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, June 29, 2011


Flood from a broken seal in the dishwasher. Water, water everywhere. 2 1/2 hours and a sacrificed floor, basement ceiling and a soaked basement later...guess the warranty is up!

It was such a good day too!

Health up-date. Simple problem. The medication is making me sick, dizzy and nauseous because it has cranked my blood pressure really low. All biopsies benign. Every single thing is a side effect from some of the cancer treatment I had. Current side effect solvable. One good side effect is weight loss. Feel like Alice with the eat me, drink me, shrink and grow thing going on here. Can't wait to turn back into me!

Feel like phoning the super and giving her an earful...except I own this house and thats me!

Think I will run away for a few hours.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Baby Salad and Cotton Rust

Baby Salad

Cotton with Rust Day 3 Extra salted No mordant

Just a few days later and there is salad and rust.

Monday, June 27, 2011

All Good!

Have just had good results from the Cancer Clinic. Medication is working.
Oh and they are now going to increase it so I am going to feel worse.
Bleecchh! As long as it's working!

More later when they figure out what is happening exactly. Suspect long term side effects.
Nothing fatal.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sampling and Choices

Inspirational object for "Underneath" -lovely chunk of copper

Inspirational object for "Underneath" - little piece of Malachite

Patination and structuring sample for "Underneath" Six Processes

Patination and structing sample for "Underneath" Seven processes

Sample with melting, webbing, mineral powder and metallic spray. For "Underneath"

I'd be perfectly happy to spend my whole life experimenting. My recent explorations are starting to pile up. It is like I need to make a pile of colours and textures before any decision to actually do some design work.

Collage artists do this. Piles of different surface designs, divided by colour, scale and weight.

Panic always sets in at a certain point before a show. Piles of components accumulate with nothing assembled. And then one bumps into the other and connects. A direct and satisfying approach. Sometimes one form just seems to call out and wants to be reproduced almost forever. Accumulation, collection and series.

The miniature is calling out lately. Environments tucked into match boxes, globes containing whole worlds that can only be viewed by a small opening or crack. Narratives waiting to tell some delicious secret or other.

Ying-Ying is my friend and an archaeologist from China. She talked to me about tiny carvings and paintings on rice grains done with magnifying equipment. Naughty Peter continually gifts me with imagery of microscopic delight. For years now. He has just found the new label of "microscopic voyeurism". Me, a "micro voyeur'! Corey Hardeman, a biologist and a painter lets me into her scientific view. Her children give me hugs and little dead bugs and feathers and bones.

Today a commission needs to get finished Celine picks it up and brings it to the photographer for documentation. Then maybe I can spend an hour and just play with tiny things to tuck in my locket.

Leave again for Quesnel to meet Tim in a few days to unpack Hive, Rust and Bone. There has been a few sales I think. Have had great comments about it and a few amazing contacts. The Wellsians came for the opening and lovely Elizabeth said it was fun. Throw two people from Wells into a room and it is an instant party!

Now I decide whether or not I buy the little house in Wells or the land. Got contacted about the lovely house in France again. It didn't sell after all. Everything stops!!! ... but Tim wants to stay "closer to the family" now that his grandchild is coming. Not that he is coming home to live yet...but he wants me here for sure. How does that come again? Right!

I am a bit anxious and still struggling with the medication. Am back in the Cancer Clinic on Monday. More scared than usual and am going alone this time. By choice. So far life is working. I need to stop talking about it so much because I may be jaded with this information but I was reminded this week that it upsets people and makes them feel helpless and sad. And moves them away from me just a little.

Have to go save my little baby mesclun sprouts and basil because the rain is now pounding down. So much for gardening today. But germination and life force is such an amazing thing!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Life in Dirt

String Gardens by Fedor van der Valk from Holland. Most inspiring gardener ever. I think the photo is by Annelie Brujin. Want one so bad!

String Garden by Fedor van der Valk Photo by Annelie Brujin?

My Inner Dirt Diva climbs out and takes over starting every summer Solstice. She is uncontrollable for the time it takes to plant and wrestle the gardens into shape.

