Friday, September 2, 2016

Slogging August and a Bright New September

Sydenham Study, 12" x 12" x 1.5", Peruvian Wool and Beeswax on Birch Panel

From the way most people live, one would never guess that humans are beings of free will. Repetition can be a choice, but often it isn't. The athlete or pianist who practices the same routine day after day, year after year, has their eye on a goal. The unending repetition is a conscious choice in the pursuit of a life dream. But what about the sameness of most lives? Observe the morning commute, the after-work drink, the Sunday football game or religious service - how many of those people are consciously following their dream, training their mind, body, and spirit through that daily repetition? And how many are mindlessly slogging through each day out of habit and boredom? Jonathan Lockwood Huie
What an August it has been! The word 'slogging' comes to mind and led me to the above quote, which describes nicely the question I kept asking myself on days when my daily routine - go for a walk, do yoga, work on artwork, practice basic hygiene - seemed an insurmountable task. Maybe it was the grueling heat. Maybe it was life happening while I was busy making other plans. Maybe it was a karmic challenge that I haven't yet learned how to deal with and therefore insists on recurring. Whatever it was, there were days in August when my admittedly pleasant schedule seemed impossible to achieve and I found myself asking why I was trying. Slogging. Running uphill.

Okay, so August was a little funky for me.

Happily, September always follows August and ushers in a new phase with new projects and new energy. Already things are looking up. The past two wonderfully cool days have literally brought a breath of fresh air and I successfully finished a piece and met a deadline I was aiming for. Woo hoo.

Harrison Park in July (Study), 12" x 12" x 1.5". Peruvian Wool and Beeswax on Birch Panel

Currently, I am working on a series of pieces inspired by our summer camping trip to Harrison Park in Owen Sound, ON. My goal is to complete 6 preliminary square foot pieces using a uniform gauge of yarn and then select at least 4 of those to revisit on 3 foot square panels, taking advantage of the larger scale to work in greater detail and more varied yarn gauge and texture.

I am really exited about this project for a number of reasons, some of which are:

  1. It is the first time I have deliberately revisited an image, capitalizing on the lessons I learned from my first kick at the can. I anticipate it will allow me to learn and improve, creating works with deeper understanding of the challenges in capturing the subject.
  2. Although I have done a series of cherry blossom pieces, this is my first time trying to capture the essence of a place in a group of pieces. I am trying to demonstrate what touches me about the park and makes it meaningful.
  3. The two preliminary pieces that I have finished so far are different from my previous work and I think they show a growth in skill and confidence.
  4. This is the first time I have set out to create an exhibition of my work. Behind the scenes. I am applying to calls for submissions and honing my skills in describing my work and artist's statement. Not my favourite thing to do but I become more comfortable talking about my artwork each time I do it.
Side detail of Sydenham Study - one of the preliminary pieces to be worked into a larger, more detailed and varied piece. I love the feeling of motion in the water detail.

Before I can fully leave the summer behind, I want to share a few bright moments. 

Sue from the summer workshop emailed me this photo of her fabulous finished project. I feel like a proud parent!

Sue's finished workshop project. I love it!

And I received some publicity in Eleanor Petrie's article and photographs published in Canadian Quilter's August 2016 magazine. Thanks, Eleanor!

So - out with August and in with September. May cooler days and changing seasons breathe new life into your routine and your creative projects too!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pebble, Winter Meadow, and Summer Experiments

A close up of the Sydenham as it rushed past our campsite. Great music for sleeping. Photo by Kathy White.
Earlier this summer, Doug and I treated ourselves to a camping and hiking trip in Owen Sound, ON. It sounds odd to camp in a city but Harrison Park feels like a secret world, tucked into a tall, green forest and bordered by the Sydenham River. Hiking trails lead directly out of the campground and you can clamber over mossy rocks and little streams, all the way to Inglis Falls.

I haven't camped in awhile and I was surprised at the feeling of coming home that it gave me. Have you ever experienced that feeling - almost like remembering who you are?

The scenery made for some great, 'classic Ontario' photos and I came home motivated to do a series that pays tribute to this area. The photo above is my inspiration for the first piece, already in the works. I love the way you can trace the flow of the river in this composition.

