Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Looking for Center: 2017 in Review

It is that reflection and goal setting time of year again. I shared 16 posts in this space in 2017. I think I'm ok with that. Considering that it was one of the busiest years of my adult life. I've gathered some numbers for taking stock of the year.  I do not usually do this but I felt like it would help me put things in perspective.

Taken on Salt Spring Island, BC July 2017

I often felt a sensation of being in limbo despite pushing myself further than I ever had before. Looking back on the year this way has given me piece of mind that I have indeed achieved more than I thought. That is a reassuring feeling and it is helping to keep the limbo feeling in the background. Here are some numbers about my year.

Number of Completed Pieces: 5
Grants Written & Applied for: 2
Grants Received: 1
Art Sales: 2
Exhibitions Applied For: 10
Exhibitions: 4
Exhibition Rejections: 7
Art Related Articles Published: 2 (SAQA Journal Summer & Fall issues)
Press Coverage: 2 (Friendship Show UDHR Embroidery)
Art Exhibitions visited: 7 (a number I'd like to increase for 2018)
Attended SAQA Western Canada Regional Retreat in Kelowna, BC
Became SAQA Western Canada Regional Representative
Began my first Artist Residency at Forest Grove Elementary School
Began a part-time job at Mackin House Museum
Craftivist project artist for UDHR Quilt Project
Set up a Monthly newsletter
Set up a Facebook artist's page

These are career related accomplishments of course. There were many more parts to this life. Turning 40, sharing time with family, reading 36 books, travelling to some lovely locations, raising two boys and maintaining our crazy family of 4 life.

Installation view of Look In, Reach Out at the Zack Gallery, Vancouver BC, May 2017

A few thoughts to ponder as we move forward in 2018.

Why think about the rejections?  They are just as important as the acceptances.
Do you reflect on the passing years in your art practice? I do.  My project is called Memory Keeper and is now going into its 10th year.  Here are some past examples of the small pieces I make to mark each year.
2008 2010 2011 2012

Here's to an art filled 2018.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Making Your Studio Work for You

Space and making art go hand and hand. I have seen the lengths that artists will go to to make their work. Often the circumstances are less than ideal, and perhaps you, like me, have dreamed of a large, open, light filled studio space in which to create all day long.
The reality is that many of us need to work where we live. Especially in urban environments rent prices are high and space is at a premium. As you are building your audience and artistic practice it is often not cost effective to rent out a separate space for working in.
This is certainly the case for myself at this stage in my career. I love to look at artist work spaces and dream of "someday" but what am I doing in the meantime?

The third bedroom of our townhouse is my studio space.  It is not a large room, it measures around 10 by 15 feet.  The other function of this space is that it has to be a guest room.  The first thing my husband and I considered when we were setting the space up was how to make it comfortable for guests who would be using the space 20% of the year, and how to optimise the space as a studio/office the majority of the year. We decided that a Murphy Bed installed in the closet space was our best option.

While the guest room is set up my studio is placed into rubber bins and moved into the master bedroom against the far wall.

I have streamlined the process to get the moving part down to about 30 minutes and everything fits under or over top of height adjustable desks. It has taken me several years to get my studio this efficient.

And when everything is set up again as a studio I make the most of the space I do have. I am grateful to have a designated space no matter how small. 

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My First Artist Residency

My current days are filled with the preparations for a very special project that has been in development now for about 10 months.

Last winter and spring I wrote a grant application for an Artist in the Classroom Grant from ArtStarts in Schools whose mission is to provide innovative arts programs for young people.  My project was funded which means that I will be working at my neighbourhood Elementary school for most of this 2017-2018 school year.

My sons attend Forest Grove Elementary and being able to work alongside the wonderful teachers and staff at the school made creating this project that much more meaningful. The project is called Art + Craft: Young Hands Quilting Community. It will explore the capacity of a quilt to be both an art and functional object. For more information about the project and to follow along please subscribe to the dedicated blog: Quilting Community or on Instagram Young Hands Quilting.

Getting here has been a lot of work. Getting to the finish line of this project, May 31st 2018 will mean a lot more work. I have doubted myself and getting even this far many times. The learning curve on such an opportunity is huge. I think the key to getting through it all so far has been a driving passion to share my love of the quilted form and to connect that passion to the young people that are part of my community.

This feels like a great step towards an engaged and deepening art practice. And I will share more about this journey as it unfolds.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Universal Declaration for Human Rights Quilt Update

As we find ourselves getting back into our fall routines Tal Fitzpatrick is collecting the last quilt blocks as they arrive in Australia for 4 quilts that will be made for this exciting craftivist project. You can find my first two posts detailing the beginnings of the project here and here.

I sent off my block in the mail in early August and after some nervous days of waiting I was relieved to see that it arrived just fine.

