Category Archives: Art Projects- Current

Spring is in the Air!!

Happy International Women’s day from the Kerry Farm Ice Rink, where spring is in the air.

How can I tell?

Ravens and magpies are more in evidence, swooping low. Dogs, young and old are chasing the ravens and magpies, even though we all know that dogs can’t fly.

The light is different. The March skies are starting to come.

I can skate and skate and skate until I am tired. Which is different from skating until I freeze!

The trails on our rink are sinuous and meandering, I love to follow their curves. I imagine I am a world famous speed skater (although Iin reality I skate quite slowly!) As I skate I think of the female leaders (from young to old) whose very integrity means they say what they have to say, quietly and succinctly. I am hungry for this kind of integrity in our public life. I think of all of the women in my life – my mother  and mother-in-law and grandmothers and aunts and sisters in law, my cousins, my daughters and their friends, my own friends – the women who have taught me about integrity and so much else. My skating weaves this way and that, giving thanks for all of these women, giving thanks for this day, this place, the very miracle of moving on a thin steel blade across ice.

Mia is digging….a snow sculptor

made in a cake pan, celebrating the last full moon

the layers on the inside of a snow drift

Last week, the North wind blew forming beautiful snowdrifts on the rink. Hello, Snowdrifts…this week I have been coming to know snow drifts, up close and personal. In clearing trails, I notice all of the layers of snow, some with grit in them, others pure white, some soft, some quite hard. Snowdrifts are best removed a layer at a time, and as I make a crack in the snow, the drift separates how it wants to…usually with lovely soft curves, just like the ice rink. Each piece of snowdrift is so beautiful. I place each one carefully along the sides of the paths. They look to me like a line of ancient women…standing in many different postures with the blue bowl of prairie sky as a backdrop. In the book I am reading, Braiding Sweetgrass,  Robin Wall Kimmerer describes learning how to basket weave. As she weaves, she feels as if she participates in “the beginning of a reweaving of the bond between the women and the land.” This is how I feel on the ice rink in a small way – working and playing with what nature gives us, what is already there to co-create something wonderful, and as I am doing it I am befriending  and getting to know the natural world better. In this, too, the women and the children will lead.

I give thanks.

untitled paper collage

Title? No title?

Title or no title? Sometimes, a title for a completed piece of art work pops into my mind, sticks, and voilà – I have a title. Sometimes, as in the piece above, no title comes.

i notice when visiting galleries, that i often look at the title of a work as a way of understanding it better. Perhaps the title offers a clue. Perhaps not.

What would you call this piece? What do you see? What feelings does this piece evoke in you? I would love to hear what your thoughts are, especially before you read on. You can contact me at sue@poachedeggwoman.ca if you have some ideas.

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Here is a little bit about the making of this piece. After a busy fall, I started the New Year excited about creating art simply because I wanted to. My fall was happily busy working on a few commissions or creating pieces for classes I was taking or offering, but always creating for external reasons.

I began like I often do…by spreading out  large and small  paper pieces to see which colours grabbed me. First came the deep aquamarine or teal.

Then oranges, copper, turquoise, periwinkle, navy, fuschia, aqua, violet, yellow. Wheat paste scraps from Barbara, the deep  ultramarine a gift from Tania and Kami Jo, old shiny gift wrap, block printed scraps that have been my treasure for decades. Envelopes, shiny scraps, marbled paper. I played with these pieces of paper, tearing them, cutting them, arranging them this way and that. I glued two shapes together composed of pieces of these colours, but glued nothing down. Free floating shapes and scraps.  Pure pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

The yellow wheat paste scraps suggested houses, so I thought, why not? I assembled all my scraps of paper on to different coloured backgrounds – orange, navy, teal.

 

Trying different backgrounds - orangeTrying different backgrounds - navyThe  two shapes consisting of torn scraps seemed to need orange backgrounds. The shapes seemed to me to be related is some way. They wanted to dance together. I had so much fun placing the shapes this way and that.  Using scraps of shiny paper, I made ladders. Using cut bits of dyed paper, I cut free floating steps in the air. Using my favourite block print scraps, I created curving and straight roads leading somewhere and leading nowhere. I felt the need for connections of one kind or another between the two shapes.

