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.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Images

Lost Coast Urchins Patricia Chauncey

Return to Mecca Detail Patricia Chauncey

Paper wasp nest with latex pyrography Patricia Chauncey

Pyrography sample on rusted embroidery

Paper Balls Patricia Chauncey 2008

Sand Pods, Gut pods, Ghost Cloth Patricia Chauncey

Detail Neptuna's Tail Patricia Chauncey 2007

Detail Hide Patricia Chauncey 2003

Patinaed cloth embroidery in progress Patricia Chauncey 20001-2008

Urchins Lost Coast Series 2000

Rust printed, dyed, discharged and buried in the garden suede 2001

Inspirational object barnacle skeletons on clam shell

Lost Coast Series Urchins 2001 Patricia Chauncey

Paper Construction, patinated and burnt Patricia Chauncey 2007

Eden Skin 1 2007 Patricia Chauncey

Eden Skin 2 Patricia Chauncey 2007

Hide Patricia Chauncey 2003

Shibori Gold Organza Shawl 2006

These are the promised images of some of the work I have been doing for the last few years.
Some are samples , some finished pieces, or images of other work. Also included are some of the inspirational objects observed and imitated.

My work is influenced by natural structures and internal landscapes. There is a connection for me with internal body functions or dysfunctions and the structures in other beings or objects in nature. There is a connection between life and death, between decay and beauty, and alteration
through time. There is also a connection between life , death, the erotic and the eternal.

I use materials that are pushed to limits by altering through natural process. Paper, gut, latex, leather are used or imitated by recycled materials that are far from the organic. These materials are also burned, ripped, torn, abraded depending on the surface desired using extreme textile process.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Photographing My Work

Samples of my textiles with Carnegie Center in the background.
photograph 2008 Christine Hatfull
(Note drug deal happening in the alley beside the building.)

Christine Hatfull has spent weeks taking photographs of my work. She has also not been feeling very well but is more of a trooper than I am. Textiles are being thrown in the air and photographed in mid flight. They have lived in Christine's apartment for a few weeks and I like that they are there.

Christine lives in a renovated hotel in the midst of our crawling inner city. Her window looks out at the Carnegie Center which outside is an unofficial drug supermarket and inside a very well used community center. Ambulances crank up sirens to round the corners down there so altered people don't get mowed down. The street there is called Hastings Street and it is a nightmare. Wonderful people live down there in the chaos and clatter. So do some who aren't so wonderful.

I live in a tiny little house with a garden. I can walk to Hastings Street. Sometimes junkies die on my street corner or pee in my flowers. Sometimes they just sit and rest for a minute and bliss out on my trees. My step son is a paramedic in this neighbourhood and thinks it is a miracle that he can pump people full of a substance after they have overdosed and died and have them spring back to life. He doesn't think the devil lives on Hastings Street but still has a calling! He cranks up his siren.

Christine and I share a genetic inheritance to the neighbourhood. Our grandfathers and great grandfathers lived there. Hers was a carpenter and a woodcarver and mine was a preacher.
She can trace her father and grandfather's steps through photographs and I can trace mine through buildings and churches.

Her great was an import from England and mine moved from Newfoundland to save opium addicts and prostitutes. He was sure his wife died because of money and wealth and he gave all of his money away to experience the poverty of Jesus. He just knew the devil lived on Hastings Street and could be chased away with enough will! My grandfather had a disagreement with his father about the devil and ended up living on Hasting Street as a child of 11 until he was hired in the logging camps. Christine's grandfather and father carved many of the beautiful doors in the area.

Christine and I met at the studio building we share. She used to occupy my studio and now she has taken over a small 35 square foot retired washroom which functions in a horizontal and not vertical way. It is loaded with costumes and incredible antiques and her artwork which climbs up the twenty foot ceiling. She spreads up while I spread out!

