I’ve been working on a project for a client involving an antique kimono which was unfortunately damaged in a flood. The client has requested the kimono be used in a large wall hanging to honour the memories she has of the family she received the kimono from. While the scale (huge), the fiber (silk), and the process (assembling relatively large pieces of cloth) are all very different from my those I use in my artwork, I have been enjoying working with this beautiful garment.
My first step was to take the kimono apart, stitch by stitch. I was amazed to find the whole garment had been stitched together by hand with silk thread. As I worked at carefully removing the threads, I wondered about the artisan who had created this beautiful garment. I was curious about what part of Japan they lived in, and when the kimono was created. The quality of the silk is incredible, and given the age, it is still a strong and vibrant piece of cloth.
Next, I pondered for quite some time how I could create something which would showcase the delicate patterns on the surface of the kimono. With some trepidation, I began to carefully cut sections of the kimono, putting the sections back together like a puzzle to create a new arrangement of the kimono sections. Soon the wall hanging will be ready for adding texture in the form of machine stitches. I’m excited to be able to present the finished wall hanging to my client in the next month or so. In the meantime, I am pleased to be carrying on the slow cloth tradition in my own artwork, albeit in a very different form to the tradition of a hand stitched kimono.
The last few months have brought quite a few changes for me. I started the year by changing tracks at my corporate employment from working as a software engineer to working as a Business Systems Analyst. Even though I’m still working on the same team, the role is so different that I’ve basically had to deconstruct the way I’ve worked for the last 35 years and build myself a completely new framework. The pace is frantic, and most of the time I feel like I’m on the edge of control. I love my new team, I like learning new things and I like to be busy so it’s very satisfying.
I’m about to leave the beautiful co-working studio/gallery space I’ve been at for the last 18 months. I love my studio, and the community there, but for a number of reasons, it’s time for me to move on. This weekend I’m moving to Studio Southwynde, my home studio. It will be easier for me in many ways as being out in the world is a challenge for me in terms of managing my physical balance. I’m a little leary as my tendency to overdo it is always ready to overtake my logical reasoning of when to stop. On the other hand, I will need to find new ways for my art to be seen in the world.
Lastly, my eldest son is moving home at the end of his university semester. His younger brother and I will welcome him here of course, and we’ll work through the adjustments of three sharing our cozy home. So much for his bedroom becoming my studio!! Through it all I will continue to make the art which has become central to my being in so very many ways. I suspect you will be seeing quite a few new pieces in my Balance series!
photo credit Michele Mateus Photography
For most of my life I’ve been fascinated by West Coast First Nations design. As a teenager I traced images of ovoids, u shapes, crescents and others, carefully filling them in with my fountain pen and black India ink. I love the juxtaposition of the stark contrast of the figures with the inspiration of elements from the natural world.
Spending summers on my family’s sailboat meant we visited many First Nations villages, most of which were abandoned, the beautiful totems at these sites falling into disrepair with the exposure to the sun, the wind and the inevitable rain.
For years these totems have been on my mind, the memory of them waiting patiently to find a place in my work. I’ve created the first 4 in my new Totems series, working to capture the powerfully haunting, yet stately presence of west coast totems. I hope you’ll enjoy these artworks.
Last week I attended an art salon critique session hosted by Michael King at 100 Braid Street Studios. It was a nice group of painters, with me being the only non painter in attendance. Michael began the session with a comment about the importance of the title when looking at a piece. Because I work in series, my titles are always the name of the series, followed by a number starting with 1 for the first piece in the series, and so on. Hearing the names of the paintings we reviewed definitely influenced how I interpreted the pieces we were looking at.
It was fascinating to listen to the discussions about chroma, temperature, value, and design strategies as well as the way the painters approached their compositions. And what a novel concept to be able to go back to the painting and redo parts of it…something that isn’t easily feasible on a completed textile work.
When it was my turn, I presented Equilibrium #1. I was pleased with the very positive comments and reactions to the piece. It was interesting to hear the reactions of non textile artists to my work. I very purposefully try to find opportunities where I can be in the company of artists who work in a variety of mediums as I find there is much to learn from the way different mediums influence process.
The second piece I presented was Balance #16, one of my favourite Balance series pieces. I find it soft and tranquil. Much silence and perturbed contemplation ensued. I started to feel worried about what the comments might be, but as with all the previous critiques, the comments were kind and constructive. The feedback I received was very thought provoking, causing me to seriously consider renaming my inaugural series. For now, I’m still pondering.
Last weekend was the 13th annual New Westminster Cultural Crawl and 100 Braid Street Studios, where I have a studio, was one of the venues on the crawl. We were happy to welcome many new visitors as well as renewing connections with previous visitors. The weather was wonderful, and the sunlight lit the artworks of all 16 studio artists beautifully.
