Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More Owls and a Lovely Book

Deuteronomy II, 2013, 18 x 26"
Here they are. One of Louis Nicolas's wonkier images. Check out the two legs on one side of the larger owl! I feel that this one needs a bit more, but haven't decided yet where I will be placing the text. I have the idea of turning Pere Nicolas's handwriting from the Grammaire Algonquin into a font. I have no idea how difficult that might be, and its not like I need another project, but wouldn't that be fun?
A detail. I think of this guy as Wolly, the Wall-Eyed Owl.
The Silkworm's Home by Rm Singh Urveti
And I have to share this wonderful book I borrowed from the library. It's called The Night Life of Trees, and is a hand printed adult picture book from Tara Books, an Indian company that features the work of tribal artists and seeks to encourage the distinctive indigenous styles . This particular book is printed on beautiful black art paper (excuse the glare on my photo) and I love the way the artists' (from the Gond tribe) drawn marks resemble stitches. The Gond come from an area close to Bihar, so it's not too surprising there would be that textile connection. The accompanying text tells the stories of the trees giving quite a fascinating world view. Do check out Tara Books - just browsing through their titles is inspiring, and the books themselves are surprisingly inexpensive. (Shipping charges are crazy though.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Visualizing Swirled Tea

Image from The Graphic Fairy, quite a good site to waste time on.
I know it's time to do a post when I start getting emails from friends wondering if I'm okay. Rest assured, I'm fine, it's just not very exciting around here right now. I just spent several minutes pouring myself a cup of tea, adding milk, and watching it swirl in the cup, and I thought about the earth we live on and how its motion affects everything. (Yeah, I know. I need to get out more.)

But such moments of contemplation are one of the big pluses of living on a small, remote island. Freed of all the bright, shiny distractions of the city, its easy to be at peace and notice the little things.

I have been busy filling out a grant application and organizing a proposal to send out to galleries. It means sitting in front of a computer and dealing with the frustrations of a dodgy internet connection. It's great that it is possible to do this stuff online now, nice to be free of the fiddliness of labeling slides and printing out CV's. But it still takes as much time, if not more.

And the second panel of Deuteronomy is almost done, I might even finish it today.

The moon has been shining noticeably brightly the last few evenings. Apparently the February moon is known as the Snow or Hunger Moon, but here in the Pacific Northwest  we have nettles starting to poke their heads up, and it was so warm today I took my shirt off at the beach to generate a little Vitamin D. (That's another plus of living on a small, remote island. No one to see you take your shirt off!)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Another Reason Not to Wear Polyester

Quirks and Quarks, CBC's science program, had a fascinating (and depressing) episode today about the amount of plastic in our oceans. Not just the obvious stuff that we can see, but also the microscopic stuff that is even more harmful. I had no idea that every time we wash our clothes, thousands of bits of long strand polymers from synthetic clothing go into the wash water, and consequently into our streams, lakes, rivers, aquifers and oceans. These particles for a nesting ground for plankton and algae, which are eaten by shellfish and other ocean creatures. Apparently polyester has been found in the cellular tissue of mussels - no study has been done on what it does to the humans who might eat those mussels. You can hear the episode here.

The expert discussing this situation said that, although nothing can be done about the plastic that is already in the ocean, we can "tweak public policy" to prevent more being added to the toxic sludge. That was the really depressing part. She's right of course, all we have to do is stop using plastic, but considering it is a major component of pretty much all consumer goods, and that the power of the oil, plastic and manufacturing corporations would quash any suggestion of change, I think it would take more like total world revolution than a "tweak".

But, we can start by not wearing polyester. And check out Beth Terry's My Plastic-Free Life, a wonderful resource for eliminating plastic from your life.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mending as an Art Form

Platform 21's Repair Manifesto

Jude Hill's post from a couple of weeks ago keeps coming to mind. Her words, always poetic, are particularly so here.

