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, May 28, 2008


Today my practicum student Joseph starts in the studio.
He will be with me until June 19. It is always a little intimidating to invite people into the space. It is a matter of making sure the spiel coincides with the reality.

I have a number of projects for him to work on and maybe complete some stuff that isn't finished.

Tim wants to take off for a few days to go to the Oregon Coast and lovely Portland. He just got a new job and time off between. I get him for company and for his carpentry tasks. Heh Heh! So today is for studio introductions and then leave tomorrow for a few days.

I am booked for surgery in September and will become a real bionic woman. The fog that has come over my eyes quickly is a result of being on the steroids after my lungs were burnt by the breast cancer radiation. The side effect is legal blindness. It has gone from a little irritating to looking through smoked, frosted glass. I was warned that there might be no hope for improvement but they were wrong. I get new lenses implanted in my eyes and they are considering it urgent because of this artist thing. It is covered on medicare making me glad to be Canadian once again.

My baby graduated yesterday and looked great. I am a proud mama!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Silly Hats

Today is the day my youngest son graduates with his Master's degree in Urban Planning. He will wear a funny hat and a gown. He can now officially move from one stage of his life into another with praise and an excellent standing academically.
He had exceeded all expectations of him!

I was told that there was something wrong with him when he was a tiny child in school. I kept looking at him to try and figure out what the problem was. He seemed normal to me. He could read before school, could play with computers and build enormous structures which contained transportation systems and financial districts and places for kids to play. He was affectionate and expressive at home.

I insisted that he be evaluated. The teacher was very smug with me and told me it was best to identify the problem areas. Low income kids had many challenges and she wanted him placed in a class for "those kids". We hit a wall in our communication.

A wonderful psychologist took his case and discovered that he was a "gifted " child in an understimulated environment. She told the teacher that the problem was hers for not identifying and using my Brendan's gifts. Brendan was never treated the same again at school. He was treated as if he was a gift to the classroom.

I have often wondered why our education system squanders so many of our children's gifts. Why do so many go unrecognized? I firmly believe in public education and have worked as a parent advocate and have run for office to improve school programs for inner city children. The majority of the children whose parents worked with me have become successful adults. Despite the fact that they were from poor families. Like Brendan.

Education doesn't come easy or cheap. But it takes so little to motivate children and to keep them engaged. Sometimes it even takes a little dragging, kicking and screaming. But in the long run it doesn't take much.

I am happy to say that all of my children are successful in different ways. It took awhile to see that but they have each shown their own gifts. Stephen became the youngest paramedic in the province who now supervises others at infant life support, Chris has been a Yukon squatter, a demonstration snowboarder and avalance rescue specialist, a radio announcer and now a builder of beautiful log homes, Dane is a recorded musician and a student at the University of Winnipeg. He works with the "lost boys" of Africa and studies things like international diplomacy. Brendan has now qualified to plan our cities to become more sustainable and livable places. He is twenty five and has already worked in New York and China.

I love my kids and step kids. It has really taken so little for them to get here. A little encouragement, a little love, a little respect. They are all resilient, accomplished and gifted.

Today we celebrate Brendan in his funny cap and gown. We will make a toast and recognize children's gifts everywhere!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Life in a bottle

Shroud for a Rag Collector 2005 (detail) Patricia Chauncey
photo Christine Hatfull 2008
Floor scraps embedded in silk and tulle and stitched

I am going to be spending a whole lot of time trying to find time to get work done this month.
My partner left his job at the beginning of the month and has been occupying more time than I expected. He is more than a dear but he uses time I need on the computer, turns t.v. on during contemplation time and moves my paints.

I am a self confessed art slob. I like to wallow in my materials before something gets made. Things get tossed around to see the effect. I squash things between my fingers. It is a very happy time when the room is swamped with stuff to absorb. Even the tidiest, most definate aspects of the textile work gets done like this.

Other artists work like this. Textile artists seem to be the worst from visiting other studios. The tidiest appear to be the water colour artists. Sculptors just have piles of stuff and mixed media artists get evicted from studios all the time.

I have a full studio and basement full of trunks of cloth, dyes,paints and good stuff. A full library of art books and old craft magazines. I don't think there is anything that I need now with my new encaustic iron. Drowning in riches so to speak. I aspire , however, to work like the Japanese masters. Tiny vertical spaces. Everything in it's place. Spare and sparce. Delicious to observe. Impossible for me.

