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.
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.
I'm excited to share this "new" painting with you - although it was completed and delivered last month. I wanted to close my health issue chapter on a positive note. A while ago I applied for and was accepted to be part of a group of artists who were selected to create work to raise money for the Branch Out Neurological Foundation's upcoming fundraiser "Your Brain on Art"
Clearly, having just had brain surgery, this felt like a no brainer (see what I did there?)
We were matched up with a Neuroscientist and advised to contact them about the research project we had selected. I had chosen the research project: Vitamin Niacin on Brain Tumor Growth - Dr. Jeffrey Dunn, University of Calgary (I decided I wanted to fund brain tumour research, even though it wasn't directly related to the type of tumour I had) The idea was to call or email with them to learn more and then create a piece based on the conversation.
Imagine my delight when we figured out a time to meet in person at the actual lab! (I had an appointment with my neurosurgeon on the same campus and it all worked out for a face to face meeting) This became even better when I was told they work at the "Experimental Imaging Lab" in the basement, near the parkade. It doesn't get much better than that!
Once I met up with Jeff, he introduced me to the team and showed me the mouse MRI machine. Having had my fair share of "tube rides" in the past few months, I felt a connection to all the work and research that has to happen for technology like that to be useful in bringing people like me back to health (I also found it it kind of ironic that I blogged about people making better MRI equipment way back in the beginning of my brain tumour saga. Turns out, I got to meet some of those people!
Now, about the painting itself - I will admit, I went off on a different visual style than normal. We started our meeting talking about Greek etymology and somehow that stuck. Here is the write up I submitted:
This piece, Messenger, is a reflection of the dual stories found in the research project Vitamin Niacin on Brain Tumor Growth. The title hints at these two stories: delivery via Macrophage and delivery of information via MRI. The winged sandal represents Hermes, the messenger of the gods. He is known for his swift delivery via his winged sandals. I chose to use green to highlight this as a symbol of this messenger bringing healing, hope and growth. The area surrounding the winged sandal represents normal tissue cells; the area within the foot represents tumour cells. Tiny amounts of image contrast agent are being delivered to the core of a tumour via the macrophage, here shown as blue swatches of colour and orange dots
On a personal note, I haven't been blogging much lately, because I've been all blogged out. We have sunshine and the green is peeking out on my lawn. Health-wise, things are going really, really great. In order to consolidate the past few months and move on mentally, I've made a page with all my meningioma related posts with links in chronological order. If you want to start at the beginning and read my entire Meningioma story, click here.
sOn Friday, I attended the wrap up event for the Bud's of Bud's Northern Reflections Painted Window Exhibition. It was a great night reconnecting with the organization's team, the other artists as well as my animation partner, Alyssa Koski.
During the evening they awarded three prizes, People's Choice, Celebrity Choice and the Juried Prize. Alyssa and I were thrilled when they announced our name for the Jury's pick.
I'll be honest, since completing this piece my life has had quite a few changes and developments and 2018 has started out kind of rough. To have a night out and to take home the big prize was a great way to end my week. Thank you, Bud's of Bud's, thank you Jury and most of all, thank you Alyssa - you were an amazing partner to work with. Your animation took this piece to a whole other level and it was a treat to collaborate with you.
At the end of December 2017, I had a seizure and found out that I have a benign brain tumor called a meningioma. In mid January, I will be having it removed and taking a break from all teaching, demonstrating and commercial studio work so that I can focus on my recovery. Naturally, my family and I are stressed out and nervous for the coming months, but we believe I will fully recover and return to prior interests and activities in due time. For those of you who are inclined, your prayers are much appreciated.
As I have grappled with this news in the past week, a lot of thought has centered on what it means to be an artist as it is not only my vocation, it is a key part of my identity. What happens if this surgery changes me? What if parts of this are quite difficult to process or navigate? Google can be your friend and your enemy during times like this. One thing that has brought me comfort has been finding other creative types with similar issues who have shared their journey of recovery on the internet. Hope is not to be trifled with.
So, with that example in mind, I have decided to use the coming months to shift my focus to my path to wellness and to share it on my blog. My hope is that it gives my friends, family, and clients a snapshot of my recovery as well as potentially be a place that google will lead others who are dealing with heavy news and that it will give them hope as well.
