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!