Kaleigh Woodard’s parents have a picture of her, marker in hand, after just drawing all over one of the walls in the family home. She was about three at the time.
“I’ve always been into making things,” she says. “Tangible things that you have in your hands. I was constantly doing something creative from a pretty young age.”
Now 22, Woodard is an up-and-coming textile artist with a bachelor of fine arts from NSCAD.
In high school she sunk her creativity into art. In Grade 10, she took her first art class. In grades 11 and 12, she moved into classes in advanced art, and learned everything she could about art and design.
She credits Anna Whalen, her fine-arts teacher, with helping her decide where to study after high school. “She is such a role model for me,” Woodard says. “She’s probably the main reason … I ended up going to NSCAD.”
Whalen says Woodard says Woodard had an innate interest in art from her first class, and often worked on projects outside school hours. “Her commitment was beyond being a great student,” Whalen says. “She was a great maker.”
Whalen says her goal is to teach her students about various forms of art, including what she calls the “making and thinking” of art. Woodard took up that goal quickly. “She was one of those students,” Whalen says. “She loved to think.”
Whalen says Woodard even came back after graduation to help with a window project at the new building of CP Allen.
Woodard started at NSCAD in September 2012 in its foundation program, which had her taking a range of art classes. In her second year, she decided to sign up for screen-printing. But when she got to the classroom, the space and its equipment didn’t look familiar. Then she realized she signed up for a textile printing class. But she says that first class was “cool,” and she found a quick love for textiles.
“I absolutely loved it,” she says. “That accidental class kind of paved the rest of my way at NSCAD.”
Woodard says she loves the versatility of textile art. “You can hang it in your house,” she says. “You can make it into a pillow. You can do clothing. It felt like it had more places it could go. That was exciting to me, the possibilities.”
Woodard says the East Coast inspires her particularly its oceans and nature, including that at her family’s cottage.
But she also loves Halifax’s architecture, including big structures such as the Nova Scotia Centre.
“I love really geographic, clean-cut designs,” she says. “I think my work, when you look at it, it really has a very architectural feel.
In February 2015, Woodard and fellow NSCAD textile student, Anna Heywood-Jones, won the G&S Dye and Accessories award for their textile work. G&S Dye and Accessories is a Toronto-based company that distributes textile supplies.
In March at Epoch, a runway show for the senior students at NSCAD, Woodard showed off designs inspired by photos she took of ice washing up on an ocean shore.
Whalen came to see Woodard’s work at her solo show, Transposed, in Time, at the Anna Leonowens Gallery.
Woodard spent the last four months of 2016 in New York City taking classes in digital design, including Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as a class in the history of textiles. Like Halifax, that city inspires her, too. She calls her time there a great couple of months.
“Everything is always moving,” she says. “They aren’t lying when they say this city never sleeps. It’s been amazing.”
As far as the future, Woodard says she will spend more time in Halifax, freelancing, honing her hand-printing and digital-design skills. She says she’d like to sell some of her work at local craft fairs and research if there are shops in the city that would like to sell digitally printed fabrics.
“At this point, I feel like I need to spend at least a year finding out what makes me happy,” she says.
Whalen says she’s not surprised that Woodard is already exploring art in other cities such as New York. “I don’t think she will stay in one place,” Whalen says.
“I’d love to see her doing something quite specialized and she gets paid really well,” Whalen says. “I trust that will be looking for her, too.”