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, December 31, 2010

Exit 2010

The last day of the old year has arrived. It is New Year's Eve and the sun is shining in Vancouver. Everything is lightly kissed by frost. Each little leaf is outlined in white.

The possibility of a New Year excites me. I am full of ideas and dreams. I am dealing with health problems as always but my energy is intact despite taking pain medication and having a harder time walking.

Tim and I are outlining plans to return to a less urban life at least part-time for now. I want more space to work and experiment. I want to play in the land and observe the seasonal changes. I want to lay out yards of cloth and let them absorb the colours of the earth. I want to dig deep and build high and make lots of noise. I want to invite friends to do the same.

New things are happening. I have been invited to go on a play date with a very inspired artist in Seattle. I am doing a show up country. I am going for a short journey to Mexico. I might be moving again.

My one resolution is to be open to life and to let fear fall.

I thought of something from my Unitarian exploration. I can't do everything but I can do one thing.

Happy New Year. Do just one thing to make this world just a little happier.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Continued Motivation

The textile world has grown exponentially since the time I started serious exploration.
We have always had a rich history and amazing intersection but now have the capacity for international projects in a simultaneous way with the onset of travel and the advancements with technology.

Often these explorations reveal work that is fundamental and simple in appearance. What is not simple is the expansiveness of some of the work and the intelligence with which it is created.

I am not talking at all about the plethora of techniques available and the huge range of chemical process. I am talking about what is created with deep thought and simple process. One simple object that is hand wrought that implants itself in our hearts. That comes simply from our hearts like a glance or a smile.

The work of Dr. Ahmad Nadalian from Iran is like that. A primitive fish carved on a rock or a snake pattern imprinted in the earth that causes no harm, that lives where it is placed, that is recognisable through culture and time, that creates wonder and understanding.

Abigail Doan accomplishes this basic astonishment while wrapping each work. I know that. I am charmed. I want to do it. I guess we all wrap things and re wrap them. A tidy and organized action. A fundamental textile task.

I studied with a young woman named Ursala. She seamed to put little effort into her involvement in class. She often didn't attend, came late, handed in haphazard assignments.
The last day of our class together she quietly handed in a simple package and left. The instructor took it out of the package and stood astonished. Ursala had made a mobile with leaves. She has painted the inside of each leaf with the sky and the impression of a cloud. She had captured the unusual colour of the cloudy sky perfectly. As the leaves spun they disappeared for one single moment into the air. They danced and floated in and out of vision.

It was the single most beautiful project of my years of study.

I dreamt of a white room last night. This is a recurring dream. There is a long white cord and I slowly stitch a circle and then drop the cloth on the floor and dance a slow circle around it.

Ursala, Ahmad and Abigail fit into that circle now. Perhaps we are all now spiders or moths just creating our web.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


The house has been trashed. It is a little house but everything is filled with remnants of yesterday's celebration. The quiet has returned but the mess just doesn't seem to clean itself.

I have decided that the true terrorists in the world are under five years old. No explosive devices are needed when young children are around and excited. Even very good children. Even lovable children.Imagine what a little troupe of them could do if we just let them go! True damage could be done to all major systems. The world would fall on it's knees. Let twenty of them go in the Stock Exchange. Send them to the Parliament. Send them to all the world's hotspots. Give them what they need to accomplish the task but give them a lick of sugar first!

Watch out!!! The l'il ones are coming. 'orrible bands of tinies. Fueled with sweets. Cover your ears. Hide the electrical plugs. Hide all the sharp things. But they have ways. They can turn anything into a weapon. Simple rolls of gift wrap or Chesterfield pillows can be transformed into artillery.

Don't send in the girls. They are the most terrifying and disarming. Sweet smiles turn into ear splitting shreeks. Tiny dance kicks evolve into girl Ninja kicks. A blowing kiss turns into a slap.
Wee ringlets flailing with evil efforts to maim and destroy.

The aftermath of the battlefield is shocking. No one location is safe. Torn puppies, broken heirlooms, dismantled filing cabinets, deathly sticky tissues, terrifying bathroom splootches are all that remains.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Little One

Best news this Christmas is that Hilary, my old studio partner and her partner Jim, are expecting a baby in April!!!! She is very well and so is the little fetus. Everything and everyone is healthy and looking forward to this new little life.

Talking to Hilary is funny because the baby is so active it makes her shirt leap around. Hilary is showing and has now announced her pregnancy to the world. I have known for a little while and have had the worst time keeping my mouth clamped shut.

Life comes in balance. Sad news is often followed by happy. This is the most happy.

Funny Christmas

Christmas is here. We are as ready as we will ever be. Food is cooking.
We are having quail, duck and turkey. Homemade cranberry sauce with orange and ginger, wild rice salad with apricots, sweet potato salad, brussel sprouts, chocolate pecan tarts, fruitcake, trifle, wild salmon, lime curd tarts, mixed field green salad with mustard dressing, pickled spicy eggplant and sheep pecarino wine soaked cheese.

How in blazes do you milk a sheep?

I am sitting here playing with my new lap top and reading Andy Goldsworthy in my new Chinese silk jacket. I have my sweetie sipping coffee next to me. Stephen, Brendan, Megan. Hilary, Jim, Roy, Juliet, Gayla and Daniel will arrive later in the day. My brother Geo might come if we are very lucky.

This is an abundant year. We have good neighbours, good friends and wonderful offspring. Our city has been voted one of the most livable in the world. This year we are still well enough to enjoy it.

The best part of today is the simple, quiet morning part. Or maybe just the Bailey's in my coffee.

Have a lovely day wherever you are!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another Christmas

Tim and I are all tucked in tonight. It is a hard, windy and rainy Vancouver evening.
We haven't put up a tree but one wreath with tiny lights in the window. A few little cut out snowflakes and Christmas oranges.

Chris and Vashti sent incredible baking. Chris started doing this when I was in chemo and has done it every year since. Delicious. More delicious every year.

Bren and Meg took the bus to Kelowna to be with her mom and father. The highway was blocked for hours but they made it. Meg's family are extreme Christmas people. Thankfully they are also Irish so I sent them a remotely controlled whoopee cushion. I also sent them an analogue back-up .

Everyone else gets socks. (not really)

I wish I was a more benign person. Will work on that. Don't always like being the center of things. Guess it is a Mama's role. If there is a Mama's role. I want to fit into the crowd, to function in solidarity, to be a dime a dozen, or be more forgettable. Not a contemporary way of being where we all have to be stars that shine!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I'm enthralled with ropes and rope making. Rope bridges, rope made from animal skins, twisted paper ropes, silk ropes.

I have rescued a rope that belonged to Tim's Grandfather from the back garden. It has been everywhere Tim and I have been for more than twenty years. It originally belonged to Tim's grandfather when he owned the livery business in Morecambe Bay in England. It was used to tie heavy loads for the horse drawn wagons. Tim's father swiped it from his father and used it for a lifetime. It had been with him in Africa before he moved to Canada. It survived the war in Britain. It tied up camping gear and heavy loads. A lifetime of usefulness. Tim "borrowed " it from his father and used it to pack up his first young family to find work in B.C. It tied up heavy loads and garden stuff and construction materials. We used it camping. It has always been tied neatly and hung on a hook in one basement or another.

