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.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Slipped disk! Herniated disk! Yowl. Did it while rolling over in bed. Not even having fun.
Three days flat! Today walking a little. Even sat for a minute at the computer.

Good news is they upped my surgery days to the end of September again. Go sit (if I can?) and have blood tests and such on Wednesday.

Pain killers work for creative thoughts. Didn't I know something about this in the sixties and seventies?Have help and my sound man has arrived with an assistant! He will build my installation cages and string my lights and isn't freaked out at all by me laying there growling and firing instructions.

Determined to be up working again in days.

The house is bustin' at the seams. Not so much fun this time. Tryin my best not to get cranky but could be impossible.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Horrid Hats

Structural hat by Lajla Nuhic
Hat and Scarf by Lajla Nuhic

Cotton and silk hat by Lajla Nuhic

I have managed to crochet a few little horrid hats. Daniel loved his and looks hilarious. He learned how to unzip velcro so he is very busy getting naked. He translated the skill into diaper velcro and is happier than ever. His other hobby seems to be taking his new hat and either dragging it over his face or firing it across the room. Daniel is a very talented eight month old baby boy and his mother has promised pictures.

We learn new skills after practising them. Sometimes we practise for a long time before we are able to accomplish them. Threading needles is like that, learning about colour beyond the instinctual, running complex machines and manipulating fabric. We learn and then layer skills and accomplishments.

The Japanese honour people with high levels of artistic and textile craft skills as "Treasures". "National Treasures" have spent many years learning and accomplishing skills that are then taught and passed down. Shibori artists, indigo dyers, stencil makers are all honoured for spending years doing what they do.

Sometimes our ability to do part of what we do is impaired and we have to learn to do tasks in a different way. It is possible to learn things again and to master them. I am using this time to learn how to do somethings all over again and am enjoying it.

I find http://www.bruceelkin.com/ a helpful set of readings for me. I was lucky enough to have Bruce as a friend and a teacher years ago. The wisdom he imparts is simple enough. Masters always make things look simple. I appreciate how accessible his writing is and love the quotes. I haven't taken any of his courses yet but plan to.

This week I am going to try, like Daniel, to accomplish a task like velcro ripping!
For delicious hats and bags check out www.lajla.ca

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Flotsam in Process Art Farmer Abigial Doan 2008

How is it that fiber artists connect to the greater community and to a history of place?

It is insinuated at every turn because fibers are contained in almost every aspect of life. Look around. What isn't part of a fiber culture? Paper, plastics, clothing, building supplies ... everything. I remember studying the impacts of the "Silk Road" and the medieval textile trade and how they traced through and controlled every aspect of the economy. Ghandi and Indian textiles had a huge impact on the demise of the British Empire. Without textiles there would be no space exploration or many aspects of modern medicine.

Inspired art farmer and artist Abigail Doan has been mapping and pulling together an amazing project called "Fiber Flotsam" for Conflux 2008.She will create a vine-like piece a at Conflux 2008 as a means of illustrating the history of psycho geographic behaviour and vagrancy on the Bowery. She will map the detritus and flotsam as a narrative work.

My son Dane returned from a trip to the Bowery a few days ago. He floated through and no doubt left some flotsam behind. We sit on the edge of our seats , perched in excitement, while we watch how this work evolves.

Check out and stay tuned to http://urbanfiberflotsam.blogspot.com/

Friday, August 22, 2008

Not so Bad

No fuss no muss no bother. Not bad at all except now my surgery is delayed. Could be all the way to January.


Dane arrived home this morning and Brendan and Meghan have been incredibly sweet to me. Tim is still out on the boat. It is probably more than a little rough because the weather has been challenging.

This morning I am booked for my pre surgery testing and then I am on serious call for lens replacement or whatever they decide to do. I feel quite frozen with apprehension and have called people like Jennifer Love of the SDA to make sure I am not signed up for anything for awhile.

I can no longer thread a needle even with the needle threader but can knit and crochet with big needles and thick wool.

Today I spent cleaning and crocheting a hat for baby Daniel Nahum. It is giant crocheted hat and he is a little baby. I chose all the colours because he will like them and they could be seen. The hat turned out to be a bright , funny tam or Rasta thingy. Daniel is a tiny little Austrailian Israeli thingy. Either his curls will stick out or he will eat it. It has a very nipple looking atachment at the top. He really likes things that look like that and I don't have any for him. So poor little Mr. Nahum will be dressed like a circus tent in bright yellow, orange, acid green, purple and coral.

My rule for hats with my active sons was super bright so I could see them. Chris ran about like a little rocket ship and Dane just kind of sauntered like he was stuck in molasses , Bren was so short he disappeared on me and Steph just took his hat off. I remember crocheting them all hats and they just looked at me like I was insane. Except for Bren...he always wore a hat. He wore fedoras, tams, police hats, cowboy hats, hard hats and a funny little Charlie Chaplin number.
Chris loved anything with baseball on it , Dane lived in black tams and anything hip hop and Steph just took his hat off!