She is the only other person I know who has family going back generations who didn't grow up here. She is also the only other person I hang out with who has tumours and still makes life plans like I do. We both know New York and Montreal. Her ex worked with Andy Warhol for a little while and she acted as the hairdresser in the cult movie "Liquid Sky". I had a part as a Polish sausage stuffer in the street scene in the Disney movie "Natty Gann". We were both dancers a long time ago. I once got to dance with Janice Joplin. Her cred is higher than mine.

So she is taking photographs of the street and of my cloth on one of them. We will have breakfast and download some of them on Friday.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Patricia

It is my 55th birthday today. I am caught completely off guard.

I couldn't wait to be 10 years old because it meant I could have a bike and write two numbers down when asked my age. I couldn't wait to be thirteen because it meant I was a teenager. I couldn't wait to 16 because it meant I could get my learner's permit and work. Then I couldn't wait to be 18 because it meant I could finish high school. I nearly busted to be 21 because it meant I could buy my own booze and have legal sex and get married.

Truth was I didn't wait for any of those things. I just lied about my age and got away with everything. I put on make-up and heels and went to the bar at 15. I started working at 14 with false ID. I finished school at 17 and got married at 19. I had my first baby at 21 and was separated by 24. I guess I just needed to get on with life and childhood didn't suit me much.

I wish I had known that life seems to go on forever unless something happens. Things happen all the time. When I was young I just knew too much and now I feel like I know so little. I thought my parents were perfect but no one is. I thought you could plan for every aspect of life and that everything was optomistic. Then I thought I would do everything better and with more thought and consideration.

I know a few things now that my mother knew. Like babies are exhausting but they last for such a short time. That the pang you feel for them never changes. That they think you are perfect and then they don't. That forgiveness is hard. That there is lots to forgive and be forgiven.
That real love sticks to your ribs like a good stew.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Moving To The Next Level.

Charles Wilson's student work Woman's Work 2006

Sometimes it is clear that the people you are working with and the work you are doing needs to move to a new level. There is a wind of this everywhere. Change is on the verge of happening.

The Vancouver Guild of Fabric Arts met tonight and talked about moving in a direction of advocacy for the arts and for fabric arts. We talked about our responsibility to advocate for what we need and for what other artists need. We talked about our role and ability to speak with those who are struggling in this community. We really talked about taking the next step!

Fabric artists can work in isolation and ignore issues surrounding them. Or they can take a deep breath, look around and see where they can put their incredible creativity and talents to work for change. They can, as a body of artists, have impact on their community.

This, of course, isn't a new idea. Textile artists have a long history of being change agents. They have worked and coordinated projects like the AIDS Quilt and many other projects. They organized strong Guilds and Unions for textile workers and spoke out for issues like ending slavery.

So the Vancouver Guild of Fabric Arts is now going to think about how to do this in a clear thinking and sensitive way. We will pick up our knitting needles and threads and put ourselves in places that might not be so comfortable to take a step at making change. We will start by taking little steps and introduce ourselves to others who are doing this. We will speak up and give support when needed. We will give our time and hands to do a little more than just provide charity.

The Textile Arts Students at Capilano College did this a few times this year. One of them did cross stitch on a chain mail fence near our poorest community and made requests for housing and support for our poor. Hundreds of people drive past the messages every day. They did a large group project about the housing issues in this expensive city and presented it as a major project. They used thier talents in a dozen ways.

It is now time the rest of us paid attention!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Making Nice

Quilchena Hotel 1908 Merritt, B.C.

Similar to my Chinese silk jacket in blue

Similar to my favourite old bloomers

Michelle , my neice, arrived in town last night. I will be running around today building her costume for the Merrit Hotel party later this spring. The Hotel will be one hundred years old
and belongs to her beau's family.

It is a lovely old gold rush and early rancher's hotel that is incredibly well preserved because of care and the dry, desert like climate in Merrit. I used to look in the windows and check out the stuff stored inside. I wanted it. Now Michelle gets to spend time there.

