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, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolution.

Charlotte influencing me. 2011.

I resolve to become a bad influence on others.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Running With Scissors.

I got to spend most of the day with my wonderful niece Michelle. She is one of those accomplished young women who has figured out her priorities quite young.

She is a very accomplished horse woman who is now a champion side saddle rider. She is winning prizes everywhere. Her love of historic costume is definitely a result of my influence. So is her love of vintage and antique cloth and clothing. Junking is our shared passion with her cousin Brie. The two of them have nearly absconded all of my antique clothing and some of my jewellery.

Her sensitivity is defined by such clear borders it astounds me. I now ask her for advice about things. Our relationship is so easy and fun.

I have been very blessed in the niece department. Thank goodness because I only had sons and brothers. All of them are amazing to me and I am close to the bunch. Each one is strong, smart and compassionate for the most part. Two are now Mommies and have given me wonderful great nieces.

How nice is it to spend time sitting with a little girl and showing them to thread a needle and sew. I remember learning that from my Grandfather. Just the thrill of seeing two pieces of cloth joined together to become something else. To make a little doll or a little pocket. Thrilled to death to get to make the sewing machine run. And to receive scraps from leftovers for quilts and embellishment or pony blankets.

I also showed all the boys to sew. Dane and Bren could operate a needle by three. Chris made a complete doll at seven. Stephen helped repair his teddy. Each one of them would cuddle and watch me sew. Contrary to popular belief boys also love to sew. Former generations of men in our family have been involved in cloth production or sheep ranching.

Michelle is interested in historic riding costumes and consults with a costumer named LaFlamme. She went to museums in England and Scotland to look at textiles and designs.
She is now an instructor at a college and focuses on a scientific profession. But she loves cloth.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Mukluks

My new moccassins made by the Mukluk Mama Adeline Dickie

Detail Moccassin Beading

Last Minute Christmas Beret

Tim gave me the most beautiful moccassins for Christmas made by the Mukluk Mama herself!
Hand beaded and smoke tanned moose hide with a moose fur cuff. They were made by Adeline Dickie (White Medicine Bear Woman) from the Fort Nelson Reserve. Her beading is so tight and beautifully done and the moccassins fit like they were made for my feet alone. They are made in the Slavey - Northern Cree tradition.

I am not taking off my new red Christmas pajamas or my mocs all day. I plan on being very comfortable warm and a little light headed if I have to cook dinner for today. All will be consumed in short order or made into New Year's Pies.

Everyone decided that the P.J thing was a good idea and half the guests arrived in suitable nightwear. Tim and I wore our new P.J.'s. Somehow it took the edge off any family strife.

Have the most lovely day. At least once a year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Images From The Northern Journey

Leaving The Fort

Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway

Quesnel - Barkerville Highway to Wells, B.C.

Wells house/gallery in the snow. All ready for move -in.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Leaving The Fort

We are now packing to leave Fort Nelson one last time. The weather outside really is frightful. It is now colder than 20 below. There are snowstorms and road closures on the way to Wells, our next destination. Snow and ice fog are expected.

The apartment here is cozy, warm and comfortable. Tim has a homebody instinct. I didn't really have much to do with it other than to help him pack up in Vancouver and impose myself on him when I had to. It smells like baking in here. He is a good cook and an incredible baker. He keeps making me hot Bailey's to drink.

I haven't been great company because I landed here with the flu and had to crawl into bed for the last few days being a complete misery to us both. Got up today and walked the few blocks into town to pick up some food and treats for our trip. It was so cold outside that I had a hard time breathing on the way home, my thick mittens didn't keep me warm and my parka was city girl useless. Didn't undress at all when I got in the door and rushed to make hot tea. I was a Popsicle.

We attended the most lovely farewell/holiday party at our friend's Don and Pauline White. They have the most beautiful big log house a few miles out of Fort Nelson. They are both Newfoundlanders by birth. I am by heritage. Pauline pulled out a series of Mummer ornaments that made me cry. I was the only other person there who had experienced Mummers in person. They are almost like scarecrows. People dress up in these costumes without faces and come to your door at Christmas time. You are supposed to offer them food and drink although you have no idea who they are in real life or if you even know them. Hospitality and generosity are the key. You don't know if they are a derelict or a wise man. Your job is to make them welcome and cared for. Children are often terrified of Santa but he is a gentle looking soul compared to the anonymous Mummer.