Wish me luck tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I woke up this morning with the insane notion that I didn't want to do my art anymore. I made a little plan about how to get out of the studio with a little dignity and figured out how to pack up and give away all my stuff.... And then I remembered that I do this every time I am waiting for another surgery.

I will only give a few things away. Just enough to satisfy the urge.

I am afraid of the results of eye surgery. I am afraid of the recovery because of other experiences. I am tired of Doctors and testing. I just want my old life back.

There is this expression in the cancer world called "the new normal". It means adjustment and flexibility to a new life and situation. It would be so much easier if all memory of the old life was erased. But...I have been at this long enough that feelings of failure creep in when my actual accomplishments don't match my motivations.

Other artists have blocks and "metamorphosis" periods. I am not really blocked but energy impared and a bit overwhelmed.

There are things I can do. Joseph reminded me that this is always a good time to do research and drawing. Making patterns for projects previously explored. Just throwing dye on cloth or paint on paper. Taking some new cloth and just torching it for curiosity sake.

The other thing I could do is change my view and move the furniture to explore new shadows on the wall or new light reflections in the window. Put my face under water and hold my breath. Wrap yarn over my whole body and photograph what gets loose.

Persimmon Blackridge, a wonderful artist, is now very ill with kidney failure. She is looking for kidney donors who have type O blood type. Will try to find out more information or if there is anything I can do to help. More later.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Today I fell into stewing about everyone who has ever hurt my feelings. What an incredible waste of time. I was so glad when Joseph showed up because he is a friend I can't imagine him hurting anyone's feelings.

He went and picked up lunch and coconut bubble tea. Normally bubble tea freaks me out completely because I spent so much time around amphibian eggs and larvae but this was really good.

I picked and prodded at thirty unfinished projects and Joseph productively created and cut out a new pattern for himself. He is really good at pattern drafting and is now working at Wild Rose
Tattoo T shirts. Thank God he can gossip a little and has interesting things to tell me about his life. He doesn't even mind too much if I fall into a motherly advice role. I am so glad he was around today.

C, V and I talked about textile artists and hoarding. We all admitted to it. I am not sure C is a hoarder though. She just lives in a tiny place and has a tiny studio. V and I have the largest studios and I know I hoard cloth and supplies. Tomorrow I am going to throw away some of my old dried out paint jars and bottles. There is a special place in our studio recycling for them to go.
I had also better look at the extra piles of cloth that keep being donated. V. suggested we just have a giant trade off and just invite people from the street.

Maybe I can just give away free bags of fabrics at the Culture Crawl or charge $1.00 for a little bag. Maybe I can make doll kits or something for gifts. Lots and lots of them!

Any good ideas?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What Did I Do Today?

What did I do today?

I have decided to chart my activities for a little while because I keep thinking I am slothful and depressed.

Today I:

1. Did all the dishes by hand and dried them.
2. Washed the bathroom and made a bathroom shrine.
3. Dusted 2 bookshelves.
4. Hand watered 12 balcony herb pots and hand watered 5 planter boxes. Weeded mesclun box.
5. Read Amy Tan.
6. Sent away Jehovah Witness.
7. Read Amy Tan.
8. Watched Relocation Relocation and contacted Chrissy about the house in France. she will go see it and wants to partner if it's good.
9. Slept and overslept.
10. Organized house collages and art supplies.
11. Rolled yarn.
12 Peeled plastic wrap from silicone pupae covers and trimed yarn.
Vacuumed Llivingroom and dining room.
13. Laundry two loads.
14. Discovered cool huntings sent by Naughty Peter. Watched all the videos.
15. Facebooked step sister regarding cute child.
16. Wrote praise for Bruce Elkin's great column on good enough.
17. Folded quilts.
18. Checked out grant applications and calls to enter.
19. Started statement for Seattle Erotic Art. Won't miss deadline next time.
20. Did some measurements for installation.
21. Swept.
22. Scrubbed chair cushion.
23. Ate Toffee pie.
24. Drank Elderberry wine.
25. Went for Ethiopian with Chrissy and ate too much injera.
26. Went for a walk and looked at the full moon and walked arm in arm with my dear friend.
27. Put my shoes away and wrote my list for material witness.

Did more than I thought. Now back to the sketchbook. After I clean my glasses.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kyd Contact

Albanian Street where Kyd stays.
Kyd's friend Edith with a snake skin
Lovely Kyd!

Wha whoa! Kyd contacted me from Albania and has left me some amazing photos to look at.