The world is reconfiguring. It has flown apart, with houses being upended and leaving earth. With new and surprising connections emerging.Collage before gluing down with a tree which was not used

 

I cut out trees, considered people, birds – none of them felt right. Somehow, stars did.final collage

The world is flying apart, and being reconfigured, and I feel full of hope. Too long for a title though!!

A week or so later, I read Shayla Wright’s post, entitled “The River Beneath the River”. Shayla Wright is a coach, spiritual mentor and facilitator based in Victoria, B.C. She posts “Lifeletters” on her website Wide Awake Heart which have nurtured and sustained me for the past year. In part of her post, Shayla beautifully articulates some of what I was feeling as I was rearranging colourful scraps of paper on an ultramarine background.

“It feels clear to me that we will not make our way through the mess we are in now, without our higher capacities. On a collective human level we are numb, fragmented, violent, and helpless. We have lost our way. Only a deep integration of our human and spiritual natures can help us face the enormous crisis that stands before us. Meditation is not going to do it. Activism is not going to do it. Our collective human evolution stands at a threshold. We have actually entered a liminal space, without a clear intention to do so. In the liminal space, we stand between the worlds. There is no solid ground. The liminal is the in-between space, the space where things pass away, the space into which new life emerges. We are standing there now, or perhaps, not standing. Maybe crawling, stumbling towards a future possibility we can barely see or hear. This future possibility is not only something we are moving towards-it is calling us. It has a magnetism. It is our strange attractor. It is asking us to become whole, to meet this moment with all of who we are. To embrace that which we have shut away. To step out of our bubbles, and travel into the unknown, the borderlands, the wild places inside us and out, what we have been avoiding.

The soul has a wild nature. It is not domesticated. It knows how to walk in the liminal space, where that which is known and familiar has fallen away. It sees in the darkness. It can hear whispers long forgotten, voices that are half formed, waiting for someone to listen and bring them into the light of day…”

Still, no title. But, it’s something to do with that liminal space, that Shayla Wright calls “in between space, the space where things pass away, the space into which new life emerges.” The colours and dance of the papers as I played with this piece spoke to me of not knowing, of confusion and uncertainty, of hope, of delight, of surprise, and wonder.

 

Rice Paper Birds

Sometimes a new piece of paper can suggest a new direction, or a new way of seeing things. Such is the case with a gift of the most delicate pale blue translucent paper my daughter Laurel brought me from Toronto. For a while I just admired it hanging in the window with other strips of translucent paper being hung over it for effect. Eventually, two new pieces took shape.

I love flocks of rice paper birds. Playing with such sheer papers encouraged me to focus more on the abstract shapes of birds and the spaces between them (and less on the individual birds).

The birds don’t alter space.
They reveal it. The sky
never fills with any
leftover flying. They leave
nothing to trace. It is our own
astonishment collects
in chill air. Be glad

(Li-Young Lee ‘Praise Them’)

Dolores and Alma

Dolores, left and Alma, right with "Four Directions"

Dolores, left and Alma, right with “Four Directions”

I want to share this simple, sweet story.

One of things I like about hosting my own art show is that I witness when a person falls in love with a piece of art. On the second day of my show, my friend Alma told me that she loved  a watercolour painting called “Four Directions” and that maybe she could afford  to buy it in September. This was a painting I had begun for a specific project. Partway through painting this piece I learned that my art was not what the client had in mind. Funny thing, this piece had moved right into me, stirred me up  and I needed to finish it for myself – project or no project. I couldn’t not finish it! I was so delighted that it touched Alma.

I woke up the next morning with one thought. It seemed to me that the painting should be Alma’s. When I arrived at the show, I put a “sold” marker on it.

Enter my friend Dolores. When Dolores first saw “Four Directions”, her hand went to her heart and she said, ” I want to buy this painting. I just love it.” I told her about Alma.fullsizeoutput_1a4a

I pondered this the next few days and phoned Dolores with a proposition to loan her the painting for four months until Alma’s birthday, at which time I would offer it to Alma.