It was sitting in the yard one day when Tim was sick and I was completely struck by it's preciousness. It glowed like spun gold in the sun like part of Rapunzel. I picked it up and hung it on the living room wall where I could touch it. It is heavy and has a rough hand quality to it. It is worn but still tight enough to use. It still has the smell of fields and horses, machinery, and the earth. It is a traceable cord between generations of hard working and practical men.

Wolf Kill

Tim is home. I am feeling a little better. Could be the chocolate or the cuddles.

We sent packages East today. One for Tim's brother and father and one for Dane. Also went for Dim Sum and managed a MSG overdose. Good tasting not good feeling.

Tim pulled out some beautiful ornaments from a craft fair
in Fort Nelson. They are turned wood and almost look European. Very, very pretty. He also brought some beautiful turned horn candle sticks.

He went to pick up something in Fort Nelson midday and looked over to the side of the highway and saw a huge carcass of an animal. He looked closer and realized it was probably a moose or large deer that was being torn apart by a large wolf. He thought about stopping the truck for a photograph. Something primal stopped him. "I am not watching this in a movie but in real life in the cold forest. With no one else on the road right now!" "A wolf kill!" The animals worked on the body for days. Food for everyone. The wolves, coyotes, ravens. Even little mice chew on the horns. He will look for the bones when he gets back but probably won't go get them.

Both of us researched wolf attacks. We both felt that wolves were vulnerable and afraid of people. There are records of wolf encounters. I have only seen them four or five times and am always shocked at how large they are. Huge heads. Long legs. Strong and substantial. Not vegetarians.

I want to get back up there before the winter is finished but am a little afraid of my health right now.

The lunar eclipse happened tonight. Solstice. Not another like this for more than 300 years. The clouds concealed most of the action. I stood on the porch in my nightgown and absorbed the amazing, strange light. I wonder what it was like in Wells or Fort Nelson.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fall On Face

Both my computer and I fell on our faces in the last few weeks. I was sick and the computer hit the floor from a high bed.

I have been seeing specialists again and have been wrestling with the medical system. Turns out the stress I have been experiencing is really a heavy duty hormonal imbalance. I usually do pretty well with stress but this laid me out flat. I hadn't been able to sleep or eat much. My pain levels went over the moon. I couldn't really walk. Something got left and either I or the Doctor left it. Hopefully not too bad.

I have now been liberated of more than twelve vials of blood. All revealed something interesting. Have to wait until mid-January for ultra sounds.

Friends brought food and company. I mostly slept.

Hilary's Jim spent at least a week trying to fix the poor "puter. Dead as a doornail. Kaput.

No children in town for Christmas. Bren and Meg will come in later Christmas Day and we will try to round up Steph. He usually works the ambulances and extra shifts. Tim is home tonight from Fort Nelson.

Managed to cut out some paper snowflakes. They always cheer me up. One of the first activities I remember doing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Changing Computers

I will be taking a blog break for a week or so.
Will miss you all!
Check back after next week.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sea Gull

Charlotte: Mama I need a new pet!

Mama Melissa: What kind of a pet Charlotte baby?

Charlotte: "I think I need a sea gull.

Mama Melissa: I am not sure that a sea gull is a good pet Charlotte.

Charlotte: Don't be silly Mama!!! A sea gull is an animal and pets ARE animals!

So now the whole family is on the look-out for a sea gull. Logic and science cannot be argued with. Neither can a very logical two year old.
Photo shows a little sea gull from the work of Tamar Mogendorff. Textile artist extraordinaire


Last night I dreamt I was in a Northern town. I was working in my friend Alex Brigden's barn in Quesnel and it was an old wooden building that had holes and cracks in the walls and sunlight shone through. The sunlight revealed my projects were made of rawhide and diaphanous placental forms. Each shone golden and reflected off one another. Sawdust was on the floor and I could smell the stinging of the pine. Kept wondering if Alex knew he had bought my Grandfather Maxwell John's barn.

Tiny sweaters were hung on the wall all over the barn. they looked like little men climbing the walls. Each one was unravelling on the left sleeve and the common unravellings joined and formed a ball. Like electric wires neatly cascading and carefully wound together.

Faux rawhide cords were hammered into planks of wood like a sixties beaded curtain without the beads. To keep the bugs away. They were twenty feet long and hung to the ground. They reminded me of proper lassos. Proper reins. I could only smell the remnants of a horse. And thought I heard Dolly and Dan in their stall. But they were long dead. I wondered if it might be Tiki, but remembered that she would be sixty two and that horses rarely lived that long.

The air was cold and stung my face and nostrils. The bears had not been fed and required tending but I reminded myself that tending them would create a bigger difficulty. More would come and I couldn't yet see the ones that were there.

I made tables from the wood that was so damaged from the pine beetle. They also shone golden in the barn. They signified that gold mine table that my father used for his washing station. In camp. The extra wood needed to be piled ready for burning. Rocks needed to be collected and understood. They were wrapped in sheep skin leather and tied with cords I made from inner bark.

There was no lack but the melancholy that childhood reminiscence brings.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Just When...

Just when I thought it was safe to ignore process and only consider complete projects!
Ms. Arlee Barr shows us all how to do decent process description! My Lordy just love her blog!

Once again a reminder to experiment and document.

Incredible generosity. Talk about taking advantage of artistic accident. The gifted combination of intelligence and her self described hyper-activity. Wow!

I have been working with body imagery for many years. There has been no desire to document the process except in terms of artist statements. So important isn't it.

Full after eating jerk chicken, apple onion pilaf, sesame ginger pepper slaw and fruitcake with halvah.

Good things to look at and eat made my night.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Back To It

A day or two to rest. It worked. Woke up with a head full of new ideas.

Looked at Arlee Barr's new rusted and natural dyed work and remembered how important persistence is. She describes the importance of experiment and feels that most of her work is not successful. Arlee is a dynamo and brave. She understands the concept of mastery. Her works shows her effort and curiosity.

Bruce Elkin has spent the last few articles describing the importance of ritual in the creative habit. Good work doesn't just require imagination and occasional effort. Mastery requires those ideas practised over and over again. A space, a time to do, a habit, a consistent effort, a rhythm that becomes a need.

I have been intermittent with my effort. Lots gets done. I can do better and more. Something has happened to my habit. This morning my body missed doing work. The effort put out over the last few months has translated into a creative need again.

After spending a few years learning, I want to sift through my skills and effort and become more selective. I don't need to show my practise steps anymore.

Monday, November 29, 2010

To Bed

Back to bed for the day. Cold room, clean sheets, warm blanky, tired me.
Engines down!

Crawling Day 3


Results were profitable, invigorating and inspiring.

I talked, talked and talked. I also listened.

Most people engaged in play with me and used the magnifying glasses, climbed under the tables and into the boxes. They let me be an art carney without insult or injury. They gave feedback, praise and crits. Some cried, lots laughed, some sat and rested their weary feet. But they engaged!

Favourite viewers included dear friends who fed and watered me, a tiny perfectly formed male muscle man, a little girl who took over my lines and acted as tour guide, a woman is delivering a bag of snake skin sheddings, Sir who gave me false teeth molds, a guy who concocted a 60's memory of me and him in places I never was and the beautiful woman going through breast cancer treatment who just got it all.

The Eastside Culture Crawl was so busy this year that all the brochures and cards were handed out. Money got made, new contacts for exciting opportunities like land installations and film projects, and a play date in Seattle with some artists doing stuff I want to learn.

I couldn't get to everyone and didn't recognize everyone who I knew. What shocked me was the number of people who say they read this little blog.

