Maureen LeBourdais is a mom, grandma, Cariboo Regional District area director and accomplished fibre artist.
Born in Toronto, Ont., she has called the Cariboo home for almost 50 years.
“A girlfriend and I came out for a summer vacation in the early 1970s,” she said. “The next year I returned to plant trees and stayed.”
Her resume includes working in community economic development and capacity building with organizations such as the BC Rural Network and Fraser Basin Council.
She was first elected to the CRD in 2019 as the director representing Area F which she has described has having six distinct communities.
LeBourdais shares her life with her husband Ray LeBourdais, who was originally from Quesnel.
They have lived on Beaver Valley Road for many years and have two grown sons – Matt and Jesse. Matt manages the Likely Xat’sull Community Forest and his wife Angie Delainey, also a CRD director, have two daughters – Emma and Ruby.
Jesse is a musician who recently began writing novels, publishing his first one Firelight in 2020. He lives in Vancouver with his partner Denise Cymbalist.
Recently Emma inherited her grandma’s sewing machine and LeBourdais said she can sew an outfit for herself in a day.
During the month of September, her first solo exhibit is on display in the Station House Gallery.
Titled Elementals, the show features her fibre art.
At the show’s opening held Thursday, Sept. 2, in the Station House parking lot, LeBourdais celebrated with her family and gallery members.
“Earth, air, fire and water – that was the original concept of elements that our world is made of,” LeBourdais said as she shared with the group about what inspired the exhibit.
“There was another element identified by Aristotle. It was called ether or quintessence, which really was the glue, the invisible spirit, that animates the other elements and holds the universe together.”
Historically, in the late 1890s when the world was taken with scientific methods, scientists did a series of research projects and determined that since they could not prove it existed, therefore the element of spirit or ether did not exist.
“But it is certainly in many cultures and in many of our minds we know that it does and just because we cannot prove it yet, does not mean it is not there.”
One of the pieces, titled In the Life of the Spirit, You Are Always at the Beginning, was the last one she created for the show. It is felted, woven, wet felted and needle felted.
“I was working on this as my mother-in-law Nancy, my husband’s mother, was passing away a couple of weeks ago.”
As she worked on the piece, she reflected on Nancy’s life, all the changes she had seen in her 96 years and the number of beginnings she had had in her life.
“She was always open to try something new and start a new path. She has certainly done that now. She passed away about a week and a half ago. I would like to dedicate that piece and even this exhibition to Nancy who is off on another new beginning.”
LeBourdais encouraged anyone who knew Nancy to think of her when viewing the piece.
Inside the gallery she talked about another piece, Terraforming,
“I’ve done a lot of woven tapestry over the time of scenery and nature and this on is looking underground a little bit. It is all hand-woven and most of it is also hand-spun.”
Classic weaving teachers tell students never mix different weights and types of wool into one tapestry, however, she said there is every type of wool one can imagine in Terraforming, from single-ply, triple-ply, lama, sheep wool.
“It had some tension challenges, but I am really pleased with how it turned out. I think it’s quite dramatic.”
As she pointed to the bottom of the piece and the colour red with gold-coloured coils rising to the surface she explained the intent is to depict that fire is at the core and what makes our Earth, even though in our region fire has been a very scary thing the last few years.
She said creating the piece was a winter of COVID undertaking.
“I couldn’t travel, which is what I usually do in the winter time.”
It was the first opening the gallery had hosted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.