The food was phenomenal. Tables full of food. Every kind of delicious food and drink. I was forced to drink a blue drink called a Blue Eyed Blonde. Went down better the second time. It was fun and silly. The people here became friends and really will be missed by both Tim and I.

People from the project started packing up and leaving today. They will return to locations all over Canada. They will all be missed. But this means that Tim will finally return home to Vancouver.

My first impressions of Fort Nelson weren't correct. I ended up liking it here. The people were wonderful. The location is actually beautiful if you face the right direction. It makes me feel Canadian when I am up here. In Canada people come from all over the world and figure out how to get together and survive. Fort Nelson is like that. But maybe with more patience and kindness.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cold, Colder, Coldest!

I am trying to pack for my winter trip to Fort Nelson which is so far below zero it is unimaginable! Instead of leaving my long johns, warm socks, sweaters and boots I made the stupid decision to drag them back to Vancouver. I need to carry up some dressier clothes to attend a company party. Black lace long johns perhaps? I will settle on layers of velvet. This means I have to wear lots and boil on the way to Vancouver Airport or freeze on the plane and unpack the warmies at the airport in the deep freeze of Fort Nelson.

I am proud of carrying my own bags but these ones are pretty heavy this time. The final visit is for at least a week with a further trip into Wells which is rumoured to have 3 or 4 feet of snow already. Things need to be packed that don't normally get packed because there is further trip of many miles through the frozen and icy roads. Dressing for extreme cold can mean survival if anything goes wrong. A good idea for comfort at the very least.

Leaving early in the morning and flying in a tiny, intimate plane. Hours in the air. And home to the Fort Nelson apartment and one of Tim's hot stews and diving into a bed piled with huge quilts. Dressed in long johns, t shirts and socks. I really am such a wuss when it comes to the cold.

I sleep like a log in the North. Completely conk out! Dream crazy inspiring dreams. Wake up completely lost and disoriented every time.

But the reward is the beauty surrounding Fort Nelson, lovely people and parties with food that Northern people make with treats of moose meat, northern char, incredible sweets and drink.They also make every other kind of delicious food.

Will get to buy the new babies real soft and beautiful baby moccassins and hopefully some tiny coats. I think there might even be a craft fair or two!

This is probably my last visit to Fort Nelson for a long time. Tim has thrived there. He is strong and feels a huge sense of accomplishment and has made wonderful new friends. The irony being that we will have a holiday meal with some lovely Newfoundlanders. Like so many family holiday meals but without my own Newfoundland Grandfather. I hope I remember at least one of the songs.

Will try and take a lot of Northern pictures. And share them as I can.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It Is Now Official!!!

Jackson's Mommy and Daddy one week before Jackson's birth

Uncle Brendan

Brand new Mommy Breanne and doggy Gustopher

Aunty Megs having her bonding moment

Mr. Perfection Hurley

Mr. Hurley's new onesie.

Flowers for mommy

It is now official. My new name is Grandma Pat.

This was something I was not expecting as a step mother. I was prepared to be called anything Jackson wanted. I met him tonight for the first time. I was the first to hold him after we arrived. I melted , of course, and bonded immediately to this little tiny baby. He snuggled right in and nuzzled immediately. His mother and father trusted me to hold him. Even the skittish little dog, Gustopher, relaxed and snuggled into the crook of my arm. Me and baby and doggy in complete bliss!

We all passed him back and forth. Drowned his parents in presents. Quilts, chocolates, flowers, and Hurley and Oona onesies and food. Fed each other in a ritual that has always been there. Baby meets his extended family. Family immediately make their pledges of love and protection to him.

I overheard a radiant Megan introducing herself as his Aunty Megs. Brendan held him and experienced that wonderful flash of bonding to a tiny one. Stephen smiled every single time one of us held his boy and his beloved Breanne. Breanne exhibited confidence and competence unusual in a first time mother with a 3 day old infant. Still beautiful despite 3 sleepless nights.