Now up with that post adrenalin show insomnia, Tim is home safe and sound. The house looks like an art bomb exploded in it and life goes on.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Crawling Day 2

Another successful day at the Crawl completed. Met wonderful people. Had wonderful responses. And made a little money.

So far a completely productive experience.

Went for dinner with friends and had fun.

Exhausted and will see how it goes tomorrow.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I am in my studio all weekend if you are looking for me. It is now show time!

Come to the Eastside Culture Crawl and see over 300 open studios in East End Vancouver.

I am located at the corner of William Street and Clark Drive in the William Clark Studio 1310 William Street in studio 13. Will be there all weekend. Demonstrations, display and sale. You can also have access to my sample books, inspirational materials and library. And me!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wonderful friends

Wonderful friends showed up today and put in blood sweat and tears to help with the studio set up for the Crawl. Kara and Maggie arrived before I did and humped boxes and trunks and looms to allow for the walls to be constructed. Kara was up and down ladders. Maggie and Kara moved everything into place to allow set-up tonight. I was very drugged and fairly useless except for the directions which they happily responded to. My son Bren arrived with supper and fed Vivian and I. Derrick and Ashley showed up and with Bren put up walls and hung heavy pieces. Megan showed up after an exhausting class and pitched in. 3/4 done and two days til deadline.

Tomorrow Vivian helps with the lighting, small works and light tables.

I hope I can finally sleep tonight. The drugs have nearly worn off.

It should look like a little gallery by tomorrow night. Price tags, artists statements and signs should be hung tomorrow or Friday morning. I might even have time to finish a few more pieces
and the new C.V.

Looking forward to the weekend.

Life Boat?

Snow. two studio show no shows, up all night because of resulting drug side effects from medical test, and a bad attitude. Good thing I have a great kid and a lovely friend or two,

Now have slightly lowered expectation for the "East Side Culture Crawl" as long as they don't close the roads. The Die Hards will come and I will give them a show!

Chocolate? Baileys? A life boat?

So I woman the long johns and extra hats , mits and scarves and do the best I can.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Need A Jig For My Whats-It!

I need a jig for my whatsit. There is so much assembly and construction before a show.
Tim has made me some great jigs to help assemble frames. display tables etc but he has usually done the asembly, He won't be here until the last day of the Crawl. It occured to me that a series of photo's need to be taken to document all his ingenous processes.

I spent the morning in the medical lab getting tons of new tests done. I have to be there again before 7>30 a,m, Seven vile vials of dark venous blood today, Surrounded by people threatening to cough up the cat. It would be so much healthier to separate the contagious from the non=contagious chronics, Today I am a cranky chronic with not enough blood or coffee,

The person who was going to share my studio can't come so some old work will be hung up.

Burnt for hours last night. Have a permanent dent in my face from the mask. Going into the studio today to pick up my sewing machine and heat gun.

Megan has designed and printed me a beautiful new business card which should be back from the printers in the next day or so, Used photographs from a trip to Tacoma where we found a crumbling wall at the edge of a parking lot that just happened to have layers of crumbling paint and old plaster cloth behind it,

Today is my last production day. After this it is set up and finishing.

Looking forward to the weekend and all the crowds attending the Culture Crawl. Exciting because thousands show up.

Weather report. Snow expected - below normal temperatures. Tim is now in -29 in Fort Nelson. the winds come up and it is much colder than that. Bundle up and come warm up in my studio. #13 1310 William Street William Clark Studios.

More artists are showing this year and new artists are opening studios at William Clark.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Attended Jane Kenyon's opening the other day at Elliot Louis Gallery and was so happy to see her so radiant, healthy and happy. Her work has become remarkable, intense and thoughtful. You can view her work in the current issue of Fiberarts Magazine.

She has been playing with imagery using mineral surfaces and shattering. Also playing with images of rainy, graffiti covered walls.

Jane Kenyon is my personal mentor regarding work ethic. She is a powerhouse and even spends weeks mounting her work so that it pleases her. I think the way she creates a grid to mount the work equals the amount of work most people put into their most complex embroideries. The entire embroidery is made from thread she embroiders, no background cloth, no backing just stitches.

I was blown out of the water with her current work. The effort, the design, the colour! All beautiful.

I turned to talk to Penny Parry, an old political friend, who is now the Chair of the B.C. Craft Association and overheard Jane say that she owned one of my works and kept in her studio for inspiration. So thrilled to hear that.

There is a great video showing Jane and her process on the Elliot Louis Gallery website.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Safety First

I write rather cavalierly about burning things but I don't do this really. I melt things. I do it with great caution because it is a dangerous and toxic way of making art. I am armed when I do it.
Tools need to be mastered . Safe environments need to be created.

The unpredictable end result is what the goal is. Erosion, destruction, malformation create the surfaces that are desirable for what I am trying to communicate. Life and challenge. Frailty. Survival. Extreme experience. But it is not a cigar but a picture of a cigar. To mangle a great quote.

I work in a very safe way. Ventilation through fans and fresh air. Masks that filter smoke and chemical fumes. Surfaces that don't whoosh up in smoke when they are used for melting with tools like pyrography tools, heat guns, chemicals and heat presses. I rarely use tools like candles or open flames because they are even more unpredictable than the controlled tools I use.

In truth fire terrifies me. I am a fanatic about working smoke alarms, clean fireplaces and wood stoves, nothing near the water heater and clean gas ranges. Candles are never left unattended

My younger brother was seriously burned by an unattended fire when he was five years old. He was in hospital for over a year and we weren't even sure he would live for at least four months. The other children in the family could only visit him through a window of the Alberta Children's Hospital during that time. He did survive, grew up married and had children. He has had a successful career in construction and ended up looking very much like Robert Redford. We were all very much marked by this small fire for the rest of our lives.

Please be safe if you are working with extreme textiles. Fire hurts people and destroys homes and lives. Do this beautiful surface technique but have respect for it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

List of Don'ts

I am fluish. I get fluish because I stress about deadlines and do silly things to make the deadline more complicated. I have spent a lot of time patting my back and encouraging myself with praise and positive thinking but I am sick and still have a deadline. I have decided to make the flu unwelcome. A good ass kick will now happen. A list of don'ts might also work.

1. Don't go near the whiskey. The last thing I need is a hangover or any more challenges threading a needle.

2. Don't turn on the computer more than once for fifteen minutes in the morning and once for fifteen minutes at night.

3. Don't offer anyone help with their situation when mine is under water.

4. Don't answer the phone until at least five things are done.

5. Don't close the window. Fresh air will do wonders.

6. Don't tell anyone about what projects have been accomplished until they are completed.

7. Don't panic.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

We Bury Our Own

Sandy Cameron died a few weeks ago and there was a celebration of his remarkable life today.
He had been my friend and a mentor for more than twenty years but there were things I didn't know about him. Like that his name was Clive.

He was an activist in the Downtown East Side and worked hard for social justice. Not like most people who work for social justice but with passion and commitment like Gandhi or Buddha.
He dedicated his life to making this world a more livable place for people who are disenfranchised and left without.

His life was useful and meaningful to the end and remained useful today as people discussed and recommitted to making a change in something.

He was a poet who encouraged others to write. He once published one of my poems without my permission or knowledge. He encouraged amazing writers like Bud Osborn and Sheila Baxter.
He taught people to read in the park and in the rain.

