Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Weekend Away

These last few days have been spent at the annual Woolly Thyme hook in Victoria, BC. Seventy plus hookers doing what they love best. It was a mad din of chatter, interrupted only by the sipping of tea and noshing of chocolate.
What struck me most was the incredible array of expensive fabrics, tools, cutting machines and accessories. Our small contingent from Gabriola are apparently total hippy throwbacks. (We use mainly recycled materials and often cut our strips with, believe it or not, scissors!) I had no idea that there were other ways to do it.
Many fantastic creations were on display.



I took the photo below to show how finely some people work. This piece could have been done in needlepoint.
And this lovely arbutus tree was hooked by my friend Gill Elcock, in a style which is called "primitive". Gill taught me everything I know, so I guess I am primitive too. All right by me!
And the piece that totally blew me (and many others) away was Deirdre Pinnock's brilliant doormat, (seen here in progress) "Make America Clean Again". Made completely from recycled materials, it allows one to make a political statement whilst wiping one's feet. At one point the ladies were lined up ten deep to take photos of Deirdre's clever work.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Three Faces of Owl

Collected over the year: a hand-stitched stuffie with mother of pearl eyes and a leather beak, a signed and numbered print by Manitoba artist Larry Kissick, and some feathers from a barred owl that Gracie had a bit of a tussle with on the deck one summer night. The owl can be a symbol of life, death, regeneration, learning, wisdom - not bad things to ponder on for the transition from one year to the next.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Year Ends as It Began: On the Path

Chemin de la Paix, 2016, hand embroidered wool and perle cotton on linen, 40"x40"

My friend Jean-Pierre described this piece quite accurately when he commented: "We will enter this disastrous, labyrinthine Native/European relationship together and we will find our way out of the labyrinth hundreds of years from now after many wrong turns and ruinous trials and tribulations."

I do hope we are nearing the end of those hundreds of years, though. For those of you who may not have heard, Canada has been conducting Truth and Reconciliation hearings for the last several years and the final report has just been released.

And the esteemed Francois-Marc Gagnon, author of the book that got me going on this whole project very graciously said to me in an email: "A beautiful piece! Louis Nicolas would have certainly enjoyed all your works and would have probably tried to make the Society of Jesus buy the whole series to decorate the Residence of Sillery."
This is what the underside looked like while I had it in the hoop. Yes, I use knots. Bad embroiderer! But what the heck. I am concerned with the image, not the perfection of technique.
And these two images from the late 17th century may shed some light on what is happening with the arms of the figures. Fashionable men's dress from that time would have included a cape, worn wrapped around one arm. If Louis Nicolas was drawing from engravings, as Dr. Gagnon's research indicates, he may have tried to combine the pose taken from Champlain with a contemporary fashion plate.
I have a few smaller text-based projects in the queue before I resume the Codex Canadensis series. And damn, I want to get this work exhibited. Making proposals and sending them out is not a task that I enjoy, but it is essential.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Buche de noel redux

I am madly stitching the last few bits of the latest codex canadensis piece, so instead of a post I will offer you the gift of my recipe for Buche de Noel from way, way back. Just click the link and you will magically be transported back to December 14, 2011 - almost five years ago to the day.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Almost Done

It's not every day that one can say, "I have finished Jacques Cartier's pantaloons."

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Busy and Boring

Those are my excuses for not posting much lately. Time is flying at warp speed, worthy items of note are few. But just so I can keep calling myself a blogger, here goes.

Le chemin vers la paix is what I am calling this piece for now. I have finished Cartier's preposterous headgear and am working my way down his body. I want to be finished before the end of the year.
A picture of me on the ferry taken by James Emler. We have been going across to take part in a seminar on Contemporary Art put on by the Nanaimo Art Gallery (where, incidentally, I will be part of a group show in January.)
To fill spare moments at my part-time job, I bring old wool clothes to take apart to use for rug hooking. The hand-stitched interfacings on this vintage Scottish jacket were so beautifully done they needed documenting.
Daylight has been in short supply but this morning a few rays broke through, illuminating the oddest corners of the dome.
I notice my windows need cleaning. Someday.
More cobwebs. The dome is full of spiders, and I feel guilty about destroying their hard work.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

In Praise of Slow

Sorry for the grey appearance - it is the Pacific Northwest in November here, after all.
Slow, ah yes. On one hand, I have been working like a busy bee on my stitching - I have finished Maskoutensak Man and now will move on to the rest of Jacques Cartier. Very thrilled at how it is progressing. And I will be removing the lighter brown threads on Jacques' leg - a "What if?" that didn't please me.

But on the other hand, I have been so demoralized by the month's world news that I have been rendered voiceless. Which led me to find solace in Slow TV, a Norwegian series of real time television, where real people take train trips, chop firewood and make a sweater from scratch. Norwegian Knitting Night, all 8 1/2 hours of it, captivated me. Believe it or not, it had drama, with the focus being an attempt to take a fleece from sheep to sweater in world record time.

Set in a knitting factory museum, it begins with the stalwart Rolf, shearing a sheep (Guri, a Norwegian White) with hand clippers. (It later is revealed that he has placed in the top 10 in world shearing competitions.) He completes this feat in 15 minutes or so and the raw fleece goes directly to the five spinners, who manage produce enough yarn for the two knitters to begin the 40,000 stitches that will make up the sweater. The spinning continues for almost the entire program, although about halfway through two of them switch to knitting sleeves.

Now, don't fall asleep, this is fantastic stuff! The seven member team are all lovely characters in their own right, and their charm, wit, and optimistic spirit is truly remarkable to witness. By the end I felt like they were my friends. There is a supporting cast as well: a bouncy host/cheerleader who sports an array of wonderful handknit sweaters, and the two witnesses, one of whom doesn't appear to do anything other than chew gum and twiddle with her hair, while the other makes sure the team has plenty of coffee and gets to model the finished sweater. And dear Rolf, who is the source of much amusement, stays on through the whole event.

The camera work is awkward at times, but also manages many mesmerizing sequences of spinning wheels, treadling feet and flying fingers. There are equipment failures (a broken needle) and injuries (blisters). The fleece turns out to be a major impediment, being heavy with lanolin and moisture. The bored witness develops into a truly dislikable character, just sitting around looking at her phone while everyone else is working so hard.
I spun along the whole time, and only managed two skeins of somewhat finer yarn than what they were making. My wheel only has a right treadle, and at about the six hour mark my right hip started seizing up, so I switched to my left foot. I have real admiration for the Norwegian team's accomplishment. Check the show out on Netflix or Youtube.