June 20, 2017 7:34 pm
Updated: June 22, 2017 9:22 am

Calgary artist embroiders epic work of art: ‘It’s been so much a part of my life’

WATCH: It's a work of art you have to see to appreciate. Meticulous vignettes were sewn into 220 feet of linen. Jill Croteau reports.


It’s an extraordinary work of art that’s been almost a decade in the making.

The “Black Gold Tapestry” is set to be unveiled at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum on Oct. 7, 2017.

Artist Sandra Sawatzky has been hand stitching a piece of linen that’s nearly two city blocks long.

“The idea is to find the end of the thread and just to begin that story and it would all come from there.”

Partial panel of “Black Gold Tapestry”

Jill Croteau

Sawatzky has been researching, sketching and tracing images for the last nine years. Over the past three years, she’s been doing the manual labour of the embroidery work.

“The last three years… my average number of hours sewn is 65 hours a week,” Sawatzky said. “I loved every moment of it, but I’m glad to be done. I have to admit, getting up at 5:15 in the morning and finishing at 10:15 at night…it would be nice to do something different.”

She’s woven a story beginning from the prehistoric age, depicting the history of oil.

“There’s a tapestry in Europe called Bayeux Tapestry. It’s 1,000 years old and 220-feet long and tells the history of the Battle of Hastings,” Sawatzky said. “People from all over the world come to see it. It’s marvelous. I thought: What if I did that? What could be the epic story? And eventually it came to me–oil is that story.”

One of 600 dinosaurs stitched into the linen

Jill Croteau

When she pitched the idea to the Glenbow Museum, they signed her on the spot, waiting patiently for the completed work.

Vice president of collections and exhibitions Melanie Kjorlien is anxiously anticipating the big reveal.

“It really it took our breath away,” Kjorlien said. “It’s this bigger human narrative of how we used fuels and how it’s changed society. But we also wanted to showcase what it represents in terms of creating a unique work of art.

“Until you see it, you really can’t believe how incredible it is.”

Museum staff have plenty of wall space, but will have to erect more walls just to accommodate the full piece.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error


Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.