I went to sign his card when I was leaving from Grandpa Tim and Pat. I explained to Steph why I did that. That I wanted to acknowledge his own mother and that Jackson could call me whatever he wanted. Lovely Steph looked me in the eye and explained he will call me Grandmother or Gramma or Granny. That he didn't give a damn about the politics and exclusion that came before. I was Jackson's Granny. And that is that! And is now who I am!

And Tim may be up North but he is phoning and e-mailing constantly. Saying unlikely gushy things like "My boy has just had a bath!" like Jackson was the only baby who had ever had a bath. He has become as silly as the rest of us. Maybe even sillier. Like a good Grandfather.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Like Winter.

There are some things I appreciate more than others. I don't know where these lovely garments came from. Sent to me by a naughty friend. I would love to credit the work but I don't know who made them.

What Else Is There?

Jackson (Day 2)

What else is there to talk about?

Nothing right now except this little bundle of boy!

His face is now full and round. Rather serene. Traced by the genes that continue. Some recognizable. In the brow and the mouth. He is really big and has thick arms and legs. Not like my own children's delicate limbs. Big hands and feet. Big bones and broad open face like his Grandmother Sue. Tall like his Mother and Father. The Hurley brow, facial movements and response to touch.

A tiny human being. Becoming accustomed to touch, air, sound and light. Shocking really.

I wish Tim was home to see him. But he is up North working and won't come home until the 20th or so.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kissing Ancestors

Once when drowning in the love of my Great Grandparents, I planted a big, fat kiss on my Great Grandfather Adam's mouth. My Great Gran Mabel Della Wells Adams (called Old Gran) laughed and rubbed my hair. We must have been cuddled up in the big Oregon rocker on the porch looking out across the prairie field of their ranch near Trochu, Alberta. They were both exotic beings to me. The ancient parents of my Granny Blanche.

She touched my cheek and said, "You have just kissed the mouth who kissed the mouth who kissed the mouth who kissed the mouth of President Adams. You have kissed history my dear!"

My first history lesson delivered in a kiss.

He lived to be 94. She lived to be 99. Blanche lived to be 99. My paternal family not including the Newfs. All the stories were there of births, deaths, trials, laughter, betrayal, love, life and survival skills. Explanations for bad behaviour. Humble pride for good.

Enough that when I was so sick with cancer and a killer infection and hovering between life and death the voices I heard were my Old Gran's telling me to just get up and try harder. That we just don't give up!

I wonder what it is like not to know your own people. Both the good and the bad. To come from a nuclear family that just consists of just two generations. How do you mark your own history? Where is your place? Whose lessons do you end up learning?

When I was little I couldn't draw a picture without a long line of people. It simply didn't make sense. Something I will never know. Neither will my children. Our life has been a living museum where history is simply one of those nourishments given like milk. I wonder what history we will all teach baby Jackson. What our kisses will mean. Or if we will live long enough for him remember at all.

Jackson shares none of my genes. He is Susan and Tim's grandson and she passed away three Decembers ago. Stephen is really missing her right now. I keep a little distance to recognise this.

But Jackson will get something from Mabel in my first kiss on his little head.

Jackson Decided To Arrive A Little Early!

Today Jackson Stephen Hurley arrived on this little planet. He decided to come early and in a hurry. He is a big strapping boy at nearly nine pounds. Broad shoulders, big head, long body. He has already done what good babies do. His APGAR Score is excellent. His poor Momma was in labour for only 1 1/2 hours and dealt with all that meant. So he exploded into the world. Shocking and humbling his jaded para-medic father.

I had a baby like that. In under 2 hours. Never under estimate the impact of short labour. But babies come however they come. Despite our planning. And then there they are!! Fully human. Hypnotic. Beyond amazing. Living their new life. Negotiating a place in this universe.

So Tim is now a grandfather. My step son Steph is a proud and protective father and Breanne is a beautiful mother. I am waiting to find out my role. Perhaps loving elder or ... this little boy will decide what to call me on his own.

I will get to meet him a little later. I can't wait!

So much for peace and quiet. Amazing new life wins out every time.

Pictures coming.