Monday, September 25, 2017

Back at Home in the Studio

Summer and holidays and family gatherings are indeed wonderful, but I must confess that I was glad to be able to return to the studio this past week. My found objects and African fabrics were already out on the tables, so it was relatively easy to get back into gear and work on my latest African Collage piece. This one is called Murrum Roads, and references the red soil that is so prevalent in so many African countries. This rapidly becomes red dust, with which one is heavily coated at the end of any long journey. Driving around potholes, swinging from one side of the road to the other, passing people of all sorts as well as school children in their uniforms and goats and cattle and boda-bodas (motorcycles), hanging onto those grab bars for all you're worth - it makes for many memorable journeys, and it was these I was thinking of as I worked.
Another undertaking was completing the journal quilt I will be taking to this year's Fibre Art Network retreat, to be held near Kamloops. We will each arrive with one of these, and present them by way of introduction on the first evening. The theme this year is Into the Wilderness, and my piece. worked around a cyanotype print of a New Zealand fern in boro-like patchwork and stitching, is called Hiking in Abel Tasman. This is a magnificent park on the south island of New Zealand, and the place we holidayed with our daughter, son-in-law and grandson in February of this year. Oh so beautiful, and while perhaps not wilderness in the Canadian sense of the word, it was still wild and almost uninhabited, with tracks climbing up and down along the coastline.
This last weekend saw us over at our cabin on Hornby Island, where the loft becomes my studio, and where I dug out my scrap bag. (I had forgotten my current hand-stitching project at home.) I began by cutting strips of these fabrics no particular width, and sewing some of them together into strip units. So satisfying.
I then cut these into uniform widths and sewed them around 4 1/2" squares. A little too predictable, I thought. Could be quite boring, my Sweetie added. Back to the loft and I made another attempt.

This time I varied the width of the strips from one end to the other, and added strip unit sections as part of one or more borders. Much better, my Sweetie said. Much more interesting. And so I made a few more, and a few more, and a new quilt is underway. I DO love to sew bright colours together, and it may not be quite what I had intended to work on this week, but it made me happy, and that has got to be a good thing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Workshop Experience on Whidbey Island

I have been an admirer of Carol Nelson's work with acrylics for some time, so when I found out she was teaching a workshop at the Pacific Northwest School of Art on Whidbey Island, I signed up right away. It was time to learn something new, I thought. My friend Dale MacEwan was keen to take the class too, so we drove down to Coupeville on Wednesday, and then proceeded to immerse ourselves in an alternate universe (acrylic paints instead of textiles), for the next two days. 
I had been drawn to the rich and intense colours of Carol's painting, especially in her depiction of trees, and to her description of the class, which gave me the sense that it would be relaxed and freeing. Which it was. Except that I was working in a medium totally new to me. The colours mixed together quite unpredictably, and there was an art to getting just the right amount of paint on a brush but not too much, and using just the right amount of water. The paints were transparent, but I learned that adding white made them opaque. Even the wrist movement in making brush strokes was new to me. I was most definitely out of my comfort zone. A humbling experience, to say the least.
Dale's piece seemed to come together quite well, and I drew strength from watching her patient working of the surface. "This is a practice piece", she reminded me. I knew that on some level, but had still expected that I would take to this new way of working with  more ease. I finished my piece, except for a little bushy bit of foliage that I forgot to glue in place. But I was less than delighted with my outcome.
I admired other student work around the room, and experienced a longing to start all over again. Only I didn't really want to do that. What I really wanted to do was to get back home to my fabric, where a colour is what it is unless you put it up against another bit of fabric that changes it a bit. Where there are no sticky fingers. And yes, where I feel more comfortable.
Am I glad I took part in this class? Yes. It's only by trying new things from time to time that I learn where I truly belong and have firmed up deep inside me what I want to do and how I want to spend my time. And it's good to recognize that skill in any medium doesn't come easily, that it doesn't arrive in a neatly wrapped bundle that you simply unwrap and then produce work just like the people whose work you admire. It all takes time, and practice, and commitment, and the making of many, many not-so-great pieces, before some level of success is achieved. So what did I do when I got home? I finished my latest African collage piece, and I dreamed about creating more trees from my fabrics.

Monday, September 11, 2017

How I Spent my Summer Holidays - Part 2

This need to sum up what happened over the summer must date back to those after-the-holidays essays we were required to write every September in elementary school. Or maybe it's that the summer goes by so quickly that I want to capture the memories of those blissfully sunny days before they disappear entirely. Yesterday morning I had to put on my fleece-lined slippers in the coolness of the day, and sitting in my comfy chair, I could hear a flock of Canada geese trying out flying in formation overhead.  Certain signs of the change in season. But the summer was a good one - the last week especially, spent at our family cabin on Hornby Island. Two of our four children pictured here,
and two of our three grandchildren.
We had hikes through Helliwell (Nora and Molly are climbing on one of Helliwell's big maple trees in this pic), and BBQ's, and many beach days with lots of water activities, and all the good things that go into a summer holiday.
The Hornby Quilt Show is always a highlight, and once again I was invited too set up a table there and o sell items made by the Bitengye Designers, with all proceeds going to the Widows' Gardens Project that David is involved with in Southern Uganda.
This quilt, with the inner blocks embroidered by two of the women, and borders added by a third was for sale, but hasn't found a home yet. Soon I hope.
And I was able to attend a number of exhibits in other mediums during the summer months. This tapestry comes from one on at present at The Old Schoolhouse Gallery in Qualicum Beach. Unfortunately I didn't record the name of the artist, but it was magnificent.
Grant Leier and his wife Nixie Barton also had an exhibit there. The colour and layering and joy of Grant's work is particularly appealing to me, but I also love Nixie's treatment of fields in her landscapes below. Sometimes I forget how important it is (as well as a great pleasure) to take oneself on an "artist's date", as Julia Cameron calls it. Once a week is what she recommends, and I'm going to try to heed those words of wisdom in the coming months.
But for now I am returning to my own work. A fourth "African Collage", as I've come to call them, is almost finished, and now I'm off to a Mixed Media workshop with Carol Nelson at the Pacific Northwest Art School on Whidbey Island for the rest of the week. Life is good.