Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Fine Line - an Exhibit by Fibre Art Voices

This week was the opening for the Fibre Art Voices exhibits, A Fine Line, and Indigo, at the Old Schoolhouse Gallery in Qualicum Beach. The photos I am sharing here have already been posted to Facebook, but I would thought I would like to tell you a little about the pieces we made for the portion of the exhibit entitled A Fine Line.
We began by challenging each other to interpret this theme however we chose, making a large piece no wider than 40", and two companion pieces, each 10" X 10". The interpretations were widely disparate, as is evident here, but held together by a line, definite or implied, that carried through each of the works and onto the next grouping of three.
 "One for Sorrow, Two for Mirth", by Gayle Lobban, interprets a familiar nursery rhyme.
 "DNA - Hidden Discoveries", by Margaret Kelly, is the story of her connecting with her birth family.
 "It's the Journey", by Karrie Phelps, gives voice to the importance of what happens as we travel through life.
 "Endangered", by Gail Tellett, shows the life cycle of the nearly extinct Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly.
 "Escaping Gridlock", by June Boyle, speaks to the balance she aims for between commitments and time management, and leisure time.
 "Where Heaven Meets the Earth", my entry, pictures Lesotho, also known as the Kingdom in the Sky, at dawn.
 "A Fine Line", by Hennie Aikman, speaks to the balance needed in caring for the oceans.
"The Power of Friends", by Gladys Love, is about loss and recovery, and the important part friends play in this process.
It has been such a good experience to be part of this group as we worked towards our exhibit, and one  through which we've learned a great deal. To be able to share what we've created in such a terrific venue is quite an honour. The process of making the pieces, critiquing each other's work, and encouraging one another when we got stuck was invaluable. Now the question is, what next?

Monday, January 8, 2018

This is Your One and Only Life

One of my favourite folk singers is Susan Crowe.  One of her songs has a chorus that goes like this - "This is your one and only life, what will you do?" A favourite poet - Mary Oliver - puts it this way - "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?". Both women capture something of the wonder of just being alive, and ask a vital question that comes out of that recognition. Their words come to mind often. So I ask myself each morning - what will you do today? It's what others call mindfulness or living with intention.
My decision to take on the 100-day challenge was brought about, at least in part, in response to that question, that reflection. Each day of the year so far, I have woken up deciding that I will make some new thing. More specifically, a new 5" x 7" leaf or forest-related something, using the fabrics that sing out to me that morning. Here are the results so far:







The leaves are cut free-form, so no two are exactly alike. And I choose the fabrics each morning according to what catches my eye, and then look for good companion fabrics, limiting myself to using the fabrics I have set aside for this project, and any I see in my scrap-basket that seem to suit. Today (the last photo) was definitely a day when I was feeling the lack of sunshine - an example of how it is that I bring who I am to what I make. As I sit and do the hand-stitching, I think about the rest of the day to come, and people I will see and what I will choose to do. So the making of this small work, is a meditation of sorts. Some would call it a prayer. And that is how I'm answering the question for now - because this IS my one and only life.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year - A New Commitment

Over the last year or so, I've heard a number of people talk about 100-day challenges. The idea is to make something - you set the parameters - every day for 100 days. Then while in New Zealand I saw the results of such a challenge at the Tuatare Gallery and in Lisa Call's studio. So when the call went out from the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery to join theirs, running from Jan. 1/18 to April 10/18, I took the plunge (so to speak) and registered.
I decided on a size (5" x 7") and selected hand-dyes and some prints to start me off. I will be working improvisationally and piecing by machine. The subject matter will be trees and leaves. Once I've added a little hand-stitching, I will mount them on prepared canvases.
So . . . today's blogpost is going to be extra short, so I can get busy and make my first of 100 small works. I want to wish all of you a creative New Year, with lots of spaces in it for noticing the small wonders of the world we live in, and good friends to accompany you on your journey through the days ahead. Thanks to all of you who take the time to join me on my own journey, and especially those who take extra time to write their comments. Maybe you would like to tell the rest of us about a new project you've taken on for the coming year. I know I love to hear what others are up to.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Studio - De-Cluttered and Re-Organized

