Work & Bio

Tracey Lawko

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Drawn with Thread

I create realistic landscapes and sculpted still-life in thread. These finely-stitched and richly-textured artworks interpret the natural world around my studio in the hills of the Niagara Escarpment. Themes of change, resilience and life-cycles permeate throughout.

For my landscapes, my process is detailed and painterly. Starting with a simple drawing, I lay out my composition in collaged fabric. I then free-motion machine stitch with a longarm sewing machine, layering 30-50 different colours of thread until the base fabrics essentially disappear and a complex tapestry results. This is non-computerized, hand-guided drawing.

My still-lifes are high-relief sculptures celebrating beauty in the ordinary. Each element (leaf, stem, petal, bark, etc.) is created individually, shaped by hand and appliqued to a background. My innovative technique combines modern tools with traditional hand embroidery that has its roots in the 16th century raised-embroidery technique known as “stumpwork”.

For my installation “Change Enables Growth,” I use the life-cycle of trees as a metaphor for the stages of change: status quo, change event, transition and renewal. I have created large works utilising different textile techniques to correspond to each stage.

In the “Oh Canada!” series, I use the maple leaf to explore our sense of Canada and the internal and external forces affecting us. Thirteen individually stitched, life-size maple leaves represent the ten provinces and three territories of our country and reflect the diversity of our people.

My current body of work, a series of nature studies focusing on the importance of pollinating insects, combines detailed free-motion machine stitching with hand-embroidery and stumpwork techniques.

I’m often asked: “why choose textile as a medium?” I have been embroidering and drawing since childhood and my work is an extension of those early passions. I love the depth and rich texture that can be achieved with textiles.

I’m also asked: “how long does it take?” The simple answer is a long time. I am working with a single sewing thread, sometimes by hand and other times by machine. While my longarm is large and intimidating to some, it isn’t automated in any way. It requires a steady, practiced hand to guide as well as many hours to layer the stitches to achieve my desired result. Thus, these works are all created “one stitch at a time.”

My artwork has been juried into many North American exhibitions and has been recognized with numerous awards. It is held in the permanent collection of the US National Quilt Museum and in private collections in North America and Europe.


2019 Dorothy McMurdie Founders Award, National Juried Show, Quilt Canada
- First Prize Art – Landscape, National Juried Show, Quilt Canada
2016 Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts Award, Art Quilt Elements
2015 Exhibition Assistance Grant, Ontario Arts Council
- Award of Excellence in Craftsmanship, Carnegie Craft 2015
- Excellence in Longarm/Midarm Quilting, National Juried Show, Quilt Canada
2014 Mary Diamond Butts Scholarship in Embroidery and Needlecraft, Craft Ontario
- Viewers Choice Award, Fibre Content
- Excellence for Original Design Realistic Pictorial Wall Quilts, National Juried Show, Quilt Canada
- Fiber: Art Quilts Award, Niche Awards, Buyers Market of American Craft
2013 Viewers Choice Award, Water, Threadworks
- Free-motion Machine Stitching Award, Water, Threadworks
- Award of Merit for Outstanding Technique & Realism, Local Colour, Grand National Quilt Show
- Fiber: Surface Design Award, Niche Awards, Buyers Market of American Craft
2011 Janome Award of Excellence, Balancing Act, Grand National Quilt Show
2010 Mardi Neu Award, Fibreworks
2009 Original Design Award, Embroiderer’s Association of Canada
- Toronto Guild of Stitchery Education Grant
2008 Exhibition Assistance Grant, Ontario Arts Council
2007 Founders Award, York Heritage Quilters Guild, Toronto

Professional Activities

Professional Affiliations:

- Chair, Canadian Regional Juried Exhibition, Studio Art Quilt Associates
- Juried Artist Member, Studio Art Quilt Associates
- CQA/ACC Certified Quilt Judge