Winter Meadow, Peruvian Wool and Beeswax on Birch Panel, 9" x 12" x 1.5"
I finally finished 'Winter Meadow', which has been my 'in between' project over the winter, spring and summer. If any of you came by my exhibition at the St. Jacobs Quilt and Fibre Art Festival, this was the piece I was working on. Thank you to the many people I consulted about sky colour.  You were right - the grey does show off the brighter grasses in the foreground.

Pebble, Aran Weight Wool and Beeswax on Birch Panel, 8" x 8" x 1.5"
Commissioned pieces force me to try something new. 'Pebble' was done by request and I had a lot of fun with it. Whenever we travel to a place I connect with (like Harrison Park), I bring home a small pebble to add to a collection that lives in my yoga space. Over time, I forget where each one is from and they become interesting objects in their variety and individuality. One of those pebbles was the model for 'Pebble'.
(Hey Diana - do you recognize some of your yarn stash? Thanks again!)

Betty's workshop piece in progress. I love the colours and the birds!
Finally, we had another great group show up for our July workshop at the EcoCafe in St. Jacobs. I've said it before and it holds true - fibre people are good people. I witness so many acts of kindness between strangers when I hover on the edges while people work on their pieces. Thanks to everyone who participated and, again, I'd love to see your finished pieces!

What a great setting for a fibre art workshop!
Special thanks to the very accommodating people at the EcoCafe for generously allowing us to use their gorgeous space for our workshop and also for the free refills!  The cafe was a cool refuge on a hot day and kept us fueled with yummy treats.

Thanks as well to the Silo Weavers for getting word out about the workshop, handling registration, and for all of the ongoing, fantastic support.

Helene's pretty workshop piece in progress.
It's been a hot summer here and I'm starting to long for cooler autumn weather with cozy hand-knit sweaters. But not right away. Give me just a little more time for Frisbee and barbecues, early morning sunshine, and afternoons too hot to do anything except find a cool spot to stretch out and read a very good book.

Happy Summer, Everyone!
Agnieszka's workshop piece in progress. The first mandala!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Grandma's Garden

Grandma's Garden, 9" x 12" x 1.5", Embroidery cotton, beeswax, fabric, and acrylic paint on birch panel.
Grandma Mitchell loved to laugh. She had a kind heart and seemed to understand that being a kid wasn't easy. After watching me in any kind of event at all, like a school play or public speaking competition, she would shove a tightly rolled up bill into my hand and tell me to buy myself something special. Later, I would unfold the unexpected five or ten dollar bill and wonder at her generosity.

Every weekday afternoon, after Grandpa's lunch was cleared away and he was either stretched out napping or headed back out to the barn, Grandma would sit down in her upholstered rocker, turn on her afternoon soaps and reach for whatever needlework was in her work basket at the moment. Often, it was something for one of her grandchildren.

Detail of Grandma's Garden.
One Christmas she gave us all crocheted snow man puppets. For one of my birthdays, she gave me a crocheted fish soap-on-a-rope with an extra fancy Avon soap inside. She also embroidered pillow cases and quilted. She made quilts for every single one of her grandchildren and even a few great grandchildren before she passed away.

When I inherited Grandma's embroidery flosses, handfuls of vivid colour kept in an exotic looking old fruit cake tin, I knew I had to do something special with them but I didn't know what. The tin sat half buried under fabrics and yarns on my highly organized (ahem) studio shelves waiting for an epiphany. And waiting. And waiting...

Grandma's Garden, 9" x 12" x 1.5", Embroidery cotton, beeswax, fabric, and acrylic paint on birch panel.
In my last workshop, I told the group about the tin of embroidery floss. We were talking about the different kinds of materials you could use in 'yarn painting', and I mentioned that I wanted to use Grandma's embroidery threads but didn't think I could do something that fine. I also mentioned that I wanted to try incorporating sections of fabric into the beeswaxed surface. After the workshop, I replayed the conversation on my head, looking at my stash of favourite fabrics and the tin half buried on the shelf.  I felt the stirrings of an idea. What if...what if...what if....Eureka!

Grandma's Garden is the first product of that epiphantic moment and combines both of the ideas I had been wanting to try. There is a layer of fabric sandwiched between layers of beeswax and I've used Grandma's embroidery cotton to accent and play with the fabric print. The overall effect reminds me of richly embroidered chinoisery textiles.  In places, the fabric's design peeks through unaltered.

