Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Logan Lake and My Last Class

Earlier this fall I drove to Logan Lake in the interior of BC, not far from Kamloops. It was a gloriously sunny weekend, and I had the pleasure of spending the time with most of the members of the Logan Lake Quilters' Guild. Little did I know that this would be my last class, but what a wonderful last class it was. I was teaching The Joys of Improvisation - what had quickly become one of my favourite classes. I love the way each person's quilt is so distinctive - how when given a few simple techniques and guidelines, it then becomes a conversation between the fabric and the individual as to what comes next. The photos here are evidence of that. Aren't they wonderful!   It wasn't very long after I got home that I ended up in hospital, and was told I'd had a heart attack. It turns out that I haven't, and that is great news, but I do have a lung condition which limits how much I'm able to do, and which has emphasized for me that taking care of my health has to become a priority. I had already decided to close my business - Kitambaa Designs - but now have now decided to retire from teaching as well. I have had a terrific time these last eight years, but it's time to step aside and to spend more time creating my own work. Already I've made great progress on a commission quilt that I never quite seemed to get to, and I've been able to work on two new pieces for local upcoming textile art shows. I work at a slower pace than before, and retire for a wee nap in the afternoon on most days, but I'm happy as can be giving voice to some of the ideas that have been dancing around my head for the last months and years. I'll be posting some of the results to this blog, so stay tuned. And in the meantime, a big thank you to all those who have sent me get well wishes over the last weeks. I am alive and well and doing what I love. What more could I ask for?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Best Laid Plans

Today was the day that Joan and I were scheduled to leave Comox and fly to Uganda, where we were to hold a workshop for the women we've been working with for the last 6 years. But unfortunately our plans have had to be cancelled, due to various health issues, mine and Joan's. So I'm thinking about these marvellous women today, hoping that they are doing OK, "somehow by all means". I know they will be disappointed, and I can't make any future promises. Too soon for that. But we have placed another order for various items they make and will do "our level best" to sell these and the stock that we have on hand, in order to give them some income. We will be making appearances at Christmas craft fairs on Vancouver Island in the coming weeks - in Courtenay, in Victoria and in Campbell River - to sell their wares, and hope that any of you who are around will visit our booth. For all of you who have supported both the Bitengye ladies and Recheal's Clinic - a huge thank-you. More details on the latter will be coming soon, but for now I just wanted to let you know that we've met and exceeded our fund-raising goal, and building of the clinic and planning for its management will soon be underway. Others of you have supported students at Alice's school, and she is presently in the process of choosing these young women. And for all of you who have been encouragers, thank you too. For now I'll be posting more about my quilting journey on my blog, than news of our friends in Uganda, so stay tuned. And happy quilting everyone!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thinking About Uganda

In less than a month, Joan and I will be returning to Uganda once more. It's almost 6 years since our first workshop there, working with the women who are the Bitengye Designers. And they have been a huge part of our time there. But then there are all these other people we've met along the way. Lots of children and many old grannies too. And somehow they've become a part of us. They're no longer facts or figures, they're real people with real stories, of how they live and how they triumph in spite of all manner of difficulty. This has had a profound impact on us. Look at this woman with her arms crossed across her chest. She's a survivor. She hasn't let the world defeat her - you can see it in her face. And these children observing their elders. They're on their way from fetching clean water from a tap stand, and looking at other children nearby who are attending school. School may not be for them, but they'll get by. They'll make it. They're just working out how it's done. Other children, even younger than the first, take up their place in the order of things - minding goats, transporting bricks, hauling bananas. They have a job
to do and they'll do it well, with skill and with dignity. They won't let it defeat them. They too will survive. A gathering of women harvests beans. Another harvests sorghum. There is laughter as they work, there is a sense of purpose and also a sense of strength that comes from them. Young and old, they have something to teach us, of endurance and joy in the midst of hardship, and most of all, of hope for the future. I am so full of admiration for these people, and have learned so much from them. I am delighted I will get to spend time with them once more.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Journal Page Exchange

