Tuesday, January 30, 2018

African Travel Stories

Some weeks ago, mid-October to be exact, I began a project using a limited number of fabrics, recalling my travels in Africa. I used raw edges, thinking of them as sketches, and added hand-stitching. Early on I shared photos of the first few pieces - you may remember them. But then I lost my way a little. However, I returned to work on them after Christmas, and I thought you might like to see them.
There are fifteen 6" x 6" small works in this grouping, each one telling a story about my African travels. They will eventually be mounted on canvases and hang together at my July solo exhibit (more about that later) - A Sense of Colour - where they will be for sale. Here are the close-ups and a little of what I was thinking when I made them.
Every adventure starts with the first few steps into the unknown, willingly taking the risks in order to experience something new - seeing new lands, meeting new people, eating new foods, thinking new thoughts - all of it starts with that spirited stepping forth.
A map is a guide, but there will always be choices. Choosing one thing means saying no to something else. And even when we think we know where we're going, we can and will be surprised by the unexpected.
Seeing my first elephant and first baobab tree are remembered here - the soft feet of the elephant stepping almost noiselessly beside our vehicle, as he walked along the road; and the twisty, lovely ugliness of the baobab.
These rondavels with their thatched roofs that are typical in Lesotho They're cool in summer and warm in winter. Blankets (represented by Shweshwe cloth) have been washed and hung to dry.
The flat-topped mountains of the land and distinctive straw hats and wool blankets of the Basotho identify them as people of the "Kingdom in the Sky".
In most African countries, women carry enormous loads on their head, walking with such grace and dignity, often with a baby carried on their back. This square was made in honour of these unforgettable women.
Swaziland - this is their national shield - is a neighbouring country to Lesotho, green and treed in comparison to Lesotho's barren countryside. We visited it often.
The Matopos hills in Zimbabwe have an air of mystery to them. We walked among the huge boulders, the height of several people, wondering how they came to be there. The printed zebras are an old, old Zimbabwe design, evidence of a highly sophisticated culture that existed long before British colonialism.
Small stalls selling fruits and vegetables are set up in even the smallest villages, each person hoping to sell a few tomatoes or jackfruit or bananas.
When I visited Tanzania and took the ferry to Zanzibar for the day, these elegant dhows, or fishing boats, glided past.
The sand dunes of Namibia were breathtaking. And in the midst of the desert, with sand as far as the eye could see, there would be an occasional bare bones tree bravely struggling to survive.
The cowrie shells of Ghana were once used for currency, and are still a symbol of wealth and prosperity. I love the shape of them.
One game walk we took, on foot, was in search of the white rhinos of South Africa, almost extinct now. When we came upon two in a ravine, I wasn't sure if I was pleased or not by the discovery, in spite of the gun the guide was carrying.
In Uganda, men often use bicycles as a way to transport bananas and pineapple and other produce to market. Huge amounts are balanced precariously on either side of both wheels and in front of the handlebars.
And lastly, these impalas. They are not as sought after as other African wildlife, but to see a herd of them leaping through the tall grasses, their golden underbellies revealed with each jump, was a sight to behold. I wanted to make a square just for them. 
Now that I've finished these, I'm freed up to work on something else. It's a good feeling. The urge to start something brand new is upon me, but I'm hoping that reason prevails and that I get back to work on another of my "to-be-finished in 2018" projects. Here's hoping . . . !

Monday, January 22, 2018

Looking for Spring, Looking for Hope

I am in Victoria this week, helping out with my grandchildren. I can't help but wonder what sort of world they will grow up in. When my youngest grandchild is my age, it will be 2080 - a staggering thought. I can sometimes get weighed down with these ponderings. So when the sun broke through the clouds this morning, I knew I needed to take myself off for a walk, looking for signs of spring. Which is very much akin to looking for signs of hope.  Before I'd turned the corner of the street on which my son and his family live, I discovered this clump of snowdrops. Such delicate flowers bursting through the still brown ground with determination and vigour.
A little farther along  the street I found these daffodil shoots. They won't be far behind. Already they're pushing aside the debris and detritus of last year in their reach for the light.
Potted primulas with their outrageously coloured flowers are being sold at the nearby grocery store, although it's a bit too early to see them in local gardens.
And even the fruit trees are beginning to bud. So many lessons here. Suddenly things don't look quite so dark and gloomy. It seems there's something about being connected to the natural world, about taking the time to notice the smallest of changes that are taking place, that keeps me connected to the whole of life, and reminds me that there have always been seasons, and times of light and times of dark, for a long, long time. And I am reminded too that our capacity to stand strong and withstand the not so pleasant bits of life is truly remarkable. When I returned to the house I was considerably cheered. And set right to work with my brightly coloured fabrics, and made another leaf.

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.