Monday, August 17, 2015

Sea States


Recently, I heard blue water sailors discussing sea states. I was intrigued by the term and investigated the Beaufort scale. I love the idea of the sea having a recognized state of being. Water movements, air movements and waves in varying degrees of calm and violence. A beautiful and ancient metaphor for our psychological states, based our own continuously shifting conditions. 

 Katia Mokeyeva and I have a shared exhibition at Timeless Textiles in Newcastle, Australia in March 2016. In our conversations around this exhibition, Sea States presented it self as the perfect theme. We both live and create on the Pacific Ocean, but in very different coastal environments. Our collaborative felt collection will be exhibited on another part of the Pacific. A clear artistic narrative developed out of this geographic triangle; one that explores this common relationship with the sea, and its states of being. Sea states refer to the overall condition of a large body of water—with respect to wind, swell and current—at a particular moment and location. Each sea state offers a beautiful metaphor for our own personal, overall condition, and an excellent platform for exploration in surface design through feltmaking. It's a very exciting project. 

 And it has to start somewhere! For me the long process of building a new exhibition collection begins with this dress. A transition piece from the SHIFT exhibition 2015 to the Sea State exhibition 2016. 


A long dark steely grey layout...itself like a great sea swell. The darkness is so a wintery sea, under overcast skies.

ss5Texture is absolutely key to this piece, so to add more dimension I shibori dyed some of the silk organza that would become the wave forms. 


The beauty in creating work for exhibition is the opportunity to take time, and work with complex surfaces, in ways that are hard to justify with more everyday felt works. 


Slowly and gradually, I built up the wave forms. Each one requires gentle and patient hand work to create the connections of the organza waves to the felt base. This slow time is perfect for thinking/sinking/diving deeply into the theme. What it means for this piece and where I might go with it in the next work.  

 The finished shift dress has many layers; transparencies through overlapping crests high above the surface. 


Rachel is my most wonderful model. She is always calm and elegant, impossible to fluster. She keeps her internal sea state at about 1! 

What you don't often see in any of our photo shoots is what is happening on the edges. This photo shoot included a family picnic at the beach....and while Rachel settled into her demure sea state beautifully, there was a lot of action around her....Sea state here is a perfect metaphor for how we hold ourselves as parents...our internal composition while surrounded by blustery winds and strong currents! 


The uncropped pictures. I just had to share these with you...this is real life! The ebb to the flow in the thoughtful, reflective felting time in the studio!


The dress holds upright the dimensional scupltural forms. They wash over and around the dress like a great wave....And then, once underwater, the wave forms take on a whole new aquatic waving bull kelp... 

 "Kelp’s survival depends on flexibility and extensibility. Each alga can grow up to 20 to 45 m (22 to 49 yd) long and consists of a holdfast, stipe, float, and fronds. The holdfast uses a flexible network of root-like haptera or anchors to attach the kelp to the ocean floor. By being flexible, the haptera allow the kelp’s base to rotate slightly, thus providing some protection from the high torque created by waves." (Biomimicry Guild Report) 

We all need this kind of anchor, and flexibility. 


Now, whenever I look out at the water, I try and determine the current sea state. A new way of viewing a familiar environment. I would say this dress has a sea state of 3. There are much more wild conditions to come .....


Monday, August 10, 2015

SHIFT Exhibition Catalogue

Yesterday saw the close of the SHIFT exhibition in North Vancouver.  The physical show is all packed up and back in our studios today, but all of the work can now be viewed in an exhibition catalogue. The catalogue can be viewed online here, and also purchased as a print softcover book. Here's a preview....

With our catalogue project, we wanted to share some of the background and intention in each piece. A little insight into our own stories about each work. We also have letters from the curators of the two SHIFT exhibitions, Sarah Cavanaugh from the Seymour Art Gallery in North Vancouver, and Richard Steel from the ArtCraft Artist Gallery here on Salt Spring.

Living on islands is a conscious choice both Barbra and I have made, and our chosen environments certainly have an impact on our work and our daily art practice. The catalogue also shares some of our thoughts as artists living and working in the Gulf Islands.

Barbra wrote some beautiful words on our collaboration on her website. I could not say it better....

