Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Last Week of the Year

When my children were small, I spent the last few weeks and days before Christmas madly making little dresses for them right up until the last minute. In fact on the Christmas our twin girls were 2 1/2, I was still hemming their dresses in sub-zero weather, as we drove from Elgin to Souris (Manitoba) to attend the Christmas morning Church service. And the wrapping of gifts often kept me up past midnight on Christmas Eve. But these days are different, and it gave me great pleasure to make my grandson his Christmas stocking slowly and thoughtfully.
The hand-dyed wools I used for that project were from my sister Sara - a rug hooker. I so enjoyed stitching them - the ease with which a needle goes through the wool - that I've decided my 2017 weekly project will be to make one leaf square a week, using the pieces of wool pictured above. The width of the strips is as little as 4 1/2", so they will be 4 1/2" squares. I'll add in a couple of larger brownish pieces I have as well, which should give me good variety, and use embroidery floss for the stitches themselves. I think I'm going to enjoy making these.
In a departure from the traditions of other Christmas holidays, we joined our Vancouver Island family at a chalet up on Mt. Washington for a few days. Pictured here are my daughter Jessie, my son Ben, my daughter-in-law Emily, and grand-daughters Nora and Molly. The little girls had their first ever skiing lesson, and loved playing in the snow up on the mountain - only forty-five minutes from home, and it's a totally different world. (You probably can't tell from the photo, but Nora is licking an icicle about 3 feet long!!) Now we're home again, exhausted but happy, and by tomorrow I'll be back at my stitching once more. I'll be tidying up the studio, taking stock of the year that has been, and making plans for the year to come. I want to wish all of you a very Happy New Year, full of all the things you enjoy most, and lots of time for your creative endeavours whatever they are!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Merry Christmas from the Bitengye Designers

Kamidah, Anna, Lydia, Justina, Knight and Alice - the six Bitengye Designers who live in Rubingo - are photographed here in the office of Alice's Sewing School. They're looking pretty pleased, as I've been able to place a new order with them. We just about sold out of their products at the three Christmas Craft Fairs we attended this fall, with the proceeds from the sales all going to the Widows Garden Project. So we used some of the proceeds to re-order the most popular items.
The letter I wrote to them was read aloud at the meeting, and they sent their greetings back to Canada. So I am passing them on to you, thanking all of you who purchased their products at the local fairs, and giving the rest of you a heads-up that soon some of these will be available on Etsy. Yes, I am going to open an Etsy shop, and will be selling some fabrics, some beads, and some finished products. Stay tuned . . .
I wish I'd thought about it in enough time, but what I really would have liked to do, was to make a Christmas card from this quilt, or a couple of others I've made, and to sell those too, with proceeds going to these women. That might be something to remember for next year. In the meantime, I'll be making more African pieces and posting them as they're finished, with a portion of all the sales going to the Widows Garden Project.
Here's another that might work - of Alice teaching the women how to thread a treadle.
I found this card quite by accident recently - one I made for my Mum and Dad when I was six - and thought you might enjoy seeing it. Some of the fluff (snow) has fallen off, but I still quite like it. Must be the bright colours! I wish all of you a very Happy Christmas, and a New Year full of possibilities and creative pursuits!

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Lure and Wisdom of Multiples

