Sunday, May 12, 2019

After the Show Indoors and Out

In my last post, I was about to show my work at the 20th Annual Lacombe Art Show & Sale.  Here's how the booth looked just before the doors opened:

From the 'front' (as seen from the door)

From the 'back' (as seen going toward the door)

It was an interesting time.  I really enjoyed connecting with artists I've met over the years, and from seeing new work by new entrants.  The "Paint-off" Friday evening was fun; I was rooting for an oil painter who was worried about how well he'd do with acrylic paint in the contest -- and he nailed it with a beautiful still life of irises. He wasn't the fastest painter, but I liked his piece the best.  (Sorry; I didn't get photos!)

Can you sense there's a "but" coming?

Abbey Echoes II - SOLD!
to a good friend at the Art Show & Sale
Yes...there's a "but".  There was a great flow of people through the show on both days -- despite a nasty spring snow storm Saturday morning that made travelling to the show a white-knuckle experience.  There was a lot of interest in my work -- and I sold one large piece (to a friend who'd been eyeing it since December at the "Shamrock and Thistle" exhibit) that more than covered my show fee.  There were more men interested in the work than I'd hitherto experienced.

But other than that...I sold only four pieces: two minis, and two small framed pieces -- and one of each of these went to other artists in exchange for pieces of their work.

And I had more "silly" comments about blankets and 'grandma used to do that sort of thing' than I've had since 2016.

Well...God willing there will be next year!  As Featured Artist for 2020, I'll have more booth space, an honourarium, a chance to speak bout my work...and other Good Things.  So...

Onward and upward!

Since the show, I've been busy in the yard and garden, cleaning up after the winter (yes, it eventually stopped snowing last weekend!), and planning out some improvements for this year.
One of those was extending the narrow bed on the east side of my garage, so I could plant lettuce and still find it when the rhubarb goes full tilt!

See that bit at the front of the photo?  The green clump is the burgeoning rhubarb.  The bed used to end just in front of the plant, but has now been extended to the end of the garage.  No more trying to wield the lawn mower into a narrow corner!  And yes...there will be lettuce and mixed greens growing at the very front of the bed.  (Lest you wonder...the land at the right side -- about 18" or so to the right of the bed -- isn't mine.  It's the empty lot next door, which is for sale.  I'd buy it but I can't afford it!)

I've managed this week to open the Outdoor Studio for a bit, and outfitted my not-so-comfy new bench with an old (but unused) quilt wrapped around some old bed pillows.  I tried it out last evening and it's not too bad for sitting...

I found the quilt when, in the course of sorting and sifting after the show, I opened my blanket box for the first time in years.  I'd forgotten I had this one.  It's about a twin size, hand quilted, and made by my late Aunt Alice some time in the eighties -- mostly poly-cotton, I think.  It's in pristine condition, and is stored away in the bench when not in use.  The fun thing about the quilt is the Prairie Point border all around -- except at the top edge.  I recognized many of the miscellaneous fabrics used in that border, because they were scraps I'd given my aunt to use, left over from the garment sewing I was doing in those years when my kids were small:

See the centre triangle?  It's a bit of wool fabric,
that clearly felted a bit in the wash!

This sweet and colourful memory was celebrated by three new faces in the flower bed that's just under the window of my "messy room" on the south side of the house:

 The yard work continues!  Some years ago a wee spruce seedling cropped up in the rock garden in the front of the house.  It had planted itself about a foot from the blue spruce -- my son's Grade IV transplant from Calgary, now almost 25 years old.  And there it stayed until last week, when it moved next door.  My neighbour had removed several old and rotting willows that had grown in a line between our properties, and was replacing them with young evergreen saplings.  My little green one was just right for a spot at the front near the street -- so I let him take it.  I was able to replace it with another sapling that had planted itself (with 2 others) in a large, unused flower pot near my shed.  So here's the new tot in the rock garden, in the shadow if Big Blue Brother Spruce:

He's got some growing to do!
I'll fill in that black patch with a bit more flox or other perennial ground cover, later this week. A trip to the local nursery is in order!  On the list: manure/loam/soil mix (bags), a few annuals for my pots, and the aforementioned ground cover.