2019 “Artist in Residence: Tracey Lawko”. In the Hills Magazine. Vol 26, No. 1, Spring 2019. Photos p. 21. Print.
- “Purple Sensation”. “SAQA Member Gallery: ‘Purple Delight”. SAQA Journal, 2019 Volume 29, No.1. Photo p.23. Print.
2018 “Fritillary and Thistle”, Art Quilt Quarterly, Issue No. 13, 2018. Photo p. 64.
2017 “Change Enables Growth”. Art Quilt Quarterly, Issue No. 9, 2017. Photo p. 67. Print.
- “Spring Nectar”. “SAQA Member Gallery: ‘Tis a Curiosity”. SAQA Journal, 2017 Volume 27, No.3. Photo p.29. Print.
2016 “Tulips in My Garden”. Portfolio 23: The Art Quilt Sourcebook, Studio Art Quilt Associates, 2016. Photo p. 134. Print.
- “Art: Tracey Lawko”, Toronto Life, March 2016, p. 100. Print.
2015 “Spring Thaw”. Portfolio 22: The Art Quilt Sourcebook, Studio Art Quilt Associates, 2015. Photo p.130. Print.
2014 “Left Turn.” InTouch Magazine, Ivey Business School. Summer 2014. p. 10. Print.
- Beacroft, Carolyn. “Portrait of a Textile Artist: Tracey Lawko winner EAC Original Design Award 2009.” Embroidery Canada. Spring 2014. pp. 24-27. Print.
- “Windswept Snow”. Canadian Quilter, Winter 2014. Cover photo and p. 34. Print.

Solo Exhibitions

2018 Small Things Matter, David Kaye Gallery, Toronto, ON
2017 Oh Canada!, David Kaye Gallery, Toronto, ON
- One Stitch at a Time, Homer Watson House & Gallery, Kitchener, ON
2016 Change Enables Growth, David Kaye Gallery, Toronto, ON
2014 Guest Artist, Quilt & Fibre Art Festival, St. Jacobs, ON
2013 Glen Huron Stitches, David Kaye Gallery, Toronto, ON
2010 Inspirations in Textile, Yorkminster Park Gallery, Toronto, ON
2009 Modern Stumpwork, Mad & Noisy Gallery, Creemore, ON
2007 Texture and Light, Mad & Noisy Gallery, Creemore, ON

Group Exhibitions

2021. Artists Choice, Roberts Gallery, Toronto, ON
2020 Spring, Roberts Gallery, Toronto, ON
Artists Choice, Roberts Gallery, Toronto, ON
2019 Carnegie Craft RetroACTIVE, Carnegie Gallery, Dundas, ON
Art Toronto, Roberts Gallery, Toronto, ON
2018 The Labour of Art, Orillia Museum of Art & History, Orillia, ON
- Insights Incite, First Canadian Place Gallery, Toronto, ON
- Great Canadian Art Auction, University Club of Toronto, Toronto, ON
- Collected Threads, St. Jacobs Quilt & Fibre Art Festival, Kitchener, ON
- Best Stitch Forward: a retrospective of award winning quilts, Homer Watson House & Gallery, Kitchener, ON
2017 The Artist Project, Exhibition Place, Toronto, ON
2016 CQA/ACC Invitational, Quilt Canada, Mississauga, ON
2015 It’s Time for Colour, CQA Invitational, Lethbridge, AB & across Canada
- Creating Futures, City of Waterloo Museum, Waterloo, ON
2014 25th Anniversary Show, Studio Art Quilt Associates, Washington, DC
2013 Higher Ground, Guelph Civic Museum, Guelph, ON
2012 YPG Retrospective, Yorkminster Park Gallery, Toronto, ON
- CQA/ACC Invitational, Quilt Canada, Halifax, NS
2011 Fibre Optix, Orillia Museum and Art Gallery, Orillia, ON
- Pentimento, Salmon Arm Gallery of Art, Salmon Arm, BC
- Great Canadian Art Auction, the University Club of Toronto, Toronto, ON
2010 Locavore, Mad & Noisy Gallery, Creemore, ON
2009 Summer Group Show, Fran Hill Gallery, Toronto, ON


Permanent Collections:

National Quilt Museum, Paducah, KY, USA