He encouraged others to action and healing. He honestly believed that people made poor choices because they needed more information. He remained almost innocent to the flaws of others and just encouraged them with his absolute wealth of information.

He was soft spoken, gentle, well educated and intelligent. He had a rare analysis that never rested. He shared. His beautiful sister said he wouldn't eat a treat as a child unless you had one too. Sandy recognised the pain of others and made things less painful.

I was lucky enough to breath his air and inspiration. I worked with his perfect life partner, Jean Swanson, for more than ten years of my life. I relied on his information for any justice fight I was ever involved with. His support and analysis let us be successful enough to create things like food programs for all of the hungry school children in B.C.

Members of the Saanich Nation showed up today for his service. They sang three songs and played skin drums. Children sang for him in love. Men and women wept and sang solidarity songs. People touched who hadn't touched in years. The Carnegie Auditorium was full. So was the Auxiliary room and out to the street.

He once told me he didn't get me at all. He looked at my art work and said that "Of course...you are an artist and a poet. Please make art!" I often wonder if I would have if he hadn't acknowledged me. Given permission to do art. To write poetry. To swear out loud at injustice.

Sandy "Clive" Cameron lived a good life. His quiet presence will be missed, but his goodness was so contagious that it will live on in the amazing community that is the DTES.

"My life is my message." Gandhi

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Breast Bones

4 of 5 Eva Hesse

Tim and I travelled to Toronto to visit his family and his ninety six year old father. It was one of those bittersweet visits where you understand there won't be many more visits like it.

I saw a beautiful cardinal, a flock of wild turkeys and an albino squirrel. Also saw a snapping turtle drag trail out of the pond at brother Roly's house.

A comfortable flight both there and back.

We spent Saturday in the new Art Gallery of Ontario. The Henry Moore collection from the Tate was there and so was a series of work from Eva Hesse and Betty Goodwin's journals. I leaned forward to touch one of the Eva Hesse paper sculptures because I "forgot" and the guards came flying down from the ceiling to make me stop touching. Don't they know that textile artists touch? I did this once before in the Museum of Erotic Art in New York. Naughty Peter practically swatted my hand when I reached out to touch an original sex robot because the form was so well worked and sensitive. I will have to wear strait jackets or a restraint device next time I visit a show.

Eva Hesse was unfamiliar to me before I saw the show. I have no idea why. Her work was so comfortable and familiar. It makes me remember why I experiment with form and material. It reminds me what is important about explored repetition. Simplicity is beautiful. Fundamental and minimal are moving and sensual.

I had no idea that Henry Moore was so concerned with surface. Each sculpture used surface technique to reflect and create shadow and texture. Inside, outside, touch, reflection all important. I was intrigued with the marks made by the tools and am convinced these marks were enhanced to add further interest.

Betty Goodwin was so responsible with her documentation. She carefully considered all aspects of her work and kept track of many of her thoughts in little complete journals. Hundreds of journals. Why do we feel so intrigued by reading what artists have written? My journals and sketchbooks are different and not consistent. They are sometimes scribbled on old flyers and napkins, in report margins. I have tried to be disciplined by bringing sketchbooks with me or organizing time to spend time with them. Instead they are taped together or put in boxes all jumbly bumbly. So many of my sketchbooks are lovely for the first quarter and then filled with grocery lists or appointment times that I forget for the rest.

Looking at the beautiful journals of Henry Moore or Betty Goodwin reminded me of the importance of documentation for my own work.

I intended to go to the Textile Museum in Toronto. There was only time to enjoy the AGO.
Toronto needs another visit.

The old breast bone got twisted while hauling my luggage. Youchh! Might have to get taped up if not healed by tomorrow. Ice seems to work.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

About Me

There are things you probably don't know about me. So I will tell you.

1. I am getting older and I like it. I don't like all of the things it brings like disrespect and sore knees but I like some of my sags and wrinkles. I want people to keep their own faces, boobs and bums.

2. I used to be a Can-Can dancer. I also danced interpretive jazz ballet and made extreme gestures and faces. I wasn't a particularly good Can-Can dancer because I had an ample bosom and threatened to knock myself out when bouncing enthusiastically.

3. I gave birth to two children. One was very large. I inherited two children. One was very loud and active. I like them all.

4. I like bugs a lot.

5. I have a complete weakness for my childhood foods. I really crave things like cracklin's and pickled pigs feet but I don't eat them. I will fight anyone for the butt end of the chicken. We called it the Pope's Nose. My early childhood was spent in Quebec.

6. I had an amazing singing and talking dog named Woofen. I would sing and so would he. I would talk and he would talk right along. He punished me by taking all of my clothes out of my drawers and getting the garbage bag and rolling in both. I knew he had done it when he put himself face first in the corner.

7. I can't drive. I am a hopeless passenger. I make everyone I drive with crazy. I imagine all kinds of disaster.

8. I can swear in more than seven languages. I want to learn real Gypsy cursing. I watched a tiny old Romany woman curse the cops in Paris. I have a new goal.

9. I still stamp my foot when pissed right off.

10. I love flannel nighties, clean sheets and cocoa. My real fetish is total comfort.

11. Mail gets left on my floor if it doesn't interest me.

12. I am double jointed and can bend all over the place. This means I can pick things up with my toes.

13. I am a breast cancer survivor. I "forget " to wear my boobs. Swimming is difficult because my back end is more buoyant than my front end and I end up swimming under water. Bee-line for the bottom.

14. I grow paper wasps nests and steal them for my art.

15. Truly hate mornings.

16. My worst childhood fears were "Dawn Horses" and the concept of "Infinity". I was afraid that a little herd of Dawn horses that survived the Ice Age would stampede, knock me over and trample me with their sharp little feet.

The image of a woman on the box of "Black Magic" chocolates was holding a box of chocolates was holding a box of chocolates tinier and tinier until you couldn't make them out. Shivered my timbers.

The first time I saw the ocean I threw up because you couldn't see the shore on the other side. Infinity in the big. Oh God! Then I discovered the "Universe" and couldn't sleep for a month!

That, of course, was all replaced by my fear of the nuclear bomb.

Since cancer...I don't feel afraid of much.

17. I really do love Paris and New York. Houses in both places is a dream I have.

18. Wood rot and sow beetle fascinate me. It must be the process of regeneration.

19. I bite thread. I almost never use scissors.

20. Most people are likable but I have a problem with "girly girls". Never trust them. Princesses appal me. Why would any ordinary person give their daughter delusions of grandeur? Or force feed them anything pink!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pick Up and Delivery

Celine came to the studio last night to select and pick up work. She also delivered my three Yvonne Wayakubayashi sculptures. And a completely delicious dinner. And laughter!

I arrived late to the studio yesterday and really was scrambling to finish edging the pile of work.
My eyes do not want to cut straight lines. Ever. Loud cussing, swearing and panic were rising from the studio and a brave Tina Ozols came in with blades and cork backed rulers. She and I managed to complete edging and gluing about two minutes before Celine arrived. Everyone needs a Tina.

I edged the work with a shibori paper and a batik paper which added to the canvases. Makes them a good small piece to take away at shows where other work is more expensive. I like them more than some of the larger work. Tiny canvases and tiny globes.

Celine took a good box full to the gallery. I feel accomplished and have my work rhythm back. Focus is now on the Crawl.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Giving Things Away

All morning has been spent burning globes and canvases. Delicious. No interruptions at all.
Finished seven globes. So far this week I have burnt nine globes, eleven canvases and have almost completed six encaustic paintings. Scared the mail woman this morning as I was running around in shocking pink nighty, scruffy hair wrap, rubber garden clogs and a gas mask for the fumes. Smoke was streaming out of the porch.

