Lynn Guina had a few regrets when she entered her piece into the Prince Albert Winter Festival Art Show, but audiences didn’t share her view.
Guina’s piece, a Nuno felt dress called ‘Free Fall’, received the festival’s Guy Rutter Memorial People’s Choice Award on Tuesday, March 28. It was a welcome surprise for the Saskatoon-based artist, who was convinced she’d entered the wrong piece in the show.
“(With) the painter world, I thought it would go to a painter just because felting, especially Nuno felt, is not that well understood,” Guina said during a phone interview on Monday. “I was quite surprised that it would be chosen. I’m pleasantly surprised, but certainly wasn’t expecting it, that’s for sure.”
Guina’s piece took three months to create. The creation process of Nuno felting involves putting fabric on wool fibres that have been rolled, tossed, and rubbed to shrink down and become more stable.
Guina began felting roughly nine years ago. She uses the process to create hats, shoes, and other items of clothing.
“My hands know what to do with fibre,” she added. “There’s just something about fabric with me and give me a bunch of different printed silks and it’s just magic for me. It just keeps my head active and buzzing with possibilities.”
The process to create ‘Free Fall’ was incredibly physically demanding, but Guina said it was labour of love.
“You have to be really careful of what the end result is and work slowly and constantly measure it so that you get the proper fit and it hangs properly and the lines are all straight,” she explained. “It’s quite complex. It looks simple, but it’s not.”
Guina had never entered a piece in the Winter Festival Show and Sale before this year. She only did so at the behest of a friend and fellow felter who knew about the competition.
“She’d been in the show before and she asked us through email, ‘have you ever entered?’” she remembered. “I knew nothing about the show so I just went online and Googled, got the answers I needed, and sent my piece in.”
While Guina may have been surprised to take home the People’s Choice Award, others didn’t share her shock.
Mann Art Gallery curator Marcus Miller said ‘Free Fall’ was an interesting piece that would have fit right at home on a female artist or patron in pre-First World War Vienna.
“It’s just a beautifully crafted felted coat,” Miller said. “Lynn just did a fantastic job here. I thought that this coat was so beautiful, and I’m not surprised that it won the people’s choice award. It won by a fair bit, so I certainly wasn’t the only one who had eyes on this coat.”
Miller not only appreciated the quality of the piece, he also liked what it stands for. He said pieces like ‘Free Fall’ show the walls between fine art and craft are crumbling, and he views that as a good thing.
“This isn’t textiles,” he said. “This is functional. It’s a coat that you could wear.”
The People’s Choice Award capped off a successful return for the Prince Albert Winter Festival Show and Sale. Artists submitted artwork for a virtual show and sale in 2021, and although the doors were open in 2022, crowds were not allowed to attend the awards night or the walkthrough.
Miller said he was grateful to see such a large crowd return in 2023.
“Our awards ceremony was packed, and the following day, the guest curator’s talk was also packed. It was just a fantastically successful show.”
Artist submissions also declined in 2021 and 2022, but those numbers renounced nicely in 2023, with artists submitting 153 works of art.
“Our awards ceremony was packed, and the following day, the guest curator’s talk was also packed,” Miller said. “It was just a fantastically successful show.”
Miller credited a large chunk of that success to guest curator Wally Dion, who left a positive impression on Prince Albert’s arts community.
“He put works of art into conversation with each other. They’re all talking to each other in these little clumps, these little groups, and I think everybody responded to that, and to him,” Miller said. “He was just very, very generous. This year’s show worked out beautifully.”