In the evenings and early mornings my hands have been busy with MORE knitting finishing.  I finally got the two panels for the Mosaic Wrap done, and am now beavering away on the end borders, of which there are two.  The two panels will be sewn together to make a long wrap, and then finished off with borders on the other two edges.  The challenge of mosaic knitting is that you knit and knit and knit and knit and don't seem to make much progress -- and then, bingo!  Done!

Panel 1

Panel 2

I resurrected the centre of a 'Hap' shawl (Shetland style shawl) begun years ago, which needed its borders.  The first of four sides of a wide border is finished, and the second well underway.  After the wide border, comes a lace edging.  In addition I've finished a small neck shawlette for the church charity tree, and am working on a lovely cowl in a yummy alpaca and silk blend.  Photos will follow eventually!

Today I'm off for an over-night trip to Calgary to see friends -- and my friendly dentist (annual check-up).  Once back -- more gardening!

Linking this to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday...where this week she's finishing her book review posts about Strong Women based on a book by Amy Morin (which I've not read).  One of the things such women do is boldly reinvent themselves.  My son said to me a few months ago, "I've watched you reinvent yourself [since Dad died]..."  I hadn't really thought of my life that way, but it's true.  My life now is Artist, Colour Lover, Grower, Maker, Occasional Volunteer, Friend and Mom.

Happy Mother's Day to all who are mothers or mother-figures in the lives of those around you.  Have a great week!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Show Time!

  • Frames and mats in place: CHECK!
  • Sleeves and dowels in place: CHECK!
  • Title/price labels written and printed: CHECK!
  • Inventory list up-dated and printed: CHECK!
  • Kit box filled with picture stands, s-hooks, stand fasteners, painter's tape, extension cord, scissors, post cards and business cards: CHECK!
  • Framed and matted pieces packed: CHECK!
  • Soft pieces lying flat, ready to pack: CHECK!
Thursday after work I loaded everything into the car except the studio rack, the kit box and the soft pieces.  I especially wanted the latter to lie flat and unfolded for as long as possible!  Everything is in the locked car in the locked garage -- ready to load those last few items, and toddle on down the highway to Lacombe.

Blessedly, the weather forecast has improved a bit, and we're not likely to get either rained or snowed on while trekking from vehicles into the hall, back and forth, unpacking and setting up our booths.  We'll let worrying about tomorrow's weather go...until tomorrow.  😊

Meanwhile...for those of you who can't make it to Lacombe, Alberta for the 20th Annual ENCORE! Lacombe Art Show & Sale...a peek at some more of the work that will be there...

March Trees I (C) 2019
12" W x 12" L, framed
Needle-felting, fabric paper, fused applique
and machine quilting applied to stretched canvas

March Trees II (C) 2019
5" x 7" matted to 8" x 10"
Mono-printed, machine quilted, beaded

March Trees III (C) 2019
10" x 10" mounted on 12" x 12" painted stretched canvas
Mono-printed, machine quilted, beaded

Rear Guard (C) 2019
5" x 7" matted to 8" x 10"
Hand-dyeing, fused applique, thread painting,
machine quilted

Mother Was a Lady I: Take Some Tea with Me? (C) 2019
11" W x 13" L, mounted on 12" x 16" painted stretched canvas
Tea bag paper, commercial cotton, lace, beads
Fused applique, machine quilting, beading, embroidery's a typical spring in Alberta.  We've had VERY dry weather thus far and could use some rain, but of course, being here...well, there's rain and snow in the forecast.  What to wear to stay warm will be an issue, as I am so tired of winter clothes!  Blessedly, I finished this earlier this week, so will use it as a layering piece...

Pattern: Reyna 
Designer: Noora Backlund
Yarns: 1) dark purple - Sweet Georgia;
2) multi - Zen Yarn Garden Superfine Fingering
in the "Notebook" colour-way.

