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Born in Montreal, Robert Pauly is a maker and collector of art and objects. He studied Fine Arts and Theatre at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) before making his home in Clayton, Ontario with jewellery maker Barbara Mullally.
Since 1960 he has created sculptural works, jewellery and wearable art using a myriad of materials and techniques. Eclectic is an apt description of Robert’s approach to art making: he’s an experimenter driven by curiosity, the desire to design and make things by hand – with a healthy mix of respect for tradition and irreverence for the status quo.
Robert’s studio in Clayton is an emporium of delights: boxes and boxes of vintage fabrics and millinery notions, cocktail hats and boustiers, collections of jewellery, beads, stones and pottery. Not to mention a vestibule with all four walls completely patterned in colourful buttons.
His interest in fabrics (especially vintage) lead him to the world of fashion. In his own words:
“I’ve always had an interest in fashion: as a costume designer, a sculptor, a jeweller. I love the exuberant creations that grace the fashion world runways at times: Galliano, McQueen, Westwood. I love to see the hats that accompany the dresses, hovering between fashion and sculpture.”
Pauly has become well-known for his hat designs (fascinators, cocktail hats, etc.) many of which are custom-made for individual buyers. Milliners are rare in Canada and he has studied with some of the best to learn this unique craft.
He has simultaneously been mastering quilt making processes, drawing inspiration from the rarely shown, one-of-a-kind quilts that women usually made just for themselves. Quilting of course has a long and important history in women’s work. Beyond the practicality of sewing cast-off scraps of fabrics into bed covers and wall hangings, quilting was usually as a group activity. This gave women a safe place to gather, connect, be creative and tell their stories through quilt making.
Pauly’s approach is playful and shows no fear of using vibrant colours. With vintage and new fabrics, he alters patterns with unusually beautiful results, such as his ‘postage stamp’ quilts which require sewing together thousands of one-inch fabric squares – to dazzling visual effect. Some follow traditional ideas of quilting (Farm Quilt and 9-Patch) while others feature rows of colourful stripes that are akin to colour field paintings. All are interestingly contrasted by machine sewn top-stitching in organic and geometric patterns.
His extensive knowledge of historical work and techniques plays beautifully with modernist ideas, making Robert Pauly’s quilts truly contemporary artistic expressions.
“I have been a practicing and exhibiting artist since 1960, focussing primarily on sculpture and assemblage. My combined love of sculpture and fashion led me to want to work with fabrics, feathers and decorative elements, so I began making hats and art quilts.
Originally from Montréal, I studied Fine Arts and Theatre at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia). I learned millinery at Sir Sanford Fleming College’s Haliburton School of the Arts and through Karyn Gingras, owner of Lilliput Hats. I live and work in Clayton, Ontario with jewellery maker Barbara Mullally.”