Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Mixed Blessing

First spinning

When I left to go to Chicago and my residency at Ragdale, there were a number of pending items that were just sort of sitting at the back of my mind.


One was the job that I ended up not getting that I've mentioned in a previous post, there was a grant application that needed to be mailed out that I just didn't get a chance to do (it didn't need to be postmarked before November 1), there was another grant application that I was hoping to hear good things from (and heard that immortal word unsuccessful from on Monday), and last, but not least, I was waiting to hear back about a province-wide touring show that I had submitted I will look for you in the forest to.

Square 1

Waiting is not my strong suit: I pace a lot, or knit for longer stretches than my wrists really prefer, or eat, or consume copious quantities of tea or alcohol. Patience may be a virtue, but it ain't one of mine....

The submission form indicated that notifications would be mailed out Monday, November 8, so I would get antsy most mornings before our mail delivery person would come. If s/he passed our mailbox by, I'd get grumpy and retreat into the studio or to the computer: if there was mail, I would beat feet out to grab it, only to find junk mail, or bills, or something for a previous resident.

I will wait for you in the forest -- Side B

After a week, I had pretty much given up hope, and had even found another show to submit it to. Imagine my surprise when I received an email telling me that yes, they did want it....

Well, that's the good news. And as I was able to snag an empty box at my regular art supply place, I've just got to figure out an easy way to get it in and out for shipping to all four venues. Details will be forthcoming.

I will wait for you in the forest -- Side A

But since I've found yet another fibre exhibition opportunity, I need to create a new piece for it, and I've got some sketches and materials ready to start building something new. Oddly enough, if I make the second show, both pieces will be up within a 30-minute drive of each other for most of each run.

I've also sent out a few more proposals, and have several more in various stages waiting for final tweaks before sending them off as well. After that, deadlines tail off a bit, and I'll be back working in the studio, getting ready for my solo show in May.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Midwest Adventure: Ragdale (Part 2)

Friend's Studio

The two large sets of French doors on the right, and three pairs of skylights, were my home for the two weeks I stayed at Ragdale: it's a huge studio -- larger than our home! -- with a sleeping loft tucked away and accessed by a circular staircase. I slept soundly under yet another skylight, watching birds as they flew overhead, and the trees doing the watusi in the high winds we had during my first week.

Ragdale is an amazing place, and I was honoured to share it with some terrific creative artists, writers, and a composer. Dinnertime was filled with thoughtful conversations, much laughter, and exquisite food, all of which I miss now that I've returned to "civilian" life.

(Especially the food: I'm amazed by how much creative energy is sucked out of my brain, thinking about what to make for dinner. And I like to cook!)

Even though I've been back in Calgary for more than a week, I'm still sorting through everything I did and thought about there: here's the work I can photograph:


The top is the reknit of the chess board for My Past Life, a project I've quietly had hibernating for two years: I would have liked to have finished this part earlier and worked on the two reproduction Lewis chessmen that will be part of the installation, but the timing didn't work out as I hoped.

Middle panel is the sheets of paper I made at the studio of my friend Melissa Jay Craig the first afternoon I got into Chicago: click on the picture to view the details on Flickr.

And the bottom panel is one of six cyanotypes I created, thanks to a great kit I bought at American Science and Surplus (worth checking out for the incomparably bad puns in the descriptions), also in Chicago. I've got plans for these, as I'm finally organized in the studio to get back to making artist books.

Even with all of this, and three trips into Chicago to play tourist, I still had time to knit a small installation for this lovely piece of sculpture.

52.02.43 / Acorn cosy

The work I did at Ragdale that I can't illustrate well on the blog is worthy of mention as well, although it's what I'm mostly still trying to sort out.

My brain was pretty burned out after writing three major grants in the weeks before I left, and it was quickly rebooted once I had unpacked my bags and taken a walk out onto the prairie outside my door.

The chessboard, once I got past spending the first day knitting, and then frogging, a good chunk of the first corner, was reasonably mindless knitting, which allowed me to begin to formulate some plans about whether I want to continue doing art full-time, or find work that has such novel things as a regular paycheque and benefits.

