Sola Fiedler’s creations are 100 percent recycled, handmade and heartfelt
By Rachaela Van Borek // Photos by KK Law
Vancouverite and 78-year-old knitter extraordinaire Sola Fiedler has spent the past 30 years creating huge tapestry cityscapes of several Olympic Games hosts. Every bridge, tree and building is pulled from Fielder’s memory.
All of her creations are made from unravelled second-hand sweaters. During the 20-minute SkyTrain ride home from Value Village – her favourite source for used garments to unravel – Fiedler can take apart an entire sweater or scarf. The feel of hand-spun wool fuels her fervour: “I’m so excited I can hardly wait to get home and get the knitting needles out.”
Her Main Street studio is filled with racks of thrift-store teasers and meticulously organized scraps. Her very last city portrait, of Vancouver just before the 2010 Winter Games, takes up most of the wall where it leans.
Fiedler’s first tapestry also depicted Vancouver, in 1984. While admiring the view from her dentist’s 19th-floor office, she realized that the expo 86 World’s Fair was about to change Vancouver’s skyline forever, and somebody ought to capture it. “I thought, well, I’ll paint a picture with yarn.”
The artist began depicting Olympic hosts when she heard of a visitor’s struggle to find accessible souvenir artwork while in Los Angeles for their Summer Games. She went on to portray Atlanta; Sydney, Australia; and Salt Lake City. Fiedler moved to each place early and usually stayed for a couple of years.
Growing up in London during WWII, Fiedler learned to make her own clothes and recycle out of necessity. On impulse, she relocated from Toronto to Vancouver in 1971. She and her daughter were moving to Japan when their first connecting plane landed in Vancouver. One look at the North Shore Mountains, and Fiedler cancelled their next flight. She’s called this city home ever since: “I think it’s the most beautiful city in Canada… There is a huge sense of creativity here.”
Though Fiedler’s tapestries can’t fit into a suitcase, travellers can find her playful one-of-a-kind headbands, hats, sweaters and accessories at Dream Apparel (page 18) and Ayden Gallery (page 52). Or catch Fiedler in person at the Nifty for Fifty sale (Apr. 6: page 14).