Material Witness will focus on extreme textile process. Images will be posted here showing the history of my work, new work, developing projects and inspiration.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Room of My Own

Today Jay hands me back her keys to the studio. It means that her loom and all the lovely things she has had in the studio for more than a year will be gone. It means her delicate sensibility will no longer greet me when I come in the door. I will miss that.

Today I will place a long white piece of cotton on the floor from the front to the back of the studio and place dripping rusty objects on it. I will tape a black fabric to the window in folds and see how the sun bleaches it. I will start to build a large fume box and will pound nails into the wall and use the room as an enormous loom. The possibilities seem endless.

I have some larger contracts to get on with for January and February.

The front of the studio is now going to have a small library and a little gallery for my work and inspirational objects. My favourite armchair is going to be placed in it.

Now I have room for my huge print table and my second heat press. The drafting table can get set up and my desk can come back in. The model's platform can get set up again.

Today for a little while though there will be enough room to take a little dance around the room.

This will all be o-kay if I don't fall on my face!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Models and Friends

I have had a few years to think about what happens when you model for someone or when they model for you. It creates a remote and strange kind of intimacy.

Years ago I modeled for trade shows, sexy girl shots and ethereal rock and roll girl shots. A couple of jobs included cheesecake excercise machine promos, lingerie and fur coats and a few " Hi! I'm Patti your hostess with the mostest " corporate solicitations. Very long ago and far away!

I also spent time modeling for artists and photographers. A job that was far more enjoyable. It made me feel useful and part of the art process. Only occassionally did I feel possessive about the work created from my image.

Modeling had a remoteness to it that was really appealing. I became an object that communicated through movement and gesture. I was also dancing at the time and was used to performance through the body. It was rather like the experience of dancing but with huge gaps in between movements. It required concentration and inhibition like dance. It was also strenuous in a completely different way.

I became more centered in myself and only was uncomfortable when other people besides the artists were involved. They became a distraction that was not part of the art making process. They made it so I lost my concentration or my mood. They were not part of the experience for me.

I don't remember becoming attached to the artists. I was there to work and so were they. Only occassionally did I feel distracted by what they were doing. Usually something jarring happened like a ruler dropped or a door slammed dragging me back to this earth. Sometimes I would get cold or get a sharp cramp. Distracting as it was I held my pose.

I had an artist for a husband once and modeled for him. This was a completely different experience and intimacy was natural and required. I also was involved with a man who was a photographer who spent time stealing my image when I was completely unprepared. It was an assaultive experience but some of the photographs were extraordinary and rather strange. I am sure that he relied on my shock at the flash for his images.

I have also used models many times. Women and men. I find most men to be completely hopeless at the skill. They twitch and wiggle and try to tell me what to do with my own process.
Women are more compliant probably more by training than by nature. They listen to instruction better and become less concerned about controlling the situation. Occasionally, however, there are men who make my favourite models. They just understand what I want and give it to me.

This New Year I am going to model for an artist I admire. It will be a very odd experience because I am so altered now with illness and the process of healing. I am older, fatter and less able to stay still. I also hope to use one of my favourite models very soon or will have to put out a very concentrated search for someone that works as well. Perhaps I will even figure out how to model for myself.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Bones Jeina Morosoff Glass with Windows

I gave Brendan some glass tentacles made by Jeina Morosoff for Christmas and he gave some to me. That was funny until I gave Meghan a picnic basket which was the same as the one she gave to her mum. Then I gave my buddy the same socks she gave me. Dane only got one of his presents by mail and Steph had to pull a twofer shift. My phone ran out of batteries and I actually missed Tim's call.

I spent the last few days so ill that I either lived in the bathroom or lived on the couch. I couldn't hold food or water. I spent Christmas in quarantine and Lexy and Lizzy actually spent all Christmas Eve in the Emergency Room.

I am now inspired by the extremity of it all and am making dolls and planning my big wall projects. I just about have enough nerve to ask my favourite model to do castings with me.
The studio is mine in just a few more days.

