Tag Archives: PLAYshops

Befriending Wildflowers (the noisier version)

It was a very hot and humid day when we set out to explore the wildflowers of Pheasant Creek Coulee, with small sketchbooks in hand.  Each sketchbook had several line drawings of flowers we hoped to find, with a space to name it ourselves, and a space for the common name. I had anticipated moving quickly across the pasture to the hills below but this gaggle of 5 girls and 2 moms stopped to look at  and appreciate every wildflower – they did not miss one – and gave each some very fun names. We collected a few to paint later and proceeded to a very steep hill full of western wild bergamots and a scary climb down  (for some!) that ended with a slide several feet down to the road!!

We returned to Kerry Farm a little overheated, but cooled down with a delicious potluck lunch. We found some shade to really look closely at our wildflowers and experiment with watercolour painting. Along the way, we visited Grandmother Willow (for a little tree climbing and some feather collecting) and said hi to the horses. We ended the day with some flower yoga and gymnastics as you can see.

This is a companion piece to Befriending Wildflowers (the Quiet Version)

Fall Scraps of Sunlight

Having just spent two days playing with paper with others, one day being a collage PLAYshop at the Qu’Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts, and the second day taking place here at the farm (Scrap basket free for all), I can honestly say, I would love to spend a whole week like this. Except I might not still be married! My patient husband had to borrow a chair to sit down to eat lunch, his current reading material was hidden under a scrap basket and his usual paths had detours but he managed with good humour. It is all cleaned up now and I am still married.

Following are photos from the PLAYshop and scrap basket adventure. A few highlights first:

  • I liked that we had people from age 9 to over 70, grandmothers and granddaughters, mothers and daughters, aunties and nieces, good friends, people who had come before and people who gave it their first try.
  • Joanne brought a beautiful paper wasps nest, and this paper was used for many creations. See if you can spot them.
  • We visited but sometimes were so absorbed and other than music in the background all you could hear were so many pairs of scissors as they cut through paper.
  • It was November 7th and 8th and “the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all our senses .” (thanks Joni Mitchell). Who could believe this weather in November? The sun was so bright I was uanble to get a picture of Sunday morning’s scrap basket crew.
  • On Saturday, we got to pop in at the pop up market!!

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I have  three big scrap baskets, full of treasure. Today’s challenge was to just use what was in the scrap basket to create something beautiful.

Joan's beautiful creation from saturday's PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

Joan’s beautiful creation from saturday’s PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.


In Praise of Play

The absorption of the simple act of cutting paper

The absorption of the simple act of cutting paper

I recently had someone ask me if my art PLAYshops were for adults. Most definitely, they are for adults. Sometimes they are also for all ages and at other times exclusively for children and youth. Most often I tell people that PLAYshops are like WORKshops, only we play instead of work. I offer PLAYshops in paper collage and watercolour painting, but the spirit of playful exploration is possible for so many endeavours. People do learn techniques at a PLAYshop but almost by accident  as they ask themselves “what if I tried this?” It strikes me as a sad commentary that “play” for adults is often the domain of adult only sexshops or professional football. The recent popularity of adult colouring books is one sign of how hungry we are for pure play in these busy and often serious times.

IMG_1512Here is what I notice about those who attend my art PLAYshops. Many of us learned in elementary school that there are one or two “artists” in the class and that that artist is not us! No wonder there is often initial concern about “getting it right”. Part of my job as a leader is the open up the space for experimentation, exploration, skylarking* and simple play. Once people get past “getting it right”,  and they usually do, I notice the great comfort that comes with the simple act of cutting with scissors, tearing paper with fingers or wielding a glue stick. The same is true of dipping a brush in a tray of pure colour, dipping it again in water and applying it to paper. Many of us have not enjoyed these simple activities since we were in school, or perhaps when we sat down to show a child how to cut or paint. It is as if by cutting or gluing, we are remembering something, some pleasure, that we long since forgot. We feel that pleasure deep in our bodies.

Although there is sometimes chatter as we create and experiment, there are also often periods IMG_1811of silence, when participants are so absorbed  and focused in what they are doing that they forget to drink their coffee or go to the bathroom or worry about when they will buy groceries. I love this feeling of a group of people being being wholly absorbed in what they are doing. I sense a sort of “hum” of contentment in the room.

