Celebrated Quilter Ana Paula Brasil Opens New Westfort Studio
Story by Amy Sellors, Photo by Shannon Lepere
Ana Paula Brasil has fallen in love with Thunder Bay, which is wonderfully good fortune for Thunder Bay. Born in Brazil, she is a celebrated textile artist, fabric designer, and quilter who has exhibited her work worldwide.
On June 9, Brasil opened her studio in the heart of Westfort Village, providing a showcase for her fabrics, her quilts, and her expertise. Her studio is part classroom, part store, part workshop, and part gallery. Filled with fabric, sewing machines of all sizes, pattern books, paint, and yarn, it’s designed by a woman who loves to be busy. She always has sewing, quilting, and yarn projects on the go. “I always have to do something with my hands. Crocheting is the first thing my grandma taught me when I was five,” she says.
While running smoothly now, the launch of her new studio didn’t quite go to plan. Brasil signed her lease in November 2022, but before she could move in, the pipes froze and caused extensive damage. On opening day at noon, the contractors were still working, but at 7 pm, her studio celebrated its grand opening. Through it all, Brasil remained undaunted, knowing that “finally, I found my place in the world.”
“Everything I learned about sewing, my grandma taught me,” says Brasil. And while her work is certainly inspired by lessons from her grandmother, her pieces are modern and unexpected. “Every day I create something amazing. Every day I wake up and paint the world,” she says. An art lover as much as an artist, Brasil is inspired by the great painters of the world. She takes the painting techniques she sees on the canvas and translates them to fabric, ultimately inventing her own. To date, she has 11 personal techniques that she uses and teaches, allowing her to work faster and create more in less time.
One of the reasons Brasil’s quilts are so unique is the colours. They’re bold, they’re saturated, they stand out. Not able to find what she needed in stores, she began designing her own fabrics, and the process is quite remarkable. Each fabric is part of a collection, and each collection starts with a portrait of a person who inspires her. She paints the face in watercolour to create the design, then repaints the image in acrylic to create a richer colour palate. She uses professional-quality Copic markers to cement the colours, and then transfers the work to her computer. From the original image, she builds a collection of prints and solids that all work together, which means when she and her students create quilts, they’re not wasting time matching fabric swatches. They have everything they need to start quilting. She even has matching thread.
Brasil’s studio is as much a workspace as a gallery. With her degree in fine arts, she has traveled the world, teaching and creating, and her personal stock of fabrics are imbued with memories of her travels. “I remember when I went to China, when I went to England. My scraps talk about my quilt history,” she says. Her creations are incredibly personal. “When we work, your brain never knows the difference between what you have in your hands, the machine or the pencil, the machine or the brush, the machine or the ink. Your brain creates something,” she says. “The tool you use is not important.”
The other side of the studio is part store and part classroom. She teaches adults and children both in person and online. She particularly loves teaching kids as it reminds her of all the lessons her grandma taught her, and she recognizes the value of learning crafting techniques at a young age. Along with her studio, she’s established a booth upstairs at the Thunder Bay Country Market to showcase her work and to sell bags, totes, and aprons made with her signature fabrics.
While Brasil has shown her quilts in exhibitions all over the world, she’s never had space to show her work like this before, outside of an exhibition on permanent display. Brasil’s quilts are a testament to finding your own way. Her fabrics and techniques can help you create a quilt that’s exactly to your taste. Her machines, her books, and her expertise are all in her studio to help inspire, educate, and create.
Brasil feels so warmly welcomed by the quilting community and Westfort, and she’s eager to share her artistry with us all. Moving to Thunder Bay has been an “amazing opportunity to organize my life and see everything properly,” she says. “I feel blessed.”
To learn more, visit canadapaulabrasil.ca or find Brasil at her studio at 136 Frederica Street West, or the Thunder Bay Country Market.