I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with Barbra. Her work is dynamic and bold, and the relationships between our pieces is extraordinary and profound. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in new forms, and to deepening our artistic relationship and friendship further.
An end and a beginning...

View online: SHIFT Online Catalogue
Purchase a copy: SHIFT Print Catalogue
I hope you enjoy viewing the catalogue!
Warm wishes,

Monday, August 3, 2015

Propagation: a SHIFT dress


 In the creation of Propagation, I build up layers of strata using my shadow felting techniques. This layering adds visual depth, emphasized by the dark line crevices. Cracks in our soil that allow for opportunity. Seed forms rise up above the surface, each with their own colour, pattern and potentiality. Repeating, but never the same. There is some awkwardness in the composition, echoing our own experience as we stretch into personal growth.

 Adding extra dimension to the dress was important to emphasize the potential of breaking through our own crusts and also the delicacy of balance required to inhabit this new and tenuous space. I took these pictures years ago...and held them, waiting for the right time...Propagation is the dress that brings to life the inspiration they provided.


The single leaf carried by a tall, narrow stem... a floating island anchored to the forest floor.


This is my drawing for this dress. It is not complicated...a simple sketch with some notes that outline my direction....This is how I start every piece I make. The gestalt is captured, so even if it takes a year or more to actually come to life, as this piece did, it is easy to slip back into the thought process and chose design elements that will build into the imagined whole.


The layers in this piece are built up slowly, like the composition and textures of soil... Soil, as formally defined in the Soil Science Society of America Glossary of Soil Science Terms, is:
  1. The unconsolidated mineral or organic material on the immediate surface of the earth that serves as a natural medium for the growth of land plants.
  2. The unconsolidated mineral or organic matter on the surface of the earth that has been subjected to and shows effects of genetic and environmental factors of: climate (including water and temperature effects), and macro- and microorganisms, conditioned by relief, acting on parent material over a period of time.
There are many, many layers in this piece....each one laid out with awareness of how it will be affected by the previous one, and also impact the next layers.



Propagation is a part of the SHIFT exhibition, a shared exhibition with my sculptural dresses and Barbra Edwards' striking abstract oil paintings. It was a shocking and delightful surprise to see these two pieces together for the first time at the gallery. We don't work off one another, but have similar palettes, and use of form and line. We often don't see one anothers new work, until we meet at the gallery for installation. These two pieces together just astound me.... Strong connections like the black lines, the red pods, the striated yellow at the bottom...the pebble like patterns in grey in the centre of Barbra's work and on my projected seeds....these were amazing revelations in connection....

Barbra and I gave artists talks discussing the inspiration of our work, and the connections that exist between our work, for the opening of this exhibition at the Seymour Art Gallery in North Vancouver. We only see one another 3-4 times a year, and it is always a pleasure- and deepening of resonant links...


The shadow felting techniques I use in the construction of this piece, are some of those I will be teaching later this year in Australia:
 October 31-November 1 Shadow Felting
 Canberra Region Feltmakers, Australia (FULL)

November 7-8 Shadow Felting
 FeltWearAble, Melbourne, Australia

 November 13-15 Shadow Felting
 Bunbury Feltmakers, Western Australia (FULL)

These classes are mostly full, but there are spaces in the FeltWearAble class in Melbourne. This is a shorter, 1.5 day class, covering the techniques in an accessible timeframe. I appreciate having the opportunity to deepen these techniques through my own work, and also to share them in these classes. The workshops are always evolving and exciting for me to present!

Warm wishes,

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Respiration: an Outdoor Felt Installation

One of my big summer projects is an outdoor felt installation created for the juried exhibition LandArt @ ArtCraft.

I have been fascinated with Land Art for many years, and allowed the whisperings of a felt installation to roam around in my imagination...When the call for entry for this exhibition came up, I knew exactly what my proposal would be...I was juried into the show, but given a different location to the one on which I had based my proposal. I didn't think much of this until many months later when I was ready to approach this new work, and started to spend time in the space. My original idea just did not respond to the environment.   So I visted regularly, observing and sketching and thinking...until the new work presented itself. (I will tell you sometime about the original idea, as I still plan to make it and present it in a different location this summer!)