I was certainly leaning towards the latter before I left Calgary, but now, I'm not so sure. Truth be told, while I wouldn't mind more money, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be happier as a 9-to-5 commuter clone than I am writing proposals and grant applications.

And, to be honest, while I sat knitting away in the studio, I let my mind wander unfettered through the collection of show submission files I had been accumulating: there were some that I was definitely lukewarm about before I left that I'm much more interested in now, so it might be interesting to see where some of them will take me, both figuratively and literally.

Stay tuned.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Cones

Midwest Adventure: Chicago (Part 1)

Longtime readers may remember my adventure to Pennsylvania in the spring of 2008, and this photo, which bore the caption "one of these days, I've got to spend more time in Chicago...."


Well, that day finally came.

From dining at the one and only Superdawg, complete with rather weird neon green relish,

Mmmm, lunch!

to checking out some of the amazing public art,

The Bean

and indulging in a visit to the original (not the franchises!) Billy Goat Tavern (the inspiration for John Belushi's classic SNL sketch) and yes, I had a cheezborgor and a beer or two.

Cheezborgor, cheezborgor, cheezborgor

I do believe that with all the walking I did, I truly can now refer to it as Sweet Home Chicago.

Sweet Home Chicago

Didn't do everything I wanted in town -- after all, I was there to have my two-week artist residency at Ragdale, and I'll have a separate post about my time and work there -- so I definitely still have a long list of places to go and things to do when I return.

And I will return....

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Scattered reflections, in more ways than one.

Through the looking glass

When I was checking out Nancy Nisbet's Contours in the Crosshairs that ran from September 2 to October 2 at The New Gallery, I was intrigued at the chunks of shattered windshield that formed part of the work.

When the show closed, I went down and brought home forty pieces of varying sizes to play around with -- I have a few ideas of what I'm going to do with these, and look forward to working more with them when I get home.


We harvested our meagre crop of potatoes a few weeks ago: when you consider that they weren't planted until mid-July, had the lawn service try hacking them down, and never even blossomed, I'm happy we had these to enjoy.


I have work in three Artist Trading Card shows this fall/winter: this is the sheet that's on its way to the Richmond Art Gallery's exhibition. Sure wish I was going for their closing celebration in January....

Draining away

Life has felt a bit like this lately.

I know I've been writing a lot about the crazy things that have been happening in the last while. Here are some of the more transient thoughts of late:

1. Calgary is the first major city in North America with a Muslim mayor with our municipal election last night.

2. I've written three large grant applications in the last eight weeks: my brain is burned out.

3. As I come closer and closer to the cusp of "making it" (whatever that means) as an artist, I'm finding that I'm more interested in getting back into a job outside of the arts. I'm not sure why.

4. But I do know that the next two weeks or so will give me a lot of opportunity to think about all of this: I'm on my way to the Second City.

Calgary to Chicago is indeed a "C" change....

Monday, 27 September 2010

Flip-flop fall

There's a front coming in

The calendar may say that October's just around the corner, but we've finally (finally!!!!) started having summer-like weather here. It's been in the 20s C (low 70s for you Fahrenheit-calculators) for the last few days, and looks to stay well above "average" (which is 15-16C/60F) for the next week or so.

Even as I sit here and type in my lonely rustic office, I can smell this fungus that I spotted yesterday when I took leave of the house and went for a wander.


One of our favourite day trips south of Calgary is to Chinook Honey, where once you walk in the door, your olefactory nerves are assaulted with the most overwhelming scent of honey, beeswax, and mead, and that's exactly what thought of when I found it.

Fall is, to my mind, the best season here, particularly when it's like summer.


Take, for example, these larches up at Highwood Pass last weekend, with their transition from bright green through golden.

It must be raindrops #2

It was not the most wonderful for weather: it rained off and on the whole time, and without my gloves, I would have huddled mournfully in the back of the van, waiting for my fellow Flickrites, it was still a great day.

But then again, even a bad day up in the mountains is better than a good day almost anywhere else, except in the studio....

Two sides to every story

Speaking of studio and the office, I've been busy lately. Another grant is out, I shipped more work off to yet another show, and I've got a few more items like that to get through, like finish off another piece for another show (I'm in three this fall, all of which have new work.)