I know a person will be my art buddy if they walk into my work space and say, "I am in craft heaven." They usually don't last with comments like, " Oh my god! What exploded in here!"

Monday, May 19, 2008


I heard Patrick Lane, the poet, describing the need creative people have to rejuvinate in gardens. He described a friend describing planting some moss in a thimble and having it grow.
Each morning his friend put one drop of water in the thimble. The moss thrived.

My Great Grandmother Mabel Adams planted her gardens in bread pans when she lived in the "boneyard". (Boneyard is prairie for old folk's home) She documented the growth of each pan of prairie sod and kept a list of the huge number of varieties that sprouted up through that year.

Today my garden is thriving. The Johnny Jump-ups self planted through the winter and are everywhere. So are the harebells and poppies. The lilacs are overpowering. The rhubarb is delicious and the herbs are everywhere.

My little farm is 25 feet by 100 feet not including where the house is built.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Stuffing Things

Lisa Watmough uses scraps for her furnishings. Her work above

I dreamt last night that I took my enormous piles of fabric scraps and used them as stuffings for pillows and furniture. I sewed clear plastic casings for them so the variety of colours could be seen and left openings so I could take out fabric I wanted to use.

I think this is a good idea considering my trunks, baskets and boxes full of fabric.

Except the plastic coverings are a bit oppresive and sticky in this heat.
There are loads of artists using scrap fabric again. I remember covering couches and chairs in crazy quilt patterns in the early seventies. I really love the scrappy look but it certainly could be dressed up and more polished.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I can't tell you how crabby I am today...I think that I have taken everyone on I could and I still have nasty energy. How come my energy isn't ever this high for my creative projects?

Tim has just returned from weeks away and I am horrible. My kid ducked out, his girlfriend fled, the neighbours shut the window and Hilary nearly tripped on the stairs trying to get away.
I can't muster a smile that looks anything less than a grimace. My normal face looks like a growly bear and that Alpha female part of me is on high speed.

I am having a great deal of trouble today with men who think they can over power me. There isn't really a submissive bone in this body unless I absolutely have to be. I am the oldest child in a family of all brothers, the eldest cousin on two sides, the mother of four sons, the daughter of an super Alpha male, and a former street social worker. It is way too hard to be benign.

My confession is that I feel like I am trapped in tar with this body. My eyes are really going as the result of some nasty medication I had to take. Going so fast that they have fast tracked me into the ocular oncologist for next week! Normally one would wait for nearly a year for an appointment. Sometimes fast is scary.

Tim leaves again tomorrow without telling me what is up. My closest friend is sicker than I am.

I hate tar!

Breath in...breath out...and keep on sewing these white things!

Siberian Mask

Photograph Lyn Fabio Salekherd, Siberia Museum Lyn Fabio sent me this amazing image of a face warmer mask from the museum in Salekherd, Siberia. It was hand made by one of the workers contsructing the Trans-Siberian Railway.
How haunting. So simple, rustic and all hand stitched from scraps for protection from the extreme cold. So very fundamental and for survival.
The sign demands, " No smoking on the worksite!" I wonder how they could even tell with the way your breath shows in the cold.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vesna Yankovich

One of Vesna's beautiful baskets.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful woman named Vesna at my friend's house. She turned out to be the most amazing multi dimensional artist and inspiring person.
Vesna weaves with non traditional materials and does a thousand other creative projects. Her work is lovely.

Vesna came out of the war in Bosnia and managed to escape with her husband, mother and teenage child. She came to Canada with almost nothing and was able to create beauty and a new life when she was in her middle age. She had been an art instructor in a University in Bosnia. She loved her life and her neighbours. All her neighbours. She left to save her son.

She works harder than any artist I know and creates beauty in tiny spaces surrounded by her family. She doesn't fuss and complain like I do. She just does it. Vesna lays low at times and describes this need for herself to climb into caves and listen to the quiet. She says that there are productive times and cave times.

