I have stalled on writing this year end/beginning blog post. I think because, for a while I was thinking about the past decade and it really tripped me up. Long story short, I have not made the gains in the past 10 years that I would have wanted for myself. In fact, I'm in a totally different head space now than I was 10 years ago. So, in order to move this blog post forward, forget the past decade, that post would have been too whiny.
Back to 2019 - what an unexpectedly good year. Here are some reasons why:
1. St. Louis is an amazing city and the Ladies of Letterpress Conference was filled to the brim with fantastic people, big machines and thousands of things to learn. I want to try my best to return this year. I feel like I only brushed the surface of potential those days can hold. I came home with many treasures and ideas that will keep me out of trouble for the bulk of 2020. I suspect.
2. I returned to my role at Heritage Park as a Trades Interpreter for the Strathmore Standard Newspaper Office. This was meaningful in a multitude of ways - working and learning on the letterpress equipment, broadening my historical knowledge of printing and most importantly the friendships that have come out of my time there. Plus, knowing that pictures of me wearing my Edwardian costume, clicking away on the Linotype are being posted to random tourist social media accounts worldwide is highly entertaining.
3. After taking a break during the year I was recovering, I resumed my membership at Alberta Printmakers and found lots of ways to become involved - serving on the Board, printing manhole covers, demonstrating linocut printmaking and teaching a Letterpress class! They won't be able to get rid of me in 2020, I have my eyes set on using their sweet Vandercook a whole lot more in the new year.
4. I became acquainted with the Making Treaty 7 Society and had a chance to show a piece that explores my First Nations heritage. This, along with group shows at the Calgary Stampede, The Leighton Art Centre and Alberta Printmakers, I have had a wonderful variety of venues to work with and audiences to reach.
5. Speaking of venues, along with those mentioned above, I need a special shout out to Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond for not only carrying my work, but hosting a pop-up for me at Christmas. I also need to say thanks to Inglewood Art Supplies and Studio for having me in to teach so often and for being so flexible and fun to work with.
6. I am no longer in "recovery mode" - while I am not the same person I was a few years ago, I think I am far stronger and functional than I have been for many years. The small deficits that I have noticed are being worked on how to work around them (and that in itself has been a fun challenge to meet head on). Add to this that my family has had a good year without too many challenges as well - life truly is good.
Of course there are more things to celebrate, but these are the big things that come to mind. So what is ahead for the coming year? More of the same, but with more refinement. I'm looking forward to teaching more, making more and sharing more in the months ahead. I am really wanting to push myself again (something that has been hard for a few years). I've been looking at a lot of art, reading lots and talking through some exciting projects. Hopefully 2020 will an even more exciting year!
Oh and one other thing -
Students: I have a whole slew of classes posted on my main page, ready for you to register for (and more coming soon) Click here for more info.
Organizations and Art Groups: I have a bunch of new workshop and class ideas posted on my booking page (and customization is totally possible) Click here for more info.
I have very much enjoyed becoming a more active member with Alberta Printmakers this year. They are comprised of amazing artists and supporters who are super inclusive and encouraging. One of their yearly fundraising efforts is the Not So Mini Print Exchange and Exhibition. It is an international call and artists submit an edition of 10 prints. Of that edition, 8 prints get given to other artists and 2 go up for auction with the proceeds going to fund further A/P projects.
My piece, The Fox and the Crow, was a return visit to an old theme that has been popping up in my work for about a decade. It's based off of a fable by Aesop - in it a crow has a tasty morsel of cheese in her beak. A sly fox decides to convince the crow that her voice is beautiful and that he wants her to sing. As she starts to caw and croak, the cheese drops to the ground and the fox runs away with the cheese. This has always been interpreted by me as a stark warning about flattery and other wasted words.
I have a hard time receiving compliments, I tend to be very awkward and uncomfortable when this happens. This is a long standing thing - hence the reoccurring fox and crow theme that I relate to on a deeper level. This strangeness about compliments was recently pointed out to me and I started to process a little bit about why it is hard to hear those things (haven't totally figured that out). I do like receiving warm feedback (especially from those that I really respect their opinions) and I decided it was time to put the Fox and Crow theme to rest. It was the subject of a print I did a long time ago that was rushed and I was dissatisfied with the end result.
