Monday, January 31, 2011

thinking of beaches on the last day of January

Well, I'm officially down for the count and out with a cold. I spent the last four days with a congested chest, and then finally yesterday, it turned into a full fledged head cold: runny nose, sneezing, coughing - the whole works. Before yesterday, I still had some decent daytime energy and managed to spin up a whole bunch of one ply wool and then do some batches of natural dye. I use onion skins, pomegranite, cochineal, umbilicarium, and alkynet roots. My goal was to create lots of beach colours for my crocheted islands....I am now well stocked.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

island #2

I finished crocheting my second island yesterday. Really, it's my fourth island in two weeks, but my second crocheted island. My goal is for it to be part of a larger piece with multiple islands, connected by patterned cloth water which I'm planning to weave. I will present the two crocheted islands this afternoon in the NSCAD class I'm sitting in on.

This second one is loosely based on an island up the eastern shore of N.S. that I found exploring the coastline using Google Earth. It's not necessary that these pieces be exact replicas of existing islands - it's more important that I create a landscape that really compels the viewer to ponder the vulnerability of coastal landscapes.

My father told me the other day that a study recently completed by my uncle (an environmental engineer) has predicted that with current rates of sea level rise, Prince Edward Island will be divided into four islands 100 years from now.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

meditations in an emergency

Last night was the opening of Damien's solo grad exhibition at the Anna Leonowens Gallery at NSCAD University. Damien Worth is my partner/boyfriend/artist buddy and is about to graduate with his BFA in April. Here he is below, smiling and talking at his show last night...

His exhibition is called "Meditations in an Emergency" and is made up of paintings, a body of work done over the past year while he's been a student. Here's a little bit from his artist statement to put his paintings in context:

'My current work investigates the interactions and intrusions of human situations within a "world in crisis" through the medium of paint. Themes of apocolypse, rebirth, and the mechanics of how we navigate environmental and constructed landscapes are expressed in a variety of approaches, from abstracted geometric forms, to representational mythic/historical narratives. Atmospheric landscapes are at once built and destroyed through a material exploration of paint application. In turn, the act of permitting accidents and chance to remain and be "controlled" in these turbulent situations allows for allegories to emerge that relate processes of material manipulation to the cultivation of manufactured and augmented landscapes.'

Last night was one of the coldest we've had so far this winter (-27 celsius with the wind chill), but lots of people came out for the exhibition openings (there were three other shows opening last night at the Anna Leonowens as well). Damien's exhibit is up until Saturday, January 29th.
For more info about his work, check out his artist website.

Friday, January 21, 2011

inch by inch

Yesterday I plowed ahead and devoted a full work day to crocheting an island. I took out most of what I had started the other day, looked up some islands on Google Earth (St. Peter's Island, Pictou Island) to sketch contours and colour blocking, and began again. By last night, my hands and wrists were aching, but I had one island complete.

This morning I hand-washed it to felt it up a little and now I have it "blocked" to dry. By blocking I mean that while it is damp from washing, I have stretched it out and pinned it down while inserting supports under the island part - hopefully when it dries, this shaping will stay because of the density of the crocheted cloth.

I'm now thinking of crocheting one or two more islands, and thinking of how to adress to water to emphasize its difference from the land in a way that will connect the individual islands.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

island exploration

I've been plugging away the last few days, exploring different materials and construction techniques for making islands. Trying to sculpt with cloth using embroidery, keeping the colours simple and referential.

Last night I started crocheting an island using my hand-spun, hand-dyed wool (one ply, a mix of plain old wool fleece and super soft merino). I used to crochet quite a bit while I was a student, mostly making warm wool hats to sell, and that experience has taught me a fair bit about how to control 3-dimensional shapes using the simple single crochet stitch. Right now I'm just seeing where these explorations will take me, but as I work away the piece is starting to form itself in my mind: I imagine a series of small islands connected by water, with power lines stetching between the islands as if the sea-level has risen and changed what used to be a solid mass of land....

Monday, January 17, 2011

sketch read write

Thinking about the layering of rock and sediment. Layers folded upon each other, suspended with tension and slack.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

my first island

After reading and researching and looking for the last two weeks, I finally dove in and started working through my ideas in a tangible way. Earlier this week, I was feeling a bit paralyzed by the prospect of making a concrete decision about where I wanted this project to take me. Bouncing different unformed ideas around in my head until I was feeling more apprehensive about how I wanted to approach the geology, geography, shorelines, and sea level rise in my work.

By Thursday, I realized I had to start making something - reading and researching was becoming a procrastination method. It didn't have to be big, in fact it was probably a better (and less intimidating) if I started small and thought of this first piece like a maquette: a way to work through the construction and details and hone my process.

And what I want to make is islands. Little islands, bigger islands, some islands based on real islands, some composites from my imagination and research. And if I want to make islands, I have to figure out how I want to make them. So, here is my first, pretty simple and round, only about 10'" wide. The embroidery has absorbed my last day or two because I made the island all out of yellow canvas to begin with and I really want to emphasize the differences between the cliffs and the green space for my own understanding of this project.

What I really want to do next is weave the cloth for each geographical area and then construct the island, having a lot of the texture and colour already inherent in the cloth and embellishing a minimum amount. I've already learned so much through the simple act of making this....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

sable island, island of sand

The other night, I started reading the book "A Dune Adrift: the strange origins and curious history of Sable Island" by Marq De Villiers and Sheila Hirtle. An amazing book that explores the history, folklore, geography, geology and biology of this small cresent shaped island balanced on the edge of the continental shelf off the coast of Nova Scotia.

