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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Victorian Tea Dresses

Michelle being her sweet self.
Michelle and her little pony.

My niece Michelle has always had enormous enthusiasm for anything she pursues.
People in my family always get a bit compulsive when feeling passion for an idea, an object, a pursuit or a person. I'm like that.

Michelle, however, can take it one step further. When she was small she developed a passion for My Little Pony. She hauled around a suitcase with her at five years old. The suitcase contained her collection of ponies. There were fifty of them! They all had a name and a history. They all lined up perfectly before bed and they all had to be petted and combed. All of them developed a seperate neigh. She, produced the sounds for each pony.

She was tiny and skinny. Her suitcase went with her everywhere and she developed little muscles in her arms from hauling it. I can still see her long hair swinging and her little bent form dragging her burden. She was not to be challenged.

Michelle has grown into a beautiful and intelligent young woman. She works in a non-traditional job for a woman and does environmental inspections on oil wells. She can hold her own in the toughest environment.

She owns horses now and is an accomplished equestrian. She can drive large trucks and can think her way out of a gunny sack.

She is going to an event with her boyfriend this spring and wants to wear Victorian clothing. It is the 100th anniversary of her boyfriend's family's hotel. They are having a late Victorian Era celebration and everyone will be in costume.

So we have been discussing costumes compulsively. Trying to get it perfect. I am a doting Aunt when pleased with my nieces. So my mind is now filled with chemise and petticoats, bustles and hats. I am trying to reconstruct garments from thrift store wedding dresses.

Please share ideas if you know of patterns or sites that might help me make her the belle of the tea.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Photographs Lichen Stephen Langton Goulet

My ex-husband Stephen Langton Goulet has always had a remarkable eye for detail.
He layers texture, colour and form in the most detailed way and couldn't see a flat image if he tried.

He moved back to the prairies a few years ago and has been looking at this extreme landscape and it's creatures in a way that few can see it.

I once watched him work on a drawing for years. His dedication and precision have always been extraordinary.

Check out his images at www.lixcaliber.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Fimo bugs and Chrysalis Arlee Barr
Image was shamelessly stolen without permission by Patricia Chauncey

Arlee Barr made the most delicious little beings!!!!

They are exquisite little embellishments or beads and they make me drool. I can see the internals wiggling inside the diaphanous tiny bodies. The chryslalids measure 1"- 2" and are made from Fimo, Dollar Store and Junk.
She has managed to produce beautiful objects for her fibre challenges while drowning in Valentine's Day as a florist.
Speaking of super women ... Abigail Doan was writing an article with one finger while simultaneously nursing twin baby boys. An accomplishment rarely achieved!
I managed to climb out of bed today and entertain my son at breakfast, feed everyone dinner and do the dishes. Trust me....nothing else was possible.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lotus Feet

Examples of Lotus Shoes

I read today that there are still women alive who had their feet bound as children.

The practice of foot binding began about 910 A.D. by the dancing girls of the T'ang Dynasty and spread through all levels of society until the emancipation of women in the Chinese Revolution of 1911-12. The practice was banned in China but continued in remote rural areas for at least another generation. It was completely banned under Mao in 1949.

So there are women, my mother's age, who try to live in modern China with the effects of foot binding. It was done to create the ultimate in beauty for women. Tiny, deformed feet were considered sexually desirable. The smaller the feet and tighter the binding the more desirable the result. Feet were compressed to 3 1/2 " to 5 1/2 " in length and the resulting deformity was refered to as Lotus Feet.
Women with Lotus feet were almost unable to walk but were expected to carry out their domestic duties. Many women were involved in arranged marraiges and were unable to run away because they couldn't walk without being supported by someone else. They did housework from little stools and worked on their hands and knees.

The women made beautiful embroidered silk slippers to wear on their little feet. No merchants were manufacturing the shoes. They were all made domestically. Women showed off their prowess as talented needle workers and prospective bridegroom's families were shown the shoes as part of the marraige decision. The tinier the Lotus foot slipper and the finer the stitching the more likely a bride was selected. The Lotus foot was most sexually desirable and the shoes served like sexy lingerie does today.

Vancouver has been a very Chinese city for more than 100 years and there were women living here with bound feet. I remember seeing old women walking with a very distinctive, duck walk shuffle. I thought they just had bad hips like my Granny. I haven't seen any of them for years.

