Tuesday 18 November 2014

A Red Sultry Morn

there is not a breath of air stirring

A Winter's morn
as still as this
is to be appreciated
for there won't be many!

Monday 17 November 2014

A Week of Laying Low

The only scratchings here at the house

It has been a long slow week

The highlight being Handy Hubby's birthday
followed by a day of remembrance

On Friday we drove up the valley to the eye doctor
and returned in the first snow storm of the winter.
I am still staying at home cancelling everything
trying to stop this coughing virus
from spreading.

Friday 14 November 2014

What I Do And Where That Came From

As you might gather from this post, I was recently invited to participate in the Around the World Blog Hop – a forum I had never come across before where artists involved in writing, painting, textiles, book art, photography and sculpture are asked to respond to  four questions about their work and their process.

It was Sharron Deacon Begg who invited me to follow her on this hop around the world.  She writes about her work at her blog called Threadpainters Art.   It was way back in the eighties, before we both became silver-haired, that I met Sharron when I joined the Connections Fibre Artists group.  Like me, Sharron’s inspiration comes from the land around her.  She expresses her reaction to that landscape through watercolours, pen and ink and needle and thread.  It is her beautiful sensitive thread painting that I am most familiar with but you should take a trip over to her blog and check for yourself.
So now I have to write about my own work.  This does not come naturally to me, I’d rather stitch any day rather than write!  The four questions I have to answer were given to me in a specific order, but I am going to change things around and start with question three which seems to suit my flow of thought better.

Why do I create what I do?
When my grandmother taught me embroidery and insisted the wrong side be as neat as the front, I certainly never thought of it as an art form.  Even from a young age my plan had been to become an artist in the more traditional sense of painting and drawing.  Little did I imagine I would end up covering cloth in sometimes unruly stitches.

What brought me back to embroidery was an adult education quilting course I stumbled upon when my youngest child was about to become a teenager.  To my surprise this ended up being my jump start back into a creative life. 

From these two traditions, the one embroidery from my English childhood and the second from quilt making from my new North American home, I began creating work that combined the two.  At first the stitches were by machine with a few hand stitches scattered throughout but today the machine embroidery has been almost completely replaced by hand stitches.

Today I continue working with cloth and thread because of their tactile nature.  No day is complete without the feel of cotton, velvet, wool, or linen or silk between my fingers.  Simply put it is just what I am driven to do.

What am I working on?
Over the years my work has been drawing closer and closer to nature.  As I write this post I am in the beginning stages of new work based on the east coast landscape.  These pieces will not record the actual landscape but my reactions to and observations on living in and treading lightly through this land.  I am observing small marks and shapes but thinking large. I am observing nature’s imperfect patterns and rhythms and thinking repetition interrupted and pattern broken down.

Another project that is always on the go and was started three years ago is the stitched journal of my daily life.  My original goal was to stitch a simple row of embroidery every day but this has evolved to include simple stitched images of events in my day.  It was a conscious decision not to record world events, just those simple things that occur in the life of someone living in the woods of Nova Scotia far from the madding crowd.  Never having been able to maintain a written journal I wanted to keep this project as simple as possible, therefore I opted for a six inch wide scroll format.  After all, stitching a line of embroidery six inches long every day sounded simple and would not overwhelm my day.  In the beginning my scrolls became cumbersome in their length and so now I restrict each scroll to a three month period...much more manageable!  However, as I write they are all sewn together into 117 feet and hanging in the Western Branch of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
My thoughts on the answer to this question is simply that we all come to our work having experienced different life experiences which have formed us into the uniqueness that we are.  Each one of us would approach the same subject or inspiration differently.  Each one of us would have physical differences that affect the weight of a mark, the size or angle of a stitch.  Therefore all work differs.

I am not sure what my genre would be.  If a genre is textiles...oh, my goodness there are so many genres within that one genre.  If my current work falls within a genre of hand embroidery then mine would be different from some in that it is usually a repetition of simple stitches or marks often interrupted by slightly different marks.  Repetition and breaking that repetition as Mother Nature seems to do is something I consciously think on.

How does my creating process work?
My process starts with getting to know my subject.  Many years ago I read "Drawing Closer to Nature" by Peter London.  He taught me the importance of knowing, really knowing my subject.   He wrote: "Find a portion of the world that is close at hand and adopt it.  Become acquainted with it.  Draw closer to it by staying with it over a long course of time.  In all seasons, all times of day, all weathers, all circumstances of your own life.  The more often you return to this chosen portion of Nature, the more finely you will be able to perceive its more delicate features, as well as the slow-to-emerge pattern and rhythms."

To record ideas and work out basic design I fill sketchbooks with marks and thumbnail sketches.  I am not very organized and these ruminations never seem to end up in one concise sketchbook but sprinkled through several.  I really should try one day to work in one book at a time.  By no means do I have a finished design worked out by the time I move onto fabric and thread so there can often be false starts!  As I work through this initial phase at some point there is a sudden surge of energy and I know exactly which pieces of hand dyed or natural dyed fabrics should be pinned up and arranged on a design wall.  Then I am off to the races!  There is always an ebb and flow to my process with periods of high activity interspersed with periods of rest when I have to stand back and reflect on whether things are working out or not.  I always say I have a love hate relationship with my work.  There are times when I think it is the best work I have ever done but once finished I am soon not satisfied with the end result and eager to get on to the next piece that will definitely be an improvement.  But having said that, when I come across an older piece, I often am pleasantly surprised!

