78-year-old woman spends 5,000 hours making Vancouver quilt to honour city’s Olympic legacy

By Ian Austin, The Province

Sola Fiedler’s feat takes on Olympic proportions.

The gregarious 78-year-old spent 5,000 hours weaving Vancouver Tapestry, a loving 12×6-foot tribute to the city to honour its Olympic legacy.

Fiedler has a habit of honouring Olympic locales, weaving her way to lasting portraits of Salt Lake City and Sydney before turning her talents to the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Now the fruit of her labours will be on display at Vancouver’s grunt gallery, to coincide with the artist-run gallery’s 30th anniversary.

For Fiedler, her artistry is a spiritual gift to the city and its citizens.

“I see people who really have an emotional connection to the tapestry,” Fiedler says in a video about the making of the tapestry, available at her website, www.solafiedler.com.

“I think the tapestry belongs to them — it belongs to the city.”

Fiedler goes to old-school lengths when preparing her portraits.

Fiedler likes to get up close and personal with her subjects — she makes an excursion to each building to capture its colours and personality before weaving her magic.

“Each building is a separate little portrait, and it all comes together.”

From her humble beginnings, Fiedler went to thrift stores and unravelled sweaters so she could afford the thread and yarn she needed for her creations.

She continues that practice to this day because of the variety of materials, searching the racks to get just the right colour and texture to capture each feature in her creation.

Stanley Park, in this tapestry, is actually a repurposed Chenille sweater, dark green of course.

Though it’s time-consuming in the extreme — Vancouver Tapestry was begun in August 2009 in the run-up to Vancouver’s Olympics, and there have been two more Olympic Games while she completed her task — she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love what I do,” she says with a smile. “I’d rather do this than anything else.”

Fiedler’s tapestry will be unveiled at an opening reception Thursday evening and will be displayed Friday and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. (350 E. 2nd Ave.)

Fiedler will give an artist’s talk at the gallery Saturday at 1 p.m.