I have just started taking an art class based on learning some very specific techniques. I feel excitement about trying out new things. What I noticed right away though, is how frequently those of us in the room criticize and put down our own work, even though we are there to learn something new. We can’t help ourselves. We are afraid to make mistakes. We take ourselves pretty seriously.

I understand this terror of creating visual art a little because I am terrified to dance in the same kind of way. I don’t seem to have natural rhythm, I trip over my feet, I try to take the lead. I need  to draw on this sense of play and fun when I hit the dance floor. Well, actually, first I need to get near a dance floor!!

Image 2Part of the appeal of the PLAYshops is the “play” part but another part of the pleasure is returning to work with our hands. We can get this same kind of tactile pleasure in a myriad of ways – carving wood, sewing by hand, kneading dough, painting a piece of furniture, raking leaves, polishing silver or leather. In an era when our fingers and thumbs are so busy sending messages via screens, we crave this ability to touch something real, something not virtual, something that we can transform and something that will transform us, even in the smallest of ways.



the common European lark, 1680s, from sky (n.) + lark (n.1). So called because it sings as it mounts toward the sky in flight.

“to frolic or play,” 1809, originally nautical, in reference to “wanton play about the rigging, and tops,” probably from skylark (n.), influenced by (or from) lark (n.2). Related: Skylarked ; skylarking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Rice Paper Birds on a winter's day

Rice Paper Birds on a winter’s day

Lumsden PLAYshop for the birds!!

This past Saturday saw me in Lumsden with eleven other creative souls who came to play with paper, scissors and glue… We spent a companionable day contemplating  beauty, exploring our own particular styles  – some  of us loving to tear the paper and go freestyle, others preferring the small, telling detail……We took note of what was difficult for us, what felt like “work” (not always a bad thing!) and what felt like joy? As we cut and pasted, some of us asked “What makes me hum? What gives me great pleasure and satisfaction? What tickled my funny bone and loosened the muscles around my jaw? Do I like to work slowly and carefully or is my way to move quickly?”

For me, each PLAYshop is unique, each a gift in its own way. One of the delights of my time in Lumsden was watching others as they played with the shape of birds – taking the same image and playing with it in so many different ways. This is something that brings me seemingly infinite delight!  I was so moved by the beautiful creations – the soft-edged and tender birds of a young mom, families of birds in palettes of blues or of autumn colours or yellows and purples, birds with flamboyant tail feathers. Others created  a flame, a dancing goddess, abstract pieces, an exquisite scene with a jewelled dragonfly, a line of dancing women joined by a single golden thread.

I firmly believe that a bracing winter walk in the middle of a day of collage play helps the creative process. But only one intrepid woman took me up on it. (Thanks Chris!) The rest preferred to let winter stay outdoors, except for the brilliant light streaming through the windows as we created a colourful and joyful spring within!

My thanks to all of the fine artists of Lumsden and district, for your dedication to creating space for art to bloom,for your love of beauty, and for the golden thread of friendship and support that keeps you loosely connected.

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so many beautiful birds

so many beautiful birds



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Some scraps of beauty to take home!

Some scraps of beauty to take home!

Next Paper Collage PLAYshop will be held on March 22nd in Fort Qu’Appelle.

Meewasin Valley United Church

Meewasin means beautiful place in Cree

I. To Give Heart

Encouragement helps you to engage and trust your own possibility and potential. Sometimes you are unable to see the special gift that you bring to the world. No gift is ever given for your private use. To follow your gift is a calling to a wonderful gift of discovery. Some of the deepest longing in you is the voice of your gift. The gift calls you to embrace it, not to be afraid of it. The only way to honour the unmerited presence of the gift in your life is to attend to the gift; this is also a most difficult path to walk.”

