Connie Jefferess

Other Names: Constance Mary Jefferess

“There is unlimited scope for the imagination in textile design. I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that freedom of artistic expression need not be sacrificed because the object of the exercise is a functional piece … “
– Connie Jefferess (Exhibition catalogue for Connie Jefferess: Silent Companions and other Recent Fibre Works, McIntosh Gallery, 1977)

Born in London, Ontario, Connie Jefferess graduated from South Secondary School before spending two years studying art at H. B. Beal Secondary School, where local artist Herb Ariss was one of her teachers. Over the years, in addition to painting and pottery, she studied fabric printing and stitchery at Sheridan College in the 1950s, stitchery at a workshop at Western University affiliate Brescia College (now Brescia University College) in the 1970s, and weaving with the Ontario Handweavers Guild and at the Varpapuu Summer Weaving School in Finland, as well as with instructors in Oakville, Ontario and Somerset, England.

Following her time at H. B. Beal, Jefferess worked initially in advertising, first at Simpson’s department store in London, Ontario and then at the store’s main office in Toronto, before moving to Washington, D.C. to work at department store Heck Co. from 1956 to 1958.

Once again in Toronto, Jefferess spent four more years at Simpson’s before she decided to quit advertising and pursue teaching art, attending the Ontario College of Education. She illustrated children’s books for schools to secure the funds to do so. Connie Jefferess would return to London and teach art at H. B. Beal Secondary School for 24 years, for a time directing the school’s Textile Design department.

In the early 1970s Connie Jefferess and her sister Diane Robinson along with their team of weavers created two large tapestries for London’s St. James Westminster Anglican Church in recognition of its 100th anniversary. Her interest in stitchery also led her to create a cope (a type of vestment) for the church’s canon. Jefferess would continue to create and embroider religious vestments for Southwestern Ontario churches even after her retirement.

In 1974, Jefferess was among 10 London artists that received commissions to create artwork for the new London courthouse and registry office, chosen by a committee including representatives of the London Art Gallery (Gallery curator and local artist Paddy Gunn O’Brien) and the Ontario Arts Council. Jefferess’ contribution was a large wall hanging for the main floor of the new building.


Biography by Natalka Duncan and Luvneet K. Rana

 

SOURCES

Connie Jefferess: Silent Companions and other Recent Fibre Works. London, Ontario: McIntosh Gallery, Western University, 1977.  Exhibition catalogue.

“Constance Mary Jefferess.”  The Globe and Mail, January 20, 2018.
https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/theglobeandmail/obituary.aspx?n=constance-mary-jefferess&pid=190007131.

Crawford, Lenore. “Artist with a sewing-machine.” The London Free Press, July 8, 1975.

Hawrish, Mary-Beth. “Six-foot tapestries kept ‘em in stitches.” The London Free Press, October 6, 1973.

Hutchison, George. “Courthouse to feature London artists’ work.” The London Free Press,  May 29, 1974.

Poole, Nancy Geddes. The Art of London, 1830-1980. London, Ontario: Blackpool Press, 1984.

See also:
Margot Ariss; Daisy Bailey; Lynn Donoghue; kerry ferris; Jamelie Hassan;
Paddy Gunn O’BrienBernice Vincent

Timeline Entries:
1969
London, Ontario: London S.W.17 at the Rothman Gallery, Stratford, Ontario
1975
London, Ontario: London Holds its First Exhibition to Feature Only Work by Women Artists

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McIntosh Gallery, Red Doors (Thumbnail)

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