I very much enjoyed talking to visitors to my studio, who seemed to come in a steady stream all weekend! Although I find these kinds of events very wearing as it’s hard for me to concentrate on keeping my balance and talking to visitors, I learned so much by talking to people, hearing their reactions to art, their art practices and much more. And a big bonus, many of our studio visitors went home with new art for their collections!
Musings #18, 4"x4" hand dyed, hand painted cottons, bamboo batting, thread, mounted on gallery wrapped canvas
Photo Credit: Michele Mateus Photography
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may know that I recently spent a three week holiday from my day job working in my art studio nearly every day. It was pure bliss. I went from managing two jobs (day job, and artist), to only having to work out the logistics for one of them (artist). I consciously tried to slow down my pace, starting a restorative yoga practice, walking, and spending time meditating each day.
Despite the insistence of my logical mind that I needed to be “doing” more, I found that by taking time to be still and to “do” less, I was actually able to be more creative while in the studio. This is quite revolutionary for me as I’ve always followed the mantra of if there are more minutes in the day, then it is imperative that I fill them with useful activity. Once I got into the pattern of doing less, it was relatively easy.
I returned to my day job a few days ago, and found my plan to go to the studio and accomplish at the same pace as during my holidays quickly derailed. Now I need to find a way to balance the doing less to be more creative within the smaller amount of time that is available. Have you tried doing less in order to do more?
By nature, I am quite a private person, choosing to quietly go about my life...but part of the work to embrace the artist aspect of my identity naturally involves finding opportunities for my work to be on display. After the initial jitters about how my work would be received, I began to purposefully share my work via social media as a way to be seen in the world. After seeing my posts, people began to ‘follow’ me and I got a bit freaked out by it! My sons, being of the social media generation, were rather amused by this, assuring me that being followed was really a good thing. Fast forward a couple of years, and it’s now much easier to post frequently and I’m delighted when people follow me!
Last month I took an even bigger leap, arranging for a professional photographer to do a photo shoot of some of the processes involved in my art practice. The photographer, Michele Mateus, was delightful, made me feel very much at ease, and took a ton of gorgeous shots. Sharing some of these photos online, in particular, the ones with me in them, has been very challenging for me these past few weeks. It’s definitely much easier to post photos of only my artwork! Hopefully with time, this new level of exposure will become as comfortable as sharing my art.
Photo credit: Michele Mateus Photography
This week, the studio space where I work was approved for redevelopment into a private school and a residential condo tower. The part of the site where the co-working studios of 100 Braid Street Studios are located is the last remaining building of the B.C. Distillery complex. This complex has a very interesting history and ties to many of the old families of Vancouver.
While it is expected that the studios will remain as is for a few years, and altho the developer has generously offered permanent space for art in the residential complex, I can’t help but wonder what sort of character the new space will have. As I write this, the irony strikes me that while the current building is an industrial building, due to the thoughtful and creative way the owner and founder, Susan Greig, has outfitted it, there is a warm, inclusive and inviting character that one senses immediately upon entering the gallery space.
In the new development, will the creative mix of artists still happen as it does today? Will the area have a sterile, office space/industrial feel? Will the community that has built up around the studios which extends far beyond the reaches of the artists carry on? Such is the price of progress in aid of trying to accommodate the expected growth in our region’s population.
Beaches #2 hand dyed, hand painted, commercial cottons, bamboo, cotton thread
I used to think my day job as a software engineer and my artistic life were at opposite ends of the spectrum. But it occurred to me the other day that they are more similar than one might think. Although writing computer software is often portrayed as a scientific process, I can tell you, thirty years on in my career, that more often than not it’s the skillful and creative application of techniques honed thru experience. There’s always the delicate balance between creating a product that serves the customer, and the cost to the organization to build it.
In my artistic practice, I draw on a similar skillset – spending time up front to understand the goal before me, then using the techniques in my technical skillset to create a piece of art that serves the person viewing it. At various points in the project, I’m called upon to solve technical challenges in a way that fits within the framework I’ve set for myself.
Where do you find crossovers in the diverse areas in your life?
Before I begin a new textile painting, I have some sense of what I want to try to say in the piece. Sometimes I draw a rough sketch of the idea, or use my watercolour pencils to try out colours.
As I compose and construct the piece, I work intuitively, letting my eye and brain work together to tell me what colour and what texture to choose next. When I cut the pieces of cotton fabric, I let my hand guide the rotary cutter in gentle curving lines, each piece an organically shaped thin rectangle.
Often times I’ll reach a point in the piece where I think to myself – this piece is terrible, it’s not going to come together, it’s a mish mash of nothingness. When I fall into that state of mind, I take myself out of my studio, out into the main gallery area, where I can look in thru the windows to my studio, but with the long perspective. From this place, I can usually see the redeeming qualities of the piece, and gather up the courage to go back to the studio, and keep making.
Like so many things in life, looking at the situation from a different perspective makes all the difference!