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.