Friday, May 29, 2015

Flowers for Friday

Forgive me, the irises are so beautiful right now. It's hard to resist being a cliche.

I can't decide between these two.

I like how the stems hold all the stages of life - bud, bloom, and husk.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Exploring a Path

 Frederick Law Olmsted, the great landscape architect, had the idea that the ideal path should curve gently up and around, so that the destination is not seen, but instead evoking a sense of mystery and discovery as one walks along. If the path is well-designed, the person walking should feel no conscious effort - all the better to relax and withdraw from the hustle and bustle of the city beyond the park walls.

I am lucky to live in a place where I can find paths through the forest almost at my doorstep. With dogs, the need for safe, stimulating places to sniff and explore and be their natural selves is important, and Gracie, Mischa and I make forays into the woods every day. In the forest, I feel sheltered and protected, and am often awestruck by the beauty of my surroundings. The paths are my guides (although I have been known to take detours down deer tracks, just for fun) and a reminder that others have walked here before me.

James on the other hand, is a city guy and feels very uncomfortable in the forest. "What if I trip on a root?" he says. "What if a tree falls and crushes me?" It's hard for me to understand his worry.

I used to live in the Kootenays, in southeastern British Columbia. I had two dogs then, too, and we would regularly go for hours long walks up remote old logging roads, finding trails that would take us to alpine meadows. I never fretted about getting lost, even without a map, since I knew that all the paths would eventually lead either to the lake or a stream, which then led to the lake, and once I was at the lake I could find my way home. I had occasional encounters with moose or bears (who really are shy animals) as the the dogs kept me safe. But only once or twice did I see another human.

I think back to my childhood, riding my bike to school, how I would always veer off the road to take a path if I could. Even if it only paralleled the road for a short way, the path was always more intriguing.

While walking this morning, it occurred to me that I am definitely an off-the-beaten-track sort of person. I have never taken the predictable route. I think this has been very important in my creative work. Ideas will find me as I walk, and often lead me to places of discovery and revelation. I may not know where I am going, but it is usually interesting getting there. And a regular practise of being in unfamiliar surroundings means I am less afraid of going to places I haven't been before, both literally and metaphorically.

Sometimes finding the path isn't easy. I have to look for the faint mossy track in the space between ferns and salal. I have to rely more on animal instinct, be aware of the trampled leaves and broken twigs. But, always, there is a path. I'm not the only one who likes to take an alternative route.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Easiest Dyepot Ever

 I admit to being a very slapdash dyer. But I got all these colours out of one dyepot, not too shabby! These are overdyes on various small pieces of wool reclaimed from old clothes and blankets, intended for rug hooking.

Once, I was a fastidious dyer. Then, I realized I wasn't in the business of creating reproducible shades, which freed me up immensely. Now, when I do a dye run, I put three or four mason jars in the canner, fill them half full with water and add a teaspoon of citric acid or a sploosh of vinegar. No salt. Then I mix my dyes from washfast acid dye powder, just going by eye and experience. The dye is added to the jars - here I had one jar lavender, one moss green, one blue, and then a fourth colour - forest green in the water surrounding the jars in the canner. I put the pot on to simmer, and stuff squares of pre-wet cloth into the jars. The take up happens quite fast, and if it looks like it will be darker than I hoped, I add more fabric to absorb the excess. I move the cloth around in the jars a bit, but it doesn't matter if the colour is uneven because it won't show up in the hooking, or if it does, will just add a nice variation of tone.

So the whole pot just simmers for about 45 minutes - I wait until the dyebaths clear, then give it another 15-20 minutes to make sure it's fixed. Then cool, rinse, throw in the dryer - more felting is good for hooking fabrics and I'm ready to go.

I was especially pleased by the darker mossy green near the bottom of the picture - it was an uninspiring dusty mouse colour before, now it's perfect for salal leaves.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Gabriola - Isle of the Arts

Ooh, it's a busy time of year. May has flown by. On the 2nd, there was a Spring Fair and maypole dance at the Commons. Our hooking group had a table there, which attracted a lot of attention.
See that little paper sign on our table "Gabriola Hookers"? You wouldn't believe how many people took pictures of that hastily scrawled sign. So, given that we will be participating in more events in the future, I resolved to make a proper, photo-worthy mat for our group.
There is a lighthouse in the upper corner and a forest scene with salal growing out of a stump in the lower portion. (It's a visual metaphor for creating new life and beauty out of the remnants of what was.)
I feel my technique is improving - the rich colours behind the lettering come from an old tweed jacket found at the thrift store. I loved working with it.
And then, just this past weekend a new gallery opened on Gabriola. The owners did a lovely job of transforming the previous doctor's office into a bright, elegant and inviting space.
My latest piece was included in the show.
The quilted works are by Mary Sullivan Holdgrafer.
Here is gallery director Carol Fergusson, looking remarkably fresh after six weeks of non-stop planning, renovating, curating, and dealing with every kind of glitch imaginable. Congratulations Carol! She will shortly be opening the online gallery so off-islanders can browse and buy. In the meantime, check out the Gabriola Gallery facebook page for lots more photos.

