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.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thimble Gardens

It is a beautiful pre-spring day in Vancouver. The wind is trying hard to blow away the winter or at least give it a little break. A robin popped into the holly bush this morning and the crocuses are trying to shove out of the frozen ground. I have been trapped in the house for weeks not feeling well so watching out my window is perfect.

Inspired by the thought of tiny holdings and plantings. Planting in tiny crevices and cracks, filling little objects with miniature gardens. Patrick Lane, the poet, once told the story of a friend who planted gardens in thimbles and kept hope alive by watering them each day with a single drop of water from an eye dropper. I was struck by the simple act and his description. Always wanted to do it.

These lovely gardens were made by Toronto artist knitilatte and are shown on etsy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stomach Contents

I was just thinking about stomachs and about what to eat when I ran into this image from Wikipedia via Art Propelled.

Here is one of those odd medical collection shadow boxes I am so fascinated with. This one hit my dyer's bone. It is not an artwork but a collection from the stomach contents of someone with Pica Disorder.

Talk about that feeling of lead in the belly!

Meat Eaters

Just fell apart when I saw these and can't find the artists name. Let me know who made them if you recognize this work.
Not Granny's crocheted doilies any more.
I just love the pork chops and trotters!!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Once,when far too young, I had a great job working with people who were challenged intellectually. It was a job that made me very happy most days. I got to work with people who tried hard to get through life and succeed at what was placed before them.

The place I worked in was not an institution. It had a British director who did his best to integrate people into the greater community and have the greater community come to where the "clients" were. It was years before anyone else would try this.

I worked as part of a training and assessment team. I also worked as a supervisor in the residence.

The residence was a great place to work. Each resident had an apartment. The building looked like a regular apartment building but with a social lounge and a cafeteria. It was a place for Independence training.

Professional objectivity was expected but I had a favourite person there. I will call him Chucky. He was a person who was perfectly formed but very tiny. He tried so hard to accomplish each task every day. He learned to take buses and to cook. He learned the cleaning tasks better than I did.

He participated in the social events and made plans for us to all go out to movies or skating. He liked the birds and spent time telling jokes.

He liked being there. He made friends with other residents. He learned how to act in a more adult way after being rewarded for being so "cute" all his life. He was a completely charming person.

Just before Christmas I knocked on his door to do a room check. He got a small financial reward if he kept his room clean and tidy. He would not let me in. I asked and couldn't figure out what was happening. I went down to talk with my supervisor and told him I felt that Chucky was upset and might need to talk with a man. The supervisor went up to Chucky's apartment and returned saying that Chucky would not be on my case list for a few days. No explanation. Nothing.

I reeled in shock and searched my brain for something that I could possibly have done. I got on with my other duties in the next few days. The Christmas party was going to be a big deal and everyone was preparing making decorations and food. I was busy but sad.

We all got dressed for the party. Everyone looked smashing in fancy clothes. There was even alcoholic beverages for those whose medication wasn't a problem. Delicious food all made by the residents and gorgeous decorations. The place buzzed with festivity.

Chucky had not talked to me for days and my supervisor had avoided all conversation about it. Chucky appeared with a little package in hand and gave it to me." I made it for you. I didn't have any help so there are some mistakes but that is why you couldn't come into my room."

I opened the flat little package up and inside was a beautiful hand tooled leather wallet. It had rose patterns on the front and enough pockets for my ID and change. It had one rose petal stamped on backwards but it was gorgeous. Tears streamed down my face. Chucky thought the wallet made me sad. I had to do a long explanation of what tears of gratitude and joy were. I am not sure I communicated well enough for him to be able to understand.

Chucky was diagnosed with a brain tumour later that year. The clumsy surgery of the time left him with less intellectually than he already had. I left soon after for B.C. with my first husband. I have carried that wallet with me everyday since Christmas 1973. It is tattered and the cowboy stitching on the edge has come unravelled but it lasted until this year. So Christmas 2011 was the last time I carried the wallet. It will go on my wall to remind me that once a lovely person cared enough about me to spend weeks making my gift. The favourite gift in my whole life.

Tonight I toast Chucky with great love.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fear Falls First

I am one of those people who relates to some technology and not to others. I can run a mean sewing machine, work Embellishers, heat presses and heat tools but have been terrified of cameras and learning new computer programs. This is not appropriate anymore because artists need these tools everyday now.