Since I can be enormously persistent (stubborn) when I choose to be, I have decided I need to do this on my own terms. I feel like this is a really neat opportunity to share what happens when you take a skilled artist and then operate on their brain. Seriously, you don't get much better blogging material than that. It feels like the ultimate science/art experiment. What works? Will my skills be different? What will I lose? What will I gain? Will my palette change? My subject? Will I still be an artist? I plan to write and share my sketchbook journal, plus whatever art I feel like trying.
It is really important to me that I use this experimental time to be honest about what this has done to my brain and my creative spirit. I'm not going to lie, I already feel quite vulnerable. In the past week, making words fit together (which I love doing) has been stilted and clumsy. I really have to think about spelling and how things fit together in a sentence. Emails and text messages have been slow because I need to read and reread them to make sure they make sense. It takes a little longer to figure out what the problem is. I'm not sure if this is from the seizure, the medication, or the actual brain tumor. I suspect there will be a lot of this frustration in the coming weeks. I also know how cathartic it is to acknowledge that sort of thing, so I think being open will be good for me.
I think it is too easy for artists (myself included) to use platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to present this effortless picture of great art and self promotion. Nobody likes showing the failed experiments or talking about work that you make that is awkward or doesn't sell. No one likes admitting that they are a novice at a new art form until the work is pretty and commercially available. It's easy to throw in words about how privileged and honoured you are to be included in something, or use hashtags like #blessed and #lovinglife. The downside to that approach is it takes hard work and grit out of the picture and makes it look like you won the "art lottery" instead of putting in countless hours being mediocre in order to become skilled. In the coming months, I suspect I am going to work hard and make some bad art. I think it is important to share it with you.
Here are some random things I want to put out there for anyone reading this:
- To everyone who has already sent me a message of encouragement, offer of prayer or practical help. Thank you. I will likely get back to you in the coming week if I haven't already. If I don't, I'm blaming it on my brain issues. They are real and I've dropped a few threads already.
- If you are just learning about this via Social Media and I should have contacted you directly, I deeply apologize - please extend grace and friendship. Having lots of friends and family is a good problem to have, but I know I've missed a few of you! Again, I blame the clumsy brain.
- I work with amazing organizations and I just want to thank everyone who I've had to send the "I need to withdraw from ____" email to in the past few days. You have all responded with such compassion and understanding. Thank you for that. It's been a humbling week and knowing that I can get back in touch and resume our plans when I am better has been a life line.
- For anyone who received a cancellation notice for a class you've signed up for, I am so sorry. I hope you will keep checking here for my courses to be rescheduled so we can do our class at a later date. If you want a recommendation for an alternate, contact me or the organization you booked with for some other classes in the meantime. You need to keep those fires fueled in your own creative journey!
- For any of my collaborators, students or artist friends, it would mean the world to me if you sent me updates of what you are working on. You inspire me and motivate me and I know I will live vicariously through you in the coming weeks. Talking shop absolutely puts wind in my sails.
- If you are in the same boat of needing to recover or you have recovered and somehow you found my blog, contact me. One thing I'm not sure I want to hear is people's horrible experiences. You know what I'm talking about... it starts with sentences like "oh, my cousin Edna's sister-in-law had something like that and it was AWFUL...." You can keep those locked up until after I'm better. I love stuff where we are mutually positive, honest and encouraging though.
A few people have asked how they can help.
- If you know our family personally and you want to pitch in, shoot me or my husband and email or text and we can take it from there. We do have a few offers of day to day help and some meals but lots of people doing a tiny bit shares the load easily. I have the easy part of recovery, I really want to keep my husband and kids from feeling burnt out or overwhelmed. They have heated up enough frozen pizza in the past week already.
- For anyone else, we are not planning to set up a gofundme account or anything like that. However, I will be honest that as an independent artist who makes her living from the fruits of her labors... the next few months are going to be tight. My husband carries the bulk of the finances thank goodness but I will not have the luxury of sick leave. If you have suggestions, advice on Canadian/Alberta/Calgary or Cochrane resources I can access for advice or help at this time, please contact me.
- You can still find my art at Bluerock Gallery, Leighton Centre and Muk Luk Magpies - if you've had your eye on a piece, this would be a helpful time to buy it. I do have a little work available at home but in all this craziness, it might be hard for me to get it shipped. Booking spots in workshops when I return will also be helpful, so keep checking back as well.
- Most importantly, your well wishes and prayers have been treasured and if you could keep me and my family in your thoughts in the coming weeks, that would be the greatest way you could help.
