Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hearing Voices

May, 2006 to April, 2015
I was hoping I might have something new and amazing to show you, as this marks my 800th blog post and it would be nice to have some pretty decorations to add to the festivities. But alas, I am in that dull between-projects phase, so will have to make do with a selection from the archives.

But I do have a story to share with you....

Yesterday, as I was walking through the Village parking lot, I heard a young female voice utter the remarkable question, "What happened to my life?" The words just floated into my ears, and I looked around, but no one could be seen. That was it - there was no reply, no other voices to be heard. The question was asked without a tone of frustration, or anger, or sadness. The inflection, if I had to say there was one, might have fallen on the word "life", but overall the voice was soft and gentle, the intent ambiguous.

My first thought was "Good question!", followed by the impulse to emblazon "What happened to my life?" on a giant neon billboard that would loom over the Village, sort of a all-encompassing thought bubble that would represent the inner dialogues of so many island residents. (Gabriola has a distinctly senior demographic.) Not that I think too many people would complain about their lives - retirement on Gabriola is about as close to paradise as most people could ever hope for. It's more of a rueful observation about how quickly our lives flit past.

This blog has been going since May, 2006. I started it because I knew a couple of other people who blogged, and the form had an appeal for me as I could put words and pictures together. At the time I lived in Vancouver and was more involved in community events, and I thought the blog would be a useful way to document what I was doing. Over the years it has brought me many unexpected rewards, particularly in the form of connections with people all over the world, who are interested in many of the same things I am. True Stitches has actually been a pretty comprehensive account of what has happened to my life, at least for the last nine years.

The blog and I have been happy together, for the most part. There have been lots of ups and downs, at least one husband, several boyfriends, five dogs and a cat, way too many houses and several changes of creative direction. Looking back, it hasn't just been one life, but many. No wonder I am starting to hear disembodied voices!


The world has changed in the meantime, as worlds do. There are so many other platforms to share on these days, but I am fine with good ol' Blogger. I do wonder though, how many new blogs are being started up, especially ones that are not intended as promotional tools for commerce. When I think back to the blogs I read back when I started, many of the writers I followed have either disappeared, or gone on to write books and star in Craftsy videos. Where are the interesting newbies, the next generation, as it were?

I'd love it if you shared a favourite new blog or two in the Comments section. Or your thoughts on the continued relevance (or not) of blogging. Maybe there are other forms of communication you prefer? I'd love to hear from you. And thanks, everyone, for checking in on True Stitches, over the years. You make it all worthwhile.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Garden Fairy

Good grief, the levels I will sink to in an effort to amuse myself! Since my right hand isn't good for much- still recovering from the tendonitis - I find myself casting around randomly for things to do. I figured the entrance to the little stump house needed something, and so off I went to the thrift store to see what kind of garden ornament I could find. I was hoping for something a little more organic looking, but the slightly battered, lute-playing lady caught my eye.
She needed some fairy wings though, so I made a pair from some picture hanging wire and a scrap of silk. First, I shaped the wire, then tacked it onto the silk. Then I trimmed the silk to about a quarter of an inch from the wire, and used a thin line of Tacky Glue to hold the silk in place after wrapping it over the wire. It was fairly crude looking after it dried, so I whipped some pink embroidery floss around the edge of the wire to pretty it up. Then I just tied the wings in place.

I'm sure she will be quite decrepit by the end of summer, but for now she looks happy and peaceful in the doorway of her little stump palace.

Let's all hope my hand is better soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Borders and Boundaries

 Last look at the mat, I promise. You might notice I have added a braided border. Overall I am very pleased, both with the result and my perseverance in sticking with a frustrating task.
Notice the wonky join of the strips. I was sailing along, thinking "This isn't so hard", and then I hit the butt join. Somehow I got myself into a Mobius strip situation and I couldn't make it join perfectly, even with the helpful instructions of a book on braided borders. I worked on it last night til 10:30 and decided to pack it in, hoping the clear light of morning would reveal my mistake. Didn't quite happen that way, but I was able to fudge it enough so not too many people would notice.

But going through that process helped me to realize that doing projects like this, where I have to learn a new skill, are very useful in tackling bigger, more serious pieces like the Codex Canadensis. Working in a medium I am unfamiliar with keeps my brain limber, and trains my ability to be patient and persevere. I think it saves me from getting into a rut, and refreshes my creative energy so that when I return to my "real" art I can look at it with new eyes. A few of my friends tell me I shouldn't waste my time on outside projects, but I realize why they are important in the grand scheme of things. The fact that they are fun is just a side benefit!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Finally, the Amulets

Anti-capitalism rattle
Thanks to everyone for all your good advice about keeping the tendonitis at bay. My hand is slowly getting better. My wrist brace is my new best friend - I got the "ladies slim-fit" Tensor brace and boy, it works a charm!

Speaking of charms, here is the round up of amulets I promised on Monday. Above is the finished anti-toxic capitalism amulet I had started back here. The day I wrote that post, I took the dogs for a walk in the 707, Gabriola's huge, raggedly wild park. We walked, and I thought about how I might go about making such an amulet. I was sure that the materials it would be made out of needed to be as far removed from the world of commerce as possible. I looked down at my feet, and there was a crow feather! It was perfect, and became the guide to all the other elements.

I bound a tuft of Gracie's long tail hair that I found on the carpet to the crow feather with the last bit of Treenway silk I had leftover from the "Wheel of Life" Codex piece. Manufactured, true, but locally spun and dyed, and I even knew the person who had dyed it.

