This batch of tea towels has been a long time coming. I've been pecking away at it in stages as my busy summer allowed. Dye a batch, prep a batch, print a colour and so on. Finally, these are all heat set and ready to go! All my popular themes are here, squirrels, birds, bees, flowers and leaves. If there is one you have your eye on, contact me fast - the rest will be heading to my stockists!
Each cloth is custom dyed by me, stamped using hand carved blocks with hand mixed ink colours. Each one is one of a kind and has been stamped approximately 24 - 30 times per cloth. (it's a labour of love!) They can be used in a number of ways: tea towels, scarves, receiving blankets, bread basket liners or for a beautiful one of a kind hostess or teacher gift. Flour sack cloth improve with age and use, becoming softer and more luxurious with every use. It is not uncommon to see a flour sack tea towel in regular use for over a decade.
I am really proud of this little book.
I have been wanting to make some properly bound books for a while now. However, something was holding me back... I realize now it was my brain tumour that was making reading and deciphering instructions really, really difficult over the past few years. It seemed that as I acquired more and more equipment made for bookbinding purposes, my ability to learn new stuff started to decline. Even reading recipes started to get so frustrating as I couldn't hold on to the order of the steps or the ingredients at the top of the page, So this idea sat dormant while my interest and equipment grew.
Things I already knew how to do didn't cause any problems (and probably contributed to why my issues didn't get discovered earlier). Repeating things over and over, or making a whole bunch of the same type of thing helped me keep learning when my reading abilities started to fade. I was also good at learning while watching someone show me each step. Although, when new tools and terms were mentioned, I had a really hard time actually saying the new words - I couldn't spit them out. I knew the words, I just couldn't bridge the gap between my mind and my tongue. I also tended to get lost with too many steps, causing me to retrace and retrace.
I already knew how to do linocut printmaking, I've also been printing on fabric for a few years. Cutting paper and measuring stuff is second nature. Those parts of this project was like a duck taking to water. What intimidated me was the stitching. I have a hard time looking at diagrams for knots and origami already. Throw in brain surgery and muddled illustrations... I felt kind of lost.
So I decided to just take it one step at a time. I started with the easy stuff I already knew and once those things looked pretty good, I tackled the binding part.
The funny thing was - the pictures totally made sense. I'm finding that when I read instructions now, they are very clear and straightforward to my newly healed brain. This time last year, I would have gotten mad or irritated with every step. I kept expecting to get stumped only to realize that it all made sense. That was really cool.
So I breezed through it. It worked. I started to revise the steps so that the next one is better. I'm very excited about all this!
If all this linocut printing, block printing on fabric stuff is intriguing you (and you live around Calgary) why don't you join me for one of my upcoming classes or demonstrations?
Saturday, September 22nd, I'll be at Inglewood Art Supplies teaching a one day workshop on linocut printmaking.
Saturday, September 29th, I'll be at the Leighton Art Centre demonstrating my block printing on Fabric for Alberta Culture days.
November 10th and 11th, I'll be at the Leighton Art Centre doing an intensive 2 day workshop all about linocut block printing on fabric.
For more info or to sign up, click the links or visit my home page.
Summer has passed through Alberta in it's usual whirlwind fashion and I noticed this morning some yellow leaves dropping from the trees. It has been really busy in our household. Kids coming and going from jobs to camp to friends places. Wonderful visits from friends and family. Short day trips and treks into the surrounding foothills. I've been puttering away steadily in my studio any moment I can, but it is mostly prepping for projects that I'll undertake when I can focus for longer stretches of time (a.k.a. back to school). While I'm mourning the passing of hot summer days, I am also yearning for routine and structure. A turning of the seasons.
One exciting thing I am looking forward to is a new partnership with Inglewood Art Supplies. They have been renovating the neighbouring space in their Bridgeland building so that they can begin to offer art classes, demonstrations and workshops. The results of their space transformation is amazing. You can really tell people who make art were behind the planning and execution of this endeavor. Tall ceilings, well equipped work stations and great lighting will make this an amazing place to teach and learn.