                            John O’Donohue,  Eternal Echoes

A couple of weekends ago, I was in Saskatoon with a community of spiritual adventurers and seekers at “Celebrating Spirit: Inner Peace and Joyful Expression”. Facilitated by Rick McCorrister, this weekend was put together by Meewasin Valley United Church. Meewasin (which means “beautiful place in Cree) Valley United Church took the brave step of selling their church building last year and relocating to an office on the University of Saskatchewan where they also use the spacious lounge of St. Andrew’s College for – well – for many things. This past weekend, the lounge was used as a dining room, yoga studio, concert hall, worship space, dance studio, meditation hall, art studio, art gallery and lecture hall.

We had many opportunities to quiet ourselves and listen to the “still small voice within”. We did so using body movements and dance, yoga, by breath meditations, by being still, by eating together in silence, by listening to others, by playing with paper scraps and creating beauty, and by responding as a community to the beautiful art, music, poetry and light that filled the worship space Sunday morning.

pastedGraphic.pdfAs one of a number of resource people at the event, I was invited to share a little about my artistic process. I explained that one watercolour entitled “Where are you now?” came to me very slowly, bit by small bit. When I began, I had no idea how it would look at the end. I painted a bit and then would stop, unsure where to go next. Sometimes I would seemingly be “stuck” in that place of unknowing, of doubt and of vulnerability for more than a few days. It was difficult to wait. Would this painting ever get completed? Then, just when it seemed that I would never finish, an image for the next bit would come to me. It seemed that this painting had a rhythm of its own and that it could not be hurried. Not unlike life itself!! I am always, it seems, being reminded about faith – to trust the niggles and intuitions I receive, to try to be patient, to believe that while the whole path is not revealed, that is exactly as it should be. One slow step at a time.

Much like the journey of the Meewasin community. They have chosen to “trust their own possibility and potential”. They have chosen to be true to themselves, and in doing so, they lost some members. They have taken a huge leap of faith in selling their building. They are discovering, slow step by slow step, what church can be, what the possibilities are. There is no map, no certainty, no set of instructions. This risk-taking is firmly grounded in shared values and faith in action. Meewasin’s journey reminds me of the artist’s path – filled with vulnerability, occasional despair and doubt, and also with surprises, joy, unexpected turns and deep well-being.

Their journey, their courage, has lent me encouragement. I love the roots of this word en-courage-ment as written below:

From Middle French encoragement, from Old French encoragier + -ment, from en- (“make, put in”) + corage (“courage”), from Vulgar Latin *coraticum, from cor (“heart, daring”) + -ier, suffixed with -ment.

En- courage-ment – to give heart, to hearten

 II.Moving Art into the World

During the Sunday worship portion of the weekend, people were invited to spend some time looking at the art around the room. As well as pieces by those who had created collages the previous day, and some of my own work, there was an array of art pieces from different homes around the room. People were encouraged to spend time with the art and and especially to look deeply at a piece if it called them. There were also quotes people could choose to spend time with. While we spent time with the art, the morning light and beautiful music filled the room. After 15 or 20 minutes, we were invited to share our experience with two others. We then came together as a whole group and people were invited up to the microphone if they wished to share with the whole group. Some of those who shared found themselves unable to speak when they first came up to the mike – the art had touched some deep place in them and they were taken by surprise. It was amazing and stirring to hear what various pieces of art, sometimes combined with the quotes, opened up in people.

As an artist, I am always looking for new ways to move my art out into the world. I know that there are many ways beyond sales and shows and galleries. What is most thrilling for me is when people really look at my art. As someone who sells at markets, I am familiar with the “quick glance” and the “glazed once over”. I understand that my style of art does not speak to everyone. Every so often, someone stops, puts their bags down and gives their entire attention to the art. I don’t care if they buy, I don’t care if they talk to me. I am delighted that they have seen something that pulls them away from the everyday, even for just a moment. That encounter is what I most long for.

This is why I loved this way of sharing offered by the Meewasin. I am grateful to them for stretching the bounds of my imagination when it comes to sharing art with others.

To learn more about Meewasin Valley United Church, visit http://www.meewasinvalleyunited.com

Some of the beautiful people and the art they created at Meewasin's "Celebrating Spirit"

Some of the beautiful people and the art they created at Meewasin’s “Celebrating Spirit”. Joyful expression(s) indeed!

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