You may remember that in January of this year, I set myself a little project - to make a luggage tag each and every week of the year, using only the scraps I had popped in my small desktop garbage that week. Well, we're nearing the end of the year, and I have just a few left to make. The thing that I've learned, more than anything else, is that I find it easiest to work when I've set myself very specific limitations. Those limitations - in size, in materials, and in time - can be incredibly liberating! Doing one little thing every Monday morning has not been difficult, precisely because of those limitations, and yet it adds up to a "big something" in time. What I am going to do with 52 luggage tags I'm not quite sure yet, but I have loved committing myself to something small, and watching the results appear almost as if by magic.
These are the luggage tags from October and November - altogether different. Some work better than others as small compositions, but they all record what I was working on for one of the weeks of 2016. I'll be sure to share the whole collection with you at the end of the year.
"Turning 65" was another week by week project this year (with a few extra blocks thrown in along the way). And now I've begun hand-quilting it. The quilt itself is going to be quite large, but making one improvisational block at a time was not in the least overwhelming. Could it be that breaking down a project into smaller components makes it more do-able? You've probably known this for a long time, but I seem to be a slow learner, and have to keep reminding myself that doing a little bit every day, or every week, makes the seemingly impossible possible.
The same held true when I worked on my "African Proverbs". If I had decided to make twenty small pieces it would have seemed huge, but to make one tiny piece and then another was manageable. In fact,  it had the added bonus of giving me repeated injections of pleasure each time one of the pieces was finished.
"Indigo Tiles" is a quilt I made last year. I made one block but couldn't seem to stop there. I wanted to see what a whole quilt made up in this pattern in blues would like. The problem was that it was a fiddly block to make and I became disenchanted with the process early on. The only way I could figure out how to get it done was to make one block a day until I had twenty blocks made. I wrote out a list so I had a visual to go on as well, and each time I finished a block I crossed it out on my list - with red ink! And so this quilt too was finished by breaking it down into smaller steps.
A project that gave me much more pleasure to work on was my traveller's blanket. And yet it too was completed by working on one embroidered square at a time. Once again, I numbered and wrote about each leaf as I finished it. I'm wondering now if it's just me that thrives on this way of working, or if it's something other people experience too? I even find the finished work more pleasing when it is made up of many small things. And now I'm wondering about carrying this observation one step further, and have purchased tiny canvases on which I plan to mount tiny works. The trick will be giving myself other limitations or boundaries for what kind of works I will make, or I know I'll quickly be overwhelmed by the myriad possibilities and grind to a halt. Sometimes I consider myself the most fortunate of people in having so very many ideas of what to make, and I am, but getting these wild things corralled and into something I can handle ( a bit like hearing sheep, I would think), is sometimes problematic, and remembering the wisdom of working in multiples could go a long way to making it easier, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What Am I Working on Now?

It will probably come as no surprise to anyone that I am back working with African fabrics again. The new ones David brought home from Uganda in October have been added to old favorites - such a riot of colour - and cut into rectangles.
Then I added squares in a variety of warm-coloured neutrals. Can you guess where I'm going with this?
And before you know it I have rows of flying geese. There's still more work to be done before the quilt top will be complete, but it has been such a pleasure working with these fabrics again. I've brought out my African beads and bits and bobs of all sorts too, and anticipate working with all of these in the months to come.
Because I am still getting requests for African fabric for sale, I've decided to make some of these items available on my own Etsy shop - Kitambaa Studio - which will be up and running shortly. Here's a peek of the first bundle of fat quarters being offered. 
On another note altogether, and with the help of the Hornby Quilters, my "Turning Sixty-five" quilt has now been thread-basted. I love it when I'm able to join this amazing group of women, when sewing machines are set up and tables are raised,and work is done on both community and personal quilts until tea-time. Then Heinz Laffin's pottery teapots are filled and home-baked goodies are put out on a plate, and we share a story or two before heading home again. Now I will be thinking of them, as well as mulling over all sorts of other things, while I sit and slowly hand-stitch the layers together. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fibre Art Voices Exhibit on the Mid-Island Studio Tour

