where I was growing into myself, my true nature, it gave me both the strength and confidence to go after anything I really wanted. You need pure commitment when you choose to take off on a wave and only with that commitment will you get in the wave and make the drop. I take this lesson with me on land and in my business. If I want my dreams to work out, I commit full on and never look back. I will definitely credit my time in the water surfing as the reason I was able to be brave enough to attempt a full time artistic life.
WC: Can you describe your process of creating a piece?
Kim: I start with the right music (latest listening is Daybreak- The Cancel) or podcast (Under The Skin) and always have a candle burning, although I have learnt not to have the flame too close to my string ends when I really get going…. I love working with colour so the pallet is always a lot of fun to pick out, what compliments each other, and how I can push the boundaries but still stay within my clients' comfort zone. Normally I pick out one fiber I get excited to work with then grow my pile from there. Unless I am recreating a piece I don’t plan too much as I feel that takes away from the pure flow state of creation. I can sit and weave or knot all day, getting lost in layering textures and contemplating colour combinations. A really important practice I like to implement while working is to channel my love and good vibrations into the piece with the repetitive movement of the techniques. My clients choose my art because they connect with it, I hope to evoke feels through my artwork and give it a purpose. Charles Loloma so eloquently said, “It's not enough to weave beautiful rugs. You have to think beautiful thoughts while weaving them”.
WC: What brought you to Tofino, and what does life look like for you here?
Kim: The ocean of course! The ability to surf consistent waves in Canada is a huge influencer and I like to get out at least every other day for a session. The cold water isn't altogether new as I was last living in Northern California and their waters are just as cold with rough coast lines but it is my first time teaching in it. Working with Surf Sister as a newbie to Tofino has been the warmest experience. I show up to town and automatically have an entire girl gang of friends to surf and explore with.
I travel everywhere with my dog Kaya, who I rescued while living in Costa Rica. I take every chance I get to explore this land and get lost with her in the forest, searching for mushrooms, secret beaches, and of course the perfect piece of driftwood to use in my next piece.
WC: What kind of projects are you currently working on?
I've been weaving a lot the past few months so I'm excited to switch it up and return to macrame. I plan on making a few huge pieces to use as wedding backdrops this summer and will create a few macra-weaves, a style that combines macrame and weaving techniques using roving which is simply unspun wool. The new year is going to bring collaborations between Sea Woven and some great local artists who I can not wait to work with and create some mixed media pieces that will have your eyeballs wishing they could feel texture. I would love to have a gallery opening somewhere special to present some large pieces I have in my imagination that I would like to see come to life, so stay tuned…
My studio space is currently my bedroom, where I have a large 2x4 feet loom I built with my dad this past summer set up in one corner with all my fibers sorted into two bins of cool and warm tones. I have a rolling rack in the other corner which I hang my macrame creations from while I work. The only thing missing is my turntable and record collection which I had to leave back in Ontario for now.
WC: Where can people find you and your work?
Kim: I am on Etsy where you can find made to order or one of a kind pieces for sale. For the month of November you can stop in at Zoe’s Bakery in Ucluelet for a coffee, a little something delicious, and stare at my textural overloads on the walls. I am also in Tofino at the shops: Two Trees, Blue, and Surf Sister with more to come!
Find Kim: @sea.woven