Tuesday, November 12, 2013

fall season

It's been a busy few weeks as October turns into November.  I drove to Sackville New Brunswick (the little town that could) to attend the Heart and Pocket Review as part of the Handmade Assembly conference. Organized by Struts Artist Run Centre and the Owens Gallery (Mt. Allison University), Handmade Assembly is the third annual conference all about craft in contemporary art practice.

I've visited Sackville many times, but have never walked the Waterfowl Park trail in the center of town: a wooden boardwalk winding its way over the Tantramar Marsh.  This visit I had some time to kill when I arrived on a sunny Friday afternoon, and was blown away by the beauty of this trail.

As part of Handmade assembly, the Heart and Pocket Review was a one day craft fair held at the Royal Canadian Legion, and all I have to say is thank you Sackville!!  I did the same show two and a half years ago and the fine folks of Sackville were very supportive then, but this time the fair far exceeded my expectations - in fact once I was home and back in my studio, I had to chain myself to my loom (not literally) to make sure I would have enough inventory for my next show two weeks later.  Thank you to everyone who came out in Sackville, bought a scarf, a pouch, a tea towel or a baby blanket and gave me such positive feedback about my work.  I will see you in Sackville next year....

I also had the chance to test drive a new booth set-up.  I realized back in September that all three shows I am doing this fall do not supply pole and drapes.  Since 2007, my booth set-up has depended upon the pole and drape system to suspend my display racks.  I was worried that I was going to have to sacrifice a precious week of weaving time to designing and building a new booth display.  But, a week before I was heading to Sackville, I had a stroke of luck.  We were checking out the second-hand furniture at our local Habitat for Humanity store, and we discovered a cardboard box full of what looked like giant Tinker Toys:  lots and lot of thick wooden dowels and wooden balls with drilled holes, as well as masonite shelves painted white.  Damien was thinking "sculpture", and I was thinking "multi-configurable booth display".  I used it on a table top in Sackville and it worked great - lots of space for hanging my scarves and shelves for surface display.

While in Sackville, I stayed with the parents of Joanna Close, a fellow textile artist and good friend who lives in Halifax and who came up for the show along with Kat Frick Miller, an artist and illustrator living in Lunenburg, NS and also a fellow Halifax Crafter.  Ellen and David Close live outside of Moncton and they took very good care of us - we were very well fed.  Joanna has moved away from production weaving and is focusing her efforts these days on illustration, producing beautiful watercolour cards...the ones pictured above feature the provincial flowers of all the provinces in Canada.

The fair was made up of a variety of craftspeople, some just starting out and trying out different materials and techniques.  I was very taken by this knitted red fox sculpture one of the other vendors had on display.

When I returned to PEI from Sackville on a rainy Sunday afternoon, we attended an artist talk by Canadian ceramic superstar Jack Sures at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.  He has an incredible retrospective exhibition there called Tactile Desires.  His sense of play and love of materials was contagious and I came away from the talk re-invigorated to play within the materiality and processes of my own textile medium.
One way to play and produce more product for upcoming craft fairs was weft ikat scarves.  I have been doing warp ikat scarves for a while now, but weft ikat seemed to require a little more planning and mathematical calculations.  So, I decided to just do a small production run of eight scarves to get a sense of the work required to produced weft patterned ikat.  To make the process more efficient, I think I need to design and build a skein winder adjustable by small increments...this will take some research! 
In the meantime, I produced eight weft ikat scarves in raw silk, cotton and wool.  The weft is the raw silk, and the yarn has been ikat dyed to create unique patterning such as the elongated repeat diamonds in the photos below.


This past weekend, I did the PEI Crafts Council Christmas Fair.  I got to try out my new booth set-up on the floor this time and it worked great:  I loved the multi-levels I can create and I was very happy that my lamps were able to clamp onto the round wooden dowels.  I had a great spot in Memorial Hall at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, lots of natural light.  A big thank to to the Crafts Council for organizing a great show, and thank you to everyone who bought a Marshall Arts textile.


All weekend at the PEI Crafts Council Fair, I was sitting across the the Pembroke Farms booth.  Pembroke Farms is a sheep farm run by Lorna and Brian McMaster outside Murray Harbour, PEI.  They have all sorts of beautiful wool products, including full sheepskins from their own breed of sheep (Pembroke breed).  On the last day of the fair, I decided I needed to buy one as a gift for our school house: a one of a kind extra large, curly, Pembroke sheepskin.  Perfect for curling up on in front of the wood stove, something we will have forever...our cat Luigi seems to love it too.