I mentioned the inspiration behind each element to my block in the post linked above. Overall, I hope this piece demonstrates four different textile cultures that coexist today despite the attempt by two to overthrow the other two. There are so many wonderful textile based arts in First Nations culture and they stand proudly beside European based textile works to tell rich and varied stories of people and their handiwork over the centuries.

What a monumental task Tal and her volunteers are going to have to piece and quilt all these blocks together.  Many important issues relating to Human Rights today and in the past are featured. You can visit Tal's Instagram feed to view many of the blocks. I will update you all about the project as it progresses.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

On Looking at Past Work

I was not very precious about my art school work. There are many reasons little of it survives today. Moving between three provinces in the last 17 years, too many different houses and apartments in each of them, lack of storage options, but mostly I had a lack of connection with many of the pieces. I have heard many artists say that they feel as if their artwork is a child to them.  I don't have that sentiment. I have pride about my work, I remember feelings and situations I had while making it, but I do not feel any where near the attachment to it as I do my children.

I don't think that it is because the work is not good, though in some cases that is the reason. Overall, it is just a desire to see it out in the world and functioning as it was intended.  To be viewed and enjoyed by other people. I have made a few pieces that are personal mementos and so those I feel attached to.

As I look back on my student work, I have discarded more and more over the years. Recently I had one piece that I did keep framed and it now hangs in the bedroom I share with my husband. This piece along with two small self portraits called out to me earlier this year. They said that they were an important part of my evolution as an artist. I did think for a moment that there may have been other pieces that would have spoken to me this way had I kept them. There is nothing I can do about that now, and honestly I think my work has evolved so much since I finished art school that leaving those "lost" pieces behind is best anyway.

This piece titled How Many Landscapes? from 2000 is embroidery on paper collage.  The text is a poem I wrote. It was the first use of embroidery in my work. It's a big leap in the evolution of who I was in that moment as a young art student. This work is about the conquering spirit of humanity; questioning our desire to own every land mass, every piece of solid ground.  Looking at this each day reaffirms my current path.  It is like a promise to myself about what I am doing, and why I am here. I'm glad I kept this one.


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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer Schedule

As an artist with two school age children I have come to rely on the hours that my boys are in school. This potentially uninterrupted time is easier to schedule and I am able to get into a rhythm each day. Granted this took several months to establish after my youngest went to Kindergarten last fall, and after starting part-time work in March I had very little time to luxuriate in my new found quiet studio time. Regardless, of where I may have been this summer, I had personal deadlines in the back of my mind. That meant stitching happened in several places that are unconventional.

While waiting one and a half hours on a bridge ramp after a serious car crash shut down the roadway.

Or at the public swimming pool during two weeks of daily half hour swim lessons. There has been campfire side stitching, park bench or blanket stitching and while it may not have the solitude or focus of studio work, it allows me to feel a sense of accomplishment in the busy days of summer with young kids. I am grateful to have this time with them and for myself.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Behind the Art - Inheritance

Today I want to share the journey of a small series of works, one of which is soon to be installed in an exhibit called Great and North at the Palazzo Loredan in Venice Italy from August 29 to October 29, 2017. The beginnings of this work are more humble than where it has ended up but that is the magic of putting yourself out there and taking chances.  You never know where those risks can get you.

This is the original photo of my maternal great grandmother on her wedding day.  I love this photo for its nostalgia but also because of Alice Rogers' story.  She came to Canada from England after training as a baby nurse. Her desire to come here was based on the chance to rise above the class system of English culture that would keep her "in her place." She was coming to join two of her sisters who had already made the trip. It was a leap into the great unknown. It was a difficult sea crossing, it was the early 1900's. Her sole contact with her family back home was letters.  No Facetime like I have the luxury of now. I believe that she, and all my ancestors that braved moving to a new land, had adventurous hearts. Something compels you to move.  To explore, to go. That is not an easy impulse to follow. It is often frightening and lonely but you go because if you stayed it would not be true to who you are or who you could become. Alice met a lovely English bloke named Stephen Adams and they married and birthed two lovely girls.  One of whom is my grandmother Margaret now in her 90's. I did not have the privilege to meet Alice but I feel that she passed something down to me through her DNA. 

I made a series of works featuring fabric that I designed based on this photo of Alice and two of my other grandparents. 
This is Alice I, that was displayed at the Richmond Art Gallery and swapped in a Mail Art exhibition.

This is Alice II, a smaller version with lace and bead embellishments.

And this is Inheritance: Adventurous Heart, that is now part of the Imago Mundi collection and featured in the art book Oh West Canada!

Using the same imagery several times was an exploration of ways to bring out her character and story and relate it to my own. I feel a connection to her despite never having met her in person. It is a great honour to carry her story and those of other family members forward in this time. I am grateful for the legacy that they have passed on to me. And I think most of us can feel the impact of our ancestors if we listen closely enough.

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