I intended to pick it up from Dolores and deliver to Alma, as a surprise. Then I had a better idea. These two women had at least two things in common, so I asked Alma to come and meet my friend Dolores, which she did. She didn’t even ask why!

It was the sweetest get together. These two elders have each meant so much to me, as friends and as teachers. Alma is also my relative now, by the sweet virtue of my daughter and her grandson falling in love. Alma was the presiding elder at the first women’s sweats I ever attended. We have known each other for many years. Alma offers her wisdom and knowledge, her love for her native Cree language and the teaching embedded in it to many people of all ages and all nations. Alma’s voice soothes and gentles  me.  My friend Dolores epitomizes hospitality, the generous heart. I can talk to her about almost anything. Her hospitality comes as naturally as breath. She is a listener. I always leave her home feeling nurtured and treasured, not to mention well-fed. To sit in Dolores’s welcoming home, enjoying cookies and tea while these two wonderful women got to know each other was more dear than I can say.

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Dolores, Alma, Sue with Cherie Westmoreland photo in the background

Dolores gave Alma homemade socks. We shared stories. We took a selfie! Alma carefully carried away her painting wrapped in the garbage bag Dolores had given her. The gratitude and warmth I felt for these moments and the gifts of these two women in my life expanded into the next day, and the next, and today as well.

This post is dedicated to my own mum, Alice Sylvia Frith Bland, who died 20 years ago on Hallowe’en. I feel her presence and love often. I am grateful to all the mother figures who have blessed my life, and who continue to bless it. Thank you. Hiy Hiy.

Commission

 

Definition:

An order for something, especially a work of art, to be produced specially:
Mozart at last received a commission to write an opera

My Definition:

A mission which is shared by 2 or more people, with one being the co-creator or maker and the others having creative imput. Sue at last received a commission to create a rice paper panel in consultation with those who commissioned it.

The mission:

To create a beautiful rice paper plexiglass panel for a bathroom window that would serve as a kind of “curtain” or blind so that people outdoors could not see in to the bathroom.

How we worked together:

We knew two things at the beginning – the size of the window (which suggested the size of the plexiglass panel) and that we wanted colourful rice paper birds to be a part of it. Because the window looks out to trees (bare branches in winter), we decided to create branches for the birds. The branches would be bare in winter while in spring they would be enlivened with the green foliage that could be seen through the clear parts of the plexiglass.

My Part:

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Creating a template for the branches

Tracing the template on to Brown Silk Ashiro Paper

Tracing the template on to Brown Silk Ashiro Paper

Trying the branches in the window

Trying the branches in the window

Trying simpler branches

Trying  a simpler branch

Rejecting the simpler branch

Rejecting the simpler branch

 

I taped the branch with a simple arrangement of birds to the cottage

I taped the branch with a simple arrangement of birds on the plexiglass. Here it is in its “destination window”.

Time to Consult:

I taped the branch and some birds to the plexiglass and brought a whole handful of extra rice paper birds. The couple I was working wanted more birds, especially at the bottom, and especially more birds with red on them to pick up the colour of the bathroom walls. We also hit a problem: you could see through the panel into the bathroom. We hoped that more birds clustered at the bottom would help solve this problem.

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I created more red birds and sent them mock ups of different arrangements of birds on the tree

I created more red birds and sent them mock ups of different arrangements of birds on the tree. This is #3.

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This is # 6, the version the couple chose.

The next part is the finnicky part. The branches and the birds need to be affixed to the plexiglass. I do this using “zots” – tiny glue spots. The design of the branches that overlaps with the bird is cut out so that the overall design is not too intricate and each birds colour shows well. A few birds, such as the red one, on the bottom left, are left with the branches criss crossing their colour. It takes a couple of hours  and a lot of patience for this stage.

Attaching the birds and branches to the plexi glass

Attaching the birds and branches to the plexi glass

Then the 2 panels of plexiglass are screwed together, fishing line is attached to the top screws so that the piece can be hung and it is ready for delivery. Because plexiglass panels shift in different lights and through different seasons, they need be lived with for a while to be truly appreciated.

