Monday, February 13, 2017

Distorted Realities

Virginia Woolf's Tea Towel, 2016. 16"(w) x 24"(l) Hand embroidery on vintage linen.
Here's a little piece from last month. The Gabriola Arts Council was holding its annual fund raising gala, with the theme "Tempest In a Teacup". Artists are asked to donate a work incorporating the theme. I knew right away what I wanted to do, but getting there was a battle.

I had a vague recollection of a vintage tea towel in the stash that had tea cups embroidered on it. Following my usual strategy, I thought I would just embroider some pithy saying on it and voila! I found the Virginia Woolf quote quickly enough, but could I find that damn tea towel?

My stash is highly unorganised, to say the least. I burrowed through totes in the crawlspace, emptied trunks, upended my cedar chest, even checked the random plastic bags in odd corners. Finally, after days of searching, I found the piece I was looking for.

Only it wasn't what I remembered. It was more of a serviette than a towel, on thin cotton, and sloppily made. No way it would work.

So I found a plain linen tea towel that I had used last summer while making blackberry jam. Of course there were a number of purple stains on it, but after several soaks with lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide I managed to remove the worst of it. 

I redrew a vintage iron on embroidery transfer featuring teacups and traced it onto the cloth. The embroidery was a breeze, reminding me of how effective a few lazy daisy stitches and french knots can be. At last, my canvas was ready!

Embroidering the quote went fairly smoothly, after I realised the letters were too small on my first attempt. I picked out the threads, redrew it, and finished stitching during a slow shift at work.

A lot of effort for something that is basically a one-liner! I didn't attend the gala, but heard that there was a mad bidding war for the piece and it ended up going for $185!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Pussyhat Brigade

This is from last month, but the pussyhat knitting has been continuing apace. A few days before the Women's March on the 21st, James and I made a pop up photo booth at his studio, and put out a call on Facebook for Gabriolans to come on down and have their picture taken wearing a hat. It was very last minute, but twenty intrepid souls made their way over and we had a blast.

Who guessed that 100,000 pussyhats would show up in women's marches around the world? (That's the estimated number of hats, of course there were many more marchers.) Every single hat made by hand, with intention and care. Woe to the Trumpstiltskin lawyer who asked if they were made in China.

I made six hats before the march - one even went to Washington, DC. I have made several more since, and currently have orders for another four. At first I was just using yarn from the stash, but now I ask people to supply the yarn. Other than that, I am not asking for any compensation, financial or otherwise for the hats. They are my contribution to the resistance.

I was even commissioned by the Gabriola Institute for Contemporary Art to make a tiny hat for the hood ornament of its Mobile Response Unit. Yes, we have some serious fun here!

Friday, January 27, 2017


I think the opening of Landfall and Departure:Prologue at the Nanaimo Art Gallery was a great success. In spite of an attack of imposter syndrome, I got through the evening without apologizing for my presence. There is something about openings that brings out my neuroses full force.
I am in very good company. Curator Jesse Birch did a wonderful job putting together artists from the past and present working in diverse media. Great representation of gender and culture as well.
Although this photo doesn't really show it, the gallery was crowded and abuzz with lots of young people with stylish haircuts and groovy footwear. Thank heavens for art students!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Weekend Away

These last few days have been spent at the annual Woolly Thyme hook in Victoria, BC. Seventy plus hookers doing what they love best. It was a mad din of chatter, interrupted only by the sipping of tea and noshing of chocolate.
What struck me most was the incredible array of expensive fabrics, tools, cutting machines and accessories. Our small contingent from Gabriola are apparently total hippy throwbacks. (We use mainly recycled materials and often cut our strips with, believe it or not, scissors!) I had no idea that there were other ways to do it.
Many fantastic creations were on display.

I took the photo below to show how finely some people work. This piece could have been done in needlepoint.
And this lovely arbutus tree was hooked by my friend Gill Elcock, in a style which is called "primitive". Gill taught me everything I know, so I guess I am primitive too. All right by me!
And the piece that totally blew me (and many others) away was Deirdre Pinnock's brilliant doormat, (seen here in progress) "Make America Clean Again". Made completely from recycled materials, it allows one to make a political statement whilst wiping one's feet. At one point the ladies were lined up ten deep to take photos of Deirdre's clever work.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Three Faces of Owl

Collected over the year: a hand-stitched stuffie with mother of pearl eyes and a leather beak, a signed and numbered print by Manitoba artist Larry Kissick, and some feathers from a barred owl that Gracie had a bit of a tussle with on the deck one summer night. The owl can be a symbol of life, death, regeneration, learning, wisdom - not bad things to ponder on for the transition from one year to the next.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Year Ends as It Began: On the Path

Chemin de la Paix, 2016, hand embroidered wool and perle cotton on linen, 40"x40"

My friend Jean-Pierre described this piece quite accurately when he commented: "We will enter this disastrous, labyrinthine Native/European relationship together and we will find our way out of the labyrinth hundreds of years from now after many wrong turns and ruinous trials and tribulations."

I do hope we are nearing the end of those hundreds of years, though. For those of you who may not have heard, Canada has been conducting Truth and Reconciliation hearings for the last several years and the final report has just been released.

And the esteemed Francois-Marc Gagnon, author of the book that got me going on this whole project very graciously said to me in an email: "A beautiful piece! Louis Nicolas would have certainly enjoyed all your works and would have probably tried to make the Society of Jesus buy the whole series to decorate the Residence of Sillery."
This is what the underside looked like while I had it in the hoop. Yes, I use knots. Bad embroiderer! But what the heck. I am concerned with the image, not the perfection of technique.
And these two images from the late 17th century may shed some light on what is happening with the arms of the figures. Fashionable men's dress from that time would have included a cape, worn wrapped around one arm. If Louis Nicolas was drawing from engravings, as Dr. Gagnon's research indicates, he may have tried to combine the pose taken from Champlain with a contemporary fashion plate.
I have a few smaller text-based projects in the queue before I resume the Codex Canadensis series. And damn, I want to get this work exhibited. Making proposals and sending them out is not a task that I enjoy, but it is essential.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Buche de noel redux

I am madly stitching the last few bits of the latest codex canadensis piece, so instead of a post I will offer you the gift of my recipe for Buche de Noel from way, way back. Just click the link and you will magically be transported back to December 14, 2011 - almost five years ago to the day.