It is time for a good old fashioned letter as summer begins. So long June, here comes July. A lot of you are in your gardens and I admire that. My gardens are small containers. I can never seem to get the hang of weeding. I guess I am too busy pulling loops instead of weeds. Years ago I wrote letters all the time. My friends said I wrote just like I talked. Lately most of the writing I do is for this website. I still try to send out thank you notes, but very rarely do I write a letter. Just here…
Inspiration seems to be everywhere for me in June. It is in the first days of summer that I really feel the beauty of the season. You go from lilacs to lupins to roses. Does it get any better? I love the scent of roses in the air as I go by on my bicycle.
I have been busy pulling loops of patterns from the Pattern of the Month Club. I hooked two last week and hope to hook a couple of more in the coming weeks. Hooking does not stop over the summer for me. It changes. I work smaller. I sometimes use my laptop frame instead of my cheticamp. I find I still need that meditation of pulling the loops and when I go a while with out it I notice it. I begin to stir the pot, my own pot, so to speak. Hooking for me is a comfort and since I learned I rarely stop for any length of time. I hook because it comforts me.
Today the studio has been full of visitors. We have taught a few people how to hook but others came for a yard of linen, or to pick up a new kit. Some fell in love with a swatch of wool and had to have it. Most are on their way somewhere. That is the lovely thing about Amherst, it is on the way if you travel through the maritimes. We are in the centre of NS, NB, and PEI. I love the sound the voices and the oohs and ahas that people make as they look around. It makes me feel special, like I did something! Having a small business here in town is a blessing for me. I love having somewhere to go!
It is a real joy to see people come in and see in real life what they have been looking at on the internet. When it comes to life for them it is fun to be here and see it happen. I have been busy working on the private learning website for Pattern of the Month Club and WoolBox Club members. It is called Woolcake and will also be available as a separate subscription offering how to videos, lessons, tips and inspiration. It will be updated weekly. It is a lot of work but I am excited by it. I felt it was time to take this idea and run with it. It has been in the making for over three years. Usually I am good at getting things off the ground quickly but this one has been stewing a long time.
We have plenty of fun and foolishness here as you can se. Having Georgina and Denise constantly in everyday means that the studio has a lot more continuity. It also means for me that I have time to hook and to play with new ideas, and get pictures of us that make no sense what so ever.
When I think of the things that have inspired me lately I would have to say:
- Maudie, the movie about Maude Lewis’s life.
- The smell of wild roses.
- A bunch of books about how to draw things.
- The old Lighthouse in Spencer’s Island that is preserved by the community.
- Driving my bicycle down the yellow line on old country roads with no cars around.
Well that is just a few things lately that got me rolling. I hope you are finding lots in your community to inspire you. That’s one of our jobs in life, to inspire each other.
That is my letter for today…..
As always, I am happy you read this, Thanks so much, Deanne
Pattern of the Month Club
Once a month you will get a surprise in the mail…
Click on the above picture to hear Deanne describe the Pattern of the Month Club
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WOOLCAKE , our online learning portal
it was a week ago and everybody was here
brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles
parents, grand parents, friends
a few were absent
unable to make the trip
or gone too soon
they were missed
yet present in our hearts
many weeks had lead to that day
a proposal on a rainy day on another continent
a dream that kept growing
a dress bought in a heartbeat
we had a perfect location
of woods and fields
pond and garden
rock patio spread shaded by grape vines
a live dome had been built on the edge of the woods a few years back
covered by hops, an early summer offering
in it’s womb the union would take place
a fairytale setting
