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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Photographs by Kitty Benaim 2008 (stolen shamefully to share)
Kitty Benaim has just returned from Thailand back to London, England and shared some wonderful photographs on facebook. I am delighted by the texture of the roots and the little creature on the bark. They will inspire into my next experiments I'm sure.

I just love signs and her photograph of the sign warning of the FAKE MONKS landed me on the floor.
Today I feel sick and tired but I have learned to make a wicked iced coffee!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lights Camera Action

I have just returned from a weekend trip down to Portland again. The weather was great and it was just cool enough to cope with all of ther community fairs that were happening. We stayed at the Hotel Fifty which is right on the river and got to walk late at night listening to the musicians who congregate there.

This time the trip concentrated on the Hawthorne District which is full of Arts and Crafts homes and a very alternative community. Everyone gardens and the whole neighbourhood seemed to be out participating in a car free community street fair. Music. dreadlocks and dancing.

We met Dale, a self confessed accumulator, who was selling off his stuff. He sold me a butterfly collection, a naughty picture of a 1940's woman showing her bottom and an amazing cloth he has carried around for years. He says he started accumulating things in the 1980's when his friends started dying from AIDS. The more dead friends the more stuff. Soon all of his friends died and he found that he had to live without them. He is still in terrible grief.

I told him about breast cancer and livng with so many people dead and never knowing. We just hung onto one another for a few hours. We just kept patting one another! Never did find out his last name! But I took his butterflies!

I also bought lights, lights and more lights including a light projector.

Just wait until the culture crawl!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Playing in the Muck

Local papers for mache and scrapbooks These ones are free. Photo Christine Hatfull 2008
Paper Mache and rust component pieces. Patinated, cast, painted and heat processed.
Patricia Chauncey 2008 photograph Christine Hatfull
Tyvek and paper mache urchins Lost Coast Series Patricia Chauncey 2008
Photgraph Christine Hatfull
I wonder if playing in muck is one of our most natural pleasures.

Every day this week I have been up to my nostrils in paste made from flour and water and detritus from my house. Newspaper clippings, torn magazine bits, household fliers, old dried plant material and thready stuff.

One pile of stuff gets slapped on another pile of stuff. Sometimes it just turns into a lovely thick paper to play with further and sometimes it just turns into a little collage or card or a component for other foolings.

Following and keeping to a decision not to buy anything new was part of my decision to play with the fundamental. So was a studio too hot to go into and and not feeling well.

When I was little and not feeling well my grandfather or my mom would set me up with crayons, flour glue, scissors and old magazines. The very best to get was the old Eaton's catalogue!
I could check out the naughty bits in the underwear section and turn naughty bits into naughty parts for naughty people. Naughty child! Then I would proceed to cover up my sins with cut outs for clothing etc.

If the day was not interrupted by my lump of brothers or a dreaded Doctor's appointment, towns of people would be made. Towns would be made if there were boxes. Flower gardens and trees and beautiful paintings for the walls. All of this would be set up on the bed and the light green chenille bedspread would be urned into farms. I had a nasty habit of picking out the chenille because they looked like cabbages. My bedspreads would have nude areas. Harvested to the foundation cloth.

My grandfather taught me to sew on one of those days. Sometimes by "accident" I would sew on of my creations to the patchy bedspread.

My son Dane made movies when he was home sick. He made animated and articulated creatures and put them in tidy boxes and would amuse himself for months with them. He would make home made play dough sets and monsters and would be very happy in bed.

I have a theory that the normally dreaded "time out" only works as a reward for very imaginative children. They don't suffer at all from being removed from the crowd. They sing to themselves and invent whole environments. In "privacy".

Playdough Recipe

1 cup of flour
2t cream of tartar
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1T vegetable oil (probably not peanut or olive)
food colouring or kool aid to colour'

Combine the salt flour and cream of tartar in a pot. Put the water oil and food colouring or drink mix (without sugar) into another bowl. Slowly pour the wet into the dry stirring constantly.
Cook over a medium heat for 3 monutes while continuing to stir until the goo pulls away from the sides of the pot. Put somewhere to cool and when cool enough knead it until smooth.
Put it in plastic containers with lids and put in the fridge. It should last for awhile.

Mom's Play Clay

! c. cornstartch
1 c. baking soda
1 1/4 c. cold water

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly for about 4 or 5 minutes until it thickens to the consistency of mashed potaters.
Cool on a plate and put into covered containers.

This clay is great to paint when dry. It drys in about two days. I still have stuff my kids made years ago!