Anyways, I plan to blog and if my brain works correctly, I'll try to remember to file all the posts related to my recovery under "Meningioma" should I have a spell where I can't do it myself, I'll make sure my husband can do it on my behalf. Filling out my contact form means it gets sent directly to my email, which I hope to check often. Thanks!
To read the whole story of my Meningioma click here.
Normally I spend the early part of December writing this annual post in my head. I enjoy reflecting on the previous year and shaping all my thoughts and projects into one post with a unified theme. Or a Top Ten list - I like those too. I'm going to confess that this year, I haven't had it in me. Alas, I'm a stickler for traditions, so I will write my year in review, but it is more off the cuff this time.
After all the chaos surrounding our family's move in 2016 I've realized that 2017 has been a big search for stability. Stability in my studio, with my calendar and truth be had, with my income as well.
We've now been in our house long enough for it to feel like home, especially my cozy studio. I look forward to getting in there and picking up from the day before. I like refining how it's organized and working in my own space. My extended studio (aka, my garage) is not quite there yet. Life has been busy and that was one thing that has eluded me this season. Now it's cold so it'll have to wait a little longer.
I spent a lot more time at Heritage Park as well as instructing this year; those became the cornerstones to my calendar with more flexible items scheduled around them. This has lead to some growth for me as well. I've realized that as more time gets committed outside the studio, the more deliberate I need to be with my time creating. My day timer has been extraordinarily helpful in this regard, I might talk more about this in a future post, The idea that artists are entirely free flowing and dictated by their inspiration is false. Structure for an artist can lead to enormous creativity - a lot of that comes from planning and goal making (but I digress)
Part of the reason why I've been out of the studio more has been because one of the goals I've set is for more stability in my artist income. By artist income, I mean anything that moves me forward as an artist. A job at Starbucks is not intended to move my art forward. My job at Heritage Park was sought out specifically to increase my knowledge about Letterpress. Hence I include that and teaching as artist income. I am a full time artist (I do not have a non arts job) and I look at all the various income streams as my full time job, broken up into interesting bite sized pieces. A new flavour every week it seems.
At this point in my career, I am not at a place where I can reliably depend on a certain amount of income generated by the sale of my paintings. To address this, I've sought out more places to help me sell my art as well as diversified what I make by adding items like hand pulled prints, flour sack cloths and letterpress goods. When I make art, I put all my time and resources in up front with the idea that I will recoup my costs and gain a profit.
The unstable part of this is that I have no idea when this income will arrive. Some art sells before it is dry. Some art takes years to sell.. Once those items are completed, they then need to be cataloged, photographed and promoted, driven to a gallery or listed online. Then you pay the associated commissions or fees to the venue that assisted you in selling your work. Great venues that sell work regularly absolutely earn those fees because the risk of it getting lost or damaged increases the longer it travels around to various places looking for its' forever home.
A few years ago I looked at my options for what path I wanted to follow for the next while. I could bite the bullet and put all my time and resources into just creating with the end goal of getting my art to the place where I could rely on it for steady income. Or I could look at ways to further diversify my income streams so that I wasn't solely putting my time and resources up front. Previously,I had taken a year off from selling my work in order to try new things and evolve in my work without the pressure of conforming or marketing myself. That Sabbatical year was a huge blessing, but all I could afford was one year off. The decision pretty much was made at that point. Diversification became my goal, and I'm thankful for it in many ways. Especially in this economy... if one income stream dries up, I usually have something different I can put into the mix to keep things stable.
Instructing has been a big part of this for me this year: I book an event, I work, I get paid. For an artist, this formula can feel almost backwards at times! There is still an amount of speculative work involved in these events, however. Organizations need to be approached, proposals written, sometimes meetings, lots of email communication, photos, write ups, promotions... none of this is paid time. It all works out when event is complete and you get paid since the fee should cover the upfront work that was done. However, if a booked event does not run, all that work is for nothing.
Lately it's been a matter of finding balance in how many bookings I take and being more selective with which organizations I work with. This year I've had the pendulum swing both ways - constant bookings so I've worked too many weekends in a row (which wears my family out) as well as too many untested venues with bookings that have fallen through (which wears me out). However, overall it's been going really well and I'm thankful that I have a few core connections that work very hard on my behalf to see classes fill up, I love being a part of their team.