a week ago three young men lined up
in front of a small crowd they waited
out in the field a beautiful maiden
surrounded by her dearest
was making her way
the most anticipated moment
the one we had all been waiting for
the groom saw his bride
it was short and simple
as they had wanted
in a few words they were united
in front of all they proclaimed their commitment
love at that moment was everyone’s attire
it was a week ago
as I walk outside
in the field
on the edge of the woods
or as I sit under the shade of the grape vines
I feel thankful for life and for love
it’s a cool morning
chances of frost last night
I decided yesterday to wait a couple more days before I transplant my sunflowers
I did transplant kale last week
my greenhouse is full of it
I like to let some plants go to seeds in the greenhouse
at the moment I have a carpet of young kale, dill, cilantro, and the odd lettuce
I woke up early this morning
sun right onto my bed
I finished a book that I had read a few years back
I like to reread sometimes
some books are like friends that you need to visit every now and then
I pulled the blankets off
– chilly –
I put them back on in a hurry
I assess the situation
t-shirt on the dresser, sweater near by, those cozy leggings that I could wear one more day
a farmhouse can be cooler in the spring then in the middle of winter
either you’re out of wood or you feel it’ll warm up soon enough, no need for fire
the wood stove is going on a diet
I visited my friend Jenn and her daughter Cadence a couple days ago
both will celebrate their birthday this week
one will be six, the other 35
I came to have this ongoing discussion about age
I was curious to know what Cadence had to say
she was thrilled to be interviewed
I have to tell you that Jenn is a potter
a few years back she left a secure job with Canada Post, build herself a cozy studio, and became a full time potter
she makes beautiful mugs, plates, bowls, vases, you name it
she started off selling at the local farmers market
when I visited her she had just completed a big order for a shop in PEI
Of course Jenn isn’t only a potter
she’s a mom, a gardener, a cook, she weaves, sows and knits, she teaches, she dances, she plays
she smiles and laughs easily
a lovely person
In a way it wasn’t much of a surprise when I asked her about age and aging that really, she didn’t think much about it. Here is what she had to say:
“My goal in life is to be in every moment, so to think so far in the future,
which is what I think when I think of age; it ends at some point, and that’s why people think about it … If I get ideas in my head about getting older I just roll down my imaginary window and I throw them out (laugh) like I’m driving a car.”
“I think that there’s so many things to do there’s no possibility that I will ever get them all done. So I trust in myself to be doing the things that I wanna be doing and that’s as good as I can get. I think that’s the best I can do, and if I start not doing those, I feel it, I just don’t feel like I’m in a good place, so then I change them (laugh).
I don’t know if it’s a good thing, I can’t make myself sit still.”
You’re an older lady; how do you see yourself?
“I wanna be a roaming around the world 80 year old … I wanna be fearless.”
“I think about attachment and I don’t want to be attach to anything”
Wiggly Cadence in her seat, mini cup of tea in hands gracefully answered my questions. She too doesn’t think much about age. Obviously there’s better things to think about when you’re five. Like her big brother not letting her play nintento at the level she’d like, how many friends she will invite to her upcoming birthday, and that hen that has been sitting on eggs for days… So much things to think about.
What does age mean?
“How old you are.”
What is old?
“31 is old”
Is there a number you’re excited about?
“ 12 “
“I just like that number”
Is there something special that happens when you’re 12?
“well … it’s my birthday”
Jenn: what are you going to do when you are a grown up?
“ I will visit you sometimes “
mama’s heart swells, we drink more tea
I think I will visit someone today.
a few weeks ago
I think maybe even before we got back
my son Isaac told me that there would be a surprise graduation party for his fiancé Haley
the cover was
she would be prepping a surprise birthday party for him
so just go along when she let’s you know about it
how does this work?