Now let's go play.

Thursday 13 November 2014


Sometimes you have to look at edges
through autumnal leaves.

Sometimes driftwood forms a scraggy edge
beneath a scalloped salt marsh edge.

Sometimes other things become the centre of attention

That lone red leaf looked so beautiful
against that angry sullen sky.
Not really an edge
but irresistible to me.

We have lots of rocky edges
here in the Maritimes.

I have always loved the edge
where the trees meet the sky.

Sometimes there is one edge
below another edge.

And sometimes the true edge is
camouflaged by reflections
which of course
create another edge
near which
a pair of mallards have been cruising
since I got back after Thanksgiving.

And here are a couple of my paintings....

....about the edge of the Bay of Fundy.

So many edges...
The edge of time
The edge of space
The edge of reason
Living on the edge
The edge of tomorrow

Wednesday 12 November 2014


We went to Thornbury whilst in Ontario
We went to see the salmon run
but they weren't on that day.
We walked down the river
looking for that familiar sight of salmon backs
struggling upstream
Not a one there
So we looked at man-made bridges

Quite a "structure"
you Atlantic Canada SAQA girls.

I say that because we have a show coming up next year.

called Structures.
I won't be making something like this
though I love their bold lines
and stark honesty of these forms.
I am staying focussed on my own environment.

At the mouth of the river
people were looking out into Georgian Bay
looking for salmon.

Tuesday 11 November 2014


It seemed like an appropriate sunrise for a day such as this.

The moon was reluctant to descend into that bank of clouds.

Everything was frosted.

We met a hunter along the dike
who comes to a specific apple tree looking for
windfall that I presume is used to lure the deer.
He couldn't drag the apples to his car
because of a newly dug ditch.
Oh, too bad!
I didn't tell him there was another tree further along
laden with apples.

Little puff balls littered the ground.
Do you remember I started a stitched
interpretation of this pattern?

Today our family is thinking of

My grandfather Shanks who was sent to WWI
as a young man
and luckily survived because he was invalided out.
his uncle who joined the artillery in 1914
and was killed in Belgium in 1915

My other grandfather Frank who was a doctor in WWI
also luckily survived because of Tuberculosis.
I have the pulled thread bed covering he stitched
while recovering.
And he was a good watercolour painter too.

My father who enlisted into WWII
and spent his war fighting in the Burmese jungle.

My father-in-law who was a pilot in WWII.
He escaped Poland and made his way to England
where he joined the RAF Polish squadron.
But his brother however was one of the Polish officers
killed at Katyn

My uncle Alan who was a civilian in Hong Kong
and taken by the Japanese as a POW.

My brother's father-in-law who was in the army
in Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion
and taken prisoner of war.

Lest we forget.

Monday 10 November 2014

Hand Hubby's Birthday

A windy blustery day

with windswept waves on the basin....

....so windswept they reached the dike.
There is usually quite a large area of salt marsh between the water
and the dike.

But on to the significance of this day.
Happy Birthday Richard!

He's been my honeybunch since 1964
I love him to pieces!

Sunday 9 November 2014

Scratching a Blue Week

So busy coughing with a cold
I haven't had time or the inclination to do much.
Been cancelling things to stay away from people.

I couldn't cancel the opening of the show in Yarmouth.
The AGNS and the Friends of the AGNS
put on a wonderful reception.
It always amazes me how well the journals are received.
They seem to touch people
but one artist insisted it was because of the choice of colours
and execution of each image.
Each of my wonderful artist friends talked about their work
and interpretation of "Breaking Patterns"
Oh, yes, and many admired Handy Hubby's work as well.
Much to my surprise I also sold three paintings
to two lovely young women who I am thrilled liked my work.

By the end of the week....
.....still coughing....
....perhaps the colour will come back soon....
....and my voice along with it.

Friday 7 November 2014

Bathrime Expressions

You talking to me?

Do we have to have a bath?

Was that a bubble?

You forgot behind the ears!

Thursday 6 November 2014

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

As we approached this bird on the salt marsh
I thought it must be in trouble
'cos it wasn't flying away
and Rusty Pups were approaching

but then realized it was driftwood!
Now that makes a beautiful scruffy bird doesn't it.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Scratching the End of October

The days are getting shorter

The week started with a day at Diane's
asking a lot of  "what if" questions
as we explored with rusty water,
black walnut and oak leaf dye pots.

Not many leaves are left on the trees.

On Thursday four of us from the Artist Way Cooperative
drove to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Yarmouth
and hung our show.
Halloween...seven pumpkins...the RP's seventh birthday.

And so starts the month of Remembrance
and we turned the clocks back.
Sunday was a day of computer work
my least favourite work
therefore my least favourite stitch!
Well it started off as chain stitch and morphed into something else.