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.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dilemas and Disconnections

I have had the worst few days regarding my art. This stuff isn't supposed to be fun all the time and can be even more challenging than most jobs. With most jobs , however, one can expect a wage or some financial reward.

My art costs include a studio, for which I am grateful, supplies, framing or display costs, compensation costs for help with carpentry, special skills, special computer programs and stuff like cameras or photographers for documentation, and machines. All of these costs have risen drastically in the last few years.

Everyone is trying to get a bargain or a donation from me. People have agreed on fees and commision portions and then renegotiated them. At a lower rate. I am expected to not only donate work for charity but am now also expected to document it, do a write up and offer the organization more than one option for my donation. Many of these donations are then offered up for a charitable auction and the work is sold for less than the cost of my display frame or container. The same people who go see the work at a gallery often find out when the auction is, bid on the work for very little which in the long run doesn't benefit either my gallery or me.

I ran a gallery last summer and know how hard people who run galleries work. It is car sales on high with an expectation of performance and an ability to educate the public about art while at the same time providing some of what it is they want. Gallery owners with high standards and those who are fair to artists are having a difficult time. One gallery owner is so decent she provides an incredible curatorial statement and photodocuments everything beautifully as well as finding other venues for my art when shows are over with her.

Art is necessary for every culture. Beauty and stimulation are important for a healthy society.

Impoverishing those who make, provide and honour art is a bad decision for any society. Artists start producing product and end up becoming more like factory workers. Factory workers are better paid. In Canada at least.

When I end up charging 50 dollars for a work that I have to factor in the time and my costs of production. The artist gets a little more than half the money after the gallery is paid. When an object costs 50 dollars in a gallery the artist receives about 27 dollars. The artist then has to cover all the other costs mentioned previously. The average time it takes to do a small work often takes at least 2 hours not including design and finishing time or things like drying time. Fine crafted objects are often intensely detailed and can take much longer.

Each organization I gave to last year has also experienced drastic cuts and are now holding expensive fundraisers so they can scrape by. Government funding has been cut and public and private galleries both suffer from the effects of that. Most privately funded galleries are scraping by at the same time that publically funded galleries are crumbling and on the edge of extinction.

Rents have gone up. Art studio rents have gone up. Commercial spaces rents and buying costs have gone up. So have the costs of providing the infrastructures for all of these organizations.

I love making art. I try to make art that is good. I have trained for a long time. I try my damndest to come up with original ideas. I work lots of hours at it. I just feel very discouraged.

This week one of my galleries let me go. I got negotiated out of a fair workshop payment and was
asked to donate just to save an organization from crumbling completely. I was also asked to provide membership fees for three seperate organizations whose fees have more than doubled since I joined. My insurance costs have screamed up because most of the places artists live and work are almost uninsurable now. Worse yet, the person I hired to help me do a workshop was asked to work for free.

There are solutions for some of this and I will find some of the ones I need. I will also consider or not whether at this stage in my life art is worth making at all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I was faced with the incredible passions of horny squirrels this morning. They are running all over the place and are making the biggest spectacle of themselves. Buds are popping out on the trees and the first cherry tree started showing today. Snow drops are everywhere and the robins are singing. Spring is just around the corner. I can't wait!

I didn't really have the kind of spring that I usually experience in Vancouver. I was in wells last April and the snow stayed around until nearly June. It was deep and cold. I felt like this year has been one long winter. But spring is showing up. It is early and very welcome.

Tim is waiting for his surgery date. I have mine. I go under the knife on Feb. 16. That is just a day or so after I dismantle the Morphus show at Numen.

It seems all my memberships are up. I need to renew them and hope I can scrape together some coin to do it. It really is rude to take part in things and not pay. So I will unfreeze the credit card and take the duct tape off my wallet and just pay.

Lunch tomorrow with Vivian Bowman. Should be inspiring. Glad "I get some time with her before she goes to Austrailia. Karen Mac Kenzie Brydon has already left for her Deepak Chopra thing in California. I heard from Corey Hardeman. She is a wonderful painter from Wells and is now living in yurt with her three babes and husband Michael. These aren't sunny weather yurt dwellers. They are doing it north of Prince George B.C. It sounds like the town of Wells got together and helped them build the yurt. She says she is painting lots and that must mean it is warm enough to keep the paint viable.

I miss everyone up there but I like being warm. I might just go for a visit.

I have saved enough money to buy a place in my favourite town in England. A scary place.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Magic Carpets

Oh my!