I will be offering a 5 week class for beginner acrylic painting that will happen on Tuesday nights from 6:30 - 8:00 pm going from September 18th to October 16th. I will also offer two different 1 day workshops at Inglewood this fall. Beginner Linocut Printmaking in September and then a Creative Art Journaling workshop in October.
In November I will be back at the fabulous Leighton Art Centre to teach a two day intensive workshop on Block Printing on Fabric - this is timed so that those who want to learn an interesting skill can practice by making a whole stack of very cool Christmas gifts if they want.
As usual, I post all my workshops, classes, demonstrations and showings on my main page - there you will find all the links you need to directly register for my classes. I really hope to see you there.
Have I told you lately how much I love my fabulous gallery, Bluerock? They are the absolute best. Not only do they carry an amazing roster of Alberta artists, the owner and staff are genuinely great people. Over the past few months they have been nothing but encouraging and supportive as I've recovered from surgery. Not only do they care about beauty and art, they care about people. (Thanks, Bluerock!)
Recently, they invited me to come and share some of the things I've been working on with my printing presses! I'm all for having a deadline, so this has been spurring me on for the past little while to get a few projects realized and make some neat new things!
On June 23rd and 24th, I'll be bringing my Kelsey table top platen press, some type and linoleum blocks with me to Black Diamond and setting up in the gallery. I'll be on hand to demonstrate how letterpresses work, answer questions and share more about all the letterpress resources available in the Calgary region. I'll also have all those things I've been working on recently available for sale too!
If you'd like more information, you can find it here.
You can also just show up on June 23rd or 24th! ,It makes an excellent day trip to take in the scenery as well as the beautifully curated Bluerock collection. This is a fabulous gallery - I'd love to see you and talk shop!
110 Centre Ave W
Black Diamond, AB T0L0H0
I actually had to wait a bit before posting this. Partly because I needed to print the lino block I had carved, partly because I needed to crawl out of the pit I was in for a few days. I just wanted to be left alone to work through the natural feelings that come along with massive life change and I didn't want well wishes and offers to go for coffee to talk out my feelings. This was an inner battle. Feeling more optimistic now and moving forward again.
That being said, I have a back log of posting because in the course of my recovery I feel like this story is best told in chronological order. (of course clicking on that link leads you to most recent meningioma blog post first, so you'll just have to back track if you are new to this situation and want to read more about my crazy world).
The above image is actually meant to illustrate a poem that I wrote, so it came second (which is different for me) My husband asked "why did you write a poem?" to which I helpfully responded "I don't know." then there was an awkward pause. Writing poems is also different for me. I am not one to express emotions and personal stuff using words. Or rather, I should say "I WASN'T one to express emotions and personal stuff using words" because everything is different even though everything looks the same. Things I get to grapple with using previously under utilized parts of my brain.
In the interest of getting this posted, I am just going to transcribe what I wrote with minimal editing. If I wasn't in recovery mode, I would knock this poem around for a while, honing it to where I want it to be and then I would set it in lead type and print an accompanying edition to go with the linocut. Or print them together. This all feels too hard so you get the rough copy. Oh yeah, I didn't write this in my sketchbook. I seem to have lost that somewhere in my house. I've had too many words lately and some are too personal for this blog, so I moved that crazy train over to a standard notebook.
I've asked myself many, many times in the past week "why bother?" I have also seriously thought about just wrapping up this part of my journey and unlinking from the sidebar on my blog and going back to making art. I'm refraining at the moment because I'm not posting poetic ruminations for attention (so if it looks that way, stay with me for a moment) I committed to the experiment of "what happens if you take an artist and then perform brain surgery on them?" and I want to see this through. Even though it looks like a pity party sometimes. Or I write poems.
In some ways this has been difficult to process because my physical recovery on the surface has outpaced my processing of the past few months. However, I am not fully recovered physically and the Pandora's Box of "what the heck is my life now" has only just opened. So I have ugly days occasionally. My husband astutely noticed that when I have a breakthrough day (i.e. carving a lino block for the first time, going running a little at the track etc) I very often am a wreck the next day. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Progress comes at a steep price. Now that I know this, I am being more careful on how much progress I let in at once.