Linking this to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Blessings for Passover...and Happy Easter

Tonight is the first night of Passover...
Today is Good Friday. This is the sweet-sour juxtaposition of the intimate worship practiced by Jesus of Nazareth -- a Jew -- and his people. It's the intersection of His Last Seder Supper with his closest followers...and the remembrance by all of them of their history, their liberation from their Egyptian captors and their entrance into the desert...*long before* they reached their Promised Land.
I am a Christian. My late DH was a Jew who believed he met the Messiah when he encountered Jesus. This will forever create a tension in the wider family to which we belong...but the beauty, the loveliness of all of this is...the Man on the Cross all those centuries ago was the One who tried to unite us, who tried to make us see that we are all of a piece. We are all in love with the Creator, the One God who made us. And that God's essential commandments are:
"The LORD your God, the LORD is ONE; and you shall love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength -- AND your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang ALL the Law and the [teaching of] the Prophets."
Blessings for Pesach to my Jewish friends and family; I love you as I love myself.
Blessings to my Christian friends and family: I love you as I love myself.
Thanks be to God!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

MORE from the Sewdio

The 20th Annual Lacombe Art Show and Sale is less than 2 weeks away now.  With the Bursary applications I was working on (see my last post) completed, packed up and sent back to the Educational Foundation last Monday, I was able to get back to show prep...and other things (READ: yard work).

It's about time -- as the wind howls outside and the rain comes down in fits and starts -- that I shared with you more of what I've been doing to get ready for this show, and other studio news.

Before the Crowds (C) 2019
In my last "studio post", I'd finished "Before the Crowds" and submitted it for consideration by the Grand National jury.  The deadline for entries was now I wait.  It needs its sleeve nonetheless, and that will happen this week, because if it isn't accepted at GN, it will go with me to the Lacombe Art Show/Sale.

Since then...several pieces have been finished -- mainly mounted on canvas -- and most have been framed.  I have three that are being framed now, and that will be the end of it for the time being. 

So let me start from the top!

The problem is, it's a bit of a blur!  I've just been making and making...

A couple of Sundays ago I got a chance for my favourite walk around Cranna Lake in Lacombe, and shot some tree photos, like these:

Yes, this one's been cropped!  😉

I just love these "March Trees" with their bits of berries and detritus, and all the layering, so I decided to do a series.

The top photo served as inspiration for mono-printing:

NOTE: the front piece wasn't mono-printed, but if you look closely you can see trees drawn on the surface.  It becomes something else, so read on! 

I ended up with two pieces, one of which became a new "mini", mono-printed and beaded:

March Trees II (C) 2019

Another one became a piece that was faced and beaded and mounted on painted stretched canvas...and is now in for framing (stay tuned for a photo sometime after Easter).

And then there's that photo of a myriad of trees over-looking the lake (scroll up).  This one is now finished and at the framer's...but here are some of the steps I took to creating it:

1. Quilted the sky; 2. needle-felted the grey "trees on the far
shore"; 3. layered those "trees" with "grass" on the shore:
4. attached both to the background.

Auditioning the evergreen branches on the tree trunks.

Auditioning and positioning deciduous tree trunks
over and around the evergreens.

Message from my Pfaff Performance 2.0:
"Take a break, would ya? I'm working too hard!!" 😄

Sorry; you'll have to wait for the final photo -- this is one piece that's over at the framer's and might not be finished till a couple of days before the show!  It's mounted on 12" square stretched canvas...just to let you know the size.  Title: March Trees I.  

And yes, there is a "March Trees III", resembling the mini (above) but larger and mounted on painted stretched canvas (it's also 12" x 12").  It too is in for framing.  Stay tuned!

Continuing in the 'tree' theme, in the process of making sleeves for a couple of soft pieces (In the Bleak Mid-winter and Content of Our Waiting, now finished), I came across a piece of fabric on which I'd made marks in a short workshop with Susan Purney Mark at the SAQA Western Canada Regional Retreat a couple of years ago.  I hadn't filed it with my 'samples' because I knew that eventually I'd want to make it into something, and this week it became another new 'mini':

Night Woods (C) 2019

And remember that piece of sky and foreground with trees drawn on the surface (scroll up)? became a mini too...