Vesna now has the Boardwalk Gallery on Granville Island and is experimenting with jewelry, metal weavings and paintings.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rustings and Rottings

Copper patination on cast gold paper

Copper patination on cast gold paper

Rust experiment on silvered silk screen with gold patinated cast paper

Rust experiment on silver painted silk screen

More experiments

Hilary and I played in the studio today and made some patinated fabrics and played with rustings.

I also made bugs with lots of thread polyester.


I was burning some little globes today for Numen Gallery. It was warm enough to sit on the old woodedn staircase at the studio. It was comfy in the sun and the fumes were kept to a minimum.
The work lasted a full hour and two globes were completed and gorgeous. I put the globes beside me on the stairs and was aiming for a pile of them to rust and shellac if possible. There was extra time spent on each one.

I was completely shocked when the wind came up and carried two of them away like little beings and depostited them on the rickety, impossible roof top below me. Now I can only hope the wind will come and pick them up again and blow them to the ground.

In the meantime they are nestled in the thick moss and cigarette butts looking like very toxic mushrooms. Who knows what the elements will do to them?

Lesson learned....put finished objects in a box and protect them.

Things I Love

Barnacle I found.

Barnacle I made.

1. A plain white cotton cloth
2. Jelly Rats.
3. Saskatoon jam.
4. Dried magnolia petals.
5. Curry
6. Barn swallows
7. Barnacles
8. New baby hair
9. Cold bedrooms, warm comforters and Tim's back altogether.
10. Starting new things.
11. Finishing old things.
12. Phone calls.
13. Cherry blossoms wind drifts.
14. Cool breezes on wet skin.
15. Mouth organs
16. Rice paper.
17. Old bones.
18. Round stones.
19. Red lanterns.
20. Trains going anywhere!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wee Towers

Tim and I haunted the Home Depot yesterday. We are trying to figure out a new garden design for the front retaining wall and have decided to put in a retaining wall, new front stairs, a low fence and a public seat facing the sidewalk.

Brendan got into the fray by coming up with a perfect design and Tim figured out how to attach planters to the bench. They went on to do some plans for cast concrete with big rhubarb leaves in it and a birdy bath. An arbour grew into the plans and so did an elevated garden in the back.

I think we have decided to try to stay in our tiny garden cottage for as long as we can. I just want it to change enough that I feel like I have moved. Extreme makeover time.
The house really needed to be serene while I was recovering from cancer. The walls and furniture are completely unchallenging visually. Completely not me! It has started to make me feel sick!

So back to a more challenging palette and reconfiguration of the rooms and things. Less morgue like surroundings are in the plan. Tim figures I have now lined him up enough work for 6 months if he starts at 4 in the morning and stops by 10 p.m.

Did I tell you about my dream of little tower houses in the yard as garden sheds? What about casting creepy little body parts for the yard? Hundreds of tiny heads as pebbles? Maybe even a stock for naughty comapny!

Today we experiment with fiberglass. Tomorrow concrete. New construction made from old sails collected through time. I am so glad my handyman is home for awhile. As long as it isn't unemployment!

Friday, May 2, 2008


Lyn Fabio is home safe and sound. Her ordeal is over and the Canadian government came through with her airfare, a per dieum and cab fare home. She is extremely grateful. So am I.
She is still dreaming about her ordeal in Russia.

She tells me that the first crocuses of spring are poking their faces through the clay of Whitehorse. The air is fresh, clean and crisp like only northern air can be.

Now Lyn is making up for lost time and wages and will be cooking up a storm at the restaurant for the first time since her surgery in the fall. I hope she will also have some time for her beautiful art.

Tim is now officially unemployed and is in rest mode after years at a very demanding high tech job. His whole identity is being reworked and he will have to find his feet after years of wage security. He is released from wage slavery and a workaholic life into all kinds of possibility.

Yesterday we spent time looking at amazing tiny houses. I think I want one. My house is only 560 square feet including bathrooms and hallways and excluding the cellar. Some of the new houses are from 70 square feet to 150 square feet. They have everything we have except for room to skip.

Last night I dreamt of little tower houses. Small foot prints with four stories and connected by bridges at different levels from which to watch the bears roaming on the ground. I dangled above them and recorded their actions.

Normally I am terrified of bears. I can't sleep in tents or feel safe in the heavy forest out here.
So my towers worked well and I didn't disturb them at all. I could watch how beautiful they were.

Bears, really, are the least of my worries!