Haley has a cousin
who really likes Isaac
cousin will pretend he wants to host a surprise birthday party for Isaac
Haley is excited about it
she says it’s really hard to trick Isaac and she can’t keep secrets
but she’ll try her best
Most of Haley’s family lives in Cape Breton
nobody is mentioning anything about her upcoming graduation
Dad who is a musician is busy with gigs
Mom is about to start working
no time for parties it seems
Behind Haley’s back everyone has been plotting
she’s been tricked once before
for her high school graduation
she even made her own cake I was told
thinking she was going to someone else’s party
Never again she said then
yesterday was somewhat crazy
we have to make plans out loud about the day
Hey Isaac, what you want for your birthday
what should we have for supper
let’s bake a cake
the trick is not to slip
not to say too much
make Haley think we’re going along with this secret party for Isaac
and keep a straight face
Haley has to figure out a way to get Isaac to St-Margaret’s Bay (cousin’s place)
which is 20 minutes out of town
we have a friend who is away and asked if Haley could go check on her house
then Haley will say that she needs to pick up a jacket she forgot at her cousin
You don’t have to come she says to Isaac, enjoy the day with your family
No, no, Isaac says, I’ll come with you
all of a sudden it’s time
Haley picks up Isaac and off they go
we have to hurry
of course we get stuck in traffic
but funny enough, when we get to the highway exit they are right in front of us
we slow down to let a couple cars get between us
we easily find cousin’s place
there’s lots of cars already there
we quickly unpack the car but as we are ready to head off to the house
here comes Haley and Isaac parking right in front of us
we hide as much as we can while making our way to the house
at this point Haley is breaking up and Isaac is smiling
the house is all decorated
on the table there is a big cake
two camera are set up at different angle ready to roll
we make a quick entrance
“They’re coming” we say
Isaac and Haley walk in
she has a huge smile, her face is glowing as she looks at him
I got you she thinks
she turns around
and as she slowly takes in all the people that are in the room
mom, dad, uncles, aunts, cousins
her ivory cheeks turn a nice shade of pink
her mouth widens
her eyes water
(as does everyone else)
We got you, we got you big time!
Oh the love, the laugh, the tears
and oh, Happy Birthday Isaac!
it’s been one week today
one week actually yesterday, we arrived on a Saturday
the first two nights I’d wake up in the middle of the night wondering where I was
trying to figure out how our windows fitted in what I thought was my Moroccan room
then I slept better and slept a lot
jet lag I guess and recovering from the journey itself
as if I didn’t realize my batteries were low and needed a full charge
the weather has been wonderful and tons of snow have melted in the past week
I started cleaning up the greenhouse
pruned around an apple tree
got a piece of ground ready to plant garlic
the ice on the pond is still holding but there is an opening near the beavers house
I saw the beavers come out looking for grubs
I should bring them my apple clippings
I saw a couple deers in the orchard and in the garden
I was happy about that
I heard form my neighbor that there are three dead ones in our woods
winter’s been hard
I visited a friend and she has some work for me
I went to a community talk on wild edibles and met a few acquaintances
we’ve shared a meal with family members, made tagine and drank some wine
slowly, bit by bit, as familiar motions take place
I am getting home
it’s been a long journey after all
ps. people are asking about highlights from the trip, there are so many, here are a some visual highlights
pps. I am planing on doing a blog series about women and age. I want to keep that conversation going.
After a memorable stay in the desert (I missed last week’s blog for lack of internet but you will find a post on that experience here if you like) we are now in Taroudant, a town that the locals call “the small Marrakech”. We got off the bus two days ago after a long ride through more Atlas where stunning scenery of mountains and valleys, dry river beds, oasis, herds of sheep, dusty road stands with colorful potteries kept us entertained. The landscapes in these parts are rugged and beautiful.
As we got off the bus I started looking for a taxi when Thami, upon asking me where we were staying, offered us directions then took upon himself to lead us there and carry some of our luggage. When I offered Thami a tip for his service he promptly refused, welcoming us to his town and offering us to take a horse drawn carriage ride with him for a tour of the city the next morning at a very reasonable price. Why not. We’ve never done that.
If there is something I have to learn about morocco it’s to be open to whatever the day will give (or lead to). The ride with Thami didn’t last an hour as I had expected, it took most of the day. Not only did he show us the city rampart where here and there we hopped off to climb, get a good view and take photos (he knew of all the good spots for pictures) but he made us visit the souk and of course some shops. Now the nice thing about visiting shops with a tour guide is that you are made to feel that there is no obligation or pressure to buy anything. Have a look, ask questions, take pictures.
