isabella francesco


From designing and constructing dolls' clothes (with a stapler) at an early age to working with a theatrical costumier in London, England after high school and with a furniture maker in the Ottawa Valley during my back-to-the-land years, I have always been involved with making things.

My parents were both makers. My father was a self-employed architect who, when I was 11, designed the house that we eventually moved into. He was also the building contractor so every weekend the kids went with him to the site to clean up. There we witnessed the miracle of a beautiful ultra-modern structure coming into being. I sometimes see my work, even my drawings, as constructions. They have a quality of being assembled piece by piece.

And my mother was a seamstress par excellence. When we were small, my darling mother remade winter coats and hats for my brother and me from her outdated good quality wool garments. Apparently, my rework ethic is in the blood. 

I come from a multi-generational sewing tradition. I have come to understand that the genesis of my allure with pattern and repetition has been influenced by a familial preoccupation with woven and printed fabrics – a twill or hound's tooth or herringbone weave, and later, the geometric and op art printed designs of the 60s. My mother and I spent many long afternoons exploring the vast fabric department at Simpsons in Toronto.

For eight years after graduating from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1993, I taught sculpture at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre and in the North York Board of Education's Summer Studio program. In teaching, the most interesting and also the most challenging idea to impart is that we don't know what a piece of art will look like when it's finished. We only know that one step in the creative process informs the next and that the result is always a surprise.

Currently, I'm a Toronto-based mixed media artist working both two and three dimensionally. My art practice is idea-driven rather than focused on a particular genre or medium. The passage of time, the process of transformation and memory (personal, collective and geologic) are recurring and interrelated themes that energize my creative inquiry. My approach is often playful, toying with representation and subverting scale. Recently, 'vintage' designs from the 60s have found their way into the work. These iconic designs are familiar and a natural fit – hailing from a very transformative period in relatively recent history when art, design and culture all underwent a dramatic metamorphosis. As did I.

My artwork has been shown in several galleries in Toronto including York Quay, A Space, Papermill, Propeller, John B. Aird, Leslie Grove and in the Bridgepoint Health Corporate Installation. At the American Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose, California I exhibited an 8 x 6 foot sculptural paper quilt. I have participated in The Artist Project, Riverdale Art Walk (RAW) and Art Walk North.