Detail of Grandma's Garden - See the fabric design peeking through the main rose?
Unlike my wool pieces, sections of the beeswax surface are left uncovered. There's lots of room for experimentation with this method and I intend to return to it and complete a block of embroidery themed pieces.

Grandma Mitchell loved pretty things. She embroidered birds, butterflies, and flowers with the very same threads I've used in this piece. I think she'd like it.

There's a twinge of sadness that comes whenever I see yarns, embroidery flosses, hoops and needles in a second hand store. You just know they were someone's coveted treasures once. I wish I could rescue them all.

This is a good place to start.

Grandma's Garden, 9" x 12" x 1.5", Embroidery cotton, beeswax, fabric, and acrylic paint on birch panel.

Monday, June 20, 2016

New Workshop! Date - Tuesday, July 26th Time - 9 am - 12 noon at the Eco Cafe in St. Jacobs

Did you miss the workshop during the quilt festival? You're not alone. I had so many people say that they wished they had taken it that I'm running another one - this time in the yummy Eco-Cafe at the silos in St. Jacobs. Here are the details:

Take adult colouring to a new level with fibre art yarn painting. Join local fibre artist, Kathy White, for this fun workshop that is part art therapy, part colour theory and entirely creative expression. Participants are provided with everything they need to design and take home their own unique mini-mandala using wool yarn and fragrant beeswax. Kathy discusses techniques for applying the yarn to beeswaxed panels to create different effects. Participants will have a choice of colours and techniques to make their work truly one of a kind.
Date - Tuesday, July 26th
Time - 9 am - 12 noon
(at the silos - enter through the ramp entrance off the parking lot as the cafe will be open, but the shops don't open until 10 am)
Fee - $50, includes all materials and a complimentary beverage from the Eco-Cafe

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Thank You, St. Jacobs!

The unique atmosphere created by exhibiting in a former silo.
What an amazing time I had last week at the Quilt and Fibre Art Festival Waterloo Region and Beyond! As an artist, I spend a lot of time alone in my studio, which is actually pretty great. But I also love to venture out into the world to meet fellow fibre enthusiasts and share ideas. There were masses of inspiring people at the festival this year and I had so many touching, educational conversations that I came home both happily exhausted and charged up to jump back into creating.

My week began with leading a Yarn Painting workshop on Tuesday.  Each of the participants received a pre-waxed canvas board, a 'poking tool', and a choice of coloured wools.

Colour theory meets workshop wool.
We talked about colour theory, inspiration, and techniques and then everyone jumped in and started their first 'yarn painting.' It was wonderful to watch the diverse visions emerge on canvas.

Workshop friends with their creations started.
Special thanks to Judy Martin and Koren Bell from Quilter's Nine Patch for organizing the workshop and the ladies from the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church for making us at home in your lovely library.

For the rest of the week, I was at the silos as the Silo Weavers' guest contemporary fibre artist for the festival. Elsa Brigden Elliott, owner of the Silo Weavers, demonstrated her expert eye for colour, design and ingenuity as she helped to hang my work for a solo exhibition in a former grain silo.

Sales were fantastic and we had to do some quick rearranging as the week progressed to keep the exhibition stocked.

View through the silo doors.
It is a powerful experience to watch people react to my work and discuss the process with them. I am always, always touched by the kindness and encouragement that floods my way and I hope that learning about what I do sparks an idea for someone else too.

Me in the silo with my demonstration piece and new product - cards.
Thank you, Elsa and Pat, for all of your help and enthusiasm. What a great experience!

Finally, the very biggest thank you to my husband, Doug, whose support as an art hanger, workshop participant, bathroom break manager, emotional counsellor, lunch maker, beer tester, sales manager and official photographer made him a festival legend in his own right.

Doug's brilliant workshop piece.
I met rug hookers, quilters, weavers, sewers, knitters, crocheters, embroiderers, painters, actors, enthusiasts, organizers, journalists and so much more. Every conversation was a gift and chance meetings can have unexpected results. Many thanks to Diana B. who was inspired to donate her wools to me after seeing my work.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the exhibition and one last big special thank you to those who purchased my work. It means a lot when they find homes where they will be cherished.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

DIY Art Class: Fun with Colour

A basket full of colour
Back in January, when I was knee deep in yearly planning, I set three goals to explore as an artist.