And I'm waiting to hear back from a fourth, which will be recent work, plus spinning up all the yarn I'll need for my residency next month.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

And the winner is....

After the storm

Well, I finally "heard": mostly thumbs-down, but one big thumbs-up.

I will be heading to the Chicago area in October for a two-week artist residency: it's semi-supported (i.e., it doesn't cost the earth, unlike a certain residency program in Alberta), but I do have to get there.

So I'm spending huge chunks of my days writing grant applications (one due next Wednesday) to go, trying to find other ways to pay for airfare, which is now utterly outrageous. In a perfect world, I'd have some time in the area to do some research for the next work in my series of Frank Lloyd Wright artifacts as knitted objects, but given the horrific expense of Chicago hotel rooms as well....

The Fungus Among Us #1

Thus, I am spending far too much time in front of my computer, instead of having a creative life: having to force myself away from the flickering box is difficult until I actually do it, and then I remember why I have to.

Life list check-off

Like going for a walk, and finding a solitary sandpiper Tringa solitáris quietly standing on a rock in the middle of a stormwater outflow.

The Fungus Among Us #4

Or widely varying fungus: the most I can remember seeing in all the years I've lived in Calgary.

Duck synchronized swimming

And these two lady mallard ducks, performing an elegant synchronized swimming routine.

Must. Finish. Grant. Off. Soon.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Do You Feel Lucky?

You've been warned

Any fan of Clint Eastwood's portrayal of Dirty Harry in the original movie (like me, for example) will recognize that line from the opening sequence, where he's got the bad guy trapped on the ground after a bank heist.

But the crook isn't sure if Harry's popped off six shots or only five, and thinks, briefly, about making a break for it. When he decides to give himself up, he looks up at Harry and says I gots to know.

That's my favourite line in that scene.

Breathe in

Probably because I'm the same way: the thing I hate most about job-hunting, as I've been doing lately, is the sending of my CV off and it promptly disappearing off into the electronic void. Given the quantity of applicants, I can understand that if you don't get an interview, you'll probably never hear back, but I actually got an interview for a position three weeks ago.

While I didn't get a second interview (and, in retrospect, realize that it was not a job I would have been happy with), I didn't even get the courtesy of a call or email telling me that I hadn't made it past that round. For a supposedly civilized and well regarded company (whose name I won't mention here), I certainly wasn't impressed with the interview I did get, which was conducted by two young women who, I suspect, had neither a background in "human resources" nor any previous experience in interviewing anyone for anything.

Out back

The "waiting for the phone to ring" syndrome never seems to go away: right now, I spend my mornings alternately dreading and gleefully anticipating the arrival of our postal carrier as I wait for word about a residency I applied for: I made it as far as the waiting list for the summer session, and have hopes of getting an offer for the fall. At least, part of me has "hopes": a much larger part wants to get back to work and make money.

But I gots to know.

Chilling out

Meanwhile, I get ambitious with the camera from time to time, and I've been working on a series of pictures that I'm going to "do something" with: the ones on this blog post aren't them though, but a few shots from during and after Stampede.

Which way is the buffet?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

And the wheel goes 'round

Tour de Fleece 2010 Stash

Today was Stage 1 of the Tour de France, the annual cycling extravaganza in France, despite having yesterday's prologue in Rotterdam, and today's stage, which went through Antwerp on the way to Brussels.

In this house, that means it's time for the Tour de Fleece, the annual spinning marathon I do through Ravelry: I've graduated to being an administrator on the group this year (I was a moderator last year), and this year's project is to spin everything in the photo above.

From left to right:

1.5 lb. grey Shetland/Icelandic fleece: it's got the double coat (tog and thel) of an Icelandic, but the outer coat is lovely and soft like a Shetland.
I'm spinning this by pulling out individual locks, drafting them into a piece of fluff that will let me spin both coats together for subtle shading. This will be turned into a three-ply yarn.
.5 oz plucked Giant Angora rabbit fur: I've had this box since the mid-1990s, when I first learned to spin.
One ply of this, combined with two of the fleece, will be used for trim on the vest I will knit from the yarn.
4 oz. white Polwarth roving: I'll be taking this down to Stampede to spin on my Turkish spindle. I've got 21 hours of demostrations to do starting on Friday, so I figure most of this will get spun up.