This version I am much happier with. I printed it using 3 different blocks (the large red rectangle with scalloped pattern, the blue circle/floral blocks (used twice) and the final fox and crow block. I played around on my Chandler & Price treadle letterpress with very diluted pigment and tried my best to get nice registration and clean edges. It turned out well. I agonized over the composition for quite some time because I couldn't picture the placement very easily in my head - but at the end, I think it reads well. I feel like I am making slow art these days. Hopefully the flavours are that much more developed because of it. I also feel like I'm starting to make peace with some of my hesitations surrounding kind words about my work.
Come and check it out and all the other amazing pieces at:
Not So Mini Exhibition
December 6th - 21st, 2019
Find out more here.
So I have a confession of sorts. I've recently come to the slow realization that despite having almost two years to recover and working very diligently on my artwork, I still have a very difficult time visualizing what it is I am wanting to make.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you asked me to close my eyes and picture a chair, I could do that pretty easily. If you ask me to make you a picture featuring a chair I literally draw a blank. Nothing. Now, resist temptation to chime in with "me too! I never know what to draw or where to start!" That's not really what I'm talking about... I have this hard to describe loss of not really being able to do what I once was very good at which is this sequence of "here is the request" then "explosion of images in my head" then "rework images in my head" then do a sketch. Now it's more like "here is the request" then... crickets.
So, why I am sharing this? Honestly, the idea of this is super interesting to me - how and why do I make art then? How long did I go on making things not realizing that the ability to visualize never really returned?
Truth be had, I really avoided "making art" as much as possible. Or I stuck to tried and true things like representational paintings. I got super good at carving patterns on linoleum because I couldn't decide on anything to depict. So I'd carve lines. Or circles. The blocks started piling up.
It wasn't until I tried to make something specific that I completely stalled out. Since I had imposed a deadline for myself to abide by, I had to figure out how to make something from nothing. I learned a few things about making flights of fancy materialize along the way. .
Words help There is something about how my brain is re-wired that words still play a very, very strong role in how things do or do not get done. It was over coffee with a friend talking about my side project where it really started to dawn on me that talking ideas = half formed visuals in my head. Writing half formed visuals down and then pinning them to a style, time period or medium = slightly more formed ideas. Repeat until the artwork emerges.
Words somehow resemble having a tiny flashlight in the woods at night. They illuminate the steps ahead but I cannot see the destination (or the wolves lurking in the inky darkness)
This is not all bad. Since I've realized this deficit still very much exists for me (and might be part of my new normal) I have noticed that my artwork is more considered. Gone are the days of dashing off spur of the moment paintings. This has been replaced with informally collaborating through offhand conversations. Talking out an idea seems to lead to imagery. Slowing down like this allows me to really consider things like composition, colour choices, subject, style - the list goes on and on. Just because something used to be easy, doesn't mean that it was better.
Anyways, all this to say that since that discovery, I've been tinkering with all sorts of ideas and making new things. Plus, I've learned that if the visualization isn't happening I have to keep busy anyways. Sometimes it is prep work, sometimes it is digging out an old half finished project, sometimes it is just reading or drawing (which still remains a spontaneous arena for me). Productive procrastination is a thing for me these days.
I've also learned that having deadlines really help (real or imagined) - I'm quite excited that a lot of the letterpress notebooks and postcards that I've sprinkled throughout my post are destined for a Pop-Up Market at Bluerock Gallery on November 30th! Since I was bringing my little press with me, I wanted to have a lot of freshly printed items that showcased letterpress and linocut!
I am really looking forward to the events that are coming up in the next few weeks. All my favourite things are here: painting, printmaking and letterpress!
Christmas in the Country 2019
Leighton Art Centre, Calgary AB
November 2, 2019 - November 10, 2019
I'm happy to have been selected to participate in the annual Christmas in the Country Art sale at the fabulous Leighton Art Centre. Over 2000 pieces of fine craft and unframed artworks by local artists will fill the museum and galleries of the historic Leighton home this November,
Free parking, free admission & complimentary festive treats throughout both weekends. Spectacular Rocky Mountain views included! For more information visit here.
Making Your Mark - Beginner and Intermediate Acrylic Painting
Inglewood Art Supplies and Studio
November 5th - December 3rd 2019
Tuesdays 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Learn the basics of painting and start working on your masterpiece! Students will learn how choose their subject, prepare their canvas, apply paint with a variety of techniques, as well as troubleshoot problem areas. Students will take home a completed painting and the knowledge to develop their skills further on their own.