This year I have 3 large boxes that Kevin made me. 5 big window boxes that Tim made me the year before and a collection of large pots. Almost all are planted now and have all kinds of things in them. Chocolate and orange mint, thyme, basil, French tarragon, lavender, Mesclun, curry, lovage, parsley, jalepeno and dragon peppers, lovage, scented tea geranium, lemon balm, pineapple and woody sage, lemon gem marigold, oregano, marjoram,rosemary, chervil and chives. The southernwood is now filling the back corner of the garden and the sweet woodruff is ready to put in some wine.

The heritage apple tree has obviously been cavorting with bees because it is dripping with beautiful little apples. The saskatoon bush is plush, full of berries and almost 14 feet tall. The roses all need to be pruned along with the raspberry canes, blackberry, kininik and the giant heritage rhubarb.

The first garden I remember was at my grandparent's farm. My grandfather used to ban us from eating the vegetables. We used to choke ourselves on baby peas, carrots, rhubarb and radishes. Tomatoes disappeared by the bushel.

"The best way to get a kid to eat vegetables is to tell 'em they can't"

The first garden of my own was planted under my bedroom window as a birthday present by
my maternal grandfather. He planted a French lilac under my window because he wanted me to smell something lovely when I woke up on spring mornings. The last time I drove past the house it was still there! I have one now near my front door. Always feel loved when I smell it.

My great grandmother taught me to plant corn. She would walk me through the fields and ask me to identify wild plants. Made me tell her the names in English, Latin and "Indian". If I missed one she would just say in her Oregon accent, "Never mind. You will know for next time." and I would. Her last garden was prairie sod planted in two old rusted bread pans beside her bed in the retirement home. She tended them daily and documented the variety of plants that grew. The staff were outraged at the little pans. She wanted to touch and smell familiar earth. I had her until my first child was 3.

Last year the last Oregon accent ended in my family. My beloved Great Aunt Esther finished her life. She told me to plant a rose. "Plant a rose every time you think you can't do it anymore". She lived with cancer for 35 years. She lived to be nearly 100. Like my granny Blanche and her mother Mabel. I went to her house the last time and it was a forest of beautiful roses. Hundreds of roses. I sat on her porch and gasped for air.

When I was pregnant with Brendan we had a beautiful vegetable garden "sweetened" with chicken manure. Our house was too small for the collective four children, Tim and I, cats, rats, lizards and snakes. We decided to move and informed the children. The move would be in 6 weeks. I was in the house nursing the baby and could hear the all the children happily playing in the yard. My enthusiastic seven year old step-son Christopher burst into the house to explain that I didn't need to worry about packing the garden. He hauled me by the hand out to his project. His tiny seven year old self had hauled every packing box from the garage and dug up the entire garden! Each plant was dug up and packed in a box! The entire huge, unripe garden! And 3 little boys all puffed up with pride!

My son Dane sewed his first doll at 3. "What do you call him?" I asked. "His name is Dirt. He makes gardens." he explained.

Rust Gardens

Have been setting up rust gardens all over the house and yard.

I use rust on silks and cotton as a base for some of my textile art.

Now, though, I am completely entranced by harvesting rust. It is growing in clear bowls so the reaction is visible on both sides. Gold pans contain rusted wires and become encrusted. I leave it on surfaces to see how it grows and reacts with the elements. It all develops a life and changes daily.

It is so elemental. A reaction and interaction because of salt and water.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers and Strawberries and Movies.

Every year we go to the Strawberry Social for Father's Day. I am not feeling up to it today.

I went for my walk and it is Car Free Festival on the Drive. My coffee place was lined up down the block. Came home and made my own.

Vivian was going to come for a visit but cars aren't allowed around here. She is making me a little wardrobe and has come up with some drawings. I love her work. She is a costumer, a builder and a designer who has done years of work for the movie industry. She has an incredible sense of the human body and creating proportion. Her designs are delicious. Her sewing and hand work incredible.