The actress Rebecca Harker gave me a Lotus slipper a few years ago. She found it in New York City. It is made from cream and green silk and embroidered with peach blossoms. I keep it in a little glass casket. It is one of my treasured possesions.
Read about bound feet and the slippers in
1. Splendid Slippers: A Thousand Years of An Erotic Tradition Beverly Jackson
Berkeley, 1991 ISBN 0 90915-957-1
2. Every Step a Lotus: Shoes for Bound Feet Dorothy Ko,
Berkeley, 2001
ISBN o-520-23284-4

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Happy Face

Chinook Arch Tapestry Jane Cameron
Botanical Tapestry Jane Cameron

Hot Air Balloons Tapestry Jane Cameron

Creature Tapestry Jane Cameron

E. Jane Cameron is an artist who shared many of my influences. She was born in High River, Alberta not far away from where I grew up. She spent part of her life living in Montreal. I was born there and my mother and her family came from there. I was lucky enough to have met Jane in Calgary. She was sunny, gracious and suprizing like her work.

Jane is another artist who lived with Down Syndrome. Her parents had been told to give her up and send her to an institution for the Mentally Retarded. They chose instead to educate her and to give her opportunity to blossom. Jane ended up becoming a well known and accomplished textile artist and poet. Her work hangs in the Prime Minister's office, in the Mirabel Airport, and in collections all over the world.

Jane Cameron is known for bright colors and joyful imagery in her tapestries . Her characters are lovely, open and other worldly. Her subject matter is based on her surroundings and is totally influenced by her feelings.
Her poems are clear and immediate and reflect to us something understandable and primal.

My Imagination Jane Cameron

My imagination is so many things,
Goes Around,
on and on , is like a spinning wheel
It goes siggidi-sagg.
different or the opposite with those colors,
Inside a spinning wheel
If you see a spinning wheel,
something to do with the handicrafts
with the different colors of wool....
Mine too Jane!

Friday, February 15, 2008

All Wrapped Up

Embracing Judith Scott Artist holding her own work
Wrapped work by Judith Scott

Judith Scott has inspired me as a textile artist for years.

She died in 2005 after living the most remarkable life. She was born a twin and was inseparable from her sister. They even slept together. She had been sent to an institution at the age of seven and lived on a back ward for more than thirty years. Judith had Down's Syndrome and was also deaf and blind.
Many people with Down's Syndrome have enhanced musical and creative abilities. It wasn't clear what her mental capacities were but her dedication and obsession with creating was extraordinary. All of her abilities blossomed when she was given opportunity and materials.

Judith Scott wrapped things. She wrapped things and created the most concentrated and dense sculptures with her wrappings. She created day in and day out with an unknown purpose
but a dedication that few artists could ever match. She created large objects of affection and it was wondered if she was trying to recreate her lost twin.

She was eventually reunited with her sister. Judith became a celebrated artist and her work has shown all over the world. It is held in collections in the American Folk Art Museum in New York, Musee D'Art Brut, Lausanne Switzerland and the American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore,Maryland.

I am deeply touched by her work and story and understand a little of her need for the repetative and rhythmatic approach to her creations. They vibrate with her energy.

There is a beautiful book by John MacGregor, Ph. D. Metamorphosis: The Fibre Art of Judith Scott, published by the Creative Growth Centre, 1999

The Web Page showing more about Judith Scott is www.judithscott.org/

Hot Air

Princess and the Frog Balloon art by Sean Rooney
Short Skirt balloon art by Sean Rooney

Gown by Sean Rooney

Alice balloon art by Sean Rooney

Performance with enormous balloon structure showing Sean Rooney in action.

Performance artist Sean Rooney gives a whole new meaning to the expression "hot air".

He creates an entire universe of costumes and creatures with sculptures made entirely of balloons. Unlike balloon artists of the past or clowns at childrens birthday parties. His work is enormous and complex. He creates using hundreds or thousands of balloons , many but not all blown up by his mouth. He calls it , "doing the Dizzy Gillespie."

His creations include costumes, creatures and environments that are temporary. They last as long as the balloons stay full of his breath.

This week end he will be performing at the Royal Ontario Museum and will be creating a 90 foot dinosaur named Gertie.

The balloon fetishist will go crazy!
His web site is www.ibmetrics.com/sean/

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Standing on Tongues

I have been walking all over my tongue for a week without meaning offense. But I have offended a crowd of people. Sometimes I do this for sport. I rev up the old "Newfoundlander Muscle" and go to town, knocking out anyone in the way.

Not this time. This time I was just trying to work strategically and be impressive. My motivation was clean.

The results were not.

I am pretty sure I offended a young woman I really respect. She passed on information that was public and intended to be shared and I tried to navigate it back to where I had been working on it with others in a strategic way. A bad habit left from my political days.

I used the word "political" in another meeting and was hauled in by the "tea-cup". That group has decided that the word "political" scares people and they like the words"consensus building" better.

I also discussed the problem of visual cliches with someone who works with the imagery I was describing. It was hard to reel back when I saw the look on her face. It was hard to tell her that I thought the work she produces is completely inspiring and beautiful.