I then decided to go with Jean-Pierre's suggestion that I make kind of a rattle, and found a nice, still joined scallop shell on one of my beach walks. I had some ancient indian corn seeds, so they went inside the shell to make a (somewhat) fearsome sound when the shell was shaken. I wrapped handmade hemp twine from Nepal around the shell to hold it together, after first laying a loop of red cord across one half of the shell so that it could be hung, and so I could attach the crow feather.

Turned out that because of the shape of the shell, the stiff twine wanted to slide off. First I tried securing it at the centre with some more red cord, but that only partially worked. There needed to be a way of fastening the twine at the edges. First I thought of balsam fir gum, which is sticky and would smell like the forest. I went out to my back yard, and saw that the balsams my mom had recently pruned were dripping gum from their wounds. Seredipity! I used my finger to rub sticky gum over the threads, and that worked.

However, I thought that the stickiness would gather dust and fluff and lose its holding power, so to seal it permanently I got out a beeswax candle made with the comb of honeybees I used to keep when I lived in the Kootenays, about fifteen years ago. Powerful stuff! I lit the candle and dripped the meltings around the edge of the shell.

All that was needed now was to attach the shell to the feather. I took a short piece of copper wire found in my garden and wrapped it securely around the quill end of the feather and the tag ends of the red loop that went through the shell.. Ta-da!

A long, but thoroughly enjoyable process wherein I worked intuitively, being open to what the universe presented me with, and responded to the needs of the piece at every stage of the process. In a way, it was like the amulet made itself!
Whew, that was a long stretch of words. If you are still with me, here are some short snappers. Above, a piece of leather (found free at the library - a local artisan had donated scraps of leather cut into bookmarks) encases a secret prayer. Simply folded over a loop of leather and stitched with waxed linen. Inspired by the piece below:
which comes from this interesting post on Found, Stitched and Dyed.

A couple of weeks ago there was an oil spill in Vancouver's English Bay, just across the Salish Sea from where I live. I made this amulet as a protector of our waters. A prayer is encased in a very simple felt pouch, embellished with miniature abalone buttons (a la Northwest Coastal button blankets) and a small Japanese turtle charm - the turtle signifying both Turtle Island, the First Nations term for North America, and longevity.
And here they are all in a pile - the square and the triangle are from earlier posts. I would love to see what others have done - please send links to the Comments box. For more inspiration, here's an excellent link from the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Fie on Housework

Sorry to disappoint those of you who were looking forward to some pictures from the amulet workshop. I thought I was so well-organized! I put together four baskets of supplies, books and handouts and then I forgot to bring my camera. People did some beautiful work, too. It was a great afternoon - twelve people working with quiet concentration, thinking deeply about what they were making.

I did make a bunch more samples that I will photograph in lieu of workshop pics. But I'll beg off until tomorrow. I have a bad attack of tendonitis in my wrist and need to put off computer stuff for a bit. How did I hurt myself? By giving the kitchen a good spring cleaning! With all the pumping of spray bottles of oven cleaner, Windex and Mr Clean, I did my wrist in.

Friday, April 10, 2015


I have finished the main part of the welcome mat. Have to finish the edges and I am thinking about doing a braided border. I'd much rather play with this than organize my notes for the amulet workshop tomorrow. Sigh. Life would be so much easier if I just did what is at the top of the list.

But anyways, back to the mat! I sent this picture to my landlord - it is a gift for him after all - and he responded by saying "It's very cute, must have been a lot of work." Ouch!!! Two slams in ten words. Although to be fair to him, he probably doesn't know anything about textiles and maybe recognizing it as "being a lot of work" is a compliment. A lot of times people just don't know what to say. And there is always the possibility that my ardour for a recently completed piece may not be shared by everyone. Or anyone, for that matter.

Back to more pressing matters. Just needed to get that off my chest.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Influences: Barbara Klunder

A while ago, I thought I might do a semi-regular series of posts about my influences. And since I've just spent a very pleasant half-hour browsing through images of the work of Barbara Klunder, I figured that she should be first.
Photo from the interview by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman
I knew of Barbara in the early '80's, when she was a hot designer and illustrator. I lived in Toronto at the time, and saw shows of her textile art that really made me go "Hmmm." Back then, I was working in the advertising and publishing fields as a graphic artist, and not doing any textile work myself. (Although I  remember doing a lot of clothing construction, making myself elaborate Claude Montana outfits from Vogue patterns.) I think Barbara's hooked rugs were so unusual, hip and quirky that the idea that textiles could say or do ANYTHING really took root in my mind.(I also remember an art director I worked with said that I reminded him of Barbara Klunder, which I took as quite a compliment, although I think he was referring to the way I dressed rather than my style of work.)

But lo, over the years, what have I done? I started with designing and knitting intarsia picture sweaters back in the '80's, moved into sculpture and installation in the '90's using textiles as a medium, did a series of allegorical portraits of marginal Canadian historical figures, have dabbled with paper cut illustration, and now I am hooking rugs. Looking over Barbara's far more illustrious career, I can see many parallels, or at least similar interests. She even lives on an island! I am happy to say that her work still impresses me, and in retrospect, I think she was quite an influence in my formative years.

A lovely and comprehensive interview with Barbara was done for the World of Threads festival, and you can find it here. There are lots of pictures too. A video interview can be found here.

She is represented by Toronto's David Kaye Gallery and Reactor Art+Design.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


The weather has been nice, so I have been working outside. Yesterday I built this driftwood trellis for honeysuckle to climb up.(And to screen the ugly hydro meter.) There will also be milk thistle and Russian sage in the bed, so there should be lots of yummy flowers for the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds this summer. There's been a pair of Anna's hummers at the feeder all winter which was quite a thrill.

My amulet workshop is coming up this weekend so I should have more samples to show you in the next few days. And I have been speed hooking the "Home Sweet Dome" mat -- it's almost done!