Rear Guard (C) 2019
Yes, that mat is not my "usual".  It was one I got on sale from a shop that's now closed. It has a "faux suede" surface and I've been waiting a good 3 years till I found a piece it suited!  This piece is based on a memory I have of a trio of grain bins set against a tree line that I drove past on my way to work in late winter/early spring this year.  Slices of blue in the sky amid the clouds, and snow still on the ground.  I had to hold on to the memory until I could sketch it out in my sketch book as I had no camera handy and I was driving!

The New Directions series has continued.  This is New Directions 2, mounted on canvas but of a size that it won't be framed -- just wired for hanging.

New Directions 4 and 5 have been framed but -- sorry, no photos as of this writing.  Clearly they got lost in the shuffle!  😉

Remember "Blue Pot"?  It was a piece I made for an Alberta Society of Artists fundraiser last fall.  Well...I've followed it with the smaller "Red Pot", based on a photo of lobelia I've managed to over-winter in my sunny back room...

Inspirational photo

Before framing - mounted on painted artist's panel

Red Pot (C) 2019 - 8" x 8", framed

Red Pot - detail

I certainly hope some of these sell at the Lacombe Art Show/Sale, because pieces are starting to pile up!

Blessedly I was able to take six (count 'em!) older pieces -- in a 'rural' theme -- over to sell on consignment at a new shop that opens next week at the nearby Village of Alix.  I went over there on Friday morning to mount them, with Carrie, the owner's, help.  Her laser level is amazing!

Here they are, on two different walls:

Left to right: One Step Ahead of the Gulls, Rural Rhythms

Clockwise from top: The Old Corral, Uphill to Mirror,
Canola, Waiting for the Train

This second one is on a narrow hallway without a way to take a really good photo, but you get the idea.  Carrie loves them and is sure they'll be a hit.  She's a bit more optimistic than I am here in Bed Quilt Central! -- but at least I've got them out and into the world, so I need to remain hopeful.  I certainly appreciate her support!

And now, my friends...that's it.  You're all caught up except for a few photos!  The knitting and spinning continue, as I'm determined to spin up roving that's been around for far too long.  I'm determined to finish a shawl and a wrap before I begin my "Summer of Socks".  And there's a bedroom wall to paint and an old trunk to refurbish as a planter this

Onward and upward!  Linking this to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Friday", and thinking perhaps a retreat like the one she just enjoyed wouldn't be a bad idea!  😉

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Eye Opener

In 2004, our family endowed a pair of bursaries to graduating students at my former high school.  A point system was developed, and has been refined over time. 

The applicant is allowed 10 points for each of the following: his/her personal application letter; two letters of reference (one from an educator and one from outside the school, but not from family); and his/her high school record (marks).  This makes 30 points. 

An additional maximum of 20 points is given based on a financial needs assessment.  This was created so that the applicants could develop an awareness of the cost of post-secondary education, as well as to determine need -- so that students weren't just being assessed on the basis of scholarship.

 I believe that a post-secondary education is not found in universities alone, but also in various trade and vocational programs, and so students with talents and goals in these areas of endeavour should be given an opportunity to go to school -- and financial need shouldn't be a barrier.

Since that time, I've been honoured to be part of the committee to assess the applications submitted each spring.  The bursaries amount to two prizes of $500 per year, one given to a male and one to a female.  Every five or six years, I fly home (i.e. back to where I grew up in Eastern Canada) to give out these prizes in person.

For years it was like pulling teeth to get boys to apply.  One year the application review time line was shortened considerably, simply in order to get some boys to answer the call -- because, you see, if no boys applied, the money wouldn't be given to a girl -- nor would the selected girl get double funding.  The funds would just go back into the endowment investments till the following year.

This year I have 64 applications to review -- 35 from girls and a whopping 29 from boys: the greatest number of male applicants I've seen in the history of the program! Wow!

I try to review each application twice -- and as of this morning, I finished my first 'fly-over' of the boys' applications.

Again: WOW! 

Very few of these applicants, this year, are aiming for university.  One wants to be an engineer, and two, teachers.  There are several who want training to be light-body (i.e. cars, trucks) mechanics.  One wants to be a chef.  Two want to become carpenters.  Some want to develop skills and knowledge in computers and digital technology and/or graphic arts -- and two or three want to be entrepreneurs with training in business and marketing.  Two want to be police officers, and one wants to be trained in Border Patrol.