Goo Glue

1 part flour
2 parts water
1 t. salt

Dump one into the other and stir until lumps are gone. The salt helps prevent molds from forming. To thicken add more flour. To thin add more water.

Make great substantial paper for scrap books using newspaper sheets glued together. Perfect for foundations for other projects. The same can be done with office paper or advertisement fliers.
Use a paper punch and sew books together for prolific little artists. No money needed for this scrap book!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rustings and Rantings

Rust Experiments Patricia Chauncey Photos Christine Hatfull

I love working with rust and other destructive textiles. Burying things that have been soda ashed and wrapped with metal bits is the best because everything surrounding the cloth is absorbed as a dye. My favourite saved objects are an old buck saw, some submarine stairs, an old barbed wire fence ball and can lids. I also haul an old rusty ladder around everywhere I end up. There are buckets of slimy water under the house holding wet, rusty metal bits.

Rust works on so many fibres. It transforms with little spots or controlled shibori patterning. The rusty objects can be clamped and wrapped or just placed on. Just soak the fabric in soda ash or not, sprinkle it with salt and add vinegar. Or just leave it soggy with the rusty bit. The longer the better. It works on cotton, silk, combination fabrics, and even on old polyester. You can even rust paper and embroidery threads.

Virginnia Baldwin, the Chair of the Vancouver Guild of Fabric Arts, once took over an old train yard with different cloths. She came back with the most extreme rusted fabrics.

There are rust patinas you can buy and these can help with a more controlled dyeing. Using them for a few runs with a silkscreen produces very controlled printing with rust. This means printing on a prerusted fabric or an otherwise destructive fabric for an incredible combination of spontaneous and controlled imagery.

Arlee Barr, the mad textile scientist, has been experimenting like crazy over the last month or so.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cold Wars

Flesh Patricia Chauncey 2000 Mixed Media Collage Cast Paper, poly plastics, heat process, stitching, hand painting and piecing. 2 feet by 3 feet
Many of us were influenced by experiences as children during the "Cold War".

I look at my imagery and realize that so much of it comes from that time in my life. I remember being a little child and sitting on my teacher's knee and crying with her. I asked her about whether or not we were going to get blown up. It was the Cuban Crisis.

I went home to a house where my mother had survival gear packed for the inevitable nuclear holocaust. We were taught as children which escape route to use to get out of town. Many people in my neighbourhood had bomb shelters and the schools ran exercises where children were timed on the route home. The air raid sirens went off and we ran,with or without shoes, home in the winter prairie. We weren't told if it was for real or not.

They only took the air raid sirens away from my elementary school within the last five years.

Children today are often obsessed with the idea of environmental disaster and it is probably the same for them. Children of Christian parents are bothered by the possibility of the Apocalypse.
It has creative influence.

My grandmother told me a story about a time near 1900 when all of the people in the town next to hers were sure that the end was coming. The "good and righteoous ones" gave up all of their belongings and waited at the top of the hill for the Lord to come and take them! The "End Time" day came and went and the "Chosen Ones" walked back to try and negotiate back their homes and belongings. She told me to be prepared but to also look forward to the future because we can't predict our own end.

Sometimes I dream about running home as fast as I can. I wait to find out if the siren was for real or not. Somehow, I always come out a survivor!

Artists influenced by the cold war.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What I Saw On My Summer Holiday

Hairy Weed on the Rocks Photo Tim Hurley Patricia Chauncey 2008
Barnacles Under Giant Kelp Tim Hurley and Patricia Chauncey 2008

Driftwood Photograph Tim Hurley Patricia Chauncey 2008

Beach Wood Photograph Tim Hurley Patricia Chauncey 2008

Rock Barnacles Photograph Tim Hurley and Patricia Chauncey

Tide Pool Photgraph Tim Hurley and Patricia Chauncey 2008

Weed Photograph Tim Hurley and Patricia Chauncey 2008

Sand PAtterns Photgraph Tim Hurley and Patricia Chauncey 2008

More Weeds photograph Tim Hurley and Patricia Chauncey 2008

Tim and I took more photographs on our last weekend trip to Oregon.
This is what we saw!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pastoral Car Lots

Ashcroft from the higway
Ashcroft Flowering Cactus

The actual cabin

Tim packed me into the car last night and we drove to Ashcroft. Ashcroft is a tidy little town on the banks of the mighty Fraser River and is in the desert. Rattlesnakes, Hoo Doos, cattle ranges and sand mountains filled with sagebrush.