Intermediate Students will be coached through individual projects and provided with more targeted feedback based on their goals for skill development.
$30 Drop-In option available, For more information visit here.
Print & Be Merry:
Holiday Print Workshop
Wednesdays, November 20th and 27th 2019
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm (both evenings)
Carve your own holiday linocut image and print it on a tabletop Kelsey letterpress!
Over two sessions, students will learn the basics of linocut carving and printmaking, and use a tabletop letterpress to create one of a kind Christmas cards, tags and wrapping paper. Participants will leave with a variety of hand printed projects, their own carved blocks as well as the skill to practice at home using basic art materials.
All materials provided, no experience necessary! For more information visit here.
Bluerock Gallery Pop Up Market
Black Diamond, AB
November 30th, 2019
10:00 am - 6:00 pm
It will be so great to be back at Bluerock Gallery for a pop up market with my latest Letterpress ephemera on display as well as the soothing rattle and clink of my trusty travel companion - my Kelsey tabletop letterpress. I cannot express how much I love being a part of this gallery family - they have been so supportive of my journey into printing! It will be a merry day for sure! Come by to soak up all the art and to say hello!
For more information visit here.
I feel like I have run out of words lately. After a recent whirlwind trip to St. Louis for the Ladies of Letterpress Conference it has been a little harder for me to gather all the things that I am thinking about and writing them into a concise blog post. Perhaps I'll soon be able to pull the string and take the brown paper off all the things I saw and learned while I was there. Thankfully I have had reasons to unpack aspects of this trip already as much of it pertains to my letterpress endeavors.
Recently I had the delight of buying next year's day timer, I have started filling in small dates here and there, the school calendar is added and all this has reminded me about the power of anticipation. I remember a Jewish friend of mine sharing with me years ago the concept of how Sabbath day of rest fits into their calendar. It is the high point in one's week - you spend three days preparing in anticipation of all the things needed for that day to be a complete rest and refilling. After it is over, you spend three days reflecting on the experience you had. Then the cycle repeats.
My day timer is like that, in its more haphazard fashion. I have a fairly routine orbit of teaching, appointments and meetings rotating throughout my weeks. Anything slightly different that engages my senses tends to be savoured long before it arrives. Planning a special trip, going for a walk or a coffee with a friend, setting a time for a gallery hop sees a lot of anticipation beforehand. Afterwards the glow of those moments seems to light up something creatively within me and I have a bout of inspired studio time. By the time it starts to wane, I look towards the next bright item in my day timer (I don't make a lot of social appointments now that I think about it).
As you can imagine, this conference was HIGHLY anticipated for quite some time.
From the moment I stepped off the plane to the moment I boarded to go home, I was busy and engaged. At times, my brain felt overloaded. A friend I made at the conference shared that she booked 3 or 4 days off after she got home. Her method allowed her to make space for all the things she learned and gave her a chance to play with some of the concepts she was getting a handle on. I managed to take one full day off just to blissfully experiment in the studio, and I will learn for next time to book off more.
I looked forward to this Ladies of Letterpress experience for a long time and now it is over, I need to look back perhaps even longer and see what I gleaned from it. Hopefully some more jewels will be placed in my calendar for when this glow starts to wane.
Recently, I've taken up writing in my journal regularly again. After all my health issues last year, it dropped off my radar. In order to tame my scrawling cursive, I've been using a fountain pen which is far easier on my hands and seems to slow me down in a good way. As my cursive is improving I am noticing that the pleasure centres of my brain light up when I manage to write a long word with no breaks and with correct letter formation. It's the little things, folks.
I am currently working on quite a few pieces, most of which have shows coming up where they will debut. This weekend I will be at Artsplace in Canmore for Pottery Palooza - my first time showing there! I have fresh work coming to Leighton Art Centre for the Clothesline Festival as well the fabulous Bluerock Gallery. I also have pieces that will be shown on the Mini Masterpiece wall at the Calgary Stampede. This is the first time I've participated in a Stampede art event, so I am very excited.