We studied together, inspired one another and had the best time. she is the same age as my children and I wanted to kidnap her for a daughter-in-law.

She held my head when I was sick and made me real rosary beads from real roses to carry me through my ordeal. They worked! I told her not to worry and take off travelling and make a big life and she has.

She is swimming with Medusa in Albania!


I have the week to myself. Tim packed up his sailing kit and gave me a little kiss. He is gone for the next week. Leaving me to chase burglars or whatever is needed.

I have been making silicone and acrylic pupae casings on the porch. It is blazing hot so I have to put them under the table to dry meaning that only four or five can be done at a time. They seem to be dry enough to peel after about 2 or three hours.

The molds are made from the Georgia Straight newspaper and aluminum foil and are easy enough to use again and again. Gayla gave me left over acrylic yarns and they become very fleece like when unwound. Curly and long enough to resemble silk rovings or strands of fur.
So far I have made five different sizes and will stuff them with blumpy and eggy globes similar to what were used in the Wonderland show at Numen last fall.

Joseph and I will meet over the heat press on Monday. He is playing with heat presses and t-shirts.

Thinking about further falling into night mode and sleeping in the day to take advantage of the evening cool for working. This fits with my nature but never works with my morning bird of a partner. But he is floating on the water far away and I have the house and studio to myself.

What an incredible indulgence to be alone for a change! I might drown in work.

First testings for my eye surgery on August 22. Then am on call for my cyber eyes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Street Signs

I love lamp posts that are full of the remains of street posters. Tim and I saw the best ones on our last trip to Portland. They were on Hawthorne Street.


photographs of the Invertebrates in the Carribean Sea taken by Dr. Anthony Picciolo 1990
NOAN NODC From the NOAN Library
Images passed on by Naughty Peter.
Last night Tim interrupted a burglar in the act of stealing our bikes or worse.
I had fallen asleep on the couch and woke to a terrific bellar from my fellar.

Tim, stark naked, charged through the door and grabbed a substantial board and ran yelling down the street after the scoundrel. I, of course , ran after Tim. The burglar, started apologizing and laughing until he realized that Tim was a very crazy man with no clothing on and running after him down the street. Waving a big board over his head. The guy ran! Tim ran! I ran back into the house hoping that the police wouldn't show up and arrest Tim. Or worse ...like Taser him.

The sun had just come up. No neighbours showed their faces out of the window which was very concerning. Probably for the best.

It took a few hours for the adrenalin to dissipate.

It ended up being a very inspiring day. I made forms with paper and tin foil and plastic wrap.
They are various sizes of long anemone shapes which will serve as silicone and stitching molds.
The caulking gun got pulled out and despite great head vein popping effort, the silicone wouldn't flow. So I drew and drew and drew.

Gayla showed up last night and dropped off bags of acrylic yarns. some are beautiful coral colours. Most are white. They should work nicely under the coatings or gut.

I found a dream cottage in the middle of France and am waiting to hear what is up. It is all ancient stone and seventeenth century. It has been gutted and had new plumbing and electrics.
The roof is great. It has a little land and outbuildings and is in a lovely village within a couple of hours of Paris. I am going to send Leslie from Manchester to have a look or call Catherine, who is in Paris helping her papa, to have a look. they can use it if they help me. I might send cousin Maggie or Fiona or Janet. Anyhoo I am completely captured.

Tomorrow I can lock the house again and head off down to the studio. Joseph is supposed to show up soon and rumour has it that Charles is in town. I'll see if Mary Ellen still has the heat press knob and if I can get someone to carry it up the stairs and down the long, long hall.

Tim finished the front stairs and has nearly finished my stitching bench for the landing. This means I will have a comfy, shady place where I can look over the front garden to burn, paint smellies and stitch. Next project is a little burn shelter big enough for my chair and a little table that will work to keep out both rain and sun and still be outside.

I love my naked screaming handyman!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Talya Baharal Jewelry

I have discovered how to make a very bone and shell imitation surface for my little paper sculptures.. I used miles of tissue paper and painted it with a gloss acrylic medium and applied it to the wire forms. Very tricky because the tissue is not as substantial as the rice papers I normally use. It rips and tears and evaporates if the amount is not fairly thinly spread.

I let it dry to just a little tacky and painted on the next layer. The wire shows through nicely and didn't disappear after three layers. The big surprise was the strength when the thing dried. It was perfectly opaque and was ready for my next trick. I took the burning tools to the little beast while it was wet with a fourth layer of varnish. The acrylic bubbled and frothed and took on more dimension. The acrylic also allowed for a more substantial burn. So I just kept hot carving out as much as possible before complete decay and found that it held it's shape almost as well as tyvek but in a more controllable way.