Right now I'm in Edmonton, at the annual retreat of the Fibre Art Network. We're an 80+ member strong cooperative of fibre artists from western Canada, looking for ways to encourage one another in our growth as artists, as well as in finding ways to promote fibre art in our part of the world. Good to be spending time with like-minded individuals - sharing information and planning for upcoming shows. So wonderful to see the work done by each other on this yearly basis, as we're largely working away on our own most of the time, in the solitary way that artists do. The gathering began yesterday, with an exchange of "Journal Pages". I made the one at the top, which will be going home with Thelma, while I am now the proud owner of one of Terry Aske's pieces of art - a still life in vibrant colours. There are a number of activities planned for the 4 days we're together, but I often think that it's the informal conversations that mean the most to me at these events. Someone tells me about her struggle to find studio time and we wonder together why it is so hard for us to carve this time out from the rest of our lives. At the dinner table last night we talked about how difficult it is for us to say those few words that define our very being, "I am an artist". And we commiserate on the ways we balance family life with making art. Often there's not a whole lot of support at home for what we do, but still it's what we want to do, what we have to do. And somehow through this time together, we gain a little more strength in our conviction that it's important. We bolster one another up in some sort of sisterhood. And this is a good thing, indeed.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Small Works

Where has the summer gone? Here on the west coast of Canada, we have enjoyed, and are still enjoying, endless days of sunshine and warm breezes. There is now a nip in the air in the early morning, and the Canada geese are practicing their V-formations as they fly overhead - sure signs of fall - but the weather is still glorious, and I for one, have spent much of my time outdoors over the last couple of months. Add to that a mini-family reunion, and visits from friends, and there has been little time left in which to quilt. But I don't want to make excuses, just to take note of there being "a time to be outdoors and a time to quilt". I have worked on a several smaller pieces, however, and thought you might like to see them now that they're completed. I began with sun-dyed fabrics from Langa Lapu in South Africa, and added borders in an improvised manner, facing rather than binding them to finish them. The hand-stitching has become a renewed favorite way to add texture and detail, and I anticipate doing more of this in the future. The other thing I've done recently is to spend three
months as part of Lisa Calls "Greenhouse", for graduates of her Working in a Series workshop. How amazing to be part of a community of fellow art quilters for this time - to take part in a monthly critique session with others, and to have valuable input from Lisa in continuing to produce work that is part of my Tree Series. But now it's time to set that aside for awhile, as I prepare for a last trip to Uganda, departing on October 23rd. (More on that later). So there we are - an update from me after a summer hiatus. Happy quilting to each of you, as we look toward another year of adventure!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tree Bathing on Vancouver Island

This was the view, or part of it, as I sat in my camp chair next to my tent trailer at Little Qualicum Falls for the last three days. I've made it a goal to get out in the woods, to surround myself with the trees, that have been the subject matter of some of my recent work. There's something that happens when I'm in close contact with these trees that is missing when I'm working with photos alone. I need to get back out there and remember why they intrigue me so, and to listen to the stories they have to tell. It doesn't happen when working from images on the internet, or from my own images, or from my sketches. I have to soak in the essence of these trees, to feel them around me, and to be still enough to hear their whispers. I went on walks around the falls and through other forests, in particular visiting Cathedral Grove, but as I drove home, it was these three that I gazed on several times each day that seemed to reach me most deeply. And so tomorrow, when I go back down to my studio and begin to work again, it will be these trees that I'm thinking about.
Not too long ago I discovered that in Japan, going out into the woods is known as tree bathing. And the benefits of this are so widely recognized that tree bathing is often prescribed as an alternative treatment for things such as stress. This delights me. Of course, I thought to myself, of course. Even without this nomenclature, I know in my being that being out in the woods is good for me. And coupled with being in touch with my source material for my tree series, it is a marvellous way to spend a few summer days.
I hope you too are enjoying this summer, wherever you are.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Spring in the North Woods

I mentioned in my last post that I'm now involved in an online workshop for graduates of Lisa Call's Working in a Series workshop, and will be sharing my successes and failures with you on my blog. Affectionately known as "The Greenhouse", this group 14 participants, from places as diverse as Sweden, Thailand and the UK, has each of us working on our own series. Subject matter and the techniques used vary tremendously, as was evident when we had our first group critique session on Sunday. So exciting to see everyone else's work. I was not so happy with my own piece - something too regular about the spacing between the trees and the branch intervals - but am pleased to be back working with trees again. I achieved the depth I wanted, and the feeling of spring, but need to go back to the drawing board for the rest of it. And why I ended up fusing my trees when I had intended at the outset that I would be piecing my work, I do not know. What I do know, is that it's important to keep doing the work. To get up again after falling down (or maybe just bruising my knees), and make another piece. And another and another. As Maya Angelou so wisely said "They're not all going to be masterpieces, but the rest of the time you're just stretching your soul." Happy stretching everyone, and Happy Canada Day too!