I worked as a precision dyer and break down artist in the film industry. The most demanding work I have ever done in my life. Besides parenting. I still see some of the stuff I worked on in films. I was so far down the pecking line that I never got a credit. I was contract staff and working on my union status when I got sick with breast cancer. The money was great but the hours worked as a contractor were a killer. The urgency existed with almost everything touched. Impossible demands were made by people who had no understanding of textiles. Impossible demands by people who had a day to solve problems when everything around them was costing tens of thousands of dollars an hour. The impossible happens every day when making movies!

I dyed for Jeff Goldbloom, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sylvestor Stallone and others. Lots of local productions like X-files. My favourite, by far, was Jean-Claude Van Damme. He had been a dyer at another time in his life and could talk colour and fabric and could describe colour range.

Dyeing for film is different than spontaneous or artistic dyeing . Precision is required. So is perfection. Each costume that is seen is usually produced in multiples. Sometimes with graduating breakdown. Almost every garment has the colour knocked down in it and is teched. There is a soft colour shift on every white that you see on the screen. The mood, actor's colouring, set and other costumes have to be considered. Techs are warm, cold or neutral. I had a really good sense of colour then. It is pretty good now but has been altered just enough to be a bit unreliable since the lens implant. No longer perfect.

Once a director called me from Italy and described the stone wall in front of him. No photograph. Just an amazing conversation to see if our understanding of Tuscan stone melded. He came to Vancouver and I had dyed him yardage that was 1/2 shade off his desire. He was thrilled and I only had to knock the colour back very little.

The last show I dyed for was far too much for me. I had started chemo and was determined. I barely made it through the job and my Doctor told me to quit.
I have done a couple of small contracts since then and have done consultation with designers but that part of my life is definitely finished.

My son wouldn't watch a movie with me for years. I sat there and evaluated the dyeing and techs constantly. They laugh at me now and say "Good movie huh...it must be the tech!" or "Warm tech in a cold tech world."

Funniest job I ever had was dyeing modesty cloths and foreskins for a film requiring an uncircumcised male. Bobbling away in the dye pot. The actor called and said, "A perfect match... how did you know?" I completely cracked up! Good guess based on hair colour, eye colour, the colour of the lips, eye lids and the lining of the nose. What can I say?

I also did a breakdown and tech for another well known actor on a dozen blue jeans. He was very short but proportioned perfectly. My instructions were to make him look like he had a great butt and was masculinely "ample". He must have been happy because he bought every pair of jeans at the end of the movie. He looked packed!

My secret is that paying attention some things pays off! And some things are fun to pay attention to!

The scariest job I had was being handed a collection of incredibly expensive Versace dresses and skirts. Delicious hand beaded garments. My instructions were to dunk them in dye. Just throw 'em in the dye. So I did. Not before the air left my lungs and my stomach turned over and I checked my bank account. The result was perfect! Only by some kind of divine intervention!

The next time you look at the smallest detail on a film understand that there is incredible effort put into the simplest looking object. That the smallest things have been considered carefully by an incredible number of hard working people. That love is in the details.

I have been offered some amazing jobs since then but this is not meant to be my direction.
It was an incredible experience while it lasted.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oh Oh

I appear to be going through a major transition. Things are being altered all around me. I want to reclaim everything to reflect what is inside. I need a simpler life and an emptier and lighter physical environment. This might just mean there is need to make space for a bigger art mess!

This morning I was up rocking by 6am. Was starving and not feeling any nausea. I have cooked three days of food including French pea and carrot soup, jerk chicken and a lovely coconut curried fish stew. Made some yummy spelt englishy muffins and home-made almond butter. Ate them with a salmon green onion asparagus omelette and honey tea for brek. Need to be careful because I'm now living mostly alone and either I or the freezer will fill up quickly. Indulged in watching "World's Greenest Homes" on t.v. before 9am.

I think it might be like when pregnant. Once the blood sugar was figured out things worked much better.

Speaking of which...
my step son Steph has just announced that his sweety is experiencing morning sickness. Which means that declarations my kids are not breeders is no longer true.