Have discovered that some of the paper mache newsprint bleeds through the medium a bit and creates misty variations in colour for the coral globes. Artistic accidents are the best.

My throat is sore and my stupid arm is swollen. I have just over a week until I leave for Toronto for a week to see Tim's lovely 96 year old Dad. He informed me of the birth of a new family member named Raelyn Elizabeth on Wednesday. I will get to meet her!

Dane has been here from Winnipeg all week working and filming a new music video. Our creative energies have not collided. Wish he moved back home. Not in the house but in the town.

Am determined to get a pile of work done for "East Side Culture Crawl". Will have this week on my own and have discovered that no one comes to visit and chat late at night.

I am going into the studio to do rice paper batik for the canvas edges. Will try acrylic watered down as an "ink" because the Indian Ink is leaking. Never mind. I think that using an acrylic medium will work as a fixative or varnish. I know it gets decorative and fussy but the extra effort with presentation seems to get things more attention.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


My solo show at the Quesnel Art Gallery is now confirmed for next June.
I will also be doing a weekend long workshop at the gallery and teaching some of my more involved techniques.

Quesnel is a northern town committed enough to the arts to have a public gallery. My experience with Quesnel is that people from there enjoy art. Many of them traveled to Wells last summer and purchased art from my gallery. Quesnel is not a large city. The people work in jobs like ranching, forestry and mining. They are earthy. The land is wild and cold for most of the year. Men wear big beards, drive big trucks and work hard. Women are tough and solid. Not a likely place for art appreciation. But it is by far my favourite place to show.

I was thrilled last summer at the loggers, truck drivers and miners who came in the St. Georges Gallery in Wells. Sometimes they chopped my wood for the fire for a chance sit in the warmth and take in one of Corey Hardeman or Marie Nagel's paintings. They played with my sculpture and were thrilled by some of my techniques. I was also given rusty bits, help setting up and sled dog hair. And they bought work. The majority of my sales were from Quesnel patrons.

I can't help think that the constant and patient education Marie Nagel did exposed these people to a different way of seeing. That her common and gentle influence made a difference for all other artists in the area. She was followed by the efforts from people like the I.M.A., Bill Horne and Claire Kudjundzic, the Quesnel Art Gallery, Paul Crawford and his wife Julie, and the Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George.

No doubt the people in Quesnel honour art enough to have such a beautiful gallery that changes shows about once a month and offers locals the opportunity to learn from artists. I am thrilled to get to share some of my skills.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Miners Rising

I, like many other people around the world, have watched the rescue of the Chilean Miners.
They have been trapped in a mine for months and are emerging from the earth one at a time in a little capsule that is being dragged through a narrow tunnel. It is an extraordinary media spectacle.

Each man has a life on the surface away from the mine. Each has what we all have in terms of relationships and life chaos. Each must face the world again like a returning voyager.

Two things disturb me.

Why have we lost track of corporate responsibility for the disaster that has impacted the lives of these men and placed them in danger in the first place?

What happens to them when this is all over?

The media is covering this event as if it is a sports event. Not much different than how the Olympics were portrayed. A circus.

Miners die all over the world. They often work in terrible conditions. Many of them are children.
Walls collapse, tunnels flood, gases poison, fire breaks out. It is not natural to send people deep into the earth like this.

I noticed another thing. They had clean jackets on as they emerged.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


It is Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and my children are cooking me a meal of wild salmon and maple syrup. I have three of them with me today. Tim is missing as he has just driven the twenty hours it takes to get to Fort Nelson. Chris and Vashti are on the Island. Dane is flying in at 2:00 from the "Peg". Steph is driving in from the Valley. Bren and Meg are unpacking and cooking a delicious meal in their new little apartment overlooking English Bay.

Dane will be home for two weeks. This is the longest time for years and I am looking forward to his easy energy.

I have been experimenting with en caustics on wood and silk. Globes are prepped and panels are being burnt. Have finished three.

Have left my studio and home keys somewhere. I think I locked them in the studio. This meant I locked myself out of the house after a long day and a long walk home. I tried to get in and couldn't so had to call Bren and sit on the porch, in the dark until he arrived to get a ladder, hang upside down like a monkey and climb in the slightly open kitchen window. I felt very stupid and incompetent.

Had a great conversation with Celine about direction and an installation I am planning for a show next June. She is so clear about the importance of editing. I learned in my last show that I would rather not rush things and that each work needs to be strong enough to be shown. I have watched textile artists constantly rush up until the end and include everything they have made to fill up space. I have done this. I have also seen important shows that have included only a few thoughtful and well crafted works.

There is a temptation in textiles to show off the plethora of skills and techniques, layering and over layering them and showing off how much can be crammed into a piece. This often results in something almost hallucinogenic and incomprehensible.

The show is in the last stage of planning and the contract should arrive this week. Don't want to jinx it by talking too much about it. I need to get ready for the Crawl first and then put full concentration into developing a decent portfolio, website and other promotional materials.

I need to be disciplined about focusing on one or two things and not let the Muse carry me away.
Tim will not be here most of this year and I will miss him terribly. This means, however, that I can work day and night if I choose and not disrupt any of my projects.

Lots to be thankful for this year. Tim's survival and good health is at the top of my list. His vigour and enthusiasm for his new project is inspiring.

One thing at a time...one day at a time.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fort Nelson Visions

More images from near Fort Nelson.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Double Vision-Morphos Inquiry- Patricia Chauncey
various sculptural and embroidered textile works
Photographs- Scott Pawnell 2009
Tim has been packing up the house and making a lot of dust in order to move to Fort Nelson. I have been throwing a series of fits and exhausted tantrums! He leaves on Friday. Early morning. Dane arrives Sunday. Early morning.
Am ready to start playing with the installation and have purchased threaded rod to enable some animation of the work. Have also found illumination. Reworking the felted wing cuffs and fossil work.

Saw an inspiring installation on a Spanish blog called Solotextil. Reminds me of the shoe tree I saw this summer at the Tulameen. Very moving with the use of multiples and walking felted slippers. Check it out. http://solotextil.spaces.live.com/

Monday, October 4, 2010

Part Of Heaven

All photographs
Tim G.A. Hurley and Patricia Chauncey
September 2010

Part of Heaven exists in Fort Nelson. The colours, textures and surfaces of the environs surrounding the community are delicious. Here are a few images Tim and I took on our late fall picnic. The images were thankfully saved off a faulty card by a wonderful technician at London Drugs in Vancouver.

Friday, October 1, 2010


My fat little yellow and hand staining mushrooms have arrived from Fort Nelson. I am thrilled despite the fact they are getting elderly in the jar they remain intact. In a mushier sort of way.
Tim delivered them yesterday. No problems on the plane.

Hilary Young is teaching an image transfer workshop in Kimberly this weekend and came to the studio to borrow my flat irons. She told me that Julie Pongrac is giving a mushroom dye workshop in Pender Harbour or Maderia Park in the next few weeks. I am ecstatic and googled to find information and discovered a whole lot of workshops all over the Lower Mainland to Seattle focusing on the little buddies. The Botanical Garden and UBC are also holding workshops on identification. There is a whole Mushroom Festival happening on the Sunshine Coast! I will go broke and exhaust myself if I take everything but ...

