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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Naughty Peter has kept me inspired with amazing imagery. He sent me two series of images in the last few days and links that are really worth sharing. He is so generous and a gorgeous muse through time. One never knows what he will find that sets off the creativity rockets but it never fails. How pleasing that he takes time from his writing to do this for me.

I am in the process of healing both eyes and back. I am also gearing up for a few changes with my work. An amazing friend named Marie has offered to assist me with pulling together my work. She is a serious detail person and always competent. One of my gallery owners, the remarkable Celine from Numen Gallery, had a seriously inspiring chat with me about direction and research. Her ideas, her grasp of my work, energy and her own creative spirit are really good to be around. I have had to think about how to take people up on offers to help. Also about clearing other responsibilities to recognize that I do have energy limitations but that doesn't mean shutting down when that happens. I used to understand the value of delegation and support when I was doing social and community work.

The whole idea of collaboration excites me. Hillary Young and I have collaborated in past in the studio and while teaching. We have great energy together in a gig. Happily she is getting more teaching gigs and is now teaching at Capilano College. She prepares so carefully that it is always worth taking one of her courses. We have decided to do a show together and collaborate with some workshops. We share many skills but do very different work. We share a studio and she is always supportive and helpful. Her work is very beautiful and kicks off that zing in me to do what it is I do. She is even picking up my application and entry forms today.

Watching Abigail Doan and her Flotsam project in the Bowery has resulted in a few inspired and sleepless nights. I can't wait to see what her new winter project in Tuscany will look like. Having her take time to send support during this has been very meaningful.

Same with Arlee Barr who has skyrocketed in new directions and has reminded me of the importance of experimentation, documentation and journaling.

Taking down time for healing, research and re energizing are always worth it.
My sketchbooks are throwing sparks! Interesting to scribble away with a patch on my eye.
The cancer experience was a very inspiring time for me. The last few months have been the same. I never expected anything would happen to my eyes but learned that you don't stop being an artist if you lose your eyes, ears, or whatever. It still keeps on chugging along.

My Ocular Oncologist, Dr. Katherine Paton, said that she enjoys having artists as patients. She says they describe things from a very visual perspective and the description helps her to figure out what happens with the operations. There is a difference when an artist describes what is happening with colour, line and form. There were three artists having surgery the day I had mine.

Now I have to go peer at little things and decide where they fit on my colour scale. How cool is that!

Check out http://www.sciencemag.org/vis2008/show/

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Needles and Thread

I had my eye surgery yesterday and this morning I threaded a needle over white cloth with white thread in poor light! How wonderful is that!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Today is the Day

Today I get my new eyes. I have to be a tthe hospital at 6:30 wearing comfy clothing.
I am looking forward to seeing deep colour again. A little worried about seeing how everyone I know looks. The last few years have meant everyone has a lovely foggy soft complexion. Everyone looks so dewy soft now.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I got an e-mail this morning informing that people from one of my old high schools in Calgary have left a message and want to be contacted back. I actually froze in my chair.
What would I say to someone from that far back in my life?

I left the city more than thirty years ago and have only returned a few times. My goal as a child was to get the hell out of there and I did! Of course there were people I cared about but all but a very few also left. Some friends, like Karen, live within a few miles of me now. I checked once and discovered that sometimes people you don't remember find you and try to sell you things.

There are vivid childhood memories edited for my own purposes of course. Things are more or less tragic than they were. Smells, textures, colours are burnt into the sensory box. People are weirder , funnier or nicer than in real life. The sophisticated and cool ones were also awkward children then. They are very personal memories because there are no actual physical reminders to reinforce actual events.

Once I went back to my old house. I hid makeup in a fence my grandfather built. Lipstick and mascara were stored for use because I wasn't allowed to apply it at home and did so in the school washroom with many of the other innocent and bare-faced girls. Sometimes we would simply apply it in the cold at the bus stop. We also religiously washed those tarted up little faces before returning home. Years and years later the forgotten makeup was still there! Rusted old mascara and lipstick tubes that survived the homes many owners! There was also a heart scribbled in the fence. ALBERT LOVES PATTY. So there was some evidence I was there. That I had been kissed by a neighbour boy and that once I was decorated.

