Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Guest Editor: Norman Bear



Thanks to Linda, I learned to knit and spin, and made the tie and sweater that I look so really spiffy wearing. Linda took this picture of me last October when we went hiking.

It can be hard to knit when you are a bear because the needles are sharp. Spinning is much more fun -- I have my own spindle and I like using it -- but I have a hard time winding on, because my paws are small.

Given a choice, though, if you asked, um, well, I would rather be outside catching a trout or salmon, because they are very tasty. (Well, most fish are!)

I only have beginner knitting skills, but I have a sense of adventure, so I could take the courses that Linda is teaching at Fibre Week at Olds College.

Most hu-mans would have fun at her classes. She likes to laugh when she knits, and she is very patient. Also, I will come up to Olds and show other bears and hu-mans how dashing I am in my handspun and handknit tuxedo at the evening events.

Please come to visit me in Olds: I don't bite much, and I have had my shots.

And if you would like to bring me a fish, that would be OK too.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Bring in the brass monkeys

Naughty Kitten Mitten Orphanage 3

When I was a child, there was always a stretch in January when plugging the car in wasn't good enough, and my dad used to bring the battery into the house to ensure the car would start in the morning.

This is the first winter I can remember in ten years of being back in Calgary where the weather reminds me of those days -- there's actually a lot of snow in January (granted, there wasn't until a week or so ago) and a stretch of really stinking cold weather.

It was nice most of last week, even above freezing yesterday, but turned seriously nasty again this morning, and there are windchill warnings for temperatures of -46C or so over the next day or two. (For you Fahrenheit folks, that's -50F.) Time to dig out my calf-length down-filled coat again to walk to work.

One advantage to this weather is that I really need to give our freezer a good cleaning and the easiest way will be to put everything into boxes out on our deck. Whatever's in the fridge will go into our big cooler, with the heating pad on low, and stashed outside as well.

Lots to do coming up: the next grant application is due in just over two weeks, How to Make a Peacock Fly to finish, What I Felt and The Zebra Book to ship off, and get organized for the two residencies I'm applying for.

For one of those residencies, I'm going to repitch (and recast) My Past Life, which is turning into a seriously major undertaking. Between the spinning, design, and knitting on the fibre side, not to mention the book end of things. It demands time, and space, and serious pursuit of technologies I don't have at home and don't possess the technical skill to execute.

Well, yet, anyway.

Saturday, 19 January 2008


Bear 2

When I was a kid, I remember seeing a lot of these signs around at independent car-repair shops: we had a series of older cars in those days, and they frequently needed fixing, I guess. grin

I've been keeping an eye out to see if there was one in good shape that still existed locally, and finally discovered the one pictured above. Actually, in the case of this sign, I think the more appropriate term would be rediscovered, as it's located close to where my dad used to work in the 1960s, which fits with my memories of that era.

Imagine my surprise, when we were in Vancouver last November, to discover a series of three cast printers' ornaments (below) designed by Jim Rimmer (type designer extraordinaire) that featured this little guy who I remembered so well.

Letterpress Bears

Some good news on the grant-writing front: I received some excellent feedback on my rejected submission from early last fall. As I suspected, the fact that I had to work up an extensive budget to encompass three possible outcomes (acceptance to Residency #1, acceptance to Residency #2, alternative to residencies to complete project) was too complex for the jury.

I can fully understand that -- it was a major pain to write and organize -- but there is a requirement to show two other options if the main request is for a residency that one has yet to receive an acceptance for. Seems strange to ask for the alternatives if a jury isn't willing (or able) to take the time to read through it in the first place.

Oh well. Other than that, it got great reviews, and the proposal I have for the next deadline (February 15) is much more concise, as well as cheaper to fund.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

At Last!

What I Felt, The Book

(No, I won't burst into song with "my love has come along.")

It's taken longer than I wanted, but finally What I Felt is done. Amazingly, the final two books (I've had to build four to get one saleable copy and an artist proof that I'm not embarrassed of) went very well: practice, in this case, has certainly improved my technique, particularly with gluing the translucent silk paper used on the cover (above, bottom right).

And since I knew I would be using PVA with the silk paper (and regular paste for the rest of the work), I decided to kill two birds with one stone and also build a model of the box I want to use to enclose How to Make a Peacock Fly.

While cutting the 11 pieces of book board needed, I realized I was running out of blades for my Olfa knife. So off I went to our neighbourhood DIY box store, where I got a great deal: 50 blades for $25.99, instead of the usual 10 blades for $6.99.

Inspired by my parsimoniousness (I hope!), construction of the box was simplicity itself, even though it's a little unorthodox: I like to think of it as the love child resulting from a mating between a regular two-part lipped base box and a Japanese hinged box.

It lets me have a good space for the dressed fishing hook to sit unencumbered, as well as have a separate storage area for the accompanying boustrophedon (ox-plow) book that will accompany it.

Models for each of the three components of this project now exist, and I have just under a month to finish it for an upcoming show at Arts on Atlantic.

As easy as the box was to construct in the end, the gestation was long and problematic: I thought of a range of concepts, including making a box where all four sides would drop down, a display niche, and even a miniature bookshelf.

What I ended up with was not only reasonable easy to construct, but even built on a course I took in Japanese box-making 18 months ago.

(The best part of doing all of this is that the final glue-up was done while 84 Charing Cross Road ran on our television -- a classic film for anyone who likes any combination of books, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Tottenham Hotspurs.)

So it was a busy, but productive week, and will likely be the template for more of the same in the next three months.

I can only hope they will be as successful as the previous seven days.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

And to all, a good year

Star Light

I made this ornament sometime in elementary school, when I was trusted to use a pin in an appropriate manner.

It hung on my parents' Christmas tree for years, and now it graces mine. You can't tell from the picture, but the foam is pretty deteriorated, and it's pretty fragile.

Along with some glass hummingbirds my mother had from before she was married, and a couple of other ornaments I remember buying with my folks as a child, these treasures hold a special pride-of-place on my tree.

Over the years, I've accumulated a lot of Christmas stuff, and when we bought a small artificial tree two years ago, I realized that most of the newer dust-collectors just wouldn't fit and I boxed up a bunch of them and stashed them away. The old ones are those that I want to see every year.

A quiet New Year's in our home, but there's lots of work to be done in the next four months. Books (What I Felt and How to Make a Peacock Fly) to be built, forms to be filled out and sent in, the Pacific Festival of the Book in Victoria to attend, and a grant to be received (I hope!) to pay for two weeks of formal bookbinding education to be had at The School for Formal Bookbinding in eastern Pennsylvania.

Busy (but fun) times ahead.

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