His mother Susan sadly passed away two years ago. Which means... I am not sure what it means yet.But if I am very lucky the Granny role might just have an opening which I would very gladly fill.

Tim is over the moon! He had his birthday at Dan's Pub in Fort Nelson and indulged in his choice of libation, good company and dripping red meat. I'll bet there were potatoes in the mix somewhere! Such a contradiction. Such a Gramps!

The dye pots are bubbling with privet and rhubarb leaves this morning. Doing drawing for the new silk screens. Will call Gayla and get a ride down to Opus to pick up some new screens and fluid.

My large globe lanterns have been requested for the "Into The Woods" show with the Squamish Arts Council and some globes and bowls are being finished for the Arts Umbrella Auction at Splash.

My wonderful friend Barry has now committed to do a collaboration in the future. Have no idea what that will look like yet but couldn't be happier to work with anyone. I found him again right after the Tsunami. He is a committed world traveller and is leaving again soon for somewhere exotic like Turkey or an equatorial location. He fires up my synapses and has always made me laugh. He is just setting up his new studio on the Island.

Much more later...

Later: Learned the same lesson today I have learned over and over. Go to bed for a few days, get up feeling incredible energy, do too much, go out with a friend, go to the garden store. Fall flat on your face in public! Move right along... nothing to look at here except ...

Note to self: Moderation in all things! Call the Doctor and find out if this drug reaction is normal at all. Otherwise you will make everyone else sick with your whining!

Friday, June 17, 2011

New Day

Silk yardage with first layer of rust. Vinegar 5% straight with no salt

The rust maker and her elderly sugar daddy. Taken this month. Both squinting in the sun and pursing lips. Waiting for poetry to float from their mouths.

It is Tim's 59th birthday today. Happy Birthday S.D.!!!

He has just passed his first year cancer free. He is vital, has his lovely sense of humour and looks 40. This is the first birthday I have spent without him in so many years. I wish he was home.

I was feeling horrible this morning. Cancelled all appointments. I don't know if I am going to be able to do this drug.

Got up this afternoon and started the next phase of the rusting on the silk yardage. It is really crusting and making exciting marks. These will be pushed to the limit. Then will be dyed with rhubarb leaves which contain oxalic acid. It is highly toxic and will be done outside. There are twenty identifiable natural dyes in the yard including apple wood, buttercup, dandelion and a whack of others. I notice some ironwood on my walk today and expect to go with my clippers tomorrow.

I am going to experiment with the comfrey that has escaped it's confine and has spread through the yard. There is also roses and blackberry root.

I think I am going to be optimistic and harvest again this year. Have started drying some of the plants. Am also harvesting and creating rust and copper patination.

I did some research while at school regarding mordanting with natural urea. The Coastal people here used urine from babies squeezed from the moss. My people, the Irish, used something called Lant. It was carefully harvested at the end of the day from a physically hardworking and hard drinking man and left to ripen for two or three weeks.

I did this research with Judy Rosenberg, who is from the Sparrow family from the Musqeum nation. We tried dyeing porcupine quills, leather, feathers and wool. She gathered the traditional urine from her two year old daughter by chasing after her with the potty. The outraged child would have none of it. It took more than a week and delayed her toilet training for a long time.

I, on the other hand, got to try and talk hard working, hard drinking Irish men to wee in a mason jar. They screamed as loud as the two year old. I can convince! Mission successful but ...I don't know if you have ever smelled anything like that. Take the lovely fragrance that wafts from the back alley behind a tavern and you might get some idea. After two weeks times that by ten. I was gloved , masked and plastic wrapped through the dyeing experience!

Now you can buy urea at places like MAIWA. It comes in crystal form and has been mostly de-scented. Problem is I couldn't keep it in the house because my cats kept falling in love with the containers and yowled like banshees when I was using it.

My favourite natural dye expert is India Flint, the Austrailian artist. She wrote the wonderful book called Eco Colour by Interweave Press. She has the most beautiful blog.

Arlee Barr has been excelling with her residency at ACA. She is religiously posting her progress and experiments every day. I am in envy and awe.