1) Improve my understanding of colour.
2) Improve my understanding of composition.
3) Strive to infuse my work with more personal expression/interpretation.

That pretty much covers everything, doesn't it?

Maybe I'm a geek with my lists and my planning. I don't always accomplish everything I plan, either. But I can say with certainty that I get more done and get closer to my goals when I have a plan (and a list) than when I don't. Plus, it gives me some illusion of control in a chaotic world...but that's a discussion for another day.

Back to the list in question. Item one. Improve my understanding of colour.

My home made colour wheel. Note the confusion over where to draw the line between warm and cool colours. The jury is still out. I learned a lot doing this!
Searching the internet for resources, I found an intriguing exercise for painting called Colour: Get to grips with balance and contrast when painting. It seemed like a good place to start, so I bookmarked it and returned to it as I began my pieces for the year.

The first assignment is to create a piece in a monochromatic colour scheme, using different values of a single colour.

Variations on a single colour.
I was beginning Gratitude for Abundance at the time and wanted to create a sense of exuberance that I wasn't sure would work with a monochromatic palette, so I skipped ahead to step 2 to work with an analogous colour scheme instead. An analogous colour scheme uses three or more colours that are adjacent on the colour wheel.  Gratitude for Abundance is worked in an analogous colour scheme of blue-green/green/yellow-green that veers into yellow and even yellow-orange for detail.

Analogous blue-green/green/yellow-green colour scheme.
Next on my To Do list was a series of smaller pieces, so I used them as an opportunity to explore step 3 of my colour assignment: a composition in a complementary colour scheme. Complementary colours are opposite each other on the colour wheel.

Colour Study #1, 5 " x 7 " x 1.5", Yellow/Violet Colour Scheme
Colour Study #1 was my first complementary colour scheme exercise, using yellow and violet.

Colour Study #2, 5" x 7" x 1.5", Blue-Green/Red-Orange Colour Scheme
Colour Study #2 uses the complementary tertiary colours blue-green and red-orange.

Step 4 in my colour assignment is to execute a piece in split-complementary colours, so instead of using the colour directly across the colour wheel, you use the two colours on either side of it.

My brain gets easily bored, however, and I also wanted to explore the psychological properties of colour. I've been tossing around this idea of 'Zen Art'; pieces that are meditative for me to create and meditative for the viewer to observe. I knew colour would play a large part in this. Green, not surprisingly, gives us feelings of harmony, balance, and peace. Using green as my starting point, my split complementary colour scheme would be green, red-orange, and red-violet.

Here is what I chose to work with:

Green/Red-Orange/Red-Violet Yarns
The result is named The Sunny Day.

The Sunny Day, 9" x 12" x 1.5", Green/Red-Orange/Red-Violet Colour Scheme
Which brings me up to date. I still owe the universe a monochromatic piece and I've got one more split complementary piece to finish up. Then I'm on to exploring triads!

Overall, this has already been a great exercise and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in brushing up on colour theory. It seems elementary, but my pieces are obviously strengthened by good use of colour.

Now we are a third of the way through the year and I am ready to add my second artistic goal into the mix. Improve my understanding of composition. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, April 8, 2016

What Colour is Your Mini-Mandala? Workshops at the Quilt and Fibre Art Festival Waterloo Region & Beyond 2016

Mini-Mandala sample for What Colour is Your Mini-Mandala? Workshop, 5" x 7", Wool and Beeswax on Panel

Someone in our little neighbourhood of buildings is an astounding whistler. On afternoons when it is warm enough to crack the windows and breathe in fresh air, I sometimes hear him whistling with all the joy and natural talent of a robin. It echoes wonderfully between buildings and makes me feel like I'm in some tiny sun drenched village in Europe. E. e. cummings' poem in Just keeps running through my head.

See? Spring makes me think in poetry.

Mini-Mandala sample for What Colour is Your Mini-Mandala? Workshop, 5" x 7", Wool and Beeswax on Panel

This Spring, I am especially thrilled to be participating in the 2016 Quilt and Fibre Art Festival Waterloo Region & Beyond because I will be the guest contemporary artist at the Silo Weavers in The Mill. The Silo Weavers has been one of my favourite fibre arts stores since I first discovered it way back in my university years and Elsa, the business owner, is an icon in the fibre arts community. As the guest artist, there will be a special exhibition of my work and I will be there, so please come by to say hello and check out my very first solo exhibition!

