art, yoga, connection to life

In celebration of Canada 150, I turned my attention to the plant symbols of the provinces and territories of Canada.

Plants tell so many stories about habitat, localities, migration, rooting and thriving.  They are apt metaphors for thinking about the story of this place I call home, my country, my habitat, Canada.

I first created botanical drawings of the plants from each province and territory, then formed a wreath like composition.  In a circle everything is linked and equally important.

The pieces are printed and dyed with extractions of the black walnut and sumac that I foraged locally on walks in Toronto and surrounds.

Working with plant based inks and dyes, in many ways, frames how I see and engage with the world around me.

Plant based sensibility is intrinsically connected to a sense of place.

Canada is vast.  As I read about and and drew the plants of each province and territory, it gave me pause to wonder at the varied habitats, both cultural and natural.

5% of each Canada 150 scarf purchase will be donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada for preservation of Canadian habitat.

My hand drawn botanical index:

It was 2005 and I had been making very quiet little drawings with black walnut ink on recycled tea bags and on mulberry paper.   I was compelled to learn more about making colour from plants, and, with a grant from the Ontario Arts Council, I had the opportunity to research handmade paper and natural dyes in India.  I went not with the intention to launch a textile collection, but with the aspiration to make inks to expand my drawing practice.

I had no idea what was ahead and had no idea that 10 + years forward textiles would become such a big part of my creative process.

Once settled in Ahmedabad, in December of 2005, I was able to connect with local artisans and learn about different processes.  Block printing and the bold graphic sensibility was totally new to me.  The ink prepared was a combination of tannin from myrobalan and iron.

The next step was to set the cloth in the river to wash away the gum paste.
Drying on the sand, the cloth was exposed to all the natural elements.


The pieces were further mordanted and dyed while simmering over a cauldron.

I gleaned something of this deep, long tradition rooted in human curiosity and ingenuity. Plants, water, heat.

While there, I collected beautiful hand loomed raw silk known as Khadi.  Khadi, is something more than simply fibre.  The hand spun, hand loomed process lends variation and energy of the human hand.  Khadi, also has its roots in Ghandi’s vision for local economy, autonomy and self-reliance.

This amazing silk sat in a box in my studio for over 10 years. It was so special to me, I didn’t know how to approach it.

It’s time now.  Having built upon my initial encounter with natural dyes through more journeys, experiments and applied effort, I’m delighted to have created a small collection of pillows on this incredible fibre.  My drawings have found a new form in textiles by screen printing with natural dyes.

Time seems to weave together the threads of experience, interests, research, skills, memory and people.


This past spring/ summer I had the opportunity to exhibit my work at Augustus Jones on Davies Avenue in Toronto.  Every context brings a new perspective.
What follows is an article written by Véronique Tomaszewski after her encounter with my work, and after a lively discussion that we shared.



When you know truth, you know love. Reflections about Cell Structures by Tania Love

by Véronique Tomaszewski (Vetora)

Attracted by a red bench in the shape of a feast of whale ribs, I entered Augustus Jones almost by a fractal accident on my way to Merchants. Walking through the chairs, armchairs and tables reminiscent of a French café, I was seized by an overwhelming feeling of peaceful softness emanating from long blue sheets of paper floating here and there through the open space of the white industrial walls. Moving slowly amidst metal arms and wooden legs, I reached a secret chamber to the left. Two chairs, disappearing within a forest of descending ropes from where paper cells were dangling, invited me to a conversation with this ethereal yet enduring encounter. I sat, my body and senses saturated by the multitude of round paper shapes. Their random holes allowed me to breath through the tension between presence and emptiness. This is where I met the artist, Tania Love; where we weaved our sensitivities, our mutual attraction for things Japanese, and our Polish ancestry together in and out of these cell structures. “I left Elora and the landscape of the gorge with cedar trees and went to Toronto Island, she said. I was immersed in the open expanse of the lake and was inspired by the grey toned patterns in the sand. I am very drawn to the elements where I am living.”

The cell structures floating around in the intimate space act as a living organism, an opportunity to rest and contemplate the contrast between ovals and lines; between surfaces and holes; between undulation and solids. The shadows cast against the walls by these slow moving structures echo the impermanence of life. The dance between light and darkness celebrates the codependence between life and death.

A well-meaning organicity springs out of the Kozo Japanese paper which texture evacuates all notion of technicality. The vertical arrangement of strings holding the cells up in the air, here and there, evoke either snow flakes in their shades of white and grey, or Christmas balls juxtaposing a multitude of round and open apertures of different formats.

The lightness and yet stubborn repetition of the randomness of the installation mirror the resilience of human life.