Who could it be? Perhaps an old sweetheart in life crisis or someone dying more intently than me? I didn't have any unclaimed children because I was actually a baby birth control advocate.
Did someone in my family leave anyone behind? Not that I heard of except for an old Aunt.

Once on checking the School Site there were some of the more unusual names that actually had children attending the school. A few stayed in the old neighbourhood that I wanted desperately to escape. Some married high school sweethearts and lived happily ever after. Some married high school sweethearts and had bitter divorces. I married someone from my city who also wanted to move far away. We didn't live happily ever after together but both have interesting lives. My next husband had to leave a town he loved and move far away because all the work dried up there. He arrived in Vancouver by fate and became mine.

These days it is hard enough to keep up with my immediate relatives. I have four children and they have spouses. I have one living estranged parent,brothers, their daughters and my husband's family. Together there are extended families in five continents.

I am reminded that one can never have enough friends. So maybe I'll phone in my secret code and find out who left me a mesage unless it costs 19.95 for a reminder to renew!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hunting and Gathering

Freeman's Alley 1 2008 Abigail Doan Urban Fiber Flotsam project with the Conflux Festival

I am so completely entranced by Abigail Doan's project Urban Fiber Flotsam.
It is so energetic and a remarkable travel journal through time, community and location and spins together flotsam( both cast off and botanical) and urban tales.

She uses photography, journaling, mapping and location to twine together all of this into vines.
Tiny, insignificant objects become meaningful and very moving when collected in such a physically rambling way. Sometimes the process reminds me more of choreography. Abigail , while using her body, becomes the beautiful dancer hunting and gathering through the Bowery.

Her projects in past have shown remarkable planning, imagination and process. They are ethereal in appearance and very grounded in reality. Her farm roots resonate through all of the work I have witnessed since I became aware of her a year or so ago.

Abigail is a mother of twins, the daughter of a spinner and a farmer and lives both in New York City and on an ancient farm in Tuscany with her husband Ludmil. She writes for a number of magazines including Inhabitat and is actively involved in positive ecological projects. She considers herself to be an"art farmer".

The blog is outstanding

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Turn A New Leaf

This is my front garden on East 5th Avenue in Vancouver, B.C.. It is 18 feet by 12 feet. I wasn't kidding when calling it a jungle! Vancouver is located in the West Coast Rain Forest.
Picture taken from my living room window. Japanese Maple, Rhododendron, Bamboo, Kinikanic, and Day Lily.

My garden is about to turn to it's fall foliage. The apples are so abundant this year that I am going to have a hard time finding enough jars to make chutney and sauce with. They are delicious!

Dr. Marilyn McDonald lived in this little cottage before me and planted the heritage apple trees and the prolific garden. I have let it grow into a jungle in the front and a food producing weedy mess in the back.

I couldn't keep up with the heritage strawberry rhubarb this year. I have dragged that plant around with me for four houses. It originally came from Camrose, Alberta and some was sent back to my Aunt's ranch in the Foothills of Alberta. It is an naturally sweet and strawberry flavoured rhubarb that was really popular with the early settlers there. The Saskatoon bush I have in the yard was a Mother's Day present when Bren was ten. I think because it is a high mountain or prairie plant it has grown to a bush about 10 feet tall. I have never seen a wild one this tall. The birds don't eat them because Marie's ancient cherry tree seems ripen at the same time and they gorge on that. My blackberries were left alone this year and they have produced tons of fruit for a little yard. Somethin' ate my garlic. It disappeared altogether. Three ratty tomatoes survived and I think I will give up on them next year. Tons of peas and beans. The mesclun fed us for months. I did a late plant on kale and winter veggies and I hope they make it. The fall is really hot here this year.

I love fall. It is my New Year! I just feel so excited about the future in the fall and full of plans and energy. I'm not a great summer person. Definitely more Nordic. I burn and hate being all sweaty. I can't see when in the sun. I'm allergic to mosquitoes and they were everywhere this year. I like brisk and cold. I like fog. I love falling leaves and all the smells of fall. I love all the squashes and fruit. The birds getting ready to leave makes me feel like following them. Nothing makes me happier than layers of colourful fall clothing.
Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scary Fabrication

The most extreme and scariest fabrication I have seen in a long time is that Sarah Palin!
Most of us are hockey moms in Canada and we just don't buy what she has to sell.