I guess the last thing that has really contributed to stability for me has been something a lot more abstract than income, calendars or studio space. It's this idea of "Compound Time" - time regularly spent pursuing unrelated learning that impacts the growth in your art practice. The past few years spent helping at the museum, expanding my printmaking plus all this letterpress stuff I've been doing is starting to heavily influence my direction in the studio. I've changed. I believe I am a more well rounded person because of all the new connections I've made and things I've learned how to do. I look forward to more in 2018. Perhaps I'll start thinking about a Top Ten list for the New Year.
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!
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!
Where to begin? Fall is here, kicking and screaming and I finally feel like I've had a chance to come up for air.
Studio Expansion: My garage is now officially a core component to my studio practice. Late July, we welcomed a third press to our family: a Chandler and Price Old Style platen floor model. Some good friends helped us load and move this along with a paper cabinet, composing table, type cabinet and full sized paper cutter. I am truly blessed.
The flip side to this is making room and extra clean up. Almost all of my open studio time in August has been spent puttering away in my garage doing glamorous jobs like scraping old labels, sanding, painting and degreasing. We are in the homestretch now which is good - winter is coming and my car needs it's shelter for parking!
On a side note, paper cabinets are a beautiful thing. With 25 shallow drawers, this is for my art supplies like what the wardrobe is for Narnia. Things feel so in reach and organized!
Current Projects: I'm in the early stages of some small still life and landscapes for the upcoming Christmas season. I am also busy printing all sorts of letterpress goodies for market as well. Add in some collaboration involving a laser engraver, block printing more flour sack cloths, instructing as well as the aforementioned studio expansion and I am a busy girl.
Website Update: I've cleaned things up and added some greater detail on events and workshops. I've been planning this out in my head for a while and finally sat down long enough to get it all up on the web. I still have loads more pictures and details to add, but this should suffice for the moment. I have a love hate relationship with digital tinkering.
Plein Air Postponement: My deepest apologies to all of you who have expressed interest in further plein air meetups - this has been on my mind constantly. I had a domino effect happen with that equipment acquisition that affected too many areas of my household. Add in multiple extra weekend bookings for August and I couldn't make it happen. Stay tuned for spring though - I have some alternate ideas I'd like to try out with plein air!
Long time, no update. It has been very busy both in the studio and in our household. One of the things taking a lot of my time lately has been Letterpress related. It is a long (and hopefully interesting) story that I am saving for it's own post (Hint: it involves costumes and moving crazy heavy pieces of machinery!) Anyways, in amongst all this busyness, life in my studio has been puttering along at a brisk pace.
I love this time of year because the roads are reliably decent and the weather is good so I can plan to travel to deliver fresh art, teach or demonstrate. Here is some stuff I have coming up in the next few weeks in June and July:
Muk Luk Magpies: The initial batch of Flour Sack Clothes sold very quickly so I recently dropped off a large batch with lots of colours and patterns. Just in time for teacher gifts! You can get store hours and more information here.
Impressions Printmaking Exhibition: The Leighton Art Centre invited me to participate in this upcoming show done in partnership with the Alberta Printmakers Society. There are some amazing local artists represented here, so I am quite excited to hang my work on the same walls as them! The opening for this show is this Saturday from 2 - 4 pm. Hope to see you there!
Canada Day at Just Imajan Art Gallery: I will be painting alongside 14 other local Cochrane artists during the Canada Day festivities. I'm looking forward to connecting with the locals and will demonstrate my process as well as have a selection of my work available for sale (working on some fresh stuff that I hope will be ready on time!). You can get more information here.
On the Road Travel Sketching Workshop: SECOND DATE ADDED We are so pleased to be able to add a send date for this sketching workshop at the Leighton Art Centre. The July 8th date filled up really quickly and we think there is ample interest in adding a second date. I think its the combination of getting out there with a sketchbook in hand paired with mysteries of bringing art supplies with you when you travel. We are going to cover both of these in an action packed day long class! Second class date is July 15th - I hope you can make it. You can register here.
Red Deer College Basic Linocut Printmaking: I am very excited to be offering a class through this venue! I believe there is still room to sign up if you are in the Central Alberta area and want to take the plunge into creating your own relief prints. You can register here.
If you have any questions about any of these classes, my work or how to book me as an instructor, please send me a message and I am happy to get back to you! Its been a great start to summer and I am really pumped about these upcoming events.