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.


Artist-Presenter Collaboration Project Grant, Ontario Arts Council 2022
Dorothy McMurdie Founders Award, CQA National Juried Show 2019
First Prize Landscape, CQA National Juried Show 2019
Award of Excellence for Threadwork, Grand National 2019
Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts Award, Art Quilt Elements 2016
Exhibition Assistance Grant, Ontario Arts Council 2015 2008
Award of Excellence in Craftsmanship, Carnegie Craft 2015
Mary Diamond Butts Scholarship in Embroidery and Needlecraft, Craft Ontario
Viewers Choice Award, Fibre Content 2014
Excellence for Original Design Realistic Pictorial Wall Quilts, CQA National
Juried Show 2014
Fiber: Art Quilts Award, Niche Awards 2014
Viewers Choice Award, Threadworks 2013
Free-motion Machine Stitching Award, Threadworks 2013
Award of Merit for Outstanding Technique & Realism, Grand National 2013
Fiber: Surface Design Award, Niche Awards 2013
Janome Award of Excellence, Grand National 2011
Mardi Neu Award, Fibreworks 2010
Original Design Award, Embroiderer’s Association of Canada 2009
Founders Award, York Heritage Quilters Guild 2007

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

Escarpment Encounters, Roberts Gallery, Toronto 2022
At Risk, Orillia Museum of Art & History, Orillia 2020
Small Things Matter, David Kaye Gallery, Toronto 2018
Oh Canada!, David Kaye Gallery, Toronto 2017
One Stitch at a Time, Homer Watson House & Gallery, Kitchener 2017
Change Enables Growth, David Kaye Gallery, Toronto 2016
Quilt & Fibre Art Festival, St. Jacobs 2014
Glen Huron Stitches, David Kaye Gallery, Toronto 2013
Inspirations in Textile, Yorkminster Park Gallery, Toronto 2010
Modern Stumpwork, Mad & Noisy Gallery, Creemore 2009
Texture and Light, Mad & Noisy Gallery, Creemore 2007

Group Exhibitions

Artists Choice, Roberts Gallery, Toronto 2020 - present
Spring, Roberts Gallery, Toronto 2020
Art Toronto, Roberts Gallery, Toronto 2019
Carnegie Craft RetroACTIVE, Carnegie Gallery, Dundas 2019
The Labour of Art, Orillia Museum of Art & History, Orillia 2018
Insights Incite, First Canadian Place Gallery, Toronto 2018
Collected Threads, St. Jacobs Quilt & Fibre Art Festival, Kitchener 2018
Best Stitch Forward, Homer Watson House & Gallery, Kitchener 2018
The Artist Project, Exhibition Place, Toronto 2017
CQA Invitational 2016 2012
25 th Anniversary Show, Studio Art Quilt Associates, Washington, DC 2014
Higher Ground, Guelph Civic Museum, Guelph 2013
YPG Retrospective, Yorkminster Park Gallery, Toronto 2012
Fibre Optix, Orillia Museum and Art Gallery, Orillia 2011
Pentimento, Salmon Arm Gallery of Art, Salmon Arm 2011
Locavore, Mad & Noisy Gallery, Creemore 2010
Summer Group Show, Fran Hill Gallery, Toronto 2009
Treemore, Mad & Noisy Gallery, Creemore 2009

Juried Exhibitions

Mésure/Démesure, Musée Jean Lurçat, Angers, France 2021
CQA National Juried Show 2019 2015 2014 2008
Grand National 2019 2015 2013 2011 2010
Fibre Content, Art Gallery of Burlington 2018 2016 2014 2012
Ontario Society of Artists 145 th Annual, John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto 2018
Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition, Orillia Museum of Art & History
Art Quilt Elements, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA 2016
Carnegie Craft, Carnegie Gallery, Dundas 2015
Fantastic Fibers, Yeiser Art Center, Paducah, KY 2015
Niche Awards, Philadelphia, PA 2014 2013
Threadworks, Wellington Country Museum & Archives, Fergus 2013 2010
Carded, Cambridge Galleries Design at Riverside, Cambridge 2013
Convergence, Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound 2012
Ontario Craft, Ontario Crafts Council, Toronto 2011 2009
Fibreworks, Cambridge Galleries, Cambridge 2010
Bend, Fold, Manipulate, ACA Gallery, Toronto 2008


National Quilt Museum, Paducah, KY, USA