We slept in the car and listened to wolves howl us to sleep last night. We woke up in the back of our van and I decided to go for a walk down the road and up an embankment. Tim went back to sleep.

I was greeted with hundreds of wild rose bushes, mountain asters, sundews and pearly everlasting mixed with little cactus. I climbed up the embankment to get a good sniff of rose and juniper and much to my surpise I started to fall back down faster than my feet or my balance could manage. Backwards! It occured to me that no one really knew where I was and the road was almost 25 miles from any other people. It also occured to me that I was in bear, cougar and wolf country. Tim was still asleep!

So, instead of falling ass over tea kettle, I leaned my large form forward and put both arms out in front and with completely unexpected grace slid down the 35 feet like a slalom skier. Something I haven't attempted for 30 years. The bottom came faster than expected and my heels hit with a force throwing me back at the bank and not on my head.

The day got more interesting.

We went to see a property that can only be described as perfect. Off nearly alone in ranch country on the edge of a desert with a little creek running through it. Greetings came from a yellow bellied marmit, deer and fritillary butterflies. The house is an old log homesteaders cabin with real mud chinking in the logs. We arrived past the hill and discovered...the biggest chop shop in the world. Cars were lined up at least ten deep and wide enough to disappear behind a ridge. The property was to be on an agreement with the neighbour and owner, perhaps, of the cars.

We looked around wondering about the environmental impact of that many cars and drove away only to be followed full blast by two men with waist length hair and a big truck. We decided to be friendly and the men got out of the car looking even scarier. They were accompanied by a gorgeous child and dogs. They were lovely. They were afraid we were messing with their cars.

One is a carver and one a bass player for a country rock band. They fix cars and make a living.
So we leaned on cars and spit in the dirt and compared children and experiences with angry bulls. They said they were going to do a crush on the cars and move them to the section of the 40 acres that would belong to them. They wanted me to tell them about extreme textiles and to drag us back to their house to show us the camcorder shots they were doing of the local wild life.

"Just don't act like prey!"

"Good idea!"

We got an invitation to a smash up 50th birthday party next weekend.

The kid piped in that he wasn't allowed to attend because his mom thinks it will be too wild and the bikers will come. He was disappointed because at eleven he was really looking forward to gettin' drunk. I laughed and told him to drink green tea that it worked better.

They sweetly escorted us back down the hill and told us about the tea room in Ashcroft. One of the fellows slipped me his phone number and e-mail. He has a satellite dish.

So that is how I skied backwards down a little cliff, found nirvana and got a date all in one hour this morning.

Tonight I sleep in my own little bed again and dream about what it would be like living inside a real live car lot 25 miles in the bush!

Paper mache dries in less than an hour in the desert and there are rusty bits everywhere!everywhere

Monday, July 14, 2008

Taking Pictures

I have spent the last few days, when not whining, taking photos of some of my toys in action.
There is this great set of dinosaur skeleton walking toys that are keeping everything amusing.
They cost 50 cents each and come in a collection which is complete. They glow in the dark and they click and buzz when taking their choppy little automaton jouneys. All that has to be done is finding a safe place for them to walk and winding them up.

The dinosaurs live on my kitchen window sill and glow in the dark. They even show up outside the house. So I have invited them to walk all over the house and have ghastly little pets to follow me around.

I also collect textured balls that when squeezed have lights and make noise. They flash and whistle and ring. I can touch them and watch them for shadows when the light changes. they remind me of the cell shapes that are photographed for medical illustrations. I would love to have a floor made out of them or a ball room like they have at IKEA.

Today is my son's twenty sixth birthday. I am going to make him strawberry shortcake like moon scapes. He has given me an hour of his time to feed him and bother him. He is practically middle aged and his brothers are saying things like..."when I was your age..." This makes me feel ancient.

I refered to a "young" woman the other day as "you young people" and swallowed my teeth. She was only forty! A meer youth nearing menopause. GAAWWDD!

Now I have to go look for my glasses. Perhaps they could buzz, whir and walk towards me when I get close to them.

Will download the pictures tonight along with some new little drawings from my sketch book.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Self Indulgence

I found a pair of sun glasses that seem to block the glare. Problem not completely solved but far better than it was yesterday. Mood wise, it is a better day.

Tim is back on the roof putting up the eaves and then taking off the scaffolding.