Check out these most inspiring blogs

India Flint
found, stitched and dyed
not all those who wander are lost

Arlee Barr
Albedo~~~chronicles of concupiscientia oculorum

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Last night was awful. There were violent riots in Vancouver last night after a stupid hockey game. Building after building was trashed. Things were lit on fire. Too many fires to count. The transportation system was closed down and all the local hospitals went on to Orange Alert. Ready for massive casualties.

I thought at first they were exaggerating. They weren't. My kids were down there. In the neighbourhood and in the midst. My step son was on shift as a paramedic. My niece with her little cats and a friend with her two year old son. People couldn't get in or out. Terrifying to me.

My step son sent a message saying that it was "ugly" down there. He has to have armed escort to enable him to pick up the casualties. All fueled by drunken and extreme testosterone behaviour. Because our hockey team lost. Not for peace or democracy or a higher ideal but for a stick, some ice and a puck.

I could see the smoke from my house.

Happened so quickly. The darker side of discontent. Fueled by adrenalin, alcohol and bad drugs. So terrifying to see rage. They even aimed at our Art Gallery and Library.

This morning is different. Hundreds of people have spontaneously gone into the street and have started to clean up. Not for money. They are offering hugs and support. They are showing our best. Hundreds of young people.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Oh Double Joy

Off for my healing experience. Oh joy! Hope the technician is not so attractive this time.
Need to concentrate very hard to get through this one.
Gynecology health providers should always be bland. Very, very bland.

Big, big oooommmm!

Post Script...survived. Technician too grumpy to startle me. Never had "Industry Reps" in with me before. Next time I bring my friends!

Soft Evening

There is a softness to this evening. I sit on the stairs and feel the night air. The street is asleep now. My favourite time.

What else is needed?

"Those who dwell in the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life."
Rachel Carson

Monday, June 13, 2011

On The Deck

Spent half the day in bed today completely annoyed. Kept telling myself to relax into the nausea. Didn't work. Meditated, breathed, moved mindfully. Still didn't work. Had to cancel with Hilary today and missed seeing baby.

Got up and spilled soy sauce all over the lower shelf of the fridge and didn't have the stomach to clean it out until later. Had a blueberry smoothie accident with my blender and splashed it over everything. Dropped towels on it and crawled back to bed. Sometimes you just have to submit! Even with blueberry dyed feet.

Claire Kujundzic phoned and we managed the best conversation. She has just returned from Spain. I expected to see her in Wells but her work was stuck in customs and the container was thrashed. She encouraged me to come back to Wells. Her Amazing Space Gallery opening coincided with Laurie's Cartier and Bailey Gallery.

She talked about her amazing trip to Spain and the joy of listening to the scientists who are trying to save forests all over the world. We are both drawn to botany and biology. She said she wished I had been with her. Her show, which was held in an ancient monastary, was very well recieved. Gigantic trees. I got to help her a little with them and lived with some of them two summers ago.

We talked about our constant shared need to question the purpose of doing our work. Both spent a good portion of our lives as activists in the same community. We will do something together again.

Claire and her partner Bill Horne documented the trip to Spain, the conference and her show.

Am up again and going out to the deck to unroll the rusted samples. More steps involved of course. Chased little racoons out of the flower boxes. So very adorable for such destructive little beasts.

Time to take my medication which will make it all happen again.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Engines Down

I am experiencing delayed travel lag from last week Slept in shifts for hours. Woke to the beautiful sound of Quebecois singing. Green onion cake and duck lettuce wrap for breakfast. Will go out and buy some veggies, strawberries and supplies for the week.

This week is a filled with work and medical appointments. Am now back to working full blast on the Britannia Beach show. No looking sideways.

But how much fun are biopsies and ultra sounds where you have to drink two gallons of water, don't get to pee and have prods placed in unlikely places. Distracting to be sure. But will get to see if the medication has had effect on the problem. Better have. It is miserable. Similar to chemo without the hair loss and swelling. The nausea is much better today. Trying not to winge but completely unsuccessful.