The truth is that these tools are designed to be simple. They are designed to enhance visual information and to make life easier. I spent today encouraging myself to become more skilled and felt some of my techno-dependency slip away. I did it and only called for assistance once.
Not so bad at all.

The programs I learned to edit on aren't yet installed in my computer. Tomorrow means learning something new again and practising what was learned.

First effort is revealed above.

Monday, January 3, 2011


There are companies that provide good quality supplies and materials I can depend on.

Where would I be without Dressew, the Textile Clearance Warehouse or Rocco to provide an incredible array of inspiring fabrics to burn, paint, shrink and sew? The basement at Dressew has incredible deals but bring cash or a cash card because they don't believe in credit.

I now have a Michaels just a short bus trip away. They have good sales on frames and paints. I prefer climbing through the shelves at Opus Granville Island where they have something on sale every month. While there it is worth dropping in at MAIWA Supply for a huge range of natural dyes and fabric supplies and information. Paper-ya always turns the old creative crank. Where else can you get such beautiful sealing wax?

Birkeland Brothers is the best place by far for fleece and roving. I have even found Muskox fleece there. They supply me with felting needles and suggestions. My family have been sheep people for 1000 years that I know of so the smell of the incredible old fashioned mill and the sound of the carders warm my heart.

De Serres has a great collection of paper and so does Opus. Opus has the best Khadi papers. Both have great sales on sketch books and mediums. Opus has a huge range of metallic powders, patina's and metallic leaf.

A day can easily be lost if I go into Oscars Books. It is full of art books and has reductions. It is an independent book store and has much better selection. There is a magazine store next door that has a terrific selection of art and craft magazines and stocks European yummies. The Bookwarehouse is not that far away. There is always a good book for pennies in the stacks. In a pinch Chapters is across the street and usually has FibreArts Magazine.

Where would I be without Mason's? I get my machines serviced there and can buy Embellisher needles, free-motion attachments and a huge range of needles. They have classes and a little gallery.

I love Opulence in North Vancouver. It is hard to get there around twisting roads and a steep driveway but they have mail order and web service. They have reliable delivery time and have the best foils. They also have dyes for synthetics as well as natural fibres.

The free Georgia Strait newspaper boxes provide me with newsprint for paper mache.

Home Depot hardware supermarket has heat guns, chains, wood, and almost everything for everything. Paint chips by the thousands help with palette planning. Tim and I have the best Sunday morning dates in there. The Revy is also really fun.

I confess to using Dollar stores to buy little cheap wires, frames to improve, glass beads, styrofoam balls and paint brushes to destroy. They have cotton twine and hemp twine that works great.

Gotta go! Some Christmas money is burning a hole in my pocket.

You can check most of these companies out through their sites listed here. Check them out next time you visit Vancouver.

http://www.maiwahandprints.com/ http://www.maiwa.com/

Couldn't find a site for Textile Clearance Warehouse but you can find them at 5550 Fraser street Vancouver ph. 604-321-7188

Dressew Supply Limited is at 337 West Hastings Vancouver ph. 604-682-6196

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Revolution

Oh goodness. I actually have a wee headache from too much holiday.

I have discovered that it is not a good idea to change blog design and format late at night after a drinkey or two. Looked great last night. Looked like the remains at the dog park this morning.

Happy New Year.

I am just thrilled to have lived another year. It looks like I will probably live through this year as well. Sounds strange but I am one of those people who was given a time stamp on life a few years back. I was diagnosed with breast cancer that had gone to my lymph nodes. I wasn't able to take the adjuvant therapy but did do chemo and radiation. So I am still here and each new day still surprises me.

Today as I was checking the stats on this little blog I discovered a link to the Opus Blog and found a wonderful article on the East Side Culture Crawl written by Chris Tyrell. He mentioned me and my studio. He also wrote a little thing about me in his blog. He exposed my organization challenges but talked about my art and his responses to it. What an absolutely great way to start the new year!

Chris Tyrell is a legend in Vancouver. He has helped create Vancouver into an art town. His persistence and hard work have allowed people who might never have been noticed participate and practise. I have saved his columns for years and have relied on his practical and thoughtful advice. Now I have discovered his blog and probably won't crawl out for days. Enjoy both http://opusframing.com/ and at http://visualartmerchandising.blogspot.com

Happy New Year all.
and live long and prosper!