The small group I belong to - Fibre Art Voices - once again had an opportunity to exhibit our work as part of the Fall Mid-Island Studio Tour. Lorraine, who lives in Deep Bay, kindly allowed us to fill her large studio with our offerings. We hadn't had the opportunity to see all of our "Indigo" challenge pieces together before, and were delighted to see them hanging on display. More are in the works, so I'll be showing you more in the weeks and months to come.
I submitted a number of my Africa-inspired journal pages and proverbs, and was happy to learn yesterday evening that a number of them found new homes among those of you who visited the studio.
Both Hennie and Karrie have been making a number of pieces inspired by trees, using felting and free-motion stitching, as well as other surface design methods.
Margaret and Gail continue to dye some exquisite textiles, all of which were for sale. They are using ice-dyeing, discharge dyeing, shibori and other methods of mark-making too numerous to list. I must confess that one or two pieces made their way home with me (surprise, surprise!).
Karrie is also involved in spinning and dyeing her own yarns, while June has been making exquisite amulets (on the left in photo).
More of Hennie's felting work is shown here, and in the foreground are brooches made by Gail.
The second Gayle in our group in known for her marvelous hand work, and was selling journals which featured both embroidery and buttons.
Last but not least are shorebirds machine stitched by Karrie on the left, and a baby gull and zebras made by Hennie on the right. Thank you to all the folks who dropped by on what was a very busy weekend in the Comox Valley. All of us agree that meeting you and chatting with you is the highlight of what is a terrific weekend. And thanks especially to those of you who purchased some of our work. Now it's back to the studio to do some more "making of things". 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Collecting Textile Art

One of my pleasures over the last few years, has been collecting textile art made by other people. There is very little so affirming as having someone part with some of their hard-earned money than having them purchase something you have made. When you buy a piece that speaks to you, you're telling the artist that you value what they do so much that you want to take their work home to live with you. After all, these are our "babies" that we're letting out into the world, and it's huge to know that someone else loves them and sees the beauty in them too. So today I though I'd share a few that hang in my own home. First up is a polar bear quilt made by Carol Seeley. Polar bears are strong and courageous, but also gentle, with great mothering instincts. This hangs in my studio.
Gayle Lobban's landscape of Hornby Island is a beautiful reminder of summer days spent in my favourite place. I smile whenever I see it, and think of warm sand under my feet, and gentle waves lapping on the shoreline, and the call of eagles overhead.
I purchased Judy Cooper's piece while attending Quilt Canada in Newfoundland. It will come as no surprise that it was the colour that spoke to me in this work. It hangs in my bedroom on Hornby.
Gerry Congdon's Aspens arrived after I commented on her blog, and so entered a draw for it. I was delighted to be the lucky winner. She and I met at Lake Tahoe some years ago, and I have followed her work in the original Twelve by Twelve group, as well as her own individual work, for a long time.
Terry Aske's Still Life came to me from a FAN exchange at our retreat one year. When we get together we each bring a small journal piece created in response to that year's theme, and then leave with a piece made by another member of FAN. I love the graphic quality to Terry's work, and have hung it above my desk in my studio, along with Karen Johnson's Colour piece below, sold as part of a CQA fundraiser. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that at least three small pieces of African fabric had been incorporated into Karen's piece, along with the solids. No wonder it pleases me so much!

And lastly there is this piece by Jaynie Himsl. She's developed a method of covering cord and then using it to create landscapes. The gradations of colour are just spectacular, I feel, capturing something of the awe of watching a sunset. Not so much the reality of it as the feeling of it. All of these works speak loudly of the artists who made them. In each, they are speaking with their own unique voice - a voice like no-one else's. Which encourages me not to be afraid to speak with my own voice in my work. They also signal to me what wonderful company I'm in, all of us textile artists trying to express ourselves in cloth and stitch. I'm honoured to have them in my home.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Letter from Perez

Perez Bemereire

When I left Uganda a year ago, having brought the Kitambaa Sewing Project to a close, I wanted to find a way to stay in touch with the women we had been working with for almost 10 years. I approached Perez Bemereire, who had been involved in the project from the very beginning - selecting the women who would learn to sew, helping to translate during our workshops, and sorting out problems any of the women were having as they arose. Perez had known most of the women before the workshop began, through his involvement with the widows' support groups and as an HIV/AIDS counsellor. He understood their situations, and graciously pointed out when I was missing something, and gently encouraged them as they learned to sew. One memorable moment was when he was counselling them before they returned to their villages, after the first workshop. "Don't be proud when you go back to the village," he said. "Go out and work with the other women in the mornings, and leave your sewing until after lunch. That way you will prevent envy in the women who did not have a chance to learn to sew." His wisdom did much to help avoid possible conflict.