I am so glad to start a new chapter and a new series of work. That will go well with the New Year.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Snowed In

I got an e-mail from my oldest child telling me that he missed the bus from Toronto to Winnipeg. There is a monstrous storm and he has about 25 hours travelling time ahead.
I am glad he missed the bus. I have been mother pacing all over the floor to-day thinking about him being on the road during a horrible blizzard.

I realized this morning that I will actually be alone for Christmas if my step-son Chris isn't able to get here. Tim leaves Wednesday morning to get back to Ontario to be with his ancient but charming father. Bren has been spirited away by Meghan and her family and step son Steph is with his mother. I haven't been alone at Christmas....ever.

There are lots of invitations but none appeal half as much as a day staying in my cozy bed and crawling out if someone shows up. The food will be prepared and waiting in the fridge and if no one comes it will get eaten later.

Three presents arrived today. Two from Lyn Fabio in Whitehorse. She sent me the most fragrant Christmas Cake and a beautiful hand stitched ornament. They were contained in a package that smelled of hide and wood smoke. It was completely unexpected and delightful.
The other gift was given by Tim. Beautiful, baltic blue- green camel leather curly toed Morrocan shoes. I have lusted after them for ages. They fit like a soft glove. They look like elf shoes. Now they are mine! Now I will have to decorate my boudoir to match and make a new robe.

I will send things away tomorrow. Some made... some bought. My favourite is little china tea sets for my tiny nieces, Kaitlyn, Charlotte and Danielle. I have also given them little Chinese silk pajamas like my own children wore. Instructions state "only to be worn for play".

Every year I try to find one person to get a financial gift with instructions to pay it forward. This has mostly worked with interesting consequences. I have done this for years because someone did it for me when I was really poor and struggling. I was given a fairly substantial amount of money that has not yet been paid forward fully. I still have a few days to find my next hapless victim. I like it because it isn't charity. It is social investment.

So I'll lift up my glass to "Justice Not Charity", have a warm bubble bath and relish my time alone.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Clouds from the Mid-west off a train
Cobblestone Street

Reptile Images from New York

Image collection from the dirt near Drumheller, Alberta near where my family lived. The red coloured stones are petrified wood from an ancient forest.

Every year I go on one or two little journeys for the sole purpose of gathering inspiration for my image library. It is made up of images from surfaces or objects that jingle that gatherer part of myself. Images being much easier to drag home than old rusty metal or cracks in the sidewalk.

I don't just gather imagery on the journeys but rather compulsively all the time. Clippings are scattered all over. Books that have one line or beautiful illustration or cracked covers. Containers filled with objects like bug wings, shells and rocks. Vases with feathers and plant pods. Shattered rear view mirrors. I guess that is why I also collect containers and display cases.

I met a lovely man with unusual eye glasses named Rob at the East Side Culture Crawl last month who clearly understood my need for collecting. He said he had a collection of old lab equipment and containers. He described himself as a pack rat. He also described the most delicious collection of stuff.

Ivan Sayers is a local fashion historian. He collects old clothing from every era he can. He brings his amazing collections to schools, art galleries and museums. I visited him once and there were collections of wonderful textiles everywhere.

I once worked for a wonderful politician. She was dedicated and honest. She worried about people when they were troubled. She worked herself to exhaustion. She was also a self described "Magpie". We would go shopping sometimes and see some glitzy bauble and she would say."EWWWWW, Shiny, Pretty!".

There don't seem to be many surface designers who are the neat and orderly type. I have been in many textile studios and surface designers, mixed media artists and embroiderers seem to thrive in a more chaotic environment. They aren't like most water colour artists or other painters who seem to like more pristine environments.

I once tried to live in a serene environment with muted colours and monastic influence. Things were painted pale blues, ivory and aspirin white. I allowed white bedding, towels and furniture.