Mini-Mandala sample for What Colour is Your Mini-Mandala? Workshop, 5" x 7", Wool and Beeswax on Panel
The festival runs from Tuesday May 24th to Saturday May 28th, 2016 and there are lots of fibre related workshops and events planned. I am running two workshops on Tuesday May 24th, one at 9:30 am and one at 1 pm. Here is the workshop description:

What Colour Is Your Mini-Mandala?
Take adult colouring to a new level with fibre art yarn painting. Join local fibre artist, Kathy White, for this fun workshop that is part art therapy, part colour theory and entirely creative expression. Participants are provided with everything they need to design and take home their own unique mini-mandala using wool yarn and fragrant beeswax. Kathy discusses techniques for applying the yarn to beeswaxed panels to create different effects. Participants will have a choice of colours and techniques to make their work truly one of a kind. Visit to learn more about Kathy’s work.
Time: Tuesday, May 24th - 9:30 - 12 & 1 - 3
Cost: $50 (includes all materials)

This is going to be a lot of fun and I'm excited to see the designs people come up with. If you're interested in attending (and I hope you are!), enrolment is through Quilter's Nine Patch. Feel free to email me if you have questions.

Mini-Mandala sample for What Colour is Your Mini-Mandala? Workshop, 5" x 7", Wool and Beeswax on Panel
St. Jacobs and the surrounding area are full of interesting restaurants and boutiques and I can't think of a better way to celebrate Spring and the arrival of warmer weather. I am really looking forward to the festival and the mini-mandala workshops. Maybe I'll see you there!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Gratitude for Abundance

Planning sketch for Gratitude for Abundance

I have been feeling blessed lately, which is, in itself, a blessing at this time of year.  The sun is out, the weather is warming, and Spring has arrived, for once, in time for Spring.

Do you remember the weather at this time last year? Blech.

Gratitude for Abundance in Progress

A year has passed since we made the difficult decision to sell the house and free ourselves (and our capital) for deeper living. Now, the structure of our days, the things we focus on, and even the way we spend our money makes so much more sense. We are having fun.

Sometimes you need to leave a situation and get some distance on it before you can see it clearly.

Gratitude for Abundance in progress

So...I have been feeling grateful for the gifts that life has given me and I wanted to express that gratitude in my work.

Gratitude for Abundance suggested itself to me as a title first. I liked the name and wanted to use it to make something more personal than what I've done so far.  One of my goals this year is to create more expressive, more interpretive work.  How to infuse a piece with joy? With ebullience?

Gratitude for Abundance detail

I spent some time meditating on subject matter, picking through my brain for things that I consider joyful. Winding vines with blossoms, birds, butterflies, and tree of life themes have always been the natural joyful expression of my soul. And I'm not alone. Wallpaper, textiles, and artwork all intersect here. Fascinating.

Gratitude for Abundance detail

So I had a theme to explore. Add to that my other goal this year to learn more about the effects of colour. I have assigned myself the task of working a piece in each of the different colour harmonies - monochromatic, analogous, complementary, triad, split complementary, and so on.  Gratitude for Abundance is worked in an analogous blue - green - yellow colour scheme.

Gratitude for Abundance, Wool and Beeswax on Masonite, 60 cm x 122 cm

The colour scheme then suggested the specifics. Originally, I wanted to depict an espaliered lemon tree, but lemons don't grow locally here and goldfinches do and I really wanted to work in some goldfinches. I have always loved the heavy symbolism of apple trees (as well as the real thing) but apples didn't fit the colour scheme...unless they were green!

Gratitude for Abundance detail

And so you have it.

I also made a conscious decision to depart from reality in this piece. I'm no expert but I doubt you'd find an apple tree in blossom and heavy fruit at the same time. Who cares? This is my tree and my expression of joy and abundance.

Have I mentioned the additional joy of working a bigger piece? I enjoy the opportunity for detail and the effect of sheer size.

I could go on and on. This piece was fun. This piece was hard. This piece is done!

