Valerie Wilson

Winnipeg, MB CA


Artist Information for Valerie Wilson

I combine a love of history, and a curiosity about people from the past, to capture character in fabric.

Having once owned an architectural antiques business, I love looking back at the past. Whether it's an old house and its heritage, or a person glimpsed in an antique photograph, their stories call to me. When I see people in an old photograph, I wonder what lives those people led, and why they chose to have a photo taken at that moment.

Unlike today's instant photographs, photography in years past was a long, involved process, and not undertaken on a whim. My art tells these people's stories.

Working from vintage black and white photographs allows me to imagine the lives of these people, and to choose what details and colours best express my vision. I am drawn in by the character written in these people’s faces, their gestures and posture. My interest leads me to delve into the era of the photographs, the clothing styles, and colours, for insight into the people and the setting. I use this information in my decisions about the details to include in each portrait.

When creating my work, commercial and hand-dyed fabrics re carefully chosen for their ability to mimic both dimension and texture. My process of using small pieces of fabric, and fitting them together like a puzzle, creates a painting-like quality in my art. I focus on light and shadow to establish the life-like feeling in my portraits. As a finishing touch, I use machine stitching to add fine details and depth to the composition.

Images scroll down to view all


Violet32.5" x 25.5"  

This girl captured my interest, as she is so pretty, wearing a lovely dress, but looks so sad, sitting by herself on the step. Did her friend not come to play? Was she told to go outside to play, but to stay clean until the party? What do you see as her story?


Fred47" x 34.5"  

This fellow looks so proud, all dressed up in his Sunday best with his gold watch on display. In marked contrast is the rough looking shed/house that is behind him. His subtle smile is wonderful.

The Dandy

The Dandy53" x 22"  

The photo, that this piece was based on was dated 1913 and shows a fashionable young man with a lot of attitude. I loved the expression on his face and his fancy "duds".

The Boys in Blue

The Boys in Blue49.5" x 35"  

I loved these two men in their vintage bathing suits. The one fellow with wildly curly hair and a toned physique and his slightly plumper friend with the slicked back hair. They looked like they were having a lot of fun. Based on a vintage black and white photograph.

Birthday Boy

Birthday Boy37" x 25"  

This piece was created for a commission. The picture that I worked from was one taken of her husband on his second birthday. It was decided to add a floral pattern in the background to mimic wallpaper. This was a Christmas present for her husband.