I have been watching Arlee Barr's valiant experiments with vegetation and have been drying all sorts for awhile now. Found some gorgeous pots worthy of my experiments and back porch at the Commercial Drive Home Hardware down the road. A friend informed me that the Restaurant Supply on Hastings Street in Vancouver have some bigger and better ones. Will probably stick to the smaller size so I can manage them.

Visited Afuwa Granger in her studio yesterday. Her painting skills have evolved in very exciting ways. She has tucked tiny little sketches in corners and has bones in jars like I do. I am so sorry I missed her show but the work left was gorgeous. She is working on a performance for the Roundhouse using herself painting with disappearing medium.
Very interested in the direction of her work.

Plan to go to Eva Honig's new show opening at Numen Gallery on Sunday. Curious to see how her work is developing. Will also pick up my tiny and exquisite sculptures done by Yvonne Wayakubayashi. All paid for! Mine! A total indulgence in beauty.

The studio is so clean and I have done sketches for my installation for the East Side Culture Crawl. Cut out about twenty pieces for some "creatures". 4 different designs. Very,very visceral and animated. Need to wrap wires this weekend and make bodies, do some silicone casting and needle embroidery. Full out production on globes. Large, small and in between.

Fall is my New Year. Always feel inspired and energized by the promise of abundance and cooler weather. I walk more this time of year than any other. I crave vegetables and fruit. I get more done. The studio is the perfect temperature. What more could I even desire?

Had a pub supper with my sweet. So glad he is home safe and happy and full of Northern tales.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Capable and Admirable

I neglected to mention the remarkable partners my kids have chosen when I talked about influential relationships yesterday. Both women are incredible and have been in my family for a few years with status of the significant other in my son and step-sons lives.

Vashti is a powerhouse who has studied archaeology and works in extreme environments. She operates from horseback, underwater, off of ATV's and does surveys in the Far North. She is soft spoken, democratic and intelligent. She can bake bread, fell trees, garden and makes Chris happy with an active and exciting life.

Brendan's partner Megan is a student at three different schools at the same time and studies design and art. She does very well! She is a kick ass bartender who can run in high heels. Meghan is also a boxer. She is a cultural duplicate of Brendan. Her father comes from Irish Montreal and her mom hails from the same town as Tim's family in England. They make the same noises when expressing pleasure and displeasure. Very unnerving. We call them the "twins".

Think I might offer to teach them how to make gooseberry pies.

Felted and felted and felted last night. The yellow mushrooms are coming home on the plane in two days with my Tim! Card in at London Drugs for rescue. Pictures when accomplished.

Monday, September 27, 2010


The single most poignant imagery I have seen in awhile is a beautiful phone captured video of my dear friend Vivian's mother and grandmother making pies. Floured surfaces, rolling pins, crust all handled deftly by a woman who had been making pies for more than eighty years.
The women together in perfect harmony at a loving and repeated task. A rhythm travelling through generations.

I sat and watched my mother, grandmothers and aunts all do this. I do this.

Vivian and I share a prairie farm childhood. I find this is the time of year when I miss it most. Harvest time. Canning time. Putting things by time. I get some satisfaction picking my garden and fruit. But it isn't the same. The effort is minuscule in contrast. The camaraderie from shared effort and reward is only a memory for me.

I make chutney and saskatoon jam, I freeze berries, rhubarb and peas. Potatoes grow and get eaten. I make my Granny's gooseberry pie. I just don't use the lard. So it never tastes the same. Never like hers. The last gooseberry pie she made me was 25 years ago. I ate it on a mountain side and gave a tiny bite to my baby son who Granny Blanche called Mickey Drippings. I didn't know it would be the last one. My grandmother was only able to use one arm but could still whap the dough around, roll the crust and put it in the pan in one quick swoop. Never dropping or tearing the dough. Making her own rhythym.

I don't have a daughter or a sister. No grand daughter yet. I am alienated from my mother. I have tried to pass some of this knowledge to my sons and nieces. Hopefully some of it remains after I don't.

There is something to be said about mitochondrial DNA and experience.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Oh No!

It looks like my camera card might be permanently screwed up. All the hours of research.! All the pictures of the caribou and Fort Nelson! Trauma.

Have finished laminating the little forms and will show you when the light table and camera are fixed.

Such a beautiful day in Vancouver. It looks like Tim has finally got an apartment in Fort Nelson so I should be able to come back and forth. In the meantime I am unpacking the house and trying to put things back in place. Then I work flat out for the East Side Culture Crawl.

Tim should be able to fly with the mushrooms and I found about forty similar ones at the post office around the corner in Vancouver. Will try to dye with them and see what happens. They don't have the rich yellow which appears to be the result of the muskeg swamp the Fort Nelson mushrooms grow on.

Will use the Muskox batt to do some felting and picture making tonight. Off to buy some forms for the larger globes I am making for Celine and Numen Gallery. Will also start working on some new panels for the Crawl and for Numen.

Still regenerating after my travels. Find that coffee with Bailey's works just fine for that. And am eating all vegetarian all the time. So very easy to do in Vancouver. Laughed at my son Bren, this morning. He came flying in to borrow the van because he is touring the Head of City Planning from some city in Australia around Vancouver. I made a breakfast smoothie with wild blueberries, carrot, parsley, flax oil and ginger. He gulped it down wide eyed and said, "Comfort food Mom!" Must have done something right.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Back in Vancouver

Got on to the scary little plane in Fort Nelson and flew home. It was the most comfortable flight I have ever taken. The weather was gorgeous when I left Fort Nelson and gorgeous when I arrived in Vancouver. The flight included 17 other passengers and included landing in Dawson Creek for a "security check". Bags taken off, run through machines and passengers wanded. I had to put my metal crochet hooks and little embroidery scissors in the check in bag. I am obviously a person who would pull off a hijacking with needlework implements! Imagine...

Was surprised to discover my little blog was posted to a local information blog in Fort Nelson.

The Fort Nelson cab driver, Erin, told me about some dyers in Watson Lake who used berries and plants. She also told me about the Mukluk Mamas. I will try to find them.

Arrived home to mixed news and a big moving mess. A friend who was my cancer survivor mentor, has been diagnosed with recurrence. Crap. My tenant is leaving the house in Winnipeg. Crap. My huge fibreglass globe got crushed by a falling box. Crap. Got hired to teach a few courses. Waiting for two new relatives to be born. Son got a great place overlooking the ocean. Got some money in the mail.

Finished crocheting eight little forms and am laminating them this morning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Breath In Breath Out

Tim and I went for a Sunday Picnic near Summit Lake and took a few hundred pictures for visual research. We got caught in a snowfall. The forest are northern with pine, spruce, birch, alder and plants that I will need to learn.

The area surrounding Fort Nelson is extreme in all ways. The environment ranges from little ranches and farms to high mountains. The views go for miles and there are cuts in the earth that expose the formation of mother earth.

We were stopped on the highway by caribou licking the pavement for salt. A large buck and his harem surrounded our car. Healthy, beautiful animals. The experience was primal. We didn't move or breath so they would stay with us for awhile and they did.

We drove back to Fort Nelson and found hundreds of mushrooms at the side of the road in the cut area. We picked one and discovered it bled the most delicious yellow colour which stained Tim's palms. We picked a few for the dye pot and put it in the large jars we keep in the car for samples. I can't wait to try it on silk or leather. The stains are a deep tumeric yellow. It doesn't look transitory because it was so hard to wash off. Can't wait to see what will happen with different mordants.