We visited a women cooperative where several products are made from the argan nut. I already had bought argan oil in Fes so there was no need for more. We visited a jewelry shop and there, since this region is famous for this art, and because we had not indulged yet, Charlotte and I splurged. We went into an ancient synagogue transformed into a art shop where I saw the biggest carpet show room I had seen yet on this trip along with several rooms filled with ancient and new art from Morocco and other African country.We might as well have stepped into Ali Baba’s cavern. I knew nothing there was within my budget but oh my, what a feast for the eyes.
We saw mountain of spices at the market, and several other small artisan shop. But what took the main part of our tour was yet another carpet shop owned by one of Thami’s relative. Soon after we got in and as a gentleman was about to show us some carpets (tea already on it’s way) we did let them know that we had already bought carpets and blanket earlier on the trip. In fact, that was the heavy piece of luggage that Thami helped us carry the night before. No problem my friends, just have a look, no need to buy.
Of course you know what is next. Next comes an array of beautiful thin blankets made of camel hair and cactus fiber. They are light and roll up to almost nothing. When will I ever have a chance to acquire such beauty. We ponder, we do not have enough cash, I plead that we must go back to the hostel and get a credit card if we are to make a purchase. I think that really we should finish our tour first. The gentleman doesn’t settle for that. It is Friday, couscous day, why don’t you join us for couscous. Finish the tour then come eat with us. Hum, homemade couscous is an invite no one should refuse. We agree, we finish the tour, we come back. I know already that we will get those blankets. After couscous and more tea we not only get three but four blankets.
Maybe because we are not good at bartering, maybe because we spend time, maybe because tourism is low at the moment, who knows, not only our gentleman lowers the price a little but he trows in a few cushion covers to go with the blankets and give Eric a Fatima hand for his mom. Hands are shaken, shukran (thank you) exchanged, we are all happy with our day. Moroccans depends on tourism and will do their best to give you a good time. I have seen here some of the most beautiful craft / art there is. Generation of men and women have passed down their skills from fathers to sons, mothers to daughters, and most of what you see has been made by hard working hands.
Thanks to Thami and extended family for a great day yesterday.
Here are some photos for you textile and art lover!
ps. one more thing, we visited Amoon, a collaborative of Berber women in Taroudant today, there was one rug that was hooked!
Here is their website: anmoon.com
If you ever visit Taroudant do visit their shop.
packing once again I go through an accumulation of receipts
we are leaving tomorrow morning for Ouarzazate
I love these names
Chefchaouen, Ouarzazate, Tagounite, Essaouira
I am packing once again and trying to organize my “stuff”
what goes in the large backpack; where
what goes in the smaller backpack
what goes in my purse
I empty everything
I even wash the smaller backpack
I think somewhere along the way there was a leak in the ice tea bottle
it got soaked, it dried, I forgot about it
today it looked dirty and felt… well, like it needed a wash
my purse had accumulated a series of receipts, directions and hotel names on the back of printed boarding passes, museum tickets, grocery lists, business cards
I look at them all
I paid 75.00 (euros, pounds, dirham?) at Rodeo something for three Bonnie
what was that?
think, think, think
oh yeah, those were chicken wraps just outside the train station in Casablanca
we were starving
they tasted good
I found a map I drew of the main streets around our apartment in Barcelona
brings me right back to the holidays when the boys were with us and we walked the town
tomorrow we leave for Ouarzazate
there isn’t much there apparently except for their film studio
I’ve never visited a film studio
this week we watched “Gladiator” because some scenes were shot there
so cool we thought, we’re going there!