In Land Art I see two distinct relationships. The artist meets the site and responds to it's characteristics, developing a relationship and then a concept for that space.  And then the artwork meets the site,  and it too responds to it's characteristics. How will the artwork react with the changing seasons, weather patterns, growth of plant material, animal behavior, movement of the light, and wind? There are so many components to be aware of  and potentially respond to. It is a very exciting and dynamic "gallery"!
  It has been a fascinating process,  immersing oneself in the space, observing it's seasonal nuances: the light, the wind, the foliage, the earth...

 In the late spring when I saw the strong leaf patterns, emerging on the trees, I knew this would be the right form for this work. A collection of felt leaves, connecting the trees with the earth, filling in the air in between. When we started the installation, I was amazed to see the leaves moving in the breezes, coming up from the harbour. I had no idea until that moment that there would be a kinetic aspect to the work. But it is perfect. The air movements change the relationship each leaf has with the sunlight, illuminating the surface patterns in new ways, with each viewing.

 My artist statement on the work sums up where my planning went within the space... 

As an environmental art sculpture, Respiration relates to air and light. The soft, wool felt forms stand in relationship with the strong vertical lines of the trees, grasses and plants within the garden.  The white felt leaves have delicate surface textures, telling a story of  movement; of air currents and rhythm. As the sun moves, the felt leaves are backlit and illuminated, showing their patterns with different intensities, casting shadows and being cast upon by shadows of the surrounding foliage. Air movements catch the leaves, changing their relationship with the light and the viewpoint of the observer.  Respiration is constructed in natural, untreated, white wool and bamboo, primarily from local sources.

Respiration: the act of breathing, the conversion of oxygen (air) into energy....we do it...the leaves do it...The leaves have an inbreath and outbreath, an empty side and a full side depending on the position of the sun. They catch the breath of the wind and move and change... 

 I've been making and installing one or two leaves everyday. This continues my relationship with the space. Everyday I visit, and change it a little...changing the space, and also adding to my vision of the sculptural work, as it grows.  The last pieces go up tomorrow and the exhibition opens on June 26th. 

If you re in the area, I hope you can join us for the opening!

LandArt @ ArtCraft
June 26 – September 20 2015

Mahon Hall 114 Rainbow Rd, Salt Spring Island, BC

Opening w/ Artists on Site: June 26     5:30-7:00pm

Warm wishes, 

Friday, June 19, 2015

SHIFT travels to Vancouver

‘SHIFT’ includes oil paintings by visual artist Barbra Edwards and sculptural feltmaking by fibre artist Fiona Duthie. Both artists use local, natural materials and subject matter in their work with a focus on texture, layers, and colour relationships. Although the artists feel a deep artistic connection, their works are produced autonomously in their respective studios on separate Gulf Islands. In bringing their pieces together, the artists invite the viewer to draw connections between the works and notice their mutual perspectives.

Barbra Edwards’ paintings use dialogue between form and line to interpret her view of the environment on a cellular level. She explores sense of place and how each of us sees things from our own perspective. Edwards cites the natural environment as a major influence on her artwork, and her new series is textured, with vibrant colours surrounded by calm, atmospheric space. She lives and paints on Pender Island.

Fiona Duthie‘s sculptural felt garments employ geological surfaces created through fabric manipulation, stratified textiles and mapping imagery to explore biography and individual perspective. There is a sense of movement in each piece, inferring a geographical, emotional or mental shift. Fiona Duthie is an internationally recognized feltmaker known for her dynamic sculptural clothing and fibre artwork. Felting since 1996, Duthie has a full-time studio practice based on Salt Spring Island.

July 8 – August 8, 2015 Artist talks: Sunday July 12, 2 p.m. Reception: Sunday July 12, 3 p.m.

Seymour Art Gallery 
North Vancouver, BC

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Peaks & Valleys :: Surface Design Online Exhibition

This is a very special project. The first online exhibition of the Surface Design Online Challenge.

The Surface Design Online program is all about experimentation and pushing yourself further into techniques, whether they are new to you, or familiar friends.  I created this challenge and exhibition to continue this exploration with participants from the previous classes.