To frame my poem, it came from my visualizing exercises that I've been doing. I kept coming back to a weird visual space that was like a storm on a beach. So I put words to the mental image, then I illustrated it. Please note, I am not a poet nor am I looking for poetic critique. Please also note, this is kind of raw and it makes me uncomfortable with sharing it, but maybe it'll help to understand the process of getting better. I'm okay now and I repeat I'm not looking for a chance to get together and talk about our feelings. We can just text each other dumb memes instead. Like we usually do.
One night a small boat washed ashore
The sky purple and flashing
As I went to investigate
Puzzle over its purpose
I noticed beside it
In the shallow crashing waves
Many of my dreams and those of others
Succumbing to the water
Some had expired a long time ago
Their corpses fetid, bloating
I hadn't noticed them before for some reason
I laid them on the sand, rescued
Others were newly deceased
Some so small and full of potential
Some so large they were difficult to pull
From the sea on my own
On the beach I made a
Morbid procession of these ideas
I noticed some weakly floundering, barely alive
I put them in bucket to save them
Turning back to the lost
I found a box to fit each one, provide shelter
Re-purposed for this funeral
Colourful cardboard betrayal
It didn't do them justice
Just hid the awful reality
So I carefully chose thick cream paper
The colour of brides
I covered each box with stiff paper
Making sharp creases
Hiding the truth, giving it honour
Sealing in the decay
Then carefully as if lifting babies
Deep in slumber
I placed each box, acknowledged
Into the awful, tiny boat
At last I pushed the boat
Into deep water, like a pyre
I let it drift away, to the past
Released into the future.
I have finally taken a moment to post *some* of my upcoming classes for sketching, painting, mixed media and printmaking - there are even more in the pipeline! For the ones I haven't posted yet, I'm just awaiting registration links (so keep checking back), I'll put them up as I have everything confirmed.
I was thinking about it today and I thought I would do a blog post to highlight a unique Christmas gift idea: knowledge. If you have a loved one in your life who you struggle to buy "stuff" for, perhaps a class or workshop would be a great fit. Oftentimes those hard to buy for types are more satisfied through experiences and the gift of time.
If you know someone who always talks about wanting to try something new, is looking to start a fresh chapter in their life, has an interest in trying new art forms or wants to revisit something they've tried in the past - may I suggest one of my workshops (1 or 2 day courses) or a weekly class? I would love to see them (or you) there!
This upcoming season I have a really full calendar, a lot of which is happening right here in Cochrane - some of the upcoming classes I've put onto my home page. I will also be doing some workshops at Kensington Art Supplies, Leighton Art Centre, Kelowna Art Gallery to name a few!
Now, that being said, should you be looking for a more traditional gift, I have lots of my paintings, flour sack cloths and prints available at Bluerock Gallery, the Leighton Art Centre and Muk Luk Magpies. Contact me if you are looking for something in particular or to commission a piece!
How cool is this? Calgary Arts Development contacted me this week wanting to feature the above photograph for their Calgary Living a Creative Life series! They also asked me to share some thoughts on how I live a creative life. This is the article in it's entirety here.
What a neat surprise to have happen this week! The creative team over at CAD was great to work with too - thanks guys!
The short answer is yes, you can print using linoleum flooring. While they are very similar, I found there were some differences to this material from artist grade linoleum. Recently, my sister (who works for a flooring company), gave me some samples of discontinued linoleum flooring to try. On initial inspection, they looked almost identical to battleship grey artist grade lino.
To touch, I found that the flooring was more pliable and had a very, very slight texture to the cutting surface. I did not sand this sample down, because I wanted a baseline test to see what out-of-the-box lino would be like to work with. In future tests though, I will take a very fine grit sandpaper to the surface to reduce this. It almost feels like a surface coating.
Cutting the flooring was a pleasure. I honestly breezed through the entire sample. It was somewhere between a soft block and standard artist grade. It held the tool well without me feeling like I had to force anything. The line quality was decent. One thing I noticed though was hit the bottom layer very easily (making for a not as pretty block) Since it is a thinner material, there is a finer layer of the linoleum surface on the hessian.