the main thing is that we are heading south and are going inland
rather up and down land
we will be getting into the Atlas mountain range
and then, when we come out of there, we will be at the edge of the desert
the cool thing is that we will be getting further away from tourist traps
if that’s possible
this week we are to meet and live with a Berber family
still through this helpx thing that we do
I am looking forward to it
It has been nice enough to be by the beach and stay with our American hosts
but we are in Morocco
it only seems right to spend some time with Moroccans
maybe by next week I will have learned how to make tagines
or a proper couscous
maybe I’ll tell you about it
have a good week
it’s been an interesting week
moving deeper into Morocco
new sights and smells
with other travelers
with a new host
we’re by the ocean near Casablanca
Dar Bouazza it’s called
there is a little port where fishermen bring their catch
there’s a few fruit and vegetable vendors
the beach in front of us is sand with the regular pounding of waves
nothing too big
gentle and steady
further along there are very interesting rock formations
their design make me come back for a photo shoot
it is busy this week end
the weather is nice and several cars are parked in rudimentary parking lots along the ocean front
you wouldn’t think much of it
unpaved dirt lot overlooking the ocean
but in the shade with a glass of tea
an attendant keeps watch
over the nice looking cars
I was looking to buy chicken the other day
on the main drag there are several small shops where you can find all the basics
for that there are meat stalls
I see a big side of beef hanging and a nice array of cuts in one of them
I’m looking for chicken though
I ask the man if he has any
I ask in French
turns out French is the unofficial third language in this country and is definitively not spoken by all
in the north more people speak Spanish as a third language
the two first ones you ask: Arabic and Berber
in Tangier for example, the first boy we met spoke Spanish, French and English aside from Arabic and maybe Berber
I’m thinking of my kids back home
the ones I used to help with french at school
who struggle with one extra tongue
back to my chicken; I am stubborn and ask again, in french, if he has any other type of meat
maybe mentioning lamb (but not pork) will help
the man graciously points to a nice piece of beef
he obviously thinks I want a particular cut
I understand that we will not understand each other if I keep on like this
so, I resort to a universal language and mime a chicken while clucking
that works, the man has a good laugh and points up the alley to another stall
I have been using this method daily with Mina the maid who works here
she too only speaks Arabic
on the first day after many “merci” for this or that
I muster the courage to try it out in Arabic
I can tell she is pleased
later she uses a few words in french
here we go, between gestures, a little of this and that we may understand each other
the photos were taken yesterday
fascinated I was by the various textures on my path
On the ferry we saw the edge of the Rif mountains
looking for a culture shock
looking for extra heat
we had been told many things
the cabs, the haggling, the food, the art, the hospitality
go to: Chefchaouen, Fes, Marrakech
do this, don’t do that
it won’t be much warmer
we experienced the cab first thing
an old Mercedes
the grand taxi
from Tangier port to the city
a good half hour drive
as soon as we step out a young boy is offering us direction
I know where I am going
I have my map
it’s around the corner
still he is one step ahead of me
pointing to where I am going
I tell him I have no money
which is true, I will need to find a bank first thing to get some local change
it doesn’t make any difference
one step ahead of me he goes
we’re at the hostel
still the boy and now another one are waiting around for us to be done with checking in
they want to take us to their uncle or other relative for dinner
we are exhausted and just want to settle in
it has been a long day
the clerk who knows them shoos them off
welcome to Morocco
Next day Chefchaouen or like people say Chaouen
the blue city
the Medina (the old city) is so pretty
just big enough to think you may get lost
but really, small, so you don’t
cats are everywhere
most of them look good
I think it’s a good sign
our hosts at the Riad are most welcoming
our house is your house
we venture around
I click away
every door, every step
every shade of blue
catches my eye
there are shops everywhere
everything is beautiful
I don’t dare let my eye linger too much
the vendors know
they will catch me
once your caught it’s hard to get out
eventually I get caught
come to see this carpet shop one says
I will take you there
innocently I go
sure, let’s have a peak
we are treated the royal way
the place is large
mounds and mounds of carpets and blankets
all of them absolutely gorgeous
two men are busy picking several out to show
unrolling them on the floor
tea is offered
it’s a ritual
it’s also a trap
I really didn’t have any intention of buying anything that day
I was going to be smart and inform myself first
I had been told to bargain
I was not going to buy anything big
we are backpacking
you see where this is going
a couple hours later I came out with a large carpet
two small ones
and two blankets
did I bargain?