So Perez was the person I went to, asking if he would make regular visits to the Bitengye women in Rubingo, and sending reports on how they were faring. He has done this faithfully for the last year, and when the most recent email and report arrived, I thought I'd like to share it with you. 

Perez meeting with us and the Bitengye Designers in Rubingo

Dear Pippa Moore,
I greet you in the name of the Living God and hope that Mr. David Moore reached well. Allow me and I bring warm greetings from my family members and Bitengye ladies at large.
I apologize for visiting Rubingo ladies without asking you the question to ask. The visit was intended to know the progress after their graduation. The meeting took place on the October-29th-2016. The meeting was well represented only Lydia did not show up due to poor network.

1-     In the meeting Annah told me that after her training she went to the near lest school and was told to check next year. She also told me that she does some few things which she sales locally.
2-     Justine her plan is to get good sponge good Napkins because she found it useful to put a sponge that can discharge the blood, the few that she makes are sold locally.
3-     Kamidah deals with bags and she sales them locally and for School uniforms she is planning to visit the schools this month.
4-     Night and Kamidah since there from the same area Night is suggested to visit the schools together in order to help the head teachers to choose from the two, and as they visit the schools they will also advertize for the pads too. Night also makes bags that she sale locally.
5-     Alice’s plan is to keep co-coordinating the group as usual and as well marketing for their products. She told the meeting that she was busy in these months looking after 2 groups and she is now somehow a bit relieved she will visit some places in different towns where they sale their products and market for them and as well to schools for uniforms and napkins.
In meeting them this gives the hope and encouragement in which ever they are doing and I hope that there helped in doing so.
Greet all the Bitengye supports and those that know my name.



Lastly, I have an extremely sad bit of news to pass on to you. Our friend Tumushabe, who came from Lake Bunyoni, has been murdered. At this time, no one has been charged. Someone saw her as a source of money, and this cost Tumushabe her life. We don't have any other details of what exactly happened. Tumushabe was always a bright spark and a good worker at our workshops, someone with a sense of fun. We will miss her.


Monday, November 7, 2016

News from our Friends in Uganda

It was terrific to receive an update from David (my Sweetie) on Recheal's Clinic last week. Doesn't she look happy in this photo? Although I get reports on the progress at the Clinic from Elly Nankunda every couple of months, there's nothing quite like a first hand report. To bring you up to date, Recheal is now seeing between 300 and 400 patients a month, and earning enough money for a modest income for herself. The water catchment system was installed in time to catch the September/October rains, the solar system is working well, and Recheal has recently hired a lab technologist/"nurse" to help her part-time. The nearest hospital in Kabuyenda is giving immunizations at the Clinic once a month, and HIV/AIDS testing and counselling continues, as well as diagnosis and treatment of common ailments, the most frequent being malaria. Recheal has achieved her dream, and there's no question it's of huge benefit to many, many people.
You may remember seeing a photo of the Clinic last year, and it still looks much as it did then. The changes I can see include curtains now hang in the entrance - to keep flies and mosquitos out - and evidence of a hedge and a vegetable garden. The sign in front of the Clinic and the hand-washing stations were the only other requirements needed before it could be registered with the Ministry of Health. And that too has now been done. David was able to visit the site because his reason for being in the country was to implement his 4-year Widows Garden Project. When he learned that ACTS would be limiting its work to water projects, and no longer involved with the women who are widows and grandmothers due to HIV/AIDS, he developed his own project, this time on a volunteer basis. He managed to raise over $20,000 this year, with which to support 90 widows in renting sufficient land (3 plots) to grow crops for their families, and to sell enough to pay for the rent next year. In other words, it should be totally sustainable. The goal is that by the end of 4 years, there will be 360 widows with the land they require to be self-sufficient.
Of course after the Widows Gardens Project had been announced and the first 90 widows chosen, there had to be a feast. Here are a few of the women preparing beans, and below, there's one mighty fine pot of "posho" (corn porridge) being prepared.

