Textile artist, the late Jeanette Shanks, né Jinny, lived and breathed her art, wanting to inspire others to try to make sense of the world through nature, as had been her own path. An adventurer— over time, hiking the challenging 430 miles of the Bruce Trail end-to-end gathering inspiration, she jotted endless notes and sketches of her findings. Keenly observing nature’s perfection, she then imported its essence into her own unique work— dyeing, spinning, weaving, silk-screening and quilting them onto the surfaces of her many creations.
Her early beginnings were as a vivacious school teacher, one who traded her primary vocation as did many young women of the era, for being the staunch supporter of the artistic leanings of her sculptor/wood-worker husband, Dr. Howard Shanks, his thriving orthodontic practice, and busy post-WW2 life in general. She was a devoted mother to their two children, Katherine and Peter, and the couple instilled a deep love of art, and art-making in their offspring.
Jinny became a serious artist later in life, although when her children were small, she spent years dabbling in night-school oil painting classes taught by the accomplished William (Bill) Withrow. As her own artistry unfolded, interestingly, Jinny and her son, Peter, both graduated from Sheridan College School of Crafts and Design in the same year, 1977. Further to this, she went on to attend the Ontario College of Art (OCA), in the Department of Design, graduating in 1983. She directed her focus toward textile design, where she began exploring print-making techniques, first on paper; then on fabric— later painting with French dyes on silk, and then quilting her work— sometimes embellishing it with her signature beadwork.
She flourished as an artist, a fund-raiser, and someone who inspired appreciation for the arts in general. She also sat on OCA’s Alumni Association Council for many years, and was in addition, an Out-of-Province Representative on Surfacing’s Board of Directors for a time. World travel was an intrinsic part of Shanks’ life and informed the colour, texture, energy, creativity, enthusiasm, versatility and sheer delight that was her work. She was a formidable “Artist in School” instructor, always leaping at the opportunity to teach. She occasionally collaborated with her creatively resourceful husband, Howard, and her work was exhibited nationally and internationally. She received commissions for public and private buildings, including Rideau Hall, official home of the Governor General of Canada.
In her dedication to promoting and encouraging the arts, and preserving craft in her community, Jinny spearheaded a fundraising campaign for the planned expansion of the Georgina Public Library, Sutton, so that it would include a gallery. She then served as its volunteer curator. For 10 years she also provided an annual bursary to assist students from Sutton District High School to advance their studies in the arts while attending the Haliburton School of Art and Design Summer Art Program.
Established by the family as a memorial, this award recognizes excellence in contemporary textile design and is open to artists at all career levels. It embodies both the notion of artistic innovation and the necessity for continued preservation of the natural world. It is awarded annually to provide funds for fibre artists to pursue further self-directed study.
The Craft Awards program is able to take place on an annual basis through the valued support of many generous donors and sponsors. Our thanks go to the following organizations, businesses and individuals: FUSION: the Ontario Clay and Glass Association, Gladstone House, JJStudio, Lacy West Supplies. Ltd., Leisa Rich and the Contemporary Textile Studio Co-op, The Pottery Supply House, Tuckers Pottery Supplies Ltd., as well as members and friends of the Copeland, Corcoran, Gregor, Mather, Mayhall, McPherson, Shanks, Walker and Yung families.