If these people had their way we would all have pregnant fifteen year old daughters and beer swillin' son in laws. My Great Granny would be appalled. Birth control was illegal in many places less than thirty years ago. Woman couldn't take part in many aspects of life. Gay friends were thrown in jail and depressed women were given shock treatment and lobotomies. Two friends nearly died as sixteen years olds from the effects of back street "doctors". I couldn't get a bank loan without my husband , father or baby brother's signature and I made more money than all of them! I even had to fight to breast feed my own child!

Feminists fought Anita Bryant if I remember right. She was also selling extreme and hardline positions that hurt women. She also used the woman card to hand out some pretty extreme internalized oppression.

I hope people remember that we also have an election in Canada in a few short weeks. We have our own Sarahs to educate and send away. We also have amazing women like Libby Davies to get out and support.

Soft and Fluffy?

Over Breeding Stepanie Metz Felted Sculpture
Litter Stephanie Metz Felted Sculpture

Lap dog Stepanie Metz felted sculpture

Mutant Chicken Stephanie Metz Felted sculpture.

Atavist Stephanie Metz Felted Sculpture

Stephanie Metz has managed to use felted objects to tell stories about concerns like genetic modification of livestock. Her mastery of this craft is remarkable and she creates objects that are haunting and and sometimes rather horrifying. I relate to them strongly because of my own body interaction with genetic modification and experimental medical interference.

I ran into the work of Metz while reading the book "Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood.
Clearly Metz, like Atwood, was inspired by a similar apprehension of where an unbridled corporate medical curiosity has taken us. Her work "The Atavist" shows a chicken embryo with "alligator teeth" and her headless lamb " Over breeding" belong in a medical cabinet of curiosity.
So much felting has fallen into such a maudlin use. Often it is poorly and impatiently done.
One could drown in the cutesier kitties and puppies that have been produced.
Felting is a delightful medium to use. It becomes a full body experience and is one of the more sensual of textile arts.
Metz has inspired me to play with it again.
Further imagery at www.artbysteph.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fear of Falling photograph Emma Critchley and Sophie Lewis
Fear of Falling photograph Sophie Lewis and Emma Critchley

Fear of Falling photograph Emma Critchley and Sophie Lewis

The Fear Of Falling

There is an ethereal and beautiful exhibition of photographs by Emma Critchley and Sophie Lewis being shown at Stunt Vaults on Joiner Street in London near the London Bridge Station.

They have photographed the woman's clothing changes completely underwater. This creates the moodiest, ethereal and historical imagery. Delicious! Worth climbing on the plane for.

Michelle Chauncey, my neice , collects this kind of costume and photographs wild flowers. She let me know about this show.

See the work at http://www.thefearoffalling.com/ The web site is gorgeous.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Burnin' Hot

I am up. I made my own food today and got some laundry in. I only used one pain killer.

So I am burnin' new soft sculptures. Joseph Dagsaan made me the patterns and they have worked out perfectly. Each size has eight components and will stitch together easily afer the burning is finished. He reinforced the patterns so they will survive my carelessness. I am going to push it as far as possible before total disintegration. The fabric is reacting beautifully and it doesn't seem to be a straight poly as the labeling said. So now for a series of experiments to see if the cloth burns differently when it is made of twist or wrapped threads, if it is twill or plain weaved and different fibre combinations. Certainly some of the plainest and uninspiring fabrics turn into the most beautiful when tortured under my toys.

Sampling makes me so happy. It is sometimes the research and not the object that is the end result for me. Experimenting kicks my creative juices into overtime.

I am thinking about support structures and how to make them larger. Will have to pursue a degree in micro-biology and engineering to accomplish what I want to do with my work.

Hilary Young is teaching a course with Maiwa soon for those interested in playing with extreme textiles. She is a very good teacher and a studio mate. Textile trained in Scotland.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hugging Things

I went into the studio today for the first time in forever and just sat and gestated. Just the air and the mess made me happy and revived. I may be behind on some of my projects because of my health but I am happy with the direction and the work.

Tina and Vivian were both in and it sounds like everyone is having one struggle or another. It also sounds like amazing work is being done despite all this funny moon placement stuff.

I ended up dragging back supplies after realizing there really were a few things being accomplished. I can sit in my arm chair or back porch now and work away if the painkillers are taken on time.