Have you seen the carpets Michelle Sirois Silver is working on. They are the most extraordinary lovely bits and I want more than one. I want to wrap them around my world.

Michelle will also be teaching at Fibre in the Forest, the Vancouver Guild of Fabric Arts workshops, and is rumoured to have delicious samples and very worthwhile skill sharing.

I had some of her rugs with me up in Wells this summer and they were very popular with tourists who all seemed to respond to them.


One of the delights that can keep me going for ever is the ability to sample techniques. I have trunks of experiments. Lots of my samples are little bits and scraps taken from larger projects or from larger pieces but some of the more delightful are intentionally done samples that stand on their own.

Working in the studio with Hilary Young is inspiring even when she isn't there. Her mood boards, inspiration walls and samples are always beautifully done. She could set up an installation using then alone. Each little piece is like a tiny jewel.

The Fibre in the Forest Retreat with the Vancouver Guild of Fabric Arts March 29 - April 9 2010 will have a workshop with her called Mood Boards is guaranteed to be exceptional.

Then you will get to experience a little of what I get to see every time I step into the studio.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marchi Made It.

I was introduced to a delightful blog written by Marchi Wierson from Portland, Oregon in the last week or so. Delighted to see that she is a reader of this blog.

Marchi plays with felt, ideas and writes in her blog to introduce her own work and the work of other artists. I really like her simple and straight forward pieces which are no doubt far more complicated to create. Some of her work takes on a reptilian surface. Her colour choices are delicious and range from pastels to earth tones.

Marchi also introduces us to a range of others who are very inspiring.

Worth checking out this thoughtful and well done blog. www.marchiwierson.blogspot.com

Check out her etsy page www.MarchiMadeIt.etsy.com while you are at it and buy some of her work.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Under the Belt

The Double Vision, Morphos Inquiry show at the Numen Gallery opening was just great. It was a good trickle of people through the whole event. Lots of other artists arrived and so did old friends and comrades from other parts of my life.

Anna arrived and brought her doll stroller. She was a little shocked that I would sew bugs. She and I are friends and spend time sewing together. She just turned five and is now learning to use the sewing machine. I think my next collaboration will be with her. She can focus on a project for more than an hour at a time and never drinks all my wine!

Celine, the Numen Gallery owner and curator for this show, did a great job. Everything takes on a hazy, zen, ethereal presense under her hand. She can be fiercely strict over what is included in the show but always ends up being right in the end. Her editing ability comes from this sophisticated aesthetic and a film making background.

I am always surprised to see my work sitting in a gallery. I still get the "I made that!" feeling.
It is exciting to hear what other people think about the work. Sometimes I pretend not to know the artist and just listen to comments about the work.

Hilary's work was perfect and the combination of her vision and my vision feels coherent. We worked on the project for months and spent tons of time ready and considering the Victorian era and thinkers of the time. Darwin, Nabakov, Jung, Victorian erotica, and the writings of A.S. Byatt
helped to create a darker vision. Hilary researched typical Victorian plantings, the symbology of insects and took some of the images from the peeling walls of Barkerville in her work.

The evening ended with the gallery clearing out and packing everyone left into East is East for a celebratory supper. Spicy chai, Lassi and amazing food polished the day off nicely. The music was from a Romany band and dancers in a room that was filled with beautiful rugs and little benches.

Get down and see the show if you are in Vancouver. It will be on until just after Valentine's Day.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Morphos Inquiry

Each part of life changes. Each day is new but you can still stick to your plan.

I am excited about the show. I have worked with more sculptural forms and with more challenging materials and have kept experimenting. Wasp paper and nests, resin, hand stitching and materials made by insects and including insects. Natural methods and materials are the most satisfying. The handstitching was the most challenging because I am now blind in one eye and the other needs surgery. So there are beads and feathers, mineral and plant dyed silks, burnt fabrics, touches of the natural worls , tiny shoes and corsets made from skeletal forms.

I was scattered but able to make a dozen little things to be displayed under glass domes and in tiny exotic boxes. I could make boxes forever. the whole show can be packed into one box!!!

Now I have enough ideas to work for a lifetime. Thanks to Darwin, A.S. Byatt, Jung, and Nabakov.

The phone rang and it was the surgeon offering me surgery for tomorrow, I turned it down because the show is happening on Saturday at Numen Gallery. New surgery date is February 16. Hooray.

Happy New Year and may you understand you can cope with how ever it turns out!

Peace and love!

Please drop by the opening and enjoy the new work!