And after the meal was finished, the dancing began. So hard to capture this in a photograph, but perhaps you can feel the sense of celebration and almost hear the clapping and singing.

And here's the drum that keeps everyone dancing and singing in unison. Although David is now retired from his work with ACTS, it feels very right to both of us that he continue to work with these people who have been so much a part of his life for the last 20 years. It always was so much more than a job to him, and I'm so proud that he continues to bring positive change to some of the poorest people in that part of the world.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Things that Came Home With Me

I flew in to Comox last night, after spending a month in New Zealand. I don't know about you, but part of the fun for me of travelling for me is hunting for treasures, both inside the shops and outside. Often I can't tell you in advance what the treasures will be. It's not as though I go with the idea of looking for a specific something - rather, I am waiting to be surprised. So I thought I'd write about some of the things that came home with me after this trip. Last time I blogged I wrote about woven Maori kete bags I saw in Te Papa Museum. Soon after that I was on the lookout for a modern day version, and later in the week I found these. Of course I had to bring a few home with me.
Having already stitched through the wool blankets I had found in "op shops" (the New Zealand version of thrift shops) last year, and loving the feel of the needle gliding through the wool, I was on the lookout for more blankets, after all NZ is famous for its sheep and their wool, and these are the three that accompanied me home this year. The bottom one will be used just as it is, but the first two are rather worn, and are destined to be filler in my next hand-stitched works.
My shell collection grows a little each time I walk the beaches of New Zealand, and I found a few more on this visit. The challenge now is going to be how to use these in my work. I am intrigued by multi-media art, especially when found objects are incorporated into them, and must find out how to drill through them without breaking them. I can't help thinking that they'd be a great contrast to use with indigo fabrics. Stay tuned . . .
And already waiting for me in New Zealand was the largest of these three suitcases, all of them bought in a country that hasn't disposed of these older, heavier versions of our modern suitcases. (At least I haven't had much success in finding any in Canada so far, but please let me know if you have a source for them.) I imagine them filled with collections of something or other, or of stories or a combination of both - I'm really not sure right now - but there's something about these worn and well-travelled yet obsolete valises that pleases me enormously. For now they will sit in a corner of the studio for me to enjoy just as they are.
These fabrics did NOT come home with me, but were brought home to me by my husband David, who was in Uganda working on a Widows Garden Project at the same time that I was in New Zealand. They're terrific "real wax" fabrics for me to add to my collection, and I'm just thrilled. All in all I'm very happy to be back home again, as well as with my treasures, and am hoping that the coming days will see me being more disciplined about putting in time in the studio. Jane Dunnewold is a strong advocate of this, even if it's only 10 minutes, but stresses in her writing how important it is to do something each and every day, and there's wisdom in this, I'm sure. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

New Zealand Textile Arts at Te Papa

Wellington's Te Papa Museum is one of my favourite spots in this city. Last week was my third visit there, and I see new things each time I go. A collection of "kete" woven baskets caught my eye this time, as well as a display of woven and threaded skirts and capes. The threadwork on some of the capes looks almost contemporary. Which makes me wonder how much is really new under the sun. I could also see a similarity between these baskets or bags and those I have seen in a number of African countries - all made use of the materials at hand to make necessary items, but also have adde, touches to make them beautiful and not just functional. Not so very different from quilting.

This gorgeous stained-glass window is also in Te Papa, and echoes the lines of the "Marae", or meeting hut, which is located just behind it. 
I love the lines of this woven mat, with the progression of colouring through the length of it.
But my favourite part of this visit, of course, was spending time with Emily and Michael and Griffin. This pic was taken at a maritime education centre, which had pools of se life and allowed for handling of snails and sea urchins and the like. Just the thing when you're 10 months old!