While picking the mushrooms we were visited by a little mole.

No house yet so I am flying out today. Have to prepare for some gigs and for the big show at the East Side Culture Crawl in Vancouver. Am returning home with a head burning with ideas.

I hate leaving Tim for this. He is doing so well that you would hardly know he has come through such an extreme cancer experience.

Sorry no pictures until I get on to my computer at home. The card failed and I have to get someone to pull them off. Hopefully some will be recovered. The place changes daily and will not be like this again until next fall. When I return it will be colder and with snow. Might be back in a couple weeks.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Home Sweet Home

The housing situation in Fort Nelson is really a nightmare. We thought we had been accepted for an apartment but found out we weren't a day after we arrived. It probably won't be until November or later before one is made available. If we cross all of the hurdles.

We are currently staying at the Super 8 Motel and were upgraded to a nice family unit with a kitchen, fireplace etc. all because I let a very upset, tired and pushy man go before me in-line at registration time. I talked him down a little from his rage and it was clear to me he wasn't used to getting or giving kindness. He didn't thank me at all and this meant a two hour wait in the long run. The staff doing registration didn't forget my act and rewarded me with an upgraded room with all the lux! All this because I thought the guy was going to hit someone and I am an old street social worker with three honkin' big brothers and four sons.

Tim and I have now seen the beautiful Old ALaska Highway part of Fort Nelson and were blown away. It overlooks a beautiful valley that stretches through foothills, other valleys and mountains. Spectacular. We were invited to a steak dinner at the Golf Club. Piles of meat, potatoes with sour cream and bacon and cabbage salads containing cream. Mountains of food on a plate. We are used to stuffing ourselves with fish, grain and vegetables as a habit. Meat is more of a condiment so we were shocked. All was really well prepared and the deserts were decadent and super sweet. Vegetables are harder to get up here. There are little farms and a farmer's market that will close soon. I noticed that the local grocery store is pretty well stocked this time of year. The prices aren't terribly high yet and basic food is available.

Tim saw a huge beaver crossing the road yesterday. He also saw a moose on the way to work and the school was visited by a bear. The wolves surround the town. You know they are around when the coyotes disappear. Enormous mushrooms are popping up everywhere I walk.

Spent the afternoon in the local laundromat and met some Old Order Mennonite women and kids. I had a blast with them as they had teenagers and toddlers in the group. We talked kids and cloth and they showed me the free clothing exchange when I told them my coat had been "disappeared". The aboriginal women up here are gorgeous and tall. I am going to see if I can approach them to model some of my garments.

It doesn't look like I can stay for long this time. I am going to have to go back home because I am not covered on Tim's expenses. Most people fly in and out where he works.

No access yet to a scanner and haven't been able to download any photographs. But am going out today to buy some paint and play with my embroidery floss. I have been crocheting little forms when inspired. Will have to show you later.

I thought I was going to be able to get home soon to pack up. Can't get out of here yet. Talked to my chamber maid this morning and she told me that she came five years ago and has never been able to leave. The buses leave at 3 am. The planes are a little scary. I think I might get Tim to drive me to Fort St. John tomorrow so I can get back to Vancouver. Otherwise I will have to wait for another two weeks when he is driving home.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What Have We Done?

I am sitting near an open window on the third floor of the Woodlands Inn in Fort Nelson, B.C. Canada. The town may sound bucolic but it may be one of British Columbia's scariest example of a town run by big oil and gas companies. It is not pretty here. The town appears to be made up of muddy parking lots stuffed with trucks and equipment.

Our comments to one another so far is on the lines of "What have we done?!!!"

It is so much colder than Vancouver and we have put on our coats. Snow is expected in a few days which will mean the ruts will freeze and the walking will be very treacherous. Our new vehicle , which is white , is covered with a grey gumbo and an oily dust. The last mosquitoes are desperately buzzing at the window.

I expected to see wild plants or something to distract me. The District has decided to mow all the little nooks and roadsides bald to prevent "weeds". The bald will soon be covered by snow.
Tiny children fly around the town on ATV vehicles and little motorcycles.

We went to see the apartment we are moving to and it is a big, charmless, boxy example of an 2 storey ATCO trailer. The lease isn't signed yet and the only natural food store has just gone out of business and is for rent. Tim and I might be in for another live work space.

I am too tired to feel too much. Tomorrow will reveal more truths about the town. It is surrounded by forest. There must be a way to get to it!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ebor Mills Fire

Our family is personally devastated by the news of the terrible fire at the Ebor Mill in Haworth, England. The mill was owned by our Merrall family and was once reputed to produce the finest worsted in England. It also made sure the workers prospered and paid the highest wages.

Someone named borrat contacted me via this blog to let me know about the devastation. It was only by accident that I was looking through the blog archives and discovered the post.

The mill is a wonderful example of Victorian Architecture and will be a huge loss to the Haworth community and to textile history.
Archival Photo of weavers employed by Ebor Mills.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tile Trauma

Rolling Thunder Mountain, Nevada 2010
photo Tim Hurley
House put together with stuff and bits.

I spent the day today preparing for my Northern Adventure. The kitchen and bookshelves are full of stuff I don't use or read. Packing boxes arrived and I just started chucking things like camping waffle irons, plastic bowls, duplicates, pots without lids, lids without pots and old jar lids. This effort yielded four huge boxes of stuff. The book shelf revealed 20 useless catalogues and dozens of magazines my mother shuffled off her shelves a few years ago. I also discovered at least five old phonebooks and a mess of past date flyers and coupons. Out, Out, Out!
Check Spelling
Yesterday my closets and drawers revealed a disparagent collection of underwear and painting clothes. I have allowed myself two sets of studio clothes and got rid of anything stained and torn beyond repair. Any underwear that was saggy, baggy, too tight or scary was also chucked.

I clearly had a fetish for some yummy black Lacy's once. Don't think it will work with my long johns in F-ing Fort Nelson. I have trunked anything business and have only packed one dressy outfit. Am trying to decide whether to pack or give away my vintage and antique stuff.

I am rather dispassionate about what I am getting rid of. The goal is to fit into a smaller truck because I don't want to have to deal with driving 1000 miles with something loaded and too big for Tim to manage. He has done very well and purchased a big, white Northern SUV. much to my horror. We will drive up to deliver Tim and his supplies on Friday. I will return after checking out the apartment and pack up the house alone.

Tim and Brendan managed to pull all kinds of stuff out from under the house and haul it to recycling and the landfill. I had been collecting and saving broken tiles for years for a mosaic patio project for my yard including sidewalks, benches a patio, a pond and raised garden beds.
Most of the tiles were sorted and ready to go this summer. But...Tim got so sick and I was otherwise occupied. Long story short. Tiles hauled off and dumped! Gahhh! Just stuff right?

This move is complicated but less upsetting because my inner rain man will have time to sort and let go and also have a safe location to store. I also get to do the basement when Tim is working and I am home alone!

The big move is on the first week of October. My son Brendan and his spouse Megan move into the house for a year.

I have this great recycling technique. I take a box and fill it with stuff that isn't really needed but still good. Place the box on the front sidewalk near the house and put a sign on it the says "Free". Instant disappearance.