There are many reasons why Sable Island is such fodder for the imagination. The two reasons it is most well known for are 1/ its wild horses (brought there by mariners in the 1750s), and 2/ it is notorious for being the graveyard of the Atlantic as ships have become stranded and shipwrecked since the 1500s on the shallow bars that extend far from each end of the isle. But, what I'm discovering in reading this book is a greater understanding of the forces that shape the physical profile of this island: "a beach in the middle of nowhere attached to nothing and apropos of nothing, a beach attached to nothing but beach". "Sable is probably kept in place by the currents. But its mass still depends on the winds".

The island is completely made up of sedimentary sand with no bedrock. The sand dunes are very vulnerable and what hold them (somewhat) in place is the vegetaion of maram grass and other bushes. A single wind storm can drastically re-shape the terrain. And because of a combination of ocean currents and winds, the island is moving further and further eastwards, and may one day be pitched over the edge of the continental shelf.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

maps and the fragile coast

Since last Friday, I've been refining the making of a homemade frame loom. I want to be able to bring a small loom with me to the NSCAD class I'm sitting in on, and get away from being chained to my stationary floor looms. My original idea was to make small woven studies on my frame loom, and then assemble these pieces into something larger and three dimensional. I'm still working through some of the bugs of my frame loom design and method while keeping in mind that it is a tool to achieve the work I want to make. I find myself getting absorbed into the technology of it, and I have to balance my process-obsessive tendency with my conceptual goals of the work. Today I'm heading to the studio to work through it all....

Joanna and I spent yesterday at the Dalhousie University Library and I found some great resources about the Atlantic coast. The photo below is of a map of the sensitivity of Canada's coast to potential sea level rises.

Friday, January 7, 2011

scarves in the shop

I took a few hours yesterday to photograph and stock my shop. I still have more scarves left over from the craft season and will be listing more in my Etsy shop over the next few weeks. Here is a picture of a wide Wave scarf that I call "lichen and granite", it's now for sale on Etsy (click on side bar at left).

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Before Christmas, Damien told me about a course being offered at NSCAD for the upcoming winter semester that would be a great fit for my 'liminal project'. A studio sculpture class taught by Thierry Delva called "Science into Art". My thinking was that maybe Thierry would allow me to sit in on the class (I don't need the credit) and I could integrate the assignments and dialogue into my art practice this winter.

The class started yesterday afternoon and I went down the NSCAD's port campus fifteen minutes before the class started, found Thierry's office, introduced myself and explained a bit about my work and wanting to sit in the on the class. The registration for the class was originally full, but less than half the students showed up for the first class, so it looks like I'm in.

I think this is just what I need: a weekly 5 hour class that can provide me with structure, dialogue, critiques, and general conceptual stimulation. It gives me the opportunity to discuss ideas within an academic context and will challenge and enhance my own working methods and conceptual practice. Every week we'll be bringing materials to class and working (it is a studio based course) with the expectation of completing a minimum of three projects throughout the semester. One of our first assignments is to make a list of sciences, a simple brainstorming activity. From this list, we will dig for ideas as the basis for our work. It is not a science class, but will use science as a tool in service to contemporary art-making. I'm thinking of building a small frame loom that I can take with me, building components like puzzle pieces that can be made and/or installed into larger works.

On my way home from class yesterday, I picked up a book published by Nova Scotia press Nimbus Publishing called "The Last Billion Years: a Geological History of the Maritime Provinces of Canada", written by the Atlantic Geoscience Society. An amazing resource for understanding the formation and transformation of our coastlines over time.
I also wanted to post an image of a painting by Halifax artist Peter Dykhuis (alos director of Dalhousie Art Gallery) who uses satellite and radar imaging and data to create work. This piece is "datapainting.1 (Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream / WorldCom)"; 2003, encaustic on 14 panels.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

new year

I returned to Halifax on Monday after more than two weeks on PEI. Nice to get back. The last day or two has been spent puttering, cleaning, and re-settling in. And contemplating the winter and spring ahead. I am in the very lucky position right now to have the next five months to devote almost completely to my art practice. The prospect of being able to completely absorb myself in the creation of a new body of work is thrilling, and terrifying at the same time. I bought myself the time through a creation grant that I received from the NS government, and the seasonal money-making nature of my scarf production.

The new work I want to create will explore the liminal spaces of our coastlines, that romantic dangerous space that is always in a state of flux. The work will be textile based, with hand-weaving obviously playing an important role, but I want to push my work into three dimensions integrating new ways of working to really bring my work away from the wall. My art practice requires a very different way of working than my production work. In the next few days, I'm going to have to sit down with a plan for research, play and creation.

While I was on PEI, I made a trip to Belfast Mini Mills. I bought bags of dyed merino fleece which I intend to spin into yarn to use in my work this winter. Aside from producing amazing fibres for sale, Mini Mills also has a few animals frollicking in the sunshine. This time, we saw alpacas, a cow, and a sheep with an extreme underbite.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

home of my dreams

So, today is my last day on PEI before heading back to Halifax tomorrow. Damien and I have only gone to see one house (we canceled our appointment to see that tiny in-town house I posted about the other day after I drove past it and saw that it was surrounded by parking lots and ridiculously tiny), but like a woman obsessed, I keep looking at listings on-line. And today I found the house of my dreams listed on Kijiji. Twenty minutes north east of Charlottetown, it's on a couple of acres, on a hill (safe from sea level rises) and it appears as I would imagine my dream house would after twenty years of sweat equity. And it's only $129,000....still out of our price range, but without the years of renovations that a fixer upper would need.

This is it. I couldn't imagine a better version of the house I see in my mind's eye.

And skylights in the master bedroom.

And not one, but two sunrooms. And a large out-building that could be converted into a studio. What more could we want??