I couldn’t get myself to do it
the craftsmanship shown to me was so beautiful
how could I undermine it
later I felt a bit like a fool
my daughter and I, on another walk, got caught in a different shop
the vendors are so slick
like fine fisherman, they know how to hook you and slowly get you in
I am the biggest fish around
he offers prices that are way below what I just paid
I feel tired, I had enough
we manage to get out of this one empty handed
my daughter tells me what we got was way better
there is much to adjust culture wise
as a foreigner I don’t want to offend anyone
we are in Muslim country
what do I know
much to learn
we are in Fes today
biggest Medina in the world
this time we will get lost
here are some Chaouen photos
as this day wears off so does this part of our trip
two days ago Isaac and Haley left for Paris
Isaac taking his belle to the last leg of her trip
she will be going home for Christmas
these past two days were spent doing small tasks
going one last time down to the village
enjoying the 2km path through the woods
looking again and again at this beautiful scenery
soaking it in
saying good bye to the butcher
buying one last almond croissant (make that three actually)
over a month has gone by already
our long time dream of Provence to be over
today for the first time since the beginning of this trip we had nothing on our agenda
first day of no work, no visiting, no traveling
I walked around the property
I took my time
I walked through the olive grove, into the woods
Geraldine was telling me how wild this place was ten years ago
the way she speaks makes me think of an archeological dig
it was all forest
they did an enormous amount of work to bring it to what it is now
I admire the stone work
some has been redone, some, in the woods, is barely visible
I can’t help to think about the past
who built these walls
what were they for
in places huge trees have taken roots
how old are they
I walk some more
at the spring I pick up the clay cup and I have a sip
I go by tall rosemary bushes
it’s hard not to
I rub my hands with their essence
I look down at the rolling hills
in the distance I see the village
on my back the cliff stands tall
no clouds are caught in it today
I look at the olive groves all cleaned up
much work was done there
this week, working away in the sun, I stopped for a moment and thought how content I was to be outside in such a beautiful environment
yes, this experience has been good
our work is done here and our journey to continue
tomorrow we will be off to Barcelona
this coming week we will reunite with our son Isaac and our son Sam who is joining us for the holidays
now that for me will be Christmas
when one doesn’t know where to start; start with highlights
Paris is already gone by and I barely said a thing busy we were soaking it up
and before Paris there was Canterbury
didn’t even mention that did I
images are worth a thousand word, I will use this
Canterbury: awe, solemnity, beauty, moved to tears when I entered the crypt
I think the sense of time, history, people, us in some ways passing through, achievement, faith, war, love, peace
I don’t know
and didn’t need to think it
the feeling was there and was enough
I loved Canterbury
later on we went back to hear the choir
we went to mass
I never go to mass
it was beautiful
the whole ceremony punctuated by a mixture of voices all tones and range mixed in unison in this huge sacred place
that was Canterbury cathedral
an overnight bus ride from London that took us on the ferry in the middle of the night
long and groggy is the feeling
in the middle of the night we go through border
the French one
I’m a little nervous again, borders tent to do that
Charlotte is ahead
the officer says “bonsoir”
she says “bonsoir”
he then says “and in the morning you say…”
She is puzzled for a second then responds “bonjour”
“and in the afternoon…”
that’s the trick question, one must know that to go through border
Charlotte answers: “bonne après-midi”
I go after Charlotte
He says: “Bonsoir”
“She looks like you”
“She’s my daughter”
the officer winks, stamps my passport, “Bon séjour”
off I go
I love France already
True things about Paris: people are not rude
or at least no more then anywhere else
also, I was under the impression that there would be dog droppings everywhere
that was an old rumor
Paris is clean, surprisingly clean
Paris highlights: everywhere you look is beautiful, the bakeries, la Seine, the multiple bridges, la tour Eiffel at night, walking and getting lost, our hosts
Paris was thrilling and exhausting
you just can’t help wanting more of it
We are now settled in a beautiful nook in Southern France
up against a cliff looking down valleys
olives trees lined up on “restanques” (dry-stone wall terraces)
a 2 km path takes us to the nearby village (and bakery)
today we’ll explore a different path that leads to a monastery
the monks are known to produce “Chartreuse” and honey
at this point in our trip we have been reunited with my son and his … fiancé!