Gratitude for Abundance, Wool and Beeswax on Masonite, 60 cm x 122 cm

PS: I had one more motivation behind Gratitude for Abundance and that was to enter a piece into the Idea Exchange's biennial juried Fibreworks exhibition. I met the deadline, made my entry and we'll see what happens.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Snails in Space

Do you remember the old muppets sketch 'Pigs In Space'?  It was one of my favourites when I was a kid - something about the muppets (ahem) hamming it up as soap quality actors.

Despite this, I was never much of a space race child. Spaceflight and lunar landings didn't get much airtime in my brain until I met my husband, Doug. For him, rockets and planets and missions to Mars still hold the same mystique they did in boyhood and the recent resurgence of funding? interest? hype? regarding space travel is something he follows closely.

This sets the stage for the conversation we had in bed a few nights ago when Doug turned to me and said, "Would you like to send your artwork to space?"

"Pardon?" I asked, putting down a thick tome of Faulkner I've been working on for a month now.

"NASA is sending a spacecraft to the asteroid Bennu. They want to send art with it."

"They're going to put art on an asteroid?"

"No, they're sending submissions on a drive aboard the spacecraft. It will carry the drive into space when it collects a sample of Bennu."


"I'm not sure. I haven't read it all. Can I send an image of your work?"


And so on. I still don't fully understand what is happening, other than that an image of my work is going to be placed on a drive which will travel through space to an asteroid named Bennu and Doug is really excited about it.

So here is Doug's own explanation:

I read a lot of technology news and was amazed to discover that NASA is accepting artwork for their OSIRIS -REx mission to an asteroid, back to earth orbit and then to circle the sun forever. The submissions are digital images stored on digital medium. A fascinating initiative! After getting Kathy to buy into the crazy scheme, the artwork has been submitted and is going to space forever! Kathy is representing fibre artists of the planet Earth!

Doug and I agreed that, with it's Fibonacci spiral and discovery based theme, 'She Goes but Softly, but She Goeth Sure' best fit the exploration mandate.

So this image of my artwork is about to be sent on a journey through space.

She Goes but Softly, but She Goeth Sure, 24 x 24 x 1.5, Peruvian Wool and Beeswax on Birchwood
I have to thank Doug for the fact that I will soon be able to say that my artwork was sent to space and I am not only an internationally known artist, but interstellar as well.  

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Monday, February 22, 2016

On Finishing and The Gordon Lightfoot's Greatest Hits Phenomenon

I admit it.  I used to have completion issues. My arts and crafts basket shelf closet studio used to be packed with almost finished and barely started projects.

Not any more, my friends. Or, to be truthful, not as often. In my ripening age, I have successfully mind hacked myself to reduce the number of UFO's showing up in my skies.

Exhibit A. 'Stranded Home' is an experimental piece that I started over a year ago. I was thinking about subject matter that naturally lends itself to a fibre medium. In early 2015, our house sold with a quick closing date and it got packed away. It's been hanging out half-finished in my 'To Finish' pile ever since.

Stranded Home, 6 x 8, Wool and beeswax on panel

Voila! Finished product accompanied by satisfaction, not so much because of the end result, but because it is finished.

And one more former-UFO (that's UnFinished Object, if you're wondering) ready to be released into the wild:

Bark, 6 x 8, Wool, bamboo, and beeswax on panel

Yes, 'Bark' is an unusual piece for me. I was literally studying the texture of bark, allowing myself only black, white and a single grey. While the end result looks very little like bark, there is something intriguing about it. Most importantly, however, I finished it!

So, obviously, I've been thinking a lot about finishing stuff lately and why I can do it now when I spent so many frustrated years getting close, only to stop short with the finish line in sight.

If my life were a movie, this part would be a montage of me throwing tantrums as I tried to force myself to finish something, scraps of fabric and yarn flying around the room in the upheaval before I managed to get a grip, calm down, and finally smile with satisfaction as I completed my first project. Repeat.