In addition to the crop of trades and vocations that dominate these applications, there are some very interesting stories.  Several boys live in single-parent families, whether due to death or divorce.  This is becoming more common each year, but this year, at least two applicants mentioned that their mothers had also gone back to school for opportunities to make a better living and accomplish something long desired.

Then there are the other challenges faced by these students.  There are learning disabilities, physical injuries overcome, a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, and heartbreak at abandonment by a father "who cares for no one but himself" -- this last written as a footnote to his Financial Assessment, by a boy who, as reported by one of his references, has regularly helped her in her home to do the things her multiple sclerosis prevents her from doing. 

Why am I telling you all this, Gentle Readers? 

Because after yet another Winter of Discontent, with continued corruption and strife in political leadership, with concerns about climate change, with natural disasters of the like not witnessed before, with terrorism and bouts of violence still cropping up to jar and shatter innocents around the just might want to fling up one's hands in despair.

But these applicants -- these young men who've stepped out with faith and courage to actually express themselves on paper and assess in their hearts and minds what they'd like to do to move forward in life -- these young men have opened my eyes to HOPE once more.

I know full well that their futures will not be all milk and honey, all smooth sailing -- but they're setting their faces like flint towards what lies ahead, and for that I applaud them, and thank them, for as Max Ehrmann opined in his Desiderata...

"...with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."  

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring Greens!

Today's the First Day of Spring -- so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o long awaited -- and Mother Nature has obliged us here with a clear blue sky, lots of sunshine and temps so warm I had to switch up to a lighter jacket, remove a sweatshirt and change from a toque to a cap for my afternoon jog-walk.  Whoa!  Who'd'a thunk it?!

I'm feeling so chipper and cheerful (after a couple of tough weeks) that I'm even posting on a Wednesday -- and will be linking up to WIP Wednesday over at The Needle and Thread Network for the first time in ages. Wonder if anyone there will remember me?!  😉

While I write, my bread maker is cheerfully churning up a loaf of multi-grain bread for me to take to church Sunday for the weekly Lenten Lunch.  It's soup (usually 3 varieties), bread and/or buns, and the usual coffee, tea or juice...all for a free-will donation.  Tired of trying to figure out the best way to schlep soup 43 km. over a country highway into town, I've opted to contribute bread the past few years and it works a treat. 😊

Meanwhile...what's been under the needle?

The plan for today was to stitch down the background for a small art piece and photograph and enter an up-coming art show -- Canada's "Grand National".

But first...

There was a call out from Helen at Angels in Gumboots in New Zealand quilters for quilt blocks -- with the goal of making (at least) 50 quilts to honour those who died as a result of the mosque massacres there last weekend. 

There are two types of 6 1/2" unfinished blocks -- hearts on white backgrounds -- being requested.  One features green hearts on white; the other, hearts in other colours on white.  I made 1/2 dozen green-on-white and put them in the mail this morning...

Heart blocks started, prepped

Heart blocks - 6 1/2" unfinished and ready to mail!

From there I went into "show entry mode". This was the planned "destination" for that beach-with-picnic table I've been working on.

It took me some time (over an hour!) to get just the right photos I wanted for this Grand National entry.  The piece isn't huge but it took quite a bit of work -- dyeing and then over-layering the sky to get the right blue, and hand-stitching the grass in the foreground.  In the end I sent in these two photos, with hopes that they'll be just right:

Before the Crowds (c) 2019
27" W x 16.5" L
Materials: self-dyed and painted synthetic fabric,
commercial cottons, hand-dyed cotton embroidery floss
Techniques: fused layers, machine quilting, hand-stitching

Before the Crowds - Detail

I had trouble getting my photo program to save the photos in the size the entry required (max 2500 pixels on the longest side) and still come up with a file size between 2 and 4 MB. Mine ended up with the right pixels but a smaller file size, so I advised the curator of that and told her if she wanted the originals she could have those too -- but that they were larger as to number of pixels. 