It felt freezing cold all the time. I obsessed about marks and dust rather like my spotless and organized mum did when I was a child. My little boy sat on the ivory covered couch looking stiff and uncomfortable. He said he felt itchy and twitchy. He told me he had a dream where we lived like before. He said there were piles of cloth on the floor and he could find things.

I don't know if we can find things easily but don't think my messy adult children feel itchy and twitchy anymore. They grew up in a household that was inspiring to them and to me. They are very creative people and have creative lives. I think that had more to do with collections than spotless environments.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dreaming Over and Over

Sea Urchin Shell detail

Last night I had one vivid dream after another. It was inspiration gone wild. Each dream was about making or viewing something amazing. This probably had to do with the fact my main cuddle bud brought home Memphis Blues Bar-B-Que last night and that Arlee Barr suggested to keep a sketch book by the bed. We also watched the "Rape of Nanking" before bed and it was devastating.

I dreamt about twisted and rusted wires that were draped in skins and hanging from the ceiling

like smoky old carcasses. Then the dream was about silver boxes that were patinated and carved to reflect light from mirrors and candles. I spent time carving soaps into tiny heads that were cast in plaster and covered in leaves that were burnt. Batiking on paper and silk to make reptile patterns and poked through with rusted wires and pins. Globes made with internal light sources and placed in snow caves for heat and delight. Spectacular silver and tin jewelry was made into seed pods with objects held inside. All to the sound of bees buzzing (which turned out to be the bathroom fan)

I also dreamt about writing poems in the snow with black pebbles. The words kept washing away but I kept trying to write them despite the futility. I woke up exhausted and fell back to sleep to dream of forgiveness and atonement. No doubt influenced by an argument with my removed Catholic mother. It seems I am always asking for forgiveness or trying to forgive. A habit from childhood for all naughty girls. The f---ing drama of the Irish despite the displacement.

I woke up to a phone call asking me to look on my e-mail for a photograph of perfection.

It was of Juliet's new little baby boy now named Daniel. Totally perfect and new.

Source of inspiration for today

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mending Socks

HJS Studio Holly Schaltz Darning Socks

I am going to have to confess depression. It has been very hard to find anything to write because this is my worst time of year. I am not a Christmas person anymore.

My friend Mary Ellen reminded me that I often go for a slump after I have pumped up for a show. This year I did two at once. I thought I was just tired from that but I haven't been feeling well for more than a month and it seems that going back to the doctor is my only option.

The thing about breast cancer is that tiredness isn't ever looked at as tiredness. It is looked at as a reason for tons of tests. I'm just not in the mood. Unfortunately sadness has elevated my pain levels and being ill has made me irritable and grumpy with everyone. I keep picking up and putting down my brushes, heat guns and needles.

I have been talking to Lyn Fabio and she is recovering from surgery and has gobs of energy. She has been working with gut and has been exploring all kinds of things. Her theory is that we need to sleep lots this time of year.

Time to pull out the heavy quilts, look for a cooperative cuddle buddy and tuck in for a snore. Maybe I'll dream something more inspiring than mending socks.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


I woke up this morning to snow on the ground. No had stepped in it or driven through it. Just silence and white. No one got up with the sun on Commercial Drive but me.

I have been thinking about white for awhile. I had this dream where a huge cloth just stitched in white. Variations in colour only given with shadow. Texture becomes more important.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Torturing Poor Charlotte

Poor Charlotte Suffering The Curse Of The First Born

Here is an example of an extreme use of textiles.

This poor baby is my lovely neice Melissa's daughter Charlotte. She has been forced to wear an Elf's costume and is expressing a similar sentiment to my own regarding Christmas excess.

Don't worry Charlotte... you will get back at everyone when you turn two. Now, however, you have just turned one and there will be plenty of time to plot.

New Baby Boy

Juliet at 34 weeks

Juliet has had her new little baby boy! He was born last night at 7:30 and weighed 6 pounds 7 ounces and had an APGAR rating of 9. He is bright eyed, latched on and lifted his little head.