he proposed in London about a week ago
so it’s five of us for the month in Provence
we will be clearing the orchard, helping out on the land
it is a country where thyme and rosemary grow wild
as my son said “herbes de Provence” could just as well be “weeds of Provence”
we love it
next week, Sunday, I will be writing from … London!
it still doesn’t sound quite real
yet everything around me spells it out
Eric (my husband) is tying things up
painting, touching up cement, getting the house all ready for a cozy winter
Charlotte (my daughter) was done work at the end of September
is done all the homework for her correspondence studies
will do her exams this Tuesday (we leave Thursday)
has been packed for a month
I have been booking tickets, bought insurance, payed bills
I got my website up and running (thanks Michele)
took the cats to Grammy (boohoo we miss them)
So close to departure and feeling like it’s a pretty big deal
It’s the first time we cross the ocean
we’ve been all over North America and down in Mexico
yet this time is different
Is it the fact that we can’t drive there?
must be the ocean
I don’t know
Maybe it’s because we haven’t gone on a big trip for a while
maybe it’s the news
or maybe it’s because these are our last few months with Charlotte before she leaves the coop
Our last fall as a trio
we use to be a quintet
we’re about to be a duo
I don’t know if we’re all a little anxious
for whatever reason
I know I am
even though I can’t pinpoint why
it doesn’t matter
on Thursday night we’ll cross the ocean
on Friday we will meet people
start building new friendship
acquire new skills
fill our eyes with new sights
that is exciting
so, yes, I finally have my website up and running
it’s basic at the moment
it’s like a travel journal at the beginning of a trip
not much in it yet
but it’s coming
I will keep posting here (and on my site) on Sunday but if you get curious about what goes on the rest of the week have a peak www.catherinebussiere.com
Have a happy Thanksgiving!
I’m in the thick of downsizing and transitioning my parents from the house they’ve lived in for over 40 years to a small condo. They are excited for the change so spirits are high despite the amount of physical and emotional work. It’s a sensitive transition going through a lifetime of possessions and then having to part with most of them. Our things can be so embedded with our histories, stories and identity.
For the last few days I’ve been working in my Mum’s old sewing and craft room which was my childhood bedroom. Talk about layers of history-my Elton John Captain Fantastic poster from the 70s is still clinging to one wall. Mum hasn’t done a lot of sewing or knitting in the last years so it’s become a catch-all space. A couple of old Singer sewing machines and stacks of boxes lined the walls and an assortment of bags filled the centre. It was a bit of an archaeological dig but as a maker with a penchant for vintage things it was potential treasure trove to me. In short order I spied a hand knit sweater I clearly remember Mum wearing a lot when we lived in Nova Scotia in the 60s. Now that I’m a knitter I could appreciate the complexity of the pattern and how well made it was. It was a sweater with a story and it was a lovely moment to be able to bring it out to Mum, who was working away in the living room, and share it’s history. It even fits her again!
I also found a stash of vintage knitting patterns and books going back to the 40s. They’re coming home with me- I’ll worry about my stash later! I marvel at how elegant and stylish they are especially the Vogue Knitting magazines from the UK. Mum and Dad lived in Scotland for a couple of years when they were first married so some of the books are from 1955-57 when she was knitting up a storm with all those beautiful Scottish wools.
At the end of a long dusty, day I was going through one last box of stuff destined for the Goodwill bag and to my delight I saw a little magazine bent open to reveal the very pattern for the sweater I unearthed earlier. Another one for my pile and another story.