All this trouble was caused by a recent Windows update such that my favourite -- ancient -- Canon photo program ("ZoomBrowser EX", not supported by Canon for years) has finally stopped being compatible with my PC and had to be retired.  The "newer" program ("ImageBrowser EX") that came with my camera -- a program I've never liked -- isn't as user-friendly, and now...well, I'm coping!

It will be what it will be.  If it's not accepted and I find out about that before the Lacombe Art Show and Sale, well -- I'll just have one more piece to hang in the show!'s time to relax a bit with some knitting and a touch of my new favourite YouTube video-cast, Last Homely House East of the Sea with Kate Jackson.  She's funny, prolific with knitting, spinning, quilting, gardening, preserving and enjoying her hens, goose and cats...and she shares her life online, which delights me no end.

Linking up, as I said, with WIP Wednesday...and see you later.

Have a wonderful rest of the week!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Stitch, Stitch, Stitch...and Some News

In last week's post, I showed you the start of a new landscape, concerned about creating the table as shown in this photo:

This was a fussy bit of work that took a couple of hours.  First I traced the table onto tracing paper; then I put it in my scanner/copier and doubled its size.  Next, I traced it onto a piece of laminate off-cut, so I could turn it to the reverse and trace that onto Wonder Under fusible web.  I didn't do that last tracing as a whole table; rather, I traced it in bits and pieces, because I needed to have some of the fabric show the "sunny side" of the table and the rest, the "shadow side".

Once I cut out all the pieces, I "fused" them onto a Teflon pressing sheet so I could assemble the table as a unit before pressing it onto the landscape itself.

Once it was on the landscape, it looked like this:

If you look closely, you'll see that since my last post, I also added some texture to the sand and grass using machine stitching and a narrow slice of cheese cloth (at the water's edge).  Some grey needs to be added to that cheese cloth but first...

Hand-stitching on the grass for more texture:

The bit in the photo above was only the start of the stitch.  As of this writing I'm now about 1/2-way across the grassy section, covering it with seed stitch in a hand-dyed 3-strand embroidery floss (JP 8 - "Spring Leaves") from Valdani that I confess I've had for so long, I no longer remember where I got it!  I'm very pleased with the effect, as well as with the table and the machine stitching I did to accent it:'s coming along, and I'm aiming to have it finished well ahead of the entry deadline for which I'm aiming: April 24.

I'd better have it finished well before that date -- because (and this is the news) once again I've been juried into the Lacombe Art Show & Sale!  Whoo hoo! 

This news also means I have a chance of recouping some of the costs of framing that I just picked up.  😉  And don't these look lovely in their frames?

Fire Moon  (c) 2018

She Thought He Hung the Moon - (c) 2019

Where do I Go from Here? - (c) 2019

As I picked these up, I dropped off two from the "New Directions" series that I showed in my last post.  There'll be at least two more to frame before the Art Show begins.  Maybe more, if I can get that stitching done!

All of this is keeping me sane, in the wake of the deaths of two special people in my life: one of my late husband's cousins in California, and a fellow with whom I sang at church, who died of Type 1 Diabetes -- a cause which most of you by now know is very close to my heart.  The two of us who sang while Dwight picked his guitar so beautifully, will be leading the music worship at his funeral on Friday.

Studio work, beautifully soothing YouTube broadcasts from Kate at Last Homely House East of the Sea, hand-stitch, knitting and long, quiet walks (now that we have both sunshine and above 0 C temps)...all of these bring comfort and balance to my days.

As does Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday to which I'm linking -- belatedly yet again! 

Wishing you all a lovely week...and leaving you with this sneak peek at this year's Art Show, with featured artist, Donna Spencer.  (note: she is special to me not just because I simply love her work, but also because she's the one who bought "Sometimes You Can Walk on Water" for her daughter  AND because she's done another simply wonderful and lovely thing for me:

She suggested to the Lacombe Arts folks that I be asked to be Feature Artist in 2020!!  Well...they took her up on it, and I said "Yes!" (when I found my voice).  So...the next year brings many good things from that blessing, and I am deeply grateful to Donna, Maureen and all the Lacombe Arts community for this honour.