Here's how far I got yesterday on the fleece....
Prologue: Rotterdam 8.9 km

As I'm drafting the locks as I go, it's time-consuming, fiddly work, but I think the end result justifies the effort.

But to get caught up since my last entry: here are some of the 18 half-sheets of abaca (a relative of the banana plant) that I made at my papermaking class at the end of May.

Abaca to basics

I haven't quite decided what I'm going to use them for yet (do I want to put photographs on them? Words? A book? Artist trading cards?), but they are lovely to touch....

Had my younger brother-in-law out for a visit a week after the class, and found this cutie when out hiking with him one day.

Curious baby

And I started serious work on the cowboy hat I was invited to decorate that would be auctioned off for Tip Your Hat, to support providing artistic expression at local homeless shelters. Although I haven't painted acrylics seriously for probably fifteen years, I'm really pleased with how it turned out.


The auction is this Thursday: I'm curious to see how well it does.

As mentioned above, I'm back working at my usual place in Ag-tivity in the City down at the Stampede Grounds again: 21 hours of fun, spinning some lovely soft Polwarth roving, answering questions, and taking time to meet as many horses and dogs as possible.

I love that job, and it looks like we're going to have perfect weather for the next two weeks.

Better go do today's Tour de Fleece spinning while I watch the running of the 151st Queen's Plate horse race!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Ridiculous and sublime

Falling down

Ever have one of those days where everything goes wrong?

Yesterday morning was like that for me.

When we got up, the temperature was hovering around the freezing mark, there was some scattered snow on the ground and our truck, and it was precipitating both rain and snow. And windy.

In other words, a thoroughly nasty day, built for staying home with my knitting and the odd nip of brandy poured into my tea.

But I was looking forward to going off for a day of paper-making at a friend's studio, so I roused myself, collected my lunch, thermos of hot tea, and a change of clothes and headed out to the truck, where my (mis)adventures began.

Couldn't find the snow brush, so I started to clean the windshield off with my gloved hands, and promptly stepped into a large, deep puddle. No problem thought I: I'm off to go make paper, and my feet will get wet anyway.

Started up the truck and turned on the defrost. This was a very Bad Move, as the next thing I knew, there was a loud squealing sound and smoke started to come out of the hood. Our air conditioning unit had seized, and the master belt that runs the electrics had fried. Instead of driving over to paper class, I would now have to take transit.

Well, crap I thought -- OK, there were a few well chosen swear words in there too, but this is a family-friendly blog. I removed all the stuff I had loaded into the cab, took them into the house, and tried to call to say I'd be late.

No dialtone on our landline phone. None.

Dug out my cellphone. It had run out of charge, but worked fine once I plugged it in. Called to explain the situation, apologized, and said I'd be there as quickly as I could (and, in fact, made it within an hour).

Old and new

Decided that I'd skip taking my camera and a bag of leather scraps, and while repacking, dropped the thermos. The glass-lined thermos full of pomegranate/raspberry tea. With the tinkle of glass shards ringing in my ears, I quickly picked it up and tossed it into the kitchen sink, leaking hot tea through the dining room and kitchen.

By this point, I was close to tears, but was determined to go anyway. Grabbed my purse and pack, and headed out the door to get to our nearest bus stop. When I got there, laying in the door of the shelter, was a dead sparrow, who had obviously, and unsuccessfully, tried to take a shortcut. I knew how he felt, and again seriously considered just turning around, throwing myself back into bed, and pulling the covers over my head.

Amazingly, I had barely a five-minute wait for the bus, and although I just missed the train downtown, the bus I would have transferred to was the next block away, and so I had a nice, warm ride the rest of the way.

By the time I arrived, I missed the history of paper part of the program, and most of the let's tear these cotton linters up and whizz them in the blender section as well, but quickly started pulling sheets of paper with everyone else, finishing with a nice collection of small abaca and kozo sheets, some large sheets of cotton, one small layered cotton paper with flower petals, and a small cotton sheet with pulp painting.