Bren is celebrating his birthday with lots of people over the next few days. His birthday is tomorrow and his girlfriend has something organized. He was my last baby at home and he has now graduated and gone. I will make a cake for him anyways because I figure that after labour and child rearing I get too for awhile. Even if we get crabby with one another.

I dreamt of Grand Manan Island. I lived alone with a large white dog and some sheep. I kept tangling my warp while I was weaving basket covers and face masks. Both were avocado green and I kept thinking the warp needed changing but I couldn't figure out the gears.
The sheep were getting in the kitchen and making a mess. I kept having to leave my task and deal with the sheep.

One lamb was dehydrated and almost transparent. He had odd stitchings on his body and I thought someone might be trying to fix what wasn't broken. His transparency inspired duck mouthed hand puppets that were translucent and collaged internally.

That is what has happened to me. I am collaged internally. Ha!

Will be taking a few days break for my eyes and see if that helps.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Eyes are Everywhere

My eye sight has deteriorated quicker than was expected. The sun hurts them and makes it so I am living a vampire's existence in the dusk, evening and early morning. If I look in the sunlight or if it catches my eyes, everything goes sheet white. No forms or no shadows until I can find the darkness again.

I am frustrated with my lack of ability to see properly and keep getting advice from people about not being frustrated and looking on the "bright side". I am not generally, a "bright sider".
I get even more frustrated with unsolicited advice from people who aren't suffering anything.

My surgery date hasn't been set yet. I am frustrated with waiting my turn. I am reminded that other people have it worse. I know that. My situation is what is in front of me.

I think my frustration is about anger at the situation. This problem was caused by taking massive steroids to save my life from a medical mistake. They radiated my lungs during radiation and it took a year of not being able to breath properly from burns. Before that was four months treatment for an infection so massive nurses came to the house to clean and drain it every day. The infection was caused by a simple lumpectomy. The infection would not have happened if they hadn't lost a radiation pin in the right breast. If they had not lost it they would not have found the massive cancer I told them I had for years. By the time they listened the whole breast had to go. I chose to lose the other one because by then I was terrified by it. Round and round it goes. Treatment lasted for four and one half years.

People who had a simple small lumpectomy come and tell me to breath. No chemo. No burns.

I haven't felt well for one day since this all happened. I can barely remember what feeling well is even like. I can, however, visualize I am well and try and fool my sensations that I actually am.
Magical thinking makes it worse for me the next day. I end up in bed for two days for every productive day I spend. Sometimes I make it for a week and end up in bed for a week.
When I am frustrated my pain tolerance goes down. So I breath and meditate until I am dry and brainless. And someone comes by and tells me to breath! And meditate! I visualize them far away!

Today I am bitchy and impatient with people's unrealistic expectations of me. I am impatient with my unrealistic expectations of myself and feel like packing in creative work altogether.

I just want one day without being told to breath! It will only escape my lips like a hiss!

Friday, July 11, 2008


I have this little problem.
I love angora yarns but I am deathly afraid of the prices.

I had a pretty little angora rabbit a few years ago and the relationship we had was very pleasant. He ate all my vegie scraps and loved stale bread. I loved pluck petting him for his wool.
He was pure white and had a very long, dense coat which is prized in Angora breeders.

I could drop spin his wool and make fuzzy hats and slippers when his wool was mixed with a lamb's wool.

Angoras seem like the perfect addition to an urban farm. They make wool and fertilizer. They eat food scraps and they hardly smell. They are gentle and pleasant company. They even cut the grass.

I read today that someone made a nice paper out of rhino dung and I thought it would be easier to make it from rabbit droppings. Chasing Rino's sounds a little daunting. Rabbits just poo everywhere. There even might be a way to collect their urine for uric acid for dye mordants.
Collecting Rhino urine just sounds dangerous!

Rabbits are one of those zero waste animals in France. I just don't know if I could chew on something I was that intimate with. Perhaps with extra garlic and a good red wine sauce.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rustings and Rottings

I laughed last night when I read Arlee Barr's post about her mother in law throwing out her latest rusting project.

When I was still a tenant I got an eviction notice from my landlord because there were ten lengths of cloth and skins rusting in the garden. I had stuff piled all over them for a project and a little experimentation in cloth destruction and natural dyeing. One cloth had coffee grounds, a line of mushrooms, leaves and assorted palnt materials alongs with rusted objects. Some were wrapped in plastic and others were full face for the elements.