The wisdom I acquired through this process can be distilled into two points:

  1. Finishing for finishing's sake has merit. What do I mean by this? I am a self-learner. Behind most of my projects lurks something I am trying to learn - a technique, a subject, a 'what happens if I do this?'. Once I had answered that question to my satisfaction (or thought I had), I would quit, thinking I had achieved my goal. But not so. Until a piece is declared finished, there is always more to learn. And finishing things is like eating broccoli - it's good for you and builds strong bones.
  2. Every work does not have to be a masterpiece (aka 'The Gordon Lightfoot's Greatest Hits Phenomenon'.) In our world of ready access to all things 'greatest' - greatest art, greatest music, greatest people* - it is easy to forget or even be unaware of the maybe not so great work that goes on. We see only the greatest hits. And maybe we feel like everything we do has to be a greatest hit too. And if it's not, why bother finishing? You know the answer. I know you do. It's because there is value in the process. Because we learn from every piece. Because hits can't exist without the misses.
What does Gordon Lightfoot have to do with it? His music brought this lesson home to me, as follows:

I love Gordon Lightfoot's greatest hits. Don't judge me. 'If You Could Read My Mind' is perfect understated tragedy. So I decided to listen to everything he ever recorded. And, to be honest, I wasn't crazy about most of it. I preferred his 'greatest' stuff. Which is when it dawned on me that there is a reason why those ARE his greatest hits. Because they are thought to be the best of what he did. And he did some other stuff too that was maybe not so good.

So, if Gordon Lightfoot can have some hits and also some misses, why can't I? That doesn't mean I don't finish something if I think it might not be a masterpiece. It means I finish it, learn what I can from it, and move on. And over time, after years of practising my art or craft or whatever you want to call it, I too will have a body of greatest hits. Woo hoo!

But that can't happen, if I never finish anything.

* 'Greatest' is an odd word when you think about it. Isn't it like saying 'bestest'? Okay, I guess not - great, greater, greatest vs. good, better, best....but still, it sounds weird.  Just sayin'...

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Boy, I just barely squeaked in a New Year post. Happy 2016! Happy last day of January!

I kicked January off with some highly productive visualization and goal setting sessions. My Google calendar is all set up to reach out and tickle me weekly, monthly, and annually to keep me focused and on schedule.

But it's never all work and no play. I have also been enjoying frosty walks around Lake Victoria here in Stratford, watching the ice form and melt, form and melt...The colours and textures are inspiring and ducks on ice are fun to watch.

Ice forming on Lake Victoria, Stratford, ON.
Snow flecks on ice. Imagine this in yarn!

Black, blue, white. And check out that sky!

Once my January planning-fest was finished, I turned my attention to my first task of 2016, which was planning (yes, more of it!) my workshops for the Waterloo Region Fibre Arts Festival coming up in May (details coming soon).

This will be the first time I've attempted to teach my technique, so I needed to do some experimenting to figure out what we could reasonably expect to accomplish in a couple of hours.

My original thought was to provide a few designs that people could choose from to work on during the workshop. Linear designs can be less time consuming, so my first idea was a simple beach scene.

A Little Beach, Wool and Beeswax on Canvas Board, 5 x 7
I was surprised to discover this piece took way to long for a workshop - more like 8 hours.  So I tried again, this time thinking that a large, simple plant that required fewer colour changes might be the ticket.

Here is attempt number two:

Wild Strawberry - Unfinished, Wool and Beeswax on Canvas Boards, 5 x 7
Notice that I didn't even finish it! Five hours in I realized this also would take too long. I will finish it someday, but I was focused on my task of coming up with a plan for the workshop.

It was time to step back and do a little desperate thinking. What could be reasonable completed in a workshop setting that would allow participants to try out the skills, be interesting to work on, and present a meaningful completed piece? What had I started with? That, as it turned out, was the golden question.

The first piece I ever completed was this one:

Completion, Wool and Beeswax on Canvas Board, 12 x 12
I named it 'Completion' because I was so excited that I actually finished it! Follow through was a struggle for me at that point in my life.

So how about a mini-mandala as a workshop theme? I loved it, mainly because it allows participants to create their own design rather than following one of mine. Everybody's piece can be different.

So I tried a sample to check the timing:

Mini-Mandala #1, Wool and Beeswax on Canvas Board, 5 x 7
Sure enough, I just about finished in a few hours. Close enough that people can finish it off at home.

Why does a mandala take less time than a little beach scene or a small plant? I have no idea.

But it works. It's fun. It lets people express their own ideas and exercise lots of choice, while learning the skills and techniques of applying yarn to beeswax.

And that is what it is all about.

Stay posted for more details about the Waterloo Region Fibre Arts Festival, the solo exhibition of my work and the workshops.

And, if I'm not too late to squeak it in, sincere happy new year wishes to you all!