Much to my amazement, nothing else terrible happened the rest of the day, except that I now have found yet another hobby I could really immerse myself in (hey, I need paper to make books out of!).

But since I didn't take the camera with me, I don't have pictures of the papers, although I will once they are dried and I pick them up next weekend.

And the truck isn't totally doomed: a quick trip to the part supply store will provide a new belt (this is a recurring problem, so we know what needs to be done) and five minutes of installation later, we'll be back on the road. That's tomorrow's grand adventure.

Four months old

But I do have happy pictures to show from last weekend's walk through our neighbourhood park, and am thrilled that my big accomplishment this week was finally organizing the studio and computer area. I'm not done with the latter, but it's now much more useable than it was.

For today, it's time for some knitting, a few sketches for a new book and an installation, a little French Open tennis, and the finish of the Giro d'Italia.

And maybe a tot of brandy in my tea....

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Knock, knock

Is it too early for the studio tour?

Who's there?
Just your friendly neighbourhood hare.

We live about a mile away from a large park, and it's not uncommon at dawn and dusk to see wildlife either coming along the front walk or in our back yard. (Sadly, we also have a large number of cats without collars or licenses as well.) This happy fellow found good browsing right outside my studio window.


As well as wildlife, this is a very artsy neighbourhood, and I was able to go check out Bee Kingdom's really fabulous work at their open house the beginning of the month. I love hot glass, and have taken a few courses: I'm no Dale Chihuly, but I'm more competent in front of a glory hole than I am seated at a sewing machine. Shooting at Bee Kingdom gave me some practice in capturing artwork that I hope I can translate into taking better pictures of my own pieces.

Since I'm now down to the last half-dozen or so boxes from the move, I've started doing more work in the studio, even though I need to spend a full day organizing it so that I can work efficiently. The computer area will be done at the same time, as I've got things sitting in each area that need to be moved to the other end of the hall.

In the interim, however, I've started going out and shooting more photographs: the last two Saturdays have been spent with Cat Schick and other locals, prowling around downtown Calgary. I've adopted a decidedly "art" approach to these trips, as opposed to my usual "documentary" view of shooting. It's been fun, and I've had the opportunity to visit some places I've not been, either "ever" or "for awhile," and shift some internal perceptions.

Which way is up?

Sometimes I'm not sure where I'm going, and it might look a little confused, but it's all starting to sort itself out. I'm working on a new book, figuring out the wording, building models of some different bindings, and thinking about what's important.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

A Sense of Place

The tree
Snow in our new backyard on April 9.

There was a standing joke, when I was doing my Masters, that we had to work in the phrase a sense of place into our defence at least once if we wanted to graduate. Although I wasn't sure how to at first, I found it wasn't all that difficult -- after all, if a hockey arena doesn't scream "sense of place" to a Canadian puckhead, what does?

Place is also the theme of the first episode of a series on BBC Radio Scotland entitled Scotland on Song that I'm listening to as I write this blog entry. Sadly, BBC only keeps programmes like this available for one week after broadcast, and it has now disappeared off iPlayer.

But by strange coincidence, the in-studio guest for this episode is Dougie MacLean, who, until Eyjafjallajökull erupted and UK airspace was closed, which stranded him on that side of the pond, was supposed to be playing a concert here on the 24th. While I'll get a refund on my ticket, I had so been looking forward to seeing him live (again) and going out for a wee dram or two after (helps that the concert promoter is an old friend!).

It was at Dougie's concert here in 2008 that I started working on a project called My Past Life that has periodically hibernated while I thought about how to execute what I saw as the finished piece. I've recently revived more activity on it, as I used the knitting of the two replicate Lewis chessmen as the centrepiece of two residency applications (one rejected, one wait-listed).

I'm anticipating that it will be finished by the end of this year. Cross your fingers!

Pathway Sentinels
Our new neighbourhood park.

And now that we've totally moved to our new home, and I have a studio* to lock myself away in and work, I'm curious to see how this shift in perspective changes what I do: I know that it will definitely impact how things will get done.