"The truth is, life has changed.  As it does.  And I have some new things to tend to.   And I am mending plans to fit.  Because that is what we do.  The nature of mending is to never really to be done.   It is Just to keep Going, patching here and there, carefully renewing to maintain usefulness.   Knowing there is a beauty in that.  Accepting that as enough."

I just love this. As it happens, I have been doing a lot of literal mending lately: resurrecting torn chain saw pants, replacing zippers, altering dog raincoats. What Jude says applies to this sort of thing, of course, but I like it even better as a metaphor. "The nature of mending is to never really be done." could be a mantra.

Mending is a part of the creative process and also of life. We create, we bring ideas and words and objects and gardens and relationships into being, but the act of creation doesn't stop there. There has to be attention paid, a nurturing or stewardship, a revisiting of intention. When I sell something I've made, it comes with a lifetime guarantee to repair or restore as needed.

One of the very difficult things about mending is that sometimes, eventually, things just wear out and become unrepairable. Sometimes one just has to call it, to let go. I think this aspect underlies the power of mending as metaphor, and it, too, is part of the cycle of creation.

 My friend Jen and I have made a proposal to offer mending as a workshop and performance piece for the conference Open Engagement in Portland later this spring. While researching this proposal I came across the artist Eleanor Ray, who offers workshops in Radical Mending. Another artist's project is Platform 21 Mending. Their Repair Manifesto is pictured at the top of this post. It seems that mending is being talked and thought about more now that it has become a practise that, for most people, has become old-fashioned and nostalgic.

If you know of other people working in this area, please comment. I'd love to hear about other artists working with mending as metaphor or art form.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2 Sweet 2 Be 4 Gotten

Remember these cheesy valentines? I'm sure they wouldn't pass the scrutiny of the appropriate behaviour police these days. As I recall, though,  any romantic innuendo was over our Grade 2 heads. The highlight of the classroom Valentine exchange was to arrange our desks in the shape of a heart and eat pink frosted cupcakes and cinnamon hearts. If you haven't already seen it, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom harkens back to those innocent times, and would make a nice Valentine's Day movie treat.

And for those of you who aren't in the market for romance, February 14 is also the feast day of Saint Trifon the Pruner, patron saint of vineyards and winemakers. Here at Elderberry Farm the pruning of the grapevines has already begun.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quiet February

But now they drift on the still water, 
Mysterious, beautiful; 
Among what rushes will they build, 
By what lake's edge or pool 
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day 
To find they have flown away? 
  Wild Swans at Coole, W.B. Yeats
This lone swan has been hanging out in the marsh across the road. I am told that in previous years there have been five or six. Where are the others now? Did this guy get separated from the rest or is he the only one left? I feel sad for the swan, but welcome his presence, and will think of him as I stitch the swan of the Codex.
When things are slow on the creative front I can always take pictures of the dog.
The forest is so quiet today that I can hear the differences between the sound of rain falling on the salal, the cedars and the moss.

I'm plugging away on the second owl panel. I think this one is meant to be a snowy owl, hence the white breast. I can't believe that Louis Nicolas tired of drawing feathers.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Journey Across the Water

I went over to Vancouver this past weekend to visit family. The city was pretty overwhelming after the quiet and isolation of my little island home. I made a sort of poem of impressions:

On the other side
Funneling across the channel
Drop it off, arranged and prepaid
Mid-river bus glides to the curb
Spilling out Waterfront Station.

Drifting smoke tobacco and skunk
City chic sleek dressed in black
Ice cream bar five dollars
Pull on your high-heel gumboots.

Three hundred pound man
whistles by in a motorized wheelchair,
girlfriend on his knee.

Commissionaire at the courthouse
lends his phone book, old school.

Scavenger navigates his cart,
sporting a cap with no crown.


Unexpectedly on Howe Street,
there is Gosia.
"Fancy meeting you here!"
"Well, of course!"

The language of water.

Silent on the afternoon commute
sits a prince. Spiky Mohawk,
gold ring and leather satchel,
Medicine wheel and Doc Martens.
He rises.
"Driver, will you let me off on the other side?"