Thursday, April 24, 2008

Buddhist Patchwork Quilt Is Out!

Out in the world, that is! I was thrilled to see that the new issue of Craft is now online (and hitting the newsstands soon) and I'm it it!

The Buddhist Patchwork quilt that I gave you a sneak preview of a couple of months ago is the subject of Wendy Tremayne's column, and comes complete with a brief tutorial. I went on and on about the layers of meaning and metaphor in the quilt and its process, but Wendy only had a few hundred words, so it's a sweet, brief article.

Here's a few more pictures:

My Mom's cat Angus checking out the comfort level. Little does he know that all the fabrics in this quilt were rescued from the garbage. Everything from samples and scraps retrieved from my studio building's dumpster to clothing found on the street! My only criteria was that I had to use discarded material. I ended up with a lot of blacks, whites, and bright pinks and oranges - not my usual palette in the least.

The top as I was pinning the layers together.

Buddhist patchwork is not my idea - I first read about it in Yoshiko Jinzenji's book Quilt Artistry where she describes the 16th C. Japanese monks patching together rags for their robes. The rags were elevated to the status of Buddhahood, and the patchwork was a visible reminder of the interconnectedness of all beings.

I later read more about Celia's Quinn's method of doing the patchwork in her book Quilted Planet. What I do is cut a whole schwack of strips the same width, grab two at random to start, join them, and then work very spontaneously, asking "What does it need?". Sometimes the answer is a certain colour, other times a woven fabric to stabilize an area full of stretchy knits. Sometimes it's a lively print, others a subtle stripe. Always thinking of the whole, how it all works together, seeking balance, harmony and truth.

Oh, and in case anyone is thinking, "Ooh yuck, clothing off the street??" rest assured that everything was well laundered before I used it. I got over the "icck" factor long ago, and actually like to amuse myself by concocting stories about how the clothing might have met its sad end. My favourite concerns the XL black stretch lace teddy and the white chef's apron...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Skirting the Edge

This past weekend I went to Seattle for Swap-O-Rama-Rama at Green Festival - which was quite a kick! Denise is a brilliant organizer and really didn't need me at all, but I was very happy to be there - actually helped people sew, which was something I rarely get to do.

But another aspect emerged from the weekend that I wanted to write about. Coincidentally, the Dalai Lama was also in Seattle for a 5 day Seeds of Compassion event. His presence in the city was quite the topic of conversation. And I got to see an example of how even the briefest moment of proximity to His Holiness affected people.

I had just left the Convention Center and was headed down Pike Street, through the main shopping area, towards the train station. All of a sudden, I heard whistles, and the roar of motorcycles. A swath of motorcycle cops passed by, and the murmur of voices on the street began... "The Dalai Lama!"

Several SUV's loaded with security guys went past first, then two limos with police flanking, then some more police and a fire truck. They passed in a flash, an amazing display of coordination. The street was quiet for a few moments after, the frenzy of shoppers slowed, and smiles began to appear. "Wow, the Dalai Lama!" The atmosphere changed, the very air on the street was different. It was the kind of reaction very few heads of state would receive, I think.
Earlier that weekend, before I caught the bus from Vancouver to Seattle, I had closed up shop at the coffee bar, and was left with half a dozen very nice sandwiches that hadn't sold. I thought that I would just give them to some of the homeless people that hang out in front of the station. How naive I am! I certainly wasn't expecting people to fall all over themselves in the rush to nab one of the sandwiches, but I was a little surprised at the total lack of interest. I finally made it all the way down to the corner of Hastings and Main, probably the most notorious intersection in Canada for the display of human misery and open drug dealing. By that point I figured I probably just looked like too much of a do-goodnik, so I gave my bag of food to a woman sitting on the sidewalk, saying, "Here are some sandwiches, maybe you know someone who would like them."

It was an interesting and humbling experience. Even in my art therapy training I didn't work so directly with people in such harsh situations. It's surprising how hard it is to approach the sort of people one usually avoids, and to see so clearly on their faces the suspicion and absence of trust. Not to say I wouldn't do it again, those were darn good sandwiches and I hate to see anything wasted! But I do appreciate the skill and compassion and faith that our social service workers need to do their work.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jaws of Destruction

Keiko has, in the time it took me to write a couple of emails, created a swath of carnage through the living room. Adding to her previous shredding of a bolster pillow, a throw pillow and the cover of my copy of Knit Knit, she has now destroyed:
a) a pencil, left in a neat pile
b) my Great-Aunt Margie's hand crocheted afghan : (
c) another throw pillow
d) the cushion to an upholstered chair (her favourite)

Now the little minx is lying contritely at my feet, having retrieved her ball without me even asking, and chewing contentedly on it.

She has a very effective way of telling me I shouldn't be wasting time on a silly box of plastic when I could be playing with HER!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Swap Frenzy

While Keiko the wonder dog has been commanding some of my attention, I can't blame her for my silence of late. I'm just the girl that can't say "n..n....n.."
I have three major Swap-O-Rama-Ramas this spring, and on top of the time sink that is the coffee bar, I have come up with an idea for a new series of pieces that I can't wait to see completed.

My creative process is not that unusual, I guess. I plug away most of the time "keeping my skills up", and every now and then I will wake up in the middle of the night with an idea burning in my brain. I can actually see the whole thing in my mind's eye, it comes to me complete. And the rest of the process is mostly production, realizing the vision. Sometimes things change a bit along the way, but most of the time it's just putting it together.

I'll wait to show you how its coming, but in the meantime I can say the series deals with infinity, death, loss and renewal. Frothy stuff, huh? I think it's the accident finally seeping up through the surface.

Next weekend I go to Seattle to help the amazingly energetic (and mother of a new baby) Denise Hendriksson put on a Swap-O-Rama-Rama at Greenfest, the huge environmentally friendly consumer show. We will be one of the few hands on exhibitors, giving people the opportunity to both create a new wardrobe, not spend any money, and save tons of clothing from the landfill all at the same time.

Then, May 3 and 4 will find me at Maker Faire, producing another Swap-O-Rama-Rama in warm and sunny San Mateo (near San Francisco. Last year was such a blast - can we top it?? Apparently we have a bride and groom that will be creating their outfits on-site, and there are rumours of models on unicycles for the fashion show!

And in June I will hopefully be in Sheboygan, Wisconsin as an artist-in-residence, producing a Swap-O-Rama-Rama to kick off the Kohler Art Centre's fabulous summer DIY series. I probably shouldn't say anything til the contract is signed but I'm very excited about this - the Kohler has the best collection of vernacular artist environments (translation: obsessive original backyard sculptures) in the world. And their washrooms are somethin' else: definitely have a look at their website.