Friday, May 15, 2015

This You Have to See

An absolutely amazing project by Cornelia Parker, congruent in concept and form, stunning in its execution, opens today at the British Library. How I wish I could see this in person.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Because Craft is Important

I just received this message from Betsy Greer, author of Knitting for Good and Craftivism, and felt I should take her up on her offer to share the conversation. If you just have time to click on one link, go for Betsy's rebuttal - it covers all the points. And Betsy's writing is just getting better and better - smart, honest, generous and funny.

Hey there!

Recently, there was a piece in the New York Times about how craft can’t save the world. Given that this piece was written by someone who is pretty darn negative in everything she writes, the actual piece was not surprising. 

I wrote a rebuttal yesterday, which you can read here

And I’m writing to you today to ask that if you agree with me and believe in the power of craft, to consider sharing it with others who may have been disheartened to find such a piece in the New York Times. In the past week and a half since it was posted, I’ve had several conversations with people frustrated about it and the way that craft is presented. Therefore, I wanted to make sure that more frustrated people out there saw it. :)  

If you choose not to share it, that’s totally fine. If you choose to, thank you wholeheartedly. 

Because when I found craft, it saved me. Meeting people like you, with your energy, drive, and passion saved me. So, this email is actually two-fold. It’s not just an ask, it’s a thank you. Thank you for being you and for sharing your work with the world. You sharing your best work with the world has emboldened me to work towards sharing my own best, instead of being timid about hitting post or submit or whatever. 

Your bravery has pushed me forward. I know sometimes it’s hard to know what mark your work is truly hitting, so here’s one person out there that thinks you’re amazing, both in who you are and what you do.  

So thank you for showing up, giving greatly, and being you. Just as much as the world needs craft, it also needs people that shine brightly and share with the world, as it gives others the courage to do the same.


Monday, May 11, 2015

A Little Cloth Mystery

This little cloth drawstring bag came to me in a batch of stuff from Great-Aunt Margie sometime back in the mid 90's. My guess is that my ever-practical Aunt may have picked it up at her beloved Superfluity Shop in White Rock. There was a ball of fine crochet yarn and a hook in it. (I have a faint memory of her teaching me how to crochet when I was about 9 or 10.) Anyways, for twenty years it sat in the trunk where I kept my yarn, and I never paid any attention to it. Then the trunk got water-damaged and I had to rescue everything inside before it went mildew-y.
I washed the little bag (measures 10" x 12 1/2") and for the first time noticed it had a name tag on it.
"Tony Roubenheimer". No idea who that might have been.
But aha! There is a label sewn into the side seam.
GIFT FROM RED CROSS SERVICES. I'm guessing this bag may have been sent to a member of the armed forces in a war. But which war? Or maybe it was sent as part of a relief effort. But them how would the Red Cross know the name of the recipient ahead of time? Or maybe the labels were sewn on blank and filled in as they were given out?
The seams are nicely sewn and finished with a straight machine stitch.
But the underside of the straight stitch is a chain stitch. Was it sewn on an early version of a serger? Does anyone recognize this kind of machine stitch and know what kind of a machine it would have been sewn on? And the opening for the drawstring is finished with a hand buttonhole stitch, which seems odd because even early Singers had buttonholer attachments.
And what gives with the weird orange spots? Looking at the hem on the inner casing, I can see the faint brown outlines of flowers. So the fabric was a floral print, and everything has faded except the orange between the petals.I wonder if it might have been one of those orange and brown prints common in Victorian times.

Does anyone have an idea of the vintage of this little item? The fabric could be a lot older than the bag. Maybe you have something similar from your family's past? I'd love to know more - please post or comment with your own cloth mysteries!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Consumer vs Creator

One thing I notice about my own computer habits is that increasingly I sit there waiting for the internet to spontaneously spit out some gem of information or inspiration. Of course, it doesn't work that way. Even though the internet is ever increasingly controlled by corporate interests, we still can contribute content. That is a big reason blogging, especially by creative types, is important.

Remember back in the early days, ten years ago or so? There was a great groundswell of internet content generated by individuals. For a moment there, we might have changed the world, or at least it didn't seem too crazy to try. Too soon, the internet became just another venue for marketing, a tool for rendering people into passive consumers.  It's a powerful thing, and I notice myself succumbing.

Then I remember: "You are a creator, not a consumer. Make Good Art, Dammit!"
So, lately I find myself obsessed with salal, the ubiquitous understory plant of the Pacific Northwest, and beloved by florists everywhere. I had this idea I would hook a mat with an image of salal growing out of a nurse stump, a very common sight around here. But then when I went to draw the salal, it confounded me. A single spray doesn't tell the story. A whole mass of it is impossible. Even Emily Carr didn't address it.
Well. Maybe she did. In her way.

I'm still working on it.