I was more than happy with the results but am interested in the quality that will result from different papers and different mediums. The matte medium will probably be a bit more bone like but sometimes doesn't seem to have the opacity that I like. Also wondered if a thin layer of plaster will bond to the dry structure or the wet structure. It might work better with an acrylic medium over top of the works.

The most satisfying part of the adventure was the discovery that the water colour pencils accented any of the wire and could be sealed under more acrylic medium with a little interesting bleeding. Dry brushing acrylic would be a lot more tedious.

A final zap with the heat gun bubbled stuff up nicely and created just a bit more texture.

Further experiments were done with an Africa grass paper and a Batik paper that has been saved for a few years. the grass paper looks amazing with stitching but the batik didn't seem to be holding form at last look. Oh well!

Thought I would show you some inspiring work from Baharal until my new stuff can be photographed and downloaded.

Hope Joseph can make it to the studio next week! Will try and connect with Young and see how she is doing with the experiments

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I actually went into the studio long enough to pick up some supplies. I have been sick again. This happens after travel because there is nothing happening right now that should encourage illness. Very little stress, healthy food, happy thoughts. But plunk and down for a week!

So tonight I picked up my paints and crayons and gesso to work on my inspiration pages from my sketches. The paper boards were made last week from old pages from the Georgia Strait.
They have been waiting for days for me to start pulling the book together.

My studio has massive windows and it was an absolute oven in there. The brick walls were hot to the touch this evening so I can't imagine how difficult it must have been in there today. The good thing about it is that things dry. Crispy dry which is challenging in this maritime environment. I'm not even going to attempt to go in there tomorrow.

I have enough to do with the rusty wire and tissue paper, paints and brushes for a few days. The rain is supposed to return on the weekend. I can probably climb back in there this weekend.

Good news is that every little construction I was working on two weeks ago made sense when viewed today. I have a week alone without Tim after next week and lots should get completed.

A bear attacked a woman in her own yard near here. It was hungry and wanted what she had. Right in the city! They shot it dead. The forest is so dry and the salmon have been really diminished with the commercial salmon farms creating disease and sea lice. The Stol'lo Chief said he was very afraid of fire with the insect devastation of the pine trees. The bears are moving into town because food is scarce. I am afraid of bears but I don't want them to go hungry or get killed trying to find food.

I have now changed all soaps to environmental products and have walked to pick up my bio toilet paper. I joined the Georgia Strait Alliance and sent out three petitions regarding containment of the salmon farms and changes to the PBE's. We have used the car only for our holiday and haven't been buying stuff with much packaging. We are still not shopping for any clothes or anything like that. All books and magazines. my total weakness, have come from the library. Tried a cold shower but nearly died so had a very short one.

I think I might be becoming a total pain in the butt to poor Tim.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I am on a quest for clear plastic, acrylic or glass thimbles.
Does anyone have any idea where to find them?
I need about 60 of them.

Outside Inside

Henry Darger collage and water colour
Henry Darger collage and water colour

I am uncomfortable with the label "Outsider Artist". I have seen a number of prolific and talented people lumped into the category of Art Brut or Outsider for a few years now.

Tonight I had the opportunity to consider some of the work of Henry Darger. I was lucky enough to see his work personally twice at the American Museum of Folk Art in New York.

Darger's dream like and heroic narrative works are challenging to view because they at first appear to reflect a naive and childish theme. They are really infused with a distressed sexuality
and a militaristic view of an unfriendy world described by horrifying armies of pretty little girls and bucolic landscapes. There is such a confusion in the violence soaked world portrayed in soft colours and grade one reader quality collaged and drawn and wispy water colour imagery.

His work was prolific and was saved for 30 years in a tiny apartment while he worked a grueling job at a state mental institution. The materials reflect a physical poverty and disadvantage but the work reflects obsessive vision and effort. Darger lived within this otherness and produced large collage painting drawings constructions. This work is not the contrived craziness that I see in so many current creative cliches. It is of Darger. It feels recognizable and almost comfortable at first. He means the stories he tells. He isn't having fun making the imagery but is compelled to create then conceal.

Perhaps my imagination allows me to remember drawing my distress at childhood experience and either scribbling over what I thought should not be revealed or hiding it in cracks in the wall.
I remember finding my own children's naughty drawings with the exaggerated naked bosoms and genitalia hidden behind things.

Darger's little girls often had a tiny penis. It has been suggested that the girls were not some reflection of pedophilia but of an alter ego for himself where he led armies of good and evil.
Perhaps...but the imagery is distressing because it really seems to be so innocent. Only there are thousands of them and many of them are very large.

And no one saw them when he was alive.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Stacy in Africa

Stacy Batten and little boy in Africa
Stacy Batten

This is a photograph of my sweet cousin Stacy with a little boy.
She has been working with children in Africa and I am very proud of her!