Some of the challenges in creating rice paper collages in plexi glass are:

  • Can the two pieces of plexi glass be sealed so that there is no condensation in a bathroom? Someone has suggested using acetone and I am going to try this.
  • A plexi panel is like a see through shirt- not everything is hidden. I have used rice paper backgrounds but then you lose the beauty of seeing what is really beyond the window.We did cluster birds at the bottom, but this did not work as well as we had hoped.
  • Plexiglass is great stuff but it picks up dust and tiny bits of whatever – how to reduce its static qualities?

Each new art piece is an adventure for me. I welcome any knowledge or insights. To see more panels, check out http://poachedeggwoman.ca/galleries/rice-paper-glass-collages/

 

 

 

To Barter

bar·ter
ˈbärdər/
verb
1.
exchange (goods or services) for other goods or services without using money.
“he often bartered a meal for drawings”
synonyms: trade, swap, exchange, sell
“they bartered grain for salt”

Barter #1- IT help for a watercolour

Some time ago, I panicked when I could not get into the “dashboard” (where I make changes, add and delete things) of my website. I tried to enter multiple times with the predictable result  that I was locked out. I had that sick feeling when we realize we know very little about something we depend on for so very much. My trouble shooting daughter could not help me out this time.

I put out a plea out on Facebook, and met Ruth, the daughter of a friend who was willing to help. I stopped in late at night, after her long work day.  When it seemed to be a more complicated problem than I thought, I left the computer with her for a sleep over. Alas, just at the edge of the city, Ruth and her husband called – they had solved the problem and I drove back. I could not have been more relieved or grateful. It was not just that they had helped me out, it was they did it with such good grace and good humour, and never showed for an instant that they would rather be doing someting else.

I offered them eggs, honey, money or art. Ruth asked for a watercolour of blue eyed grass. Blue eyed grass grows both in my birth home in Ontario as well as here in Saskatchewan. A small deep blue flower with a yellow centre, it often takes my breath away when I see it in a thatch of grass. It is a surprise, it has the power to get you to stop and bend down and look at it really closely, it is diminutive and unassuming. I have often thought of painting it but didn’t feel I have the mastery to catch its essence.

20151215_101415Usually I plunk myself down beside the flower and like to spend time with it before painting it but of course, it is winter and I cannot. I had a couple of pleasurable times exploring blue eyed grass with my watercolours. I never came close to expressing what I feel about this small wildflower, but I loved trying, and in the trying getting to know it better. I hope to spend more time with it next summer, perhaps on the coulee hills.

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Barter #2 – Children’s Book for Dance Lessons

When Donna asked me if I would be willing to work on a book for her grandson, I said, yes, but not for a fee, for a barter. I had a sense that while I wanted to give this a try, it would take quite a few hours and that a barter made way more sense than money. Donna had the story idea, and in fact had written it down and she and other family members had lots of photos.  It ended up being a combination of a scrapbook and a children’s story focused on one little boy and his nana who have a great and memorable adventure together. The gift in this exchange for me (not unlike the barter above) was how much fun and delight I had putting this together, and how sweet it was to celebrate the loving bond of a little guy and his Nana.

When Donna came to pick up the completed book, she asked what I would like in exchange. She is a very talented person, so I rhymed off “Baking orpickled eggs or started plants in spring or….I have this kind of crazy idea.” “What?” she asked. “Old time dancing lessons. Shane is a wonderful dancer and I am not, but I would love to learn.” That final suggestion made her eyes twinkle, so in spring, when her husband  is off seeding, we are going to push back the furniture in her living room and try a polka or two in her living room!

Because these two barters happened at the same time, I am struck by how much about them is pure gift. In the first case, there is the gift of the help I needed, of the generosity of spirit with which it was offered as well as giving me the chance to paint a flower I might otherwise not have tried. In the second case, it was a gift to be reminded of how I love to work on a project, especially a children’s book. There is the anticipated gift of dance lessons, and of dancing with Shane. On the other side of this equation, Ruth and Donna also both gave and received a gift.

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Creek

 

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“SongLines”, Paper collage and watercolour on watercolour paper, 10″ x 22″

During “Immersed in Nature: A Retreat at Valley View Farm“, a weekend hosted by my friend Debra and I in late August, we considered and explored line, shape and colour. The lines, shapes and colours  that called to us as we explored the natural world.