The labour lasted nearly 3 days and the birth was assisted by forceps. It was dramatic but all are well and amazed at this life thing now. Daddy Roy was overheard commenting that he now understands why people need to love their mother.

I am a new "Aunty". Self proclaimed, of course! Status to be confirmed when I finish baby's bunting.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More Questions Than Answers

Notions Robin Ripley Newey's World
Notions Robin Ripley Newey's World

Threaded Robin Ripley
Robin Ripley is an artist whose work I have loved for years. She is another Vancouver artist who seems to inhabit a place in my brain. Her work is moving for me. I always feel like I have explored something and come away satisfied when I witness it.
Robin and I are mutual fans. I seek out her work for comfort and connection. I also find it gives more questions to ask and layers of mystery to uncover. I have an overwhelming art crush on Robin Ripley
See more of her work at www.RobinRipley.com

Monday, December 3, 2007

Air Float

Theo Jansen's Strandbeests roaming the beaches

I am floating on air. I had the best day working with Kyd Campbell in my studio. She is only here from Montreal for a while but she never ceases to provide me with inspiration.

I came home to an e-mail from Abigail Doan, one of my most favourite artists ever, and she wrote something lovely about my work on her beautiful blog. She also sent me gorgeous pictures of her tiny twins and they look well cared for and healthy. How she finds time to write and be creative is beyond me.

Naughty Peter has sent me the most glorious images of Theo Jansen's kinetic creatures called "Strandbeests" that are roaming the beaches in Holland. They already haunted my imagination and have been nurtured by someone else so they can roam. They are artgasm!

Check out
http://strandbeest.com/ For Theo Jansen's work
http://abigaildoan.blogspot.com For a beautiful blog and to see some of my images

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Face Book

I set up a Face Book Account last night and have learned a few things.

1. People with very large, crazy families should think twice about using a real name.
2. People with a range of interest should expect a range of characters writing to them.
3. People who are techno peasants should understand that other people expect a lot from them.
4. People use funny things to send you funny things.
5. God can find you on-line! Even if you are an atheist.
6. Crazy people come from crazy families.
7. People you want to cuddle probably shouldn't be on the same Face Book list with your old Aunt. My aunts could shock anyone!
8. Your children will think you are spying on them.
9. You will think your children are spying on you.
10. Sometimes people remember you when you don't remember them.
11. Sometimes people remember you by naughty names and never did know your real name!
12. Sometimes people remember someone who has the same name as you. That is awkward!

Perhaps I will change my name to Priscilla Pluckwhistle and see what happens.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Labouring Away

Juliet has lost her plug and has started her labour. She has decided to go for a visit with friends and is out in the snow. The snow is wet and thick and coming down heavily. I want her to go home and call the doctor. The snow is extreme today.

The baby appears to be small and is early by two weeks.

She was also very small and early like every brilliant person in her mother's family. A baby is rarely born to them weighing more than 5 pounds. My babies, however, were monsters in contrast and at least three weeks late.

Juliet's husband Roy has started the nesting part of this labour. He is obsessing about cleaning the apartment and cooking. He is from Israel and hasn't really been in this kind of snow before. Her mother is madly knitting a double knit blanket. It is incredibly warm.

I think this baby will be the next Jewish princess! I can't wait to meet her. I remember meeting her mom! I have known Juliet, her mother and her grandmother. I know her sister and her mother's sister and her grandmother's sister. They have all fit into my life perfectly.

Juliet cared for me when I was ill. She was very young and managed to help me through some of the more hideous aspects of my illness. She did it without upset or hysteria. I think she will be the most wonderful mother!

When Juliet was three I made her a doll that was life sized. She was tiny with little twig legs and the loudest voice I ever heard in a child. She tied towels on her tiny shoulders and rode her power wheels screaming down the road stark naked. We cared for her in shifts because she was so wild. She loved Wonda Wolan! (Wonder Woman)

Good luck to the staff when Juliet goes into transition. They will see what "Wonda Wolan" can do!