I cut myself by accident today and bled a stream of black blood which demanded a trip to the Doctor. He wasn't my regular family doctor and when he explained the blood was venous I was sure he said "Venomous"! He laughed and said he thought I might be a little anxious.

Anxious! Hardly the word for a woman who has been trapped in the casa trying to heal from a dreaded and having to learn to renegotiate a place for her energies.

Anxious is hardly a word for my confusion at a textile world that is dominated by sweetness and priviledge and other women just finding their place.

Tomorrow I will pull in my long tongue, spit the boot out, and hope for the wisdom and maturity to remember that most people are doing the best they can. They don't always know what I know or see it my way.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fish Skin Dolls

Fish Skin Dolls collection of Lyn Fabio

Lyn Fabio has been surviving in the Klondike in weather that has been -430 (that is below zero) for weeks now. She describes the ice fog that has enveloped Whitehorse as being "so thick you can't see across the street."

I have been whining and wingeing for weeks now about our snowy, soggy, boggy weather. Mostly, however, Vancouver floats a few degrees below zero. This year has been unusual and the snow has come and gone for more than two months. We live in a slushy state.

Lyn goes for a walk every day! The winter in Whitehorse means many hours of darkness.
She walks and makes chocolates and plays with her gut and fish skins.

Lyn has been invited to go to Siberia by the Russian government to teach gut workshops. She will also bring some of the more extreme textile techniques with her.

The little fish skin dolls are part of her collection. They are traditional.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Jean Littlejohn Embellish in 3-D

The new baby lock embellisher arrived today just before noon.
It was purchased at Mason's in Vancouver and it was on sale.

The unit is light weight and easy to set up. The manuals are easy to read and there is technical support at the store. Little tools came with the embellisher and so did extra needles.

The needles are very expensive and will have to be treated properly. The unit is set up to take ten needles at a time and has needle protection right on the machine. The tricky thing is to remember to put the needles in the up position before pulling the fabric out.

How cool is a machine that can create cloth out of scraps, can bond one fabric to the other and can make felt out of fleece?

Today was spent setting up and sampling. It works on natural fleeces and denim. The backs of the cloth created are sometimes more interesting than the fronts. Making dry felt from the embellisher takes just about as much time as hand felting and not nearly as much effort as needle felting.

Clearly the combinations of embellisher and embroidery, hand felting and machine stitching are going to occupy me while I am waiting to hear results from my other research. Good thing I can only work for about an hour at a time on it.

Making small globes for Numen and designing new work on the embellisher. I love new toys !

I blame the talk I went to with Jean Littlejohn for this new fascination and expenditure. I watched a great DVD with her work from 2006.

Check out www.odysseyartvideos.com

Thursday, February 7, 2008

New Bird Dream

The depth of winter enlivens my dreams. The quiet of the snow, the cool temperature of the room, the extra warmth from the blanket and the richer food contribute.

Last night I dreamt of my garden. I knew the weather was cold but I had to see what was still growing. I was digging around with a stick and noticed movement in the compost pile. Inspection revealed some interesting red and blue scraps of fabric. Almost fringes with a beautifully woven band.

I was feeling annoyed by the waste of the cloth and decided to pull it from the pile of rotting leaves. Bending over the fringe revealed life and movement. The leaves moved from off the cloth and revealed two Tibetan eagles in full ceremonial garb, The garb was deep blue red with a cobalt coloured fringe. It was a head piece, mask and body armour, all made from beautiful Tibetan brocade. The birds were content in the compost pile so I left them to move to the garden pond.

The garden pond was so much deeper than I remembered. It was clear and more like an underwater cave. I surfaced and found a rounded glass dome so I could see while I was diving.
I became a witness to the dive because a four year old boy was diving holding the dome in front of him. He and I were seperate but I could see from his eyes. He looked in amazement at everything in front of him. Not revealed but almost infinate in depth.

Two women with long, long black hair dived into the water to try and bring him out. They were wearing sari's and scarves. They were frantically trying to warn the boy of drowning. But they were in the water and just became another beautiful thing to look at with long floating hair and beautiful silks.

He kept going without fear. Deeper and deeper. Looking through his little viewing dome.

I wondered about the birds but they finally were flying overhead. I remembered that birds were always warning of death for me. It became clear that there would be nothing more powerful than this dream.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

All Gone!

Still trying to figure out how every photograph, file and program on my puter went missing.

Tim spent the last two days recovering my programs and systems because the whole computer crashed. I am not good enough at this not to totally melt down. Big loud meltdown!

I hope some of the pictures can be saved. Now to check through anything saved or backed up.

This is the first time ever!

Friday, February 1, 2008


"The creation of something new," said Carl Jung," is not accomplished by the intellect but by the playing instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves"

Carl Jung