Once I got to inking the piece, I noticed the surface texture a lot more. It is very smooth but minutely pebble like to touch. When I rolled the brayer of oil based ink on it, I noticed it didn't drink it up quite the same way as the first layer of ink on artist grade linoleum.
I let it sit for a moment to soak in, applied another coat of ink and then proceeded to print. After a few proof prints, it printed almost identically for for the first 10 prints or so. I achieved nice inky, deep blacks and crisp lines with the usual amount of effort. As an aside, I pull prints with the help of an antique book press, so I don't know if hand burnishing would get the same results.
I found after about 10 prints, I started fighting an odd resistance to the ink. I noticed my edges were fuzzing out a little here and there and had a closer look at the block. I appeared to be that the all the cut lines were pushing back the ink. I blotted the block when I noticed this happening and it seem to alleviate the issue for a few prints but it always came back. I'm pretty sure sanding the coating off the top layer is the way to fix this issue.
All in all, I will keep experimenting on this, for sure. I really like how it carved and I like the fact that if I wanted a bigger piece to work on, this would be an economical way to get materials. I'm not worried about the "artist grade" part of this on a conservation level because the time span that a block is in use is so short and the contact with things that need to be artist grade (ink and paper) is very brief, it wouldn't have much of an effect. Remember, flooring is where linocut printmaking all began in the Die Brucke movement... it was a cheap, easily sourced alternative to woodcut blocks.
Stay tuned for the reveal of the print I made with this block! I'm not quite done with it yet.
I have exciting news - I've taken the step of seeking out gallery representation! This move has been in the making for some time, I wanted very much to find a gallery that not only suited my paintings, but also was supportive of my printmaking and letterpress work as well.
I am delighted to partner with Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond, Alberta - they have an amazing collection and great curation. Every time I step foot in this space, there is a buzz of colour and energy. There are many artists also represented with this gallery that I feel honoured to share wall space with.
Check out what work of mine they are carrying here. Thank you, Bluerock!
I am so happy to have a chance to sneak a trip in to the Lower Mainland in British Colombia before the mountain roads get super unpredictable. I do have my winter tires on, just in case though!
This weekend I have three demos at Opus Langley - an amazing art store that has been a part of my life for over 20 years! The two Saturday demos are all about Acrylic based products and how you can use them together in a variety of ways to create your art. The Sunday morning demo covers mixed media printmaking and some different approaches you can take to get striking results. There is room in the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning class for sure - it is not too late to register (see below for registration info). I'll have along some interesting examples, lots of products and my usual enthusiasm - it would be amazing to see you if you can join me.
Also, I have received some inquiries already about bringing flour sack clothes and artwork for purchase to save on shipping. If you are wanting anything in particular or have questions on what is available for early Christmas shopping - please contact me by Thursday night and I can let you know what is available, prices and arrange drop off at your place. I accept Visa, Mastercard, and cash, receipts are no problem as well. (I might even throw in a little discount as well!)
Here are the descriptions:
Opus Art Supplies, Langley: Intermixing Acrylics with Flair and Ease Demonstration
Sat, September 30, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Sat, September 30, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Join Michelle Wiebe as she explores the versatility of intermixing various types and brands of acrylic paints and mediums.
From ink, fluid, spray and standard heavy body paints, she will demystify the differences between them and give you ways can breathe fresh life into your work. She will explore some techniques on paper and canvas that will combine these products in inventive ways so you can bring together new body and textures for your own signature style.
Space is limited and registration is required.
Please visit Opus Langley or contact them at 604‑533‑0601 to register.
Opus Art Supplies, Langley: Breaking Boundaries in Mixed Media Printmaking Demonstration
Sun, October 1, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Add colour to your linocut printmaking through a variety of mediums and techniques.
Join Michelle Wiebe as she covers a number of approaches one can take with mixed media printing. Demonstration time will cover basic linocut carving, inking and printing skills as well as how to use them with other art materials.
Emphasis will be placed on utilizing other dry and wet media with your carved block in a number of different approaches to create one of a kind art with a few simple tools.
Space is limited and registration is required.
Please visit Opus Langley or contact them at 604‑533‑0601 to register.