Last weekend Fran Solar discovered on Pinterest that she'd won a prestigious North American art award.
“I was kind of surprised,” the Squamish artist said. “I never won such a big award.”
Solar was one of 35 winners in the 2014 Niche Awards. Up against 2,000 artists, Solar took top spot in the fabricated metal category.
Twenty-three years ago, having moved from Toronto to Squamish, Solar tired of the blankets and sweaters she wove. After taking a series of basket-making classes, one day she decided to replace the yarn on her wooden loom with coloured wires. That resulted in gravity-defying structures that neatly meld the hardness of metal with the delicacy of woven patterns. It opened Solar up to a new art medium.
Solar submitted a photo of a work called the “Pleated Vessel” to the Niche Magazine-run competition. The structure weighs 10 pounds, Solar noted. The Niche winners were announced at the 2014 Buyers Market of American Craft exhibition, which took place in Philadelphia from Jan. 18 to 21.
Solar hopes the win will introduce her work to the American market. Residents south of the border seem more willing to pay for artwork they like, she noted, adding the country also boasts a population 10 times that of Canada's.
Social media has played a role in exposing her work, Solar said. Last summer, a buyer in Charlotte, N.C., who saw Solar's art on Pinterest, contacted her.
“I started looking at Pinterest and I discovered I was all over it,” she said, noting that finding out she won the Niche award on the site was kind of serendipitous.