My landlord became very alarmed and noted that I piled ritualistic things on cloth, wore a lot of black and seemed to sing to myself while doing it. I did wear a lot of black, some of the objects looked like artifacts but were really part of an old wringer washer and some rusted nautical materials, and singing to myself was a fact. I couldn't comfort the landlord and had a project due for a show so I refused to move it for a few days.

Needless to say...after years of having landlords suffer through our art, construction and children's experiments, we bought this little house. It is in a neighbourhood where lots of other artists live and stranger things are in other gardens.

Truth is that I still wear too much black and sing to myself in a strange voice that sounds o-kay to me. Now, though, I can destroy cloth in the backyard until it turns to something wonderful if I want. The only person who can kick me out is Tim if he could find me through his construction projects!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I make wicked chutney. This chutney is spicier and fruitier than any chutney we have ever purchased and it tastes wonderful cooked with almost any protein. The favourite around here is spicy mango chutney. The apple chutney made from my trees is also popular. So I am going to try and start a little orchard in the yard. This means planting a pear, a nut, 2 kiwis and a fig
tree. It should only take ten years or so.

There are whacks of rhubarb in the garden, piles of apples on the tree and an abundance of saskatoon berries on the bush. The blackberries are sparse but should be good next year The peppers, however, are completely depressed from the cold weather and the garlic is slow. The tomatoes aren't looking so well but everything else salad is thriving.

Luis came over tonight to pick up the wine he made with Tim. He has offered his cherries if the bears haven't eaten them all.

I really do revert to farm girl this time of year. I am thinking about defying a city ordinance and getting some hens. There is a possibility of convincing other neighbours to try it too. Maybe there is even a place to hide a beehive.

Now, however, it looks like a skunk has moved under my porch. A mean inner city skunk!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Miss Joanie Marie Moossy in Relaxcersize
Image stolen shamefully from her site.

Miss Moossy wrote to my blog regading Christine Hatfull. I tried to write back to Miss Moossy but couldn't get through on the email I found.

So Miss Moossy... the world is so connected! I called Christine and she remembers you and is thrilled and will contact you herself.

How great is that?

Checking into Eve Mosher's blog was very much about this today. She has been charting blogger and internet connections between artists. It helps people find one another, share ideas and realize collective unconsciousness in a concrete way.

I wrote to Arlle Barr about the work she did about the prairies and the Badlands, Arlee Barr had a link to Danny Mansmith. I looked at Abigail Doan's blog and she wrote an article about Danny Mansmith and a silo wrapping project. I looked back at my own blog and tried to find an artists name from England who had written to me regarding natural process and found that Miss Moossy, the New York performance artist, wrote to me about reading my blog and finding Christine Hatfull. All in two days using under half an hours time.

Miss Moossy says she is coming to Vancouver this month. Christine will visit her and I will send small gifts for Christine to give to Miss Moossy to bring back to New York to give to Abigail Doan, Eve Mosher and Austin Thomas.

And Christine is jumping up and down because Miss Moossy is coming to town!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Earth Painting

Earth Pigments used by Ulrike Arnold for her paintings.

Photo of Ulrike Arnold

The work of German and International artist Ulrike Arnold gives me the desire to go back and start burying my textiles in the garden or leaving them for the season to see what develops. There is a real joy at orchestrating but having little control over the end results of playing with mother nature's provisions.

Arnold works with natural earth pigments on her paintings. She works in Asia, America, Europe and Australia in some of the more extreme landscapes like deserts and salt lakes. She studies and works with the earth directly to create her work.

The pigments are mixed with waxes and oils and are worked into her canvases after she spends time learning about the geology and landscape of a region. She even works with meteorites.

Her canvases are huge and imposing like the landscapes she interprets.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hoo Doo Canyons

Photo of Drumhellar Hoo Doos taken by Arlee Barr sometime this weekend.
Stolen with shame by Patricia Chauncey

I didn't always live here in this large city by the sea. I lived in Quebec as a little child and had the advantage of a double tongue. One French and one English.

I spent most of my childhood in Alberta. Living in little places where I could dig in the earth and find the past. Where I walked with my Grandmother and Great Grandmother on land that they knew and taught me.

I read Arlee Barr's blog tonight and am delighted that she has discovered my childhood landscape and playground. I learned my prairie eyes there and could see subtle differences in the landscape. How happy I was to see the little flowers and fragile lillies and wild strawberries.

And the rocks!
Arlee Barr provides me with comfort and inspiration nearly every day. She is a prolific artist with an incredible vocabulary of experimental techniques.
Check out her blog for more pictures of my childhood environment and for her brilliant and exuberant experiments!