Tania used the suminagashi Japanese technique with sumi ink floating on water, finding a balance between elemental and intentional moments of creativity. “The ink expanded according to the shape of the vessel I was using. It felt like using a petri dish but also like I was a participator in this experiment… I observed cell like shapes appearing before me. They also looked like water bubbles or salt stains and I understood how elements connect. The fire element is in the ink born from the burning of wood. Air contributed to the paper lifting.”

Absorbed in her witnessing, Tania acknowledged that it required a quasi- meditative state to carefully hand cut out hundreds of hole, bowing to whatever emerged. Beyond the cognitive aspect of identifiable objects our mind connect to, there is a subtle but strong presence of the life force manifesting in such a gentle connection of the tactile aspect of the Kozo paper and the manual cuts through the paper which tears testify of the human imperfect perfection at interacting with nature.

The quality of the Kozo paper confirmed that the artist had made the best choice at the Japanese Paper Place. Kozo paper is manufactured to be the most resilient and able to be dipped into water without breaking or dissolving. It is also a sustainable choice since only the long fibers of the inner bark of the tree are used to create this sturdy paper.

Some wax reinforces the top part of the cell from which a waxed string is attached. Again with wax comes into play fire and earth in an immaculate white, an indigo blue or a greyish black arrangement of strings becoming a harp playing a visual symphony.

Cell Structures like a Haiku brings our consciousness to the edge of the phenomenal world or to the end of a French crêpes cooking session. Each reveals the same readiness of matter to arrange itself in flat patterns that our appetite for meaning will devour. Here the grey surfaces are playful reminders of the superiority of nature over culture; of the superiority of poetry over discourse. How come? Will you ask? The beauty experienced sitting amidst the Cell structures transcends any constructed meaning both in its abstract evocation of the passing of time over matter and in the depth of realization of the contingent existence of space to time.

In the evidence of decay suggested by the holes, humility progressively takes over our pride in mastering earthly materials.

Cell structures also reminds us of our insignificant yet essential existence despite the perceived infinity of the universe. They both justify and cancel our arrogant attitude towards death because they softly recede in their own lightness of being to allow for our physical body to feel as a powerful amalgam of living cells regenerating themselves in a constant harmonization of fluids, and flows of substances and energy.

The Shinto revelation
In many ways, Tania’s cell structures correspond to the Shinto approach to life.

Shinto puts the emphasis on life as a natural harmony, in a mild natural environment to be embraced by us. Life is common to all who manifest on earth: humans, animals, trees and plants, stones, rivers and mountains. As manifestation, all possess the kotadama (power of speech), therefore, also, a mystical power, a kami, that can take different aspects: water, wind, sun, moon, storm, but also emperor, chief or hero. Of all the Kami, the kami of generation (musubi nokami, the most remarkable of the powers of life) is regarded as the highest kami. It holds the mystery of something being born or appearing. Tania Love as artist is a musubi nokami. She interacts with what is generated in a continuum, not because of an extraneous will, but by the fundamental and essential factor of generation, away from any tension (between creator and created) and any sense of guilt, evil, or sin. Seating amidst the Cell Structures environment makes us experience life as a vital force that synthesises idea and matter, which makes the invisible visible. It gives birth and reveals something by pushing its appearance forward. What is it? The cells exposing the transformational aspect of Nature reveal the mystery of life instead of sublimating it. It is left to us to experience the invisible power of life and reach some level of deep mystical realisation in the silence of the Japanese paper, in the curve of a hole within the cell. Total contemplative absorption in its purity freed from good or truth valorizes the æsthetic dimension (the one of the senses) rather than a moralistic one (of the mind).

Into the chasm between world (Yu) and nothingness (Mu)
The lightness of the ink patterns around holes and edges of the Cell Structures

manifests the subtle equilibrium between the truthfulness (Shin) of the living moment of contemplation of the piece and the echo of a past moment of action (of the calligraphic gesture of absorption of the ink for instance). This calligraphic trace gives emphasis to an endless possibility of examining our sensitive relationship to this moment of Truth, brought into the chasm between the perception of the world we inhabit and from where we observe, and the openness and void created by our awareness of the distance between present and past. The cutting out of paper exacerbates this sense of void that is not empty after all since we fill it with awareness that there is no past.

The fading of the ink more or less diluted according to the play of water on the surface of the paper and the latter’s readiness to absorb ink and create patterns both illustrate the Japanese concept of Yugen, the sadness about the imperfection of human existence shining through otherwise the beauty of life. There is something both painful in feeling how ephemeral and fragile stages of Nature are (especially when they dried out on paper), and something splendid about the uniqueness of each moment, each leaf, each drop of ink on water captured like magic by Tania’s artistic mastery.

Charmed by the intimacy created between our bodies and the Cell Structures swinging softy from the tall ceiling, a feeling of peace embraces our being as invisible airflows circulate around us in the tight space. This poetic moment has no other equivalent than within the peaceful caress of love: love of Nature, love of art, love of life itself.