So today I sew late Victorian undies like bustles and bloomers. I'll probably be at it for days!
What could be more fun than drowning in lace and silky things?

When my friend Peter and I were in New York a few years ago I found a table full of these special undies at the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market. The vendor selling them had found them at an old house up the Hudson River. Three sisters had lived in the big, old house and had lived to be extremely old. They had saved everything. They were also quite tiny when young and had collected and saved chemise covers, petticoats and bloomers of all sorts. I have no idea why I didn't buy them all except that I was still sick from cancer medications and not doing well that day. They certainly would have been perfect for the Merrit party!

I wonder if some young woman will find my undies after I am gone and think they are a treasure. They certainly aren't tiny. Some of them are bloomers and some of them are lovely black lace. I just have a hard time imagining people thinking they are precious and delicate in the same way I felt about the old bloomers in New York.

Funny to think about people collecting ancient undies. I have a few old bed jackets, a chemise cover, sleeping bonnets, and an old nightie. I collected old bloomers and wore them for clothing in the late sixties and early seventies. My friends and I also wore old corsets and slips for dresses and lusted after Victorian night gowns. These looked just right with gigantic hand embroidered piano shawls. Or 1930's men's smoking jackets. Mine was black silk and actually had brocade of a disembodied hand holding a smoking cigarette! Or old Chinese silk jackets. Mine was gold silk with jade embroidery. (I gave it to my mother and she gave it to my neice Brie). Dressed up with an old army jacket and army boots of course! Never paid more than $3.00 for anything!

We also collected wedding dresses, old or extreme and re-made them into other garments. The last set was shipped out to Polly's granddaughters and were turned into very gothic gowns for play three years ago.

There is a need to go thrift store shopping again because my tiny neices haven't yet pulled out the trunks and had a dig through. Why not collect some 90's stuff and stuff from the early 2000's for the new crop of children?

In the meantime I indulge Michelle's ancient underwear gene!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Swallowed Up

My days have become swallowed up with organizational issues lately and with community work.
It is thrilling to be back at it. It is different this time. I am focusing on fibre arts advocacy and education.

I spent years of my life doing social work, social justice work and advocacy. I worked with people who were poor, disabled and discriminated against in the most extreme ways. I am Canadian but we still have poverty, disabilty and homelessness.

Sometimes it feels like priviledged work compared to the life saving work I did in the past.
I mean that I am working on issues for more priviledged people than before.
Except that the average income for artists in the community is lower than welfare rates, that housing for all poor people is drying up here and that it is getting impossible to find studios.
Except that without advocacy the artists in this town might have to leave and sell from far away. Or not produce anything at all inovating and just end up focusing on product to survive.

The neighbourhood I live in has the most artists in the city and the most in Canada. It doesn't surprize any one local to hear that you work as an artist. Lately the neighbourhood has been taken up by people with lots more money than before. Renters are having to move away or pay more than they can afford for rent. Most artists in the community rent.

Studio spaces are becoming scarce and expensive. Artist's live work spaces have been taken up by people who did art on the perifery and bought up and occupied the spaces called "New York Lofts". "New York Lofts" or unfinished spaces are costing more than 600,000 to buy. Many people who bought them don't even live in them or rent them out because they are speculating.
Our new Conservative government and their real estate buddies in parliament are not helping but encouring this development.

The Olympics are coming and throwing everything out of order.

So people and artists are going homeless in record numbers in this town and it is hard to advocate for artists because we are still so Protestant here that art is considered a luxury.
Artists are also going homeless.

I am lucky. I own a little shack of a house and a small yard and garden. It was the cheapest house in town when I bought it. This is a beautiful city and has a very mild temperature for Canada. It is inspiring to live here.

Now we have to protect it again and I have to go and do some community work again.