I have had a hard time pulling together a form for full body cocoons. Someone left a huge cylindrical form made of styro at my door and Vivian gave me some amazing pieces of silver and tawny leather scraps from her last big movie gig. Problem solved. Both are perfect for the cocoons. Even found some new cylinders for my mask.

Hilary has done some amazing sampling. I couldn't figure out how some of it was done so there are new mysteries to learn. I teach her ...she teaches me. She is so very tidy though (in comparison to slobbo here) Her palette of verdigris, charcoal, copper and silver are completely delicious.

Tomorrow I attend the ceremony to celebrate Georgine Zeron's life. I was lucky enough to enjoy her , her grand daughter, her daughter, her mother and her sister as my friends. She was one of my appropriated mothers. Georgine was fiercely protective of me. She also used to cook an incredible toffee apple pie! I will miss her forever. Her ashes will be scattered in the Cadomen Pass in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta where she was born. They are saving me some of her cloth. I will probably not wash it, sew it into a doll and just hug it when I miss her.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ready To Go!

All of the preliminaries are done for my eye surgery! I have given vials of blood, been weighed and measured, had blood pressures and EEG's, eyeball curvature measurements and the works.
All indicate I am healthy enough to go through the procedure.So my dear Doc upped the date and I have it all done on September 23 at the crack of dawn! She thinks I will get away with only having one done until we find out how it goes.

I got into a little trouble at the clinic today. My medical curiosity overcame and I pulled the model eyeball of the shelf to poke and prod and see the structure of the eye. It was the size of a softball and needed to be inspected from all angles. I pulled it apart and was thrilled to see the puzzle of the human eye. I was carefully putting it all back together when the eye sprung from my hand, fell to the floor and shattered. Not until it had hit a steel surface and the chair buzzer thingy! I let out a squeal and medical personnel came flying from all directions. The Doctor, looking like a cool version of Katherine Hepburn, looked at me and said,"No touching Doctor's things!" Her staff laughed. I shrivelled until she came in again and gave the full eyeball display and surgery explanation.

The surgery will be like getting a new silicone breast. A cut is made in the eye, the lens has a small suction device inserted until all of the viscous material is removed and a new eye falsie is implanted. The lens is about the size of a small grape and has little tendons and supports that hold it. I will not lose my green eyes which have got me much attention through the years.
I go home that day and am seen the next and one week following and then three weeks following that. I am Canadian so the cost is extremely low. Medicare covers most of the cost and our extended medical plan should cover the rest.

Very tech and modern. I will learn a cyborg wink!

I came home and taught Ryan, my young Death Metal cousin how to do the invisible stitch to repair his favourite "Corpse" t-shirt. He has talent with a needle and thread. Tomorrow he gets to learn how to use the serger.

I can't wait! Back is starting to repair but the Doc wants cancer tests done as a precaution. I think I might not go. It feels like a slipped disk to me! She says I look awful. I never look very good while I have lying down for a week. Does anyone? I am pretty sure I am fine!

I wonder if we will find little biological organisms to eat up the cataracts and cancer in the future. Octavia Butler wrote a book called Lilith's Brood. It was one of my favourites when i was healing. It describes a world with biological healing. I hope our understanding of the botanical and biological become a focus for healing in the future. I would love to be wrapped in a being or plant until repaired.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Up and At Em

Back on my feet again with the help of some new exercises, anti-inflammatory, yoga and Tim.
A bit shaky but getting in the car and going to pick up some photo's at Ms. Hatfull's.

Christine Basque was caught in the ZOOM mess and has missed her trip to Italy. I was expecting some great photos and cloth but not to happen. She ended up in an airport for hours and was told she could hit destination if she booked through /Sweden etc. totally a twenty eight hour trip or something God Awful. I am so glad I didn't go! The trip sounded too good to be true and ended up being a nightmare. Poor Christine!

Going into the studio for minutes and am setting up the structure for some silicone puppets and dolls.

Eye surgery will be on track and the pre-surgery appointment is tomorrow. The most amazing thing is that you can see fine veil cataracts when they shine the light in your eyes and it looks like a translucent lace viewed through river ice or crystalline wax... Kinda Titanic remnant or something.

The human body is so beautiful. The processes of the body are so extraordinary. In sickness or in health!!!