(* Referred to by one friend as "The Mad Linda Cave.")

Last Saturday was the first day I managed to not do anything related to packing, or unpacking, or sorting, or recycling, or anything else to do with "the move" and it was so nice to get back to art-relating thinking. Like last year, I took the opportunity to buy a fresh-shorn fleece from a friend's flock, take pictures of happy little lambs, and drop in on the opening of a friend's art show.

Catching rays

A great day for all concerned....

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Thinking inside the box

Better make that boxes....

I hate moving

My magnetic poetry kit on the new refrigerator captures my thoughts from last week.

I'm actually pretty good about packing up the kitchen stuff, especially as we had a good collection of liquor boxes from the neighbourhood purveyor with the inside dividers left in. It's easy enough to pop in our rather large collection of glasses, haul the boxes down two flights, drag them over here, and promptly unpack them.

And, thankfully, the last load of them will be tomorrow, especially as I was finally able to look in the cabinet over the refrigerator to discover my glass chip-and-dip set and a beautiful wooden salad bowl I claimed from the last divorce.

Once they're finally emptied from kitchen duty, those boxes will be pressed into book duty. (All the fibre has been over for awhile, not that I've done much with it. Yet.)

I've got a lot of books. Still. Even after going through a huge purge of them when I left Virginia in 1997 (I'm sure the Fairfax County library system could have stocked an entire building with what we donated!), I've got a lot.

Since moving back here, there's everything I accumulated from grad school, for starters, and since I've been in the old place for nine-plus years, that's meant two changes of computer, and innumerable system and software upgrades. Heck, I finally winnowed out third-party guides for Photoshop 2.5 and a Pocket Pal that dates back to 1995.

Things have changed a bit since then....

In my currently reading pile, I've got three books, all purchased in the last six months, that I finally hauled over this afternoon: they've been sitting on the dining room table and that came over as well today. But I have been much more restrained about book purchasing in the last few years -- fibre too, to be honest -- simply because I had no storage.

Now that we're almost done moving, and I realize how much room we now have, I'm hoping to still keep the buying habit down to a manageable level, especially if I don't buy more shelving.

But as the books are the last of the hardcore moving, I'm hoping the light at the end of the tunnel isn't a train coming towards me.

Guess that means that things are looking up....

Things are looking up

Friday, 12 March 2010

Life, according to Charles Dickens


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

So, at least, begins A Tale of Two Cities, although it's a fine description of what passed for existence here in Chez Miserables when I wrote the last blog entry as well.

Although, to be perfectly accurate, it's been the reverse. Our new-home hunt was going poorly, to say the least, and my studio residency at Art Central was coming to an end, with a bleak future ahead on both fronts.

Of course, to trot out even more clichés, it is always darkest before the dawn, and my previous post was sunk in the depths of despair.

OK, OK, enough suspense: yes, we've found a new home. And it is a home for a change: we are taking over part of a fourplex not far from where I grew up. Room for a studio (and a lovely, sunlit one it is), lots of storage, even a patch of soil for a herb garden: everything we need, most of what we want (no mountain view), and within our budget.

Life is now full of boxes and shuttling back and forth -- we got the key the day before I was set to move out of Art Central, so instead of toting everything back here to Moldville, we simply took it up to Paradise Acres.

And as much as I hate moving, I'm glad to be out of here, as we're now back living in a construction zone....

Time to move on, to create, and host guests, since we will now have room to do that too.

Which brings me to the picture at the top of this message. I did a fairly private project on Flickr last year where I took a photo a week and wrote something about what I had been doing and where I had been. Much to my amazement, I actually completed the whole 52 weeks.

So I started again this year, and I've made it more public. My Art This Week is a weekly picturesof what I'm working on (view the entire collection here). Sometime sublime (like my projects down in the studio) and sometimes ridiculous (like the close-up of a dishcloth for our new home, above), but never dull.

Well, they aren't to me, and I hope they aren't to you, as they are what keeps me sane.

Now that I've got a real studio, I look forward to more sublime works once I get it unpacked. Speaking of which, it's back to sorting, recycling, and getting things ready to take to shredding.

Books for Sale

The shop is currently empty.