For abstract artist Janna Watson (37), the canvas is not the only four-cornered creative outlet, her abstract art flows freely into the interiors of her studio and weaves itself into her hand-tufted textiles, transforming the interior space as well as the meaning and use of different media, namely paint and textiles. Studio Watson is definitely a multimedia arena for Watson’s creative expression to dance freely, but redefining interiors in this way means so much more, but first, who is the woman, not only in front of the canvas, but inside the studio?
Janna Watson: Abstract, Textile and Cat Lady
Apart from having a crazy love for cats, Janna Watson is a Canadian artist and more than just a ‘lady’, as one might call her. Rather, she runs wild, as a woman, between the colours of her brush strokes and the realness and unreality of her fluid compositions. Holding an Honours Degree in Drawing and Painting from the Ontario College of Art and Design, Watson has exhibited across Canada and the world.
She has over thirty solo exhibitions, over thirty group exhibitions, and sixteen collections, and counting, under her name. Some of her collections have adorned spaces, well-known to thousands, like TD Bank, Microsoft, CIBC, Hudson Bay NYC, Nordstrom, the Ritz-Carlton, Telus, ONi ONE, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the Soho Metropolitan Hotel. Among these, her notable 11-foot painting was commissioned in 2013 for AURA, the tallest residential building in Canada.
Studio Watson’s vision is solidified by decades of combined experience from Janna and the legacy her grandfather, Arthur Bonnett, left. As an abstract and landscape painter with a fondness of using unusual colours, he also designed and hand hooked rugs. Borrowing from her grandfather’s rich palette of experience, Janna has run Studio Watson for 8 years, it houses four growing collections, which are created in-house or through collaborations.
Studio Watson creates hand-tufted floor pieces, all inspired by Watson’s abstract compositions and carefully crafted by weavers in India, who work with the traditional hand-knotting techniques. Watson’s close connections with weavers in India give her rugs a deeper level of authenticity. After trying different weaving mills in India, she eventually found Ifrah Ansari who took over her grandfather’s mill and now produces high-quality rugs.
Currently, Janna completed a rug for the lobby in the Drake Hotel in Toronto, hand-tufted for her by Ifrah Ansari, additionally, Watson completed a hand-knotted rug, also manufactured by Ansari, based on one of her paintings, which will be displayed in the Oxford boardroom of the Hyatt Hotel in Toronto.
Janna’s rugs become her canvas for her abstract art, this is evident when going through the shop on the Studio Watson website. Onlookers will get a taste of colours seemingly haphazardly woven into the rugs, almost like paint strokes on a canvas, but in reality, each weave is purposefully woven, in honour of revealing the colour’s own life, twists, and turns. This is reminiscent of Watson’s connection to her grandfather, she explains how he ‘put the most unusual colours together and his own sense of wildness and uniqueness is something I am inspired by’.
Watson’s rugs also appear wrapped around cat scratchers, a creative design ‘baby’, born from the loss of her own cat, Baby. The studio creates various cat condo pieces, mixing aesthetics with practicality, giving cats a uniquely-designed (scratch) pad of their own. Watson outsources textiles and uses local fabricators to use non-toxic and cat-friendly materials to build the cat condos. Whether it’s a Goth Cat Scratcher or Zen Cat Scratcher, or something else, Studio Watson can design custom orders with prices ranging between $450 to $5,000 depending on the intricacy of the design and, undoubtedly, the needs of the cat.
Currently, Janna Watson has a solo exhibition called ‘Finding Joy’, inspired by the wild spirit of her niece, Joy. It’s held at the Bau-Xi Gallery in Vancouver, running from January 9 to 23. Additionally, Watson was recently commissioned to create an art piece for ASPAC Developments, a property developer based in Vancouver. Watson’s exhibition lineup, current and past collections can be viewed on her website, as well as on Facebook and Instagram (@jannawww).