Much of my preparation for this weekend took place at Pheasant Creek Coulee, a few miles south of our farm. As I sit by the large stone I have come to know as “Grandfather Rock”, I am drawn by the shape of the creek, by the way that it winds and weaves. Again and again, I have drawn or painted or sketched  the creek as it sings and curls its way through the coulee and the hills in which it resides.

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"Pheasant Creek Coulee"

“Pheasant Creek Coulee”

 

 

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During our retreat, I began to play with the shape of the creek, starting with watercolours and eventually adding metallic papers – candy and chocolate wrappers, cigarette foils, origami paper. And there my own simple exploration of line, shape and colour sat for several weeks. I kept thinking “song line”…. it seemed the curves and rhythms of the creek were both outside me and singing deep within my body.

Collage- shape, line

Collage- shape, line, colour

I knew that I wanted the feeling of hills around the creek but not necessarily something representational. I began to play with shapes and contours, with different shades of rusts, browns, coppers, gold…..I wanted to capture the feel of the place, the movement of the hills, the way that this place sings within me, how it feels like  treasure.

Image 6 Image 7Once finished, I took this piece to the place that inspired it to photograph it. Seeing it in the coulee, amidst the rust of the little bluestem grasses, the gold of the aspen leaves, the shadows of the hawthorn and birch seemed somehow right, plus felt incredibly goofy (in a good way) and was just a lot of fun.
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Mornings at the Coulee

I have been thinking back to Julys of years past, a tumble of days at the beach, bonfires at night, gardening, packing and unpacking from camping trips and so much else. Sometimes I would manage just one trip down to the coulee to see the amazing July wildflowers and I would dream of the day that I could spend much more time there in the company of the flowers, and get to know them better.

Unbelievable, but that time has come! With an (almost) empty nest and no faraway trips planned, I have been slipping down to Pheasant Creek Coulee at 6 or 6:30 many mornings and staying for a few hours until the sun gets too hot. I bring a thermos of ginger tea, a knapsack of watercolour supplies, some sage to start with a smudge and not much else. When I am done, I pick wild Saskatoons from the bushes at the top of the hills. It is my version of paradise.

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Prairie Coneflowers

Prairie Coneflowers

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Raising the Roof

IMG_2164My summer plan was to stop creating collages for a while, and focus a little more on watercolour painting. Then, this beautiful blue lining from an envelope Jessie received  with a grad card captured my heart. The paper is silky, the geometric patterns simple, the different blues thrill me. The envelope lining is almost perfect – just a slight tear. It beckons me from my work table every time I pass. It wants to be a house. So, I put the watercolours aside and pull out my scissors.

envelope lining - to die for

envelope lining – to die for

envelope lining becomes a house

envelope lining becomes a house

trying different background papers

trying different background papers

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I try the house with the roof on and it doesn’t look right. So I raise the roof a bit…. suddenly in the new space created I can see that a tree wants to grow – a golden tree. I find the perfect gold foil – the wrapper from an expensive chocolate bar.

a tree begins to grow from beautiful and fragile gold foil

a tree begins to grow from beautiful and fragile gold foil

tree is raising the roof

tree is raising the roof

gluing the tree - toothpick and wet glue

gluing the tree – toothpick and wet glue. Slow work…patience, Sue

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green leaves from cigarette papers, turquoise leaves from old wrapping paper

green leaves from cigarette papers, turquoise leaves from old wrapping paper

almost done

almost done

birds fly from the tree

birds fly from the tree

flight

flight

"Raising the Roof" - Paper collage using candy wrappers, envelope lining, cigarette foils and other papers

“Raising the Roof” – Paper collage using candy wrappers, envelope lining, cigarette foils and other papers. 18″ x 24″

 

A few days later, rectangles of the original envelope lining plus a new piece of purple paper from the Paper Umbrella inspire me – this one is about RAIN, I think, and responds to the deluge of rain we got in early July that caused flooding in much of Southeastern Saskatchewan.IMG_2195

 

in the window…this paper is marbled gold in the back and I like how the light picks that up.

in the window…this paper is marbled gold in the back and I like how the light picks that up.