I just finished reading the blog of my good friend Anne Rayner-Gould, in which she tells the story of how her well-planned gift-giving and holiday food-making plans for Christmas were waylaid by a dramatic change in the weather in her corner of the province. I had a good laugh, because a similar thing happened to me. Only in my case it was illness that resulted in a change in plans, and in me waking up at home alone on Christmas morning. I was up long enough to greet the morning - and what a spectacular morning it was, with a few more inches of snow having fallen overnight - before crawling back into bed with a good book. But we'd had our youngest and his family through a few days earlier, and my sister-in-law to stay for a few days, so I didn't feel I'd missed out at all. My Sweetie drove his sister down to Duncan on Christmas Eve, and was back home in time to do a little present opening together Christmas Day evening. Not to get too philosophical, but it does seem that this happens with great regularity.. We make plans and we give ourselves deadlines and we think it's all going to work out just as we had imagined. And then, well life happens. In my younger days I would have found this frustrating, but nowadays I just chuckle. Anyway, that's why you didn't hear from me last week. But things are now on the up and up.
Much of my life over the last 2-3 weeks has been spent de-cluttering and re-organizing my studio. I had no idea it would take so long. But here it is - almost ready to greet the New Year. My space is an L-shped area in our basement. You come into it from the door on the right. When I first started working down here, I used the smaller part of the room - the part that's in the shadow in the background, and the "family room" occupied the larger part of the "L". It was dark with wood-panelling, until I painted the whole thing white a few years ago. But the children are all long gone and I now occupy the whole of it. In pride of place (of course) is my Bernina, set into an old oak desk (I used the drawer for it to sit in) that was an early purchase when we first came to the Comox Valley almost 25 years ago. It housed my older Bernina for many, many years, and has only recently been replaced by this model.
Here you are looking toward the door through which you enter the studio. The oak table has been supplemented by two Ikea tables on trestles. The one on the right is often occupied by a friend who comes over for a "sewing day", while the one on the left is leaning against my new photography wall. There is another smaller table at the end of the room, which is my desk, with a filing cabinet to the left of it. The inspiration board above it is also a long-time fixture, but I think its days might be numbered. To the right of that is a small design wall.
I have two Ikea cube units which contain all my fabrics and most of my supplies. Up until a couple of weeks ago, most of my colourful fabric was visible. But I made an interesting discovery when I came home from New Zealand. The sight of all that fabric was terribly distracting, and I actually missed my limited supply of fabrics from which to choose. So I added enough baskets to those I already had, so that the beautiful colours are no longer visible. I'm busy putting labels on them all, so I can still access them easily, and selling or giving away the fabric that I've culled from my "stash". It remains to be seen how this new-to-me system will affect my studio practice.
The smaller part of the room still needs a little work, but I'm almost there. There are a few too many boxes and bags of things, and my library needs to be reduced still further, and I'm thinking that the quilts draped over the quilt rack (and blocking the large design wall) might need to be rolled and stored like most of the others are, and the rack itself may need to go. And I definitely need to find a way to store the smaller framed works that are completed, while making them accessible to anyone who comes by. Because once the new Comox Valley Artists' Guide is published, a studio visit could happen "by appointment" at any time.
I have to tell you that this has been a massive project, but somewhere along the way this year, I've come to understand that I need to treat my creative space with the respect it deserves. And coming down to a clean studio, with the work I'm currently pursuing close at hand, while the rest of it is tucked away in an orderly manner, is terrifically liberating. When it's done, I will be free to move forward with my textile art and discover where this wonderful journey will take me in the coming year.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sketching - How It's Become Part of my Art Practice

I am a new convert to sketching as part of my art practice. And a very reluctant convert at that. I think it was the idea that other people might see my scribblings that I found so daunting, or perhaps it was a throw-back to fears of "not doing it right", learned in some long-ago classroom, or maybe it was seeing all those books about "artful sketchbooks" You know the kind - filled with so many beautiful paintings that they are a piece of art in themselves. Whatever the roots of my reluctance were, I've thrown them over. I've dabbled with sketching before, but I think I can safely say that I now see it as an essential part of my art practice.

It began with an invitation to look at lines - all different sorts of lines. I drew 30 little squares on my sketchbook page and quickly filled them in, beginning with the simplest of lines and eventually including any sort of line that appealed to me. And I learned something from that simple exercise that I didn't know before. I could see which lines appealed to me, which called my name, and therefore what sort of lines I might want to consider including in my own work. Fancy that.
I began, somewhat trepidatiously, to use my sketchbook for other things. After all, it's MY sketchbook - right? So I can make up my own rules (or not) about what I can include. I limited myself to two rules only - the first is that I must sketch something every day, and the second is that I must use a black pen.  One day I was thinking about different symbols that might be included in an embroidered piece I am considering making. So I drew them in my sketchbook.
Another day I went on a walk specifically to spend time looking at the roof and window lines of nearby houses, and then I tried my hand at sketching them too.
On yet another day I was thinking about some of my favourite work by Paul Klee, and what symbols he used, and then thinking about how to include them in my own pieces, and learned that working designs to fit a curve appeals enormously to me. Only I didn't just think about it - I sketched these thoughts, so now I have a record I can return to at any time I want. And then out of nowhere came these strange almost-people like shapes. I have no idea what they're about, but I don't need to know right now. I just need to keep sketching and see what else turns up.
Sketches of leaves and ferns are not new to me, and felt like a safe bet after those weird people turned up on my page.
And then another day, it was almost time for bed and I still hadn't sketched that day. I looked around the room and my eyes fell on this little suitcase - a little leather suitcase I'd found on Cuba Street in Wellington and which told me it wanted to come home with me. So I sketched that.
This day's sketching was an extension of the idea I'd sketched earlier, of constructing shapes to fit a curve. And because I've sketched that idea twice now, I'm thinking it might be something I wast to explore further.
This was an idea for an installation piece which began with me picking up a long driftwood branch on the beach. What if I were to use this as a hanging rod for African fabrics - strips of them arranged around a photo or appliqué of the Bitengye ladies? The sketch, in this case, became a place to record an idea before it danced off into the land of forgotten thoughts. I don't know if I will ever make it, but that doesn't matter right now. It's the sketching of the idea that's important.
On another day I had my sketchbook down at Grassy Point on Hornby Island, and recorded how it felt to be there, as well as making a rough sketch of where I was and describing it all with words. 
And on it goes. And it's wonderful. And I can't imagine now why I was so reluctant to make sketching part of my art practice, just like the journalling that I've done for so very many years. It makes me pay more attention, and it helps me remember what it is I've seen and what I've thought. It feels a little like leaving markers on a trail - perhaps red ribbons tied to low-hanging branches - that show that I'm on the right path, heading in the right direction. I can't see where it's all going, and I don't need to, but I can see the next red ribbon, and that's enough to keep me moving forward on this journey.