This is also a very busy time for instructing - once the snow melts, the roads are far more reliable and classes fill up. Right now, I've been doing a Tuesday night Acrylic Class for beginner and intermediate students at Inglewood Art Supplies and I have quite a few workshops approaching there and at Leighton Art Centre. I keep getting questions about outdoor sketching classes and lino carving - there are a bunch posted here.
As if this wasn't enough busyness... I decided it was time to move from "recovery and rebuilding" mode and back into "learning and exploring" mode (a place that I am far happier to dwell in). I've been feeling so restless the past few months, needing to push my own boundaries and get out of my house. After skipping the 2018 season, I'm returning to Heritage Park part time as a Trades Interpreter at the Strathmore Standard. This is a wealth of letterpress knowledge that I'm looking forward to tapping into. Already this has opened some unexpected and interesting doors for me that I'll be sharing more about in the coming weeks.
It has been really busy in the studio these past few weeks! Here is a snapshot of all sorts of fun things coming up from me:
Final Weekend for Leighton Art Centre's Christmas in the Country: If you fancy the above paintings, they are available till Sunday afternoon at the Leighton Centre. There other fresh pieces of mine available as well! I hope you check it out, it is an amazing event!
Free parking, free admission & complimentary festive treats throughout both weekends. Spectacular Rocky Mountain views included! Click here for more information.
Upcoming Acrylic Painting 5 Week Class and 1 Day Lino Workshop at Inglewood Art Supplies: I am so excited to be back next week at the great new studio space adjoining Inglewood's store. There is still room in both the painting class as well as the Linocut workshop.
November 13th - December 11th, 2018
Tuesday Evenings, 6:30 - 8:00 pm
In this adult beginner course you will learn the basics of painting and start working on your masterpiece! Students will learn how choose their subject, prepare their canvas, apply paint with a variety of techniques, as well as troubleshoot problem areas. Students will take home a completed painting and the knowledge to develop their skills further on their own.
5 classes | 1.5 hour class
$175.00 + GST (supplies not included - click here for list)
Save 10% by registering before November 7th
Register here or contact Inglewood Art Supplies at email@example.com or 403-265-8961
November 17th, 2018
Saturday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Learn the basics of linocut printmaking. The instructor will teach students about composition, safe cutting techniques and how to pull prints. Participants will leave with a variety of hand printed projects, their own carved blocks as well as the skill to practice at home using basic art materials.
$100.00 +GST Supplies not included (supply list here)
$135.00 +GST Supplies provided
Save 10% by registering before November 12th, 2018
Register here or contact Inglewood Art Supplies at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-265-8961
Northern Reflections Painted Window Exhibition:
November 13th - December 31st
Downtown Calgary (see link)
Michelle Wiebe/Michael Kohlweg Window:
East Village Experience Centre
I'm excited to be participating again in this event. This year's theme is "Electric Winter" and my animation partner and I have a treat in store for everyone who loves Santa!
Download the Augle App and bring the kids down to the East Village Experience Centre to see the magic that happens when you use Augmented Reality (AR) to view original art. There is free onsite parking during open hours and helpful East Village Ambassadors to answer any questions!
Don't forget to vote for your favorite window! They are located around East Village and Stephen Ave. Click here for more info.
I always try to keep my main page current with upcoming events and shows - check there for even more things coming in the next few months! I hope to see you at some of these events!
Sometimes a series comes together from a few different directions. Over the past few months, an important part of my daily routine has been watching all the different birds that land in my yard. I received a bird feeder at Christmas and another at Mother's Day and they are stationed where one can sit with a cup of coffee to enjoy the ongoing drama. Needless to say, my yard is teeming with all sorts of interesting species and a continual source of inspiration. That was the beginning of this series.
Recently, I've been resorting my art supply storage areas and uncovering all sorts of treasure. One of those has been a stash of handmade Etchu card. Named after the region in Japan that it is made in, it is a thick, creamy, decadent paper. All four sides have a natural deckle edge and you can clearly see the kozo fibres in the texture. I've been itching for a little project to try it out on.
In my sorting, I came across the above pictured sketchbook. The bird and the circle triggered an idea that blossomed into the series I'm working on. Although the image is 10 years old, it felt really new to me because I hadn't sat down and properly explored the idea way back then (working a day job, little elementary school kids and painting for Etsy consumed most of my time in those days). Once these three elements came together, the series just unfolded effortlessly. Once they are dry I will sign and edition them then let you know where you can get your hands on one!
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.