There is nothing like an exhibition with it's deadlines and parameters to make us stretch our creative thinking. This is  about pushing ourselves to create beyond our usual scope. Challenging ourselves to make something better or different than we have in a new direction, a new scale, take techniques further, shake up our creative practices. Hit a few walls...and break through them.  This stretching is how we all grow as artists....

This is the challenge that was set for the participants in this years exhibition:

Peaks and Valleys. Mountains and Plains, Crests and Troughs. Highs and Lows.....we have all experienced them, whether geographically or emotionally....and creatively!  What could be a more appropriate theme in dimensional surface design than this! Explore the theme as literally or metaphorically as you wish.

And they did. And did so exceptionally...  All from very different levels of experience and creative backgrounds....all employing techniques from the class, but creating work that is completely personal and individual. I think they are all brilliant!

Please do come by and take a look, read their words on how they interpreted the challenge, and share in our enthusiasm and passion for this medium.

Peaks & Valleys :: Surface Design Online Exhibition

Warm wishes, 

Note: We will do this again next year, and the exhibition is open to everyone who has taken, or is currently taking the Surface Design Online class.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

On Being a Student....

 To close off my teaching season, I decided to give myself a creative gift, and become a student for a weekend. It was such a refreshing and informative time.  Even outside of learning new skills under the extremely talented ceramicist, Julie MacKinnon

 The workshop was held on the my first weekend back after teaching at the Okanagan School of the Arts, and many weeks of both online teaching and on location workshops around the province.  On the first morning of the workshop I was acutely aware of how I was thinking about that day, in contrast to the first day of a workshop when teaching.

 I have no experience with ceramics.  Although I had some projects ideas in mind,  I had no expectation for my own output during the class. I did not expect to make anything close to the quality of Julie's work, whose hands have put in their hours to develop an intimate knowledge of the material. I didn't expect any notes. I expected that any information I needed to retain I would be responsible for noting myself, in images, sketches or words. I loved that I just had to show up with enthusiasm; that all the materials and tools needed were supplied.  I started the morning just looking forward to having a great creative time, with a group of other women, guided through the processes by Julie's knowledge, experience and good humour.

 I was really excited when I saw that Julie was offering this workshop. In one of those exuberant sparks of inspiration I saw how ceramics could provide the perfect base for a line of felt table lamps I have in process. The white felt lighting has a sense of ceramics when unlit...the surface design potential is very similar. I see simple clear glazed white ceramic bases, in perfect relationship with a the matte white felt work.  Julie is wonderful in allowing her students room to experiment and design. The lamp base above will have red linen stitching through the holes in the sides...we can't escape our own material languages! 

 This base is designed to have felted spikes coming through the openings, that have a relationship in balance with spikes on the felt shade. It really is so exciting. 

 I found as a student, with much teaching experience and a lifelong craft practise, I really wanted to understand the materiality of the clay. My hands understand every aspect of the wool fibres as they change as I work. It is intuitive and immediate, and requires no thinking....This is where the 10 000 hours of working as a craftperson brings your understanding of a material. But my hands don't understand clay, like Julie's do. I wanted to know what my fingers should be feeling, and how this would change how I would work with the clay.  The tactile experience and understanding was more important to me than the end product.  Julie was wonderful in answering my questions and explaining the different "hands" when working with clay.


 I became aware that there are two definite approaches to workshops. Really the difference between master/process based classes and interest classes. It benefits everyone to clearly differentiate between these when people sign up for a workshop.  Ceramics will (probably...almost certainly) never be my main material to work with, so my mindset in attending the class was entirely interest based. A little side trip into a new world...I know many people that come to my classes work in felt, and fully expect to take every nuance of what we do home, to integrate into their own work.  This sets a very different tone for both student and teacher.  Both are good and wonderful...but quite different in expectations and delivery.

 I loved having the opportunity to work on the other side of the table, to work with a material that felt familiar and yet very foreign, to talk with all the interesting and creative participants, and learn from such an exceptional much so I'm going back for more in June...The last chance I'll have to play outside my medium before intensive studio time kicks in for the summer. I can't wait, and my sketchbook is filling up with projects that combine felt and clay.  

  If Julie and I could work out the logistics around the firing and glazing of the ceramics, we could create a great collaborative workshop!

You can see more of Julie's work here:
Julie MacKinnon Ceramics
Warm wishes,