Some of the students from Capilano College are weaving messages in the chain fences protecting the properties. They are putting up messages and sewing reminders of this place. They are activated and strong and they reminded me that there is never a time when we stop protecting our community.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Responsibility for Beauty

I attended the Surface Design Meeting last night and got to look at the travelling samples from the SDA library. There are dozens of them and they are all different. Each one was made by a different member of the Surface Design Association from around the world.

I left the meeting with all of the samples and will be bringing them to the VGFA meeting at Aberthau tomorrow evening.

They are worth pouring through to see so many different combinations of techniques.
I pulled a few favourites out and they turned out to have been made by people I know!
Yvonne Wayakubayashi, Jessica De haas each had a gorgeous sample of their techniques.

They will come with me to the meeting tomorrow and I will take them home again to be mailed on to the next location. I feel like I get to touch the hand of each of the makers.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I spent yesterday collaging images of flesh. I also drew for hours and played with surface on paper using a conte stick. Not enough time has been spent plonking images on paper. Everytime is a reminder that there are ways of working that require less.

There are about 30 little drawings that can be played with in another way today. The tiny collages opened up another way to see colour and palette. Not all are useful but some are.

Today is going to be a busy day in the studio. I have to meet a guy from a local foundry and my photographer. The Surface Design meeting is tonight and preparation needs to be made for the
Vancouver Guild of Fabric Arts on Thursday.

But an hour or two will be spent with gouache, torn paper, threads, scraps, stolen images, my images, cardboard and the glue bottle. Another hour will be spent burning my small globes and experimenting with colour and the emulsions.

It is back on the horse to see where whe takes me!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Anniversay 200

Today I am posting my 200th post.

Lately I felt quite lethargic about making postings because my energy levels haven't been very high since my most recent health stuff. Sometimes I wonder about the purpose for the posting and remember that it is a little journal that other people get to read sometimes. It has kept record of at least one part of my life.

I have been thinking a lot about the kind of work I create and realize that it is about making little bits of my imagination concrete.

There are struggles with creating. My studio has incredible temparature ranges. I live in a wet raincoast environment in Canada. It is fairly temparate by Canadian standards. I get whiny in the cold room. I get whiny in the room when it is too hot. I get whiny with my machines.

I know I am very, very lucky to have a place to work. I spent yesterday being spoiled by my beautiful friend Fariba. She creates wonderful work in a tiny, tiny space in her small apartment.
Her life looks beautiful and integrated. She is resourceful and energetic. She cares for her daughter and makes her art.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how it is we recreate our life story for others and how they interpret our story. I wrote something recently about an internet friend who is managing to integrate her life and make art with challenges. She says that each part of her life gives her energy and motivation for the other part. Her creations, her parenting, her work revolve around and for one another. Each part appears to be done very well. It sounds like a wonderful life story and looks like a true story. I feel that she is probably a mature and well integrated person. She certainly creates beauty.

I think I don't integrate things in my life well. Or my story is told in bits and parts. I really want it to be more integrated. Maybe it was once. Each part of life seems to have times to re-evaluate, finish and start. So, it is probably time to spend some time planning and goal setting again so that I can act in a more integrated way. There are some art things I need to finish up and push forward. There are also some life things that seem to be getting in the way and need to be tidied up.

I really went to town organizing my studio over the last two weeks. I also knocked my back out and had a huge fight with myself about allowing that to happen. I know I can only pick up weight so heavy and bend in certain ways. I am usually really good about that but I tempted fate like a brat. Brats are self destructive and bother other people.

When I go back into the studio it will be nice and clean with two machines to explore. I will continue and finish stuff I want to do, chuck stuff I don't want to do and get ready for the next project which is about textiles but not made with them. I will work with some new people and some I have worked with before. This is something to really look forward to.

It is time to live with more of this work and set up a little corner at home to work in when not in the studio. More art friends can come home and more home friends can have lunch at the studio. It is time to accept the fact that I am a working artist and that it is honorable work that doesn't have to shoved it into corners anymore.

Time to feel more grateful I am sure. I choose to do art. I do it when there is no place to work. I even do it in my sleep.