I hope they at least let me look at the screen. It looks like my oncologist will be with me. She is pretty good at explaining the details. I am rather detached from all of this and am more annoyed than frightened.

I had no idea that I was going to spend years at this survival thing. I mostly feel well, creative and happy. Very glad I have survived and clearly have years to go.

Hilary and baby Emily will join me for morning tea tomorrow. Better be careful because might actually glue the little beauty to a canvas and talk Hils out of some of her gorgeous red locks for stitching.

Can't find my camera. Bren or Tim might have it or I left it in Ontario.

Rusting and copper patinating on the deck. Twisting flag fronds into rope. Will do a little burn this afternoon.

Packed up my winter clothes today. My spring summer ones all fit or are too big. Giving all the ones I don't want to the women's shelter. Maybe I will turn the rest into a canopy and cushions for my garden. I want to pare down to the absolute essential. In all corners of my life. Need some order right now. And sense of control.

Don't know about my tiny house yet.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Britannia Beach

The museum board has scheduled my show at the B.C. Mining Museum for August 7th or so. Opening soon after. Excited to show in the old building. The mining equipment will be in the same place as the work. Very rusted and marred by the elements.

They have planned to do a documentary of my process and inspiration and that will be shown at the same time. Shooting will start soon.

I have been doing research on mineral, mines and reaction of minerals for awhile now. Have had the opportunity to crawl around the mine which was a thrill. I was inspired by so much. Including the sound of the constant water and the echoes.

The mine is now a huge museum.

Members of my family mined. My brother, father and uncle. I have had an obsession with the process of digging, minerals and fossils all my life. I love using mineral process in my work. Rusting, mineral dyes, patination. I love to play with soils for dye and stain.

I have started some sampling and a work or three.

After that will be preparing for the East Side Culture Crawl again. And a potential collaboration with an important friend. Back up to Quesnel for the artist talk and workshop and to do the Evolution take down.

Such a busy, busy time for me. Turning down opportunities to play and party. I just want to make right now. Very determined to take advantage of these opportunities. Need balance to stay healthy so eating well and getting lots of sleep.

Moved stuff around in the studio and have found homes for both large looms. Will create so much more space to do larger work.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Little House

I love this little house in Wells. It is backed by the forest. I am a great fan of the tiny house movement. My affection is completely focused on this house. Tomorrow I make my offer.

Then I get to be back in Wells for at least part of the year. Every year.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Quesnel Evolution- Hive, Rust and Bone.

Me and my wonderful son, Brendan Hurley.

The beautiful Village of Wells is behind us. The blue triangular building is the old Good Eats Cafe where one of my galleries was. I also lived there. Patrick lives there now. The white building is the Sunset Theatre and the yellow the Wells Hotel.
The picture was taken at 6 am and no one in town is up yet. Obviously not me.

Magical Evening

Sat on the veranda late last night with my sons, sister-in-law and darling husband. The frogs completely drowned out other sounds. The moon was a sliver and shooting stars were everywhere.

Flashes of light appeared all through the landscape as fireflies signaled each other. One landed on my hand.

Earlier in the day Tim's father was honored by a Masonic ceremony. Brotherhood can be so moving. Our family buried him under a tree and waked into the night. Lots of good whiskey and food.

Tomorrow a day in Toronto with two of our boys. And then home in many different directions.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Woke up in the clean country air on the top floor of Tim's brother's house in Millbrook, Ontario. Sat and had morning coffee and watched the Red Cardinal dance with his spouse. Frogs were still chirping in the big pond that is home to the big snapping turtle. Two of my children are here.

Grampa will be honored today as a high level Mason. A serious and lifelong involvement. We will come back to this farm and bury his ashes under a Norway maple tree. Three generations of family will be here including the tiny girls.

There are pictures of George all through the house that show his dedication to Roly's family
and to Tim's.

There will be discussions about possessions which will be generous because Roly and Tim are both like that. They have become the Elders this week. They will careful with feelings and with facts. They now have each other.