Spent part of yesterday crocheting little forms and felt laminating them. Soft and clean hands today. Packing art supplies according to planned and unfinished projects. Have even selected a palette for the year based on memories of other Northern journeys. Will be disciplined regarding supplies. I brought too much stuff with me to Wells last year and felt overwhelmed.

Am still trying to convince myself this is exciting and fun. Not so much!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I completed the little panel for the Numen Gallery. It took an incredible effort but I like the results when all the little works hang together. Will keep my commitment to Celine for other globes and panels before I leave.

Bridget Catchpole is my favourite jeweler and we are going to trade work. I am beyond excited.

Christine Hatfull brought me some new photographs today and they are so amazing. Shots taken that are like archaeological digs through this ever changing city. She was born in Vancouver and seems to recognize when change is about to happen to a place or surface that is ingrained in our memory landscape here. Liminal space ... just before change. Sometimes her images sting me with a sense of loss. Walls I have walked by a thousand times. Old doors and rooftops I loved but took for granted.

Karen MacKenzie Brydon has agreed to sell me her amazing wrapped books. They are transparent and to die for. Haunting layers of images that tell so many meaningful stories for my life. She lived as part of me since the age of eleven and many memories are shared. She has created images like amber fossils revealing ghosts and whispers of the past. Photographs of some of my early crafted dolls and embroideries show up.

All of my friends are important but my artist realm friends truly allow me air in my lungs.

Hilary and I skipped out yesterday for a few hours and lolled on the beach after a yummy lunch at Foundation. She has traveled so far and grown so very much since the loss of her little baby, Molly. Women are so strong. She is starting to make art again.

Every day a few more trunks are sorted. I am keeping the studio and not bringing everything. Will be returning every month or so for a week or more. This is one of the benefits of Northern work. Concentrated periods in camp and paid transportation and time out.

Arlee Barr has kicked up her natural dyeing experiments a notch. Google her. She is showing up everywhere and is becoming a new textile super star. She is even on You Tube. So very personable, good crazy and funny!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ever Evolving

I spent the last few days looking for 4"X6" canvas to finish a small series for a commission.
Not one to be found anywhere!
Used another canvas that had a burnt work on it but also had the African paper that was so important to the little work. So I scrapped and peeled for two full days. Hardest thing I remember doing because I was trying to preserve the paper border which would not even steam off. Blue sweat!

Finally finished scrapping and picking with no canvas shredding. Will never do that again!

Result is that the new primer has worked very well and covered up any burns and flaws.
The new emulsion is drying well and should be ready to reburn tomorrow.

Got my apartment in Fort Nelson today. The housing authority kept trying to negotiate newly improved basement suites! One snowfall and no windows so I negotiated a second floor with a balcony and a mountain view and a tree. Made my first northern fumble when I found out the building is pet friendly and in an innocent but concerned voice inquired about a flea policy. I am allergic to fleas and hate them. Voice on the other end of the phone burst out laughing. She, in a stage whisper, asked her co-workers if they had a flea policy and the room roared with laughter.

"Honey...we don't have fleas, head lice, bed bugs or cockroaches up here. They freeze to death! So do the house flies! So do half the people for that matter!"

Rumour has it that the black flies and other vampires make up for it in the summer and fall.

The Vancouver kitchen and bathroom are now finished. The home and studio sorting is underway and I pack to leave for the first visit on the 9th of September. We drive up and I leave Tim and fly back to pack for real.

I am trying to figure out what to do with 13 hole punches, tea tins, old dyes, empty paint bottles, 4 pin cushions, a trunk of old chinese papers and trunks and trunks full of cloth. A whole lot less stuff than before I moved to Wells last year. Will have to decide about the library, looms, drafting tables and extra sewing machines.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Life with Bears

No. I haven't left yet. The contract is signed and we are now packing the house and studio.

I sat on the porch with Christine Hatfull yesterday and trimmed and powdered all my natural dye materials that have been collected during the summer. Good thing because the rain poured out of the sky today and soaked the place I was stashing all the bracken, lichens, barks, leaves and flowers. Some of the berries have been dried to condense power and intensity. I had hoped to have time to dye some silk and wool rovings. The waste papers have been shredded to make sheets for reforming up north.

Saw that Arlee Barr has made a valiant effort to extract colour from plant materials. Some are lovely.

Will send her some prairie recipes and some mordant recipes.

Leaving for the first trip to Fort Nelson next Thursday. Hilary and Jim returned and saw so many animals on the road. Moose , bear, sheep and a cougar! Will stop in on Wells on the way up.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Talisman One Complete.

The mobile that has driven me to hell and back is complete. I decided to work it like a Talisman instead of a traditional layered mobile.

Included in it are animal bones, driftwood, a buffalo tooth, chains, found metal objects and turban cloth. I used old rusted chain, wire and created new chain.

Forcing projects never works. Things come in their own time.

This one now casts shadows, clatters, shakes and pings.

It is on the way to Quesnel tomorrow. All bought and paid for.

All the unfinished Well s projects are now complete!!!! I did it!!!!
This mobile is about 3 1/2 feet tall. It is heavy and will be displayed beside an open window near a stone fireplace. The ceiling is made of hand split cedar. It is a heavy brute.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Tim went for his PSA and his doc said it was great. No cancer showing and a very low, normal PSA rating. He is mostly dry and without pain. He has started the house reno for the new tenant.

We won't be here next month but will be settling up north for the next year or so.

In the meantime I am wrestling animal bones, rusted bits, an old horse harness, shells, leather, driftwood, stones and felt. Trying to decide about cocoons and burnt paper or gut balls. I found a sandable, carvable, paintable wood glue.

We are supposed to go to Wells with friends on Monday. The fires are really bad and the air quality is terrible. Rumour has it that ash is falling in Wells as there are now fires near Quesnel. Some of the highway is closed and the winds have picked up. Rain is expected this weekend. I hope so because I am worried. All the backwoods are now closed and there is a complete fire ban throughout the province.

Wells is a little village that is near Barkerville, B.C.. I ran two galleries up there last summer. It is about one hour down a mountain road from Quesnel. One narrow road in and one narrow road out. Wells has one of the most organized and amazing volunteer fire departments around but the valley is tinder dry as many of the surrounding pine forests have been affected by the pine beetle and are very vulnerable to fire.

Tomorrow in the studio to meet Tina for tea and rug hooking exchange.

Want rain without lightening!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Frozen Stares!

Shocked and now excited. I am moving up to the Yukon Borderlands for a little more than a year. Boxes are being packed and contracts are being signed. Trucks are ordered. Garden being picked and pickled.

I am living in a construction site. Kitchen and bathroom being renovated for the new tenants of my little Vancouver cottage. I will never get to use everything new! It will be more than a year old when I get back here.

Tim and I will be living in a little apartment, driving around in trucks and taking bear aware courses and Northern survival courses. There are no long johns to be found in August in Vancouver. Good thing the weather holds up there for another month or so.

Exciting thing is that Northern dye plants, basket plants and seed pods will be available to photograph and study. Have already found a source for Musk Ox wool. Took no time to discover there isn't even a gallery in town. There is a library and a live theatre. Won't really no the rest until I get there. It is also dark for months on end.

Tim is glitterting with happiness and excitment. I sneak off and smother panic attacks. I am leaving for the north with a man who has just finished cancer treatment and lost an eye. He says this is on his bucket list. Has never been on mine. Sometimes the universe delivers us presents we never expected.

Will turn this into a giant visual research trip. No one knows me up there and this might be an opportunity to cloister off and do a real body of work.