My parents have given themselves a number of months to transition to the new place. Even so, the impulse for us helpers is to rush, rush, rush, like all the goodness is waiting on the other side. Who doesn’t want to get through a move like this quickly, however, now that I’m in the middle of it, I think the process of getting there has value and can be a quality experience too. Possessions can be memory triggers and there is something very powerful and meaningful in allowing some time and space for those stories to be told. I’m so grateful for these “sweater” moments. I will savour them and they will no doubt become fodder for future reminiscing when we’re all sitting around their new condo. This move is a whole lot of work to be sure but I wouldn’t trade this time with my parents for anything.
Note: I have an article in the new Sept/Oct issue of Rug Hooking Magazine where I write about my combination hooking and felting work. The article also features images from my Illusions, Revelations and Transformations solo show. See you next month and thanks for stopping in!
then there is the garden in it’s full mature beauty
I walked through parts of it this morning looking at patterns
closing in to borage
how velvety it seems
a friend of mine spent the week here working away at four short videos
she is a percussionist extraordinaire
it’s been fun helping her out
but the most exciting news at the moment
is our upcoming trip to Europe
this week more then any
things have developed
we now know for sure that we will be helping out for a month
harvesting olives in Southern France
it sounds romantic
maybe it’ll be brutal
I doubt it
I’m up for new grounds, experiences and challenges
on my to do list coming right up
is a blog site (shared with my daughter)
that will feature our adventures in Europe
I’d like to keep posting photos and make short videos
I will keep a post on Deanne’s Sunday blog
it will most likely be linked to my new blog site
must figure that out
for now my friend is waiting
today we must wrap up her video projects
lots to do
have a good week
This rug was recently completed by Margot who started it with Deanne at the 3 day Workshop last October. She calls it “JoyFull”. Margot says “Thank you for launching me on this wonderful adventure”. She did a beautiful job – look at that hair!
Margot loves Rug Hooking so much that she taught her 9 year old niece how to hook this summer.
Here is Margot’s Niece diligently working away on her Summer Fields Kit.
Margot went above and beyond – this is how she framed her niece’s work along with photos of them together. What a wonderful keepsake for for her niece. Thank you for sharing this with us Margot!
If you have a special rug, or rug hooking story you would like to share here, please email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org .
A weekend crop of garage sale signs caught my eye. One was close to home so took the bait. I circled around and around the tables until my inner magpie spied a small basket of buttons. I have a thing for buttons and like to pick up a few interesting ones when I find them. I use them in my creations or just keep them to look at. I think my fascination goes back to the jars and tins of buttons my mum used to have when I was growing up. My mum is a waste not want not homemaker and when our clothes were ready for the rag bag their final gesture was offering their buttons for the jar. I remember gleefully dumping and sorting them. These were the play things for a pre-technology generation.
One of my favourite button finds was during a holiday in Nova Scotia. A yard sale right on the side of the highway brought my husband and I to a screeching halt. Actually, the screeching started when I yelled stop, stOP,STOP! I had never seen home made button cards before yet they seemed such an obvious progression to sorting through the button jar. These particular buttons weren’t extravagant and the cards themselves rather primitive, but I found them oh so charming and could just picture someone extracting these little collections from a stock pile of saved buttons.
When I described these cards to the woman hosting the garage sale it triggered a dash into her home to bring out some of her button cards to show me. She was clearly a very serious collector and her cards were stunning. They were full of large, highly detailed antique buttons; the likes of which I have never seen before. By conversation’s end she had generously extended an invitation for me to come back to her home for a proper show and tell and to join her sometime when she attends a gathering of local button enthusiasts. Who knew a delightful portal into the world of international button collecting lived right in my neighborhood. The thrill of a garage sale treasure hunt is the unexpected find and in this case the gold had nothing to do with the wares. Of course,I did pick up a few buttons from the basket, how could I resist.
Here’s a few buttons from my collection.
Thanks for stopping in!
I have a new post up on my website, pop over if you have a minute! dianekrys.com
it is sunny
it is warm
it smells like fresh cut grass
it smells like a warm summer forest
and wild flowers
it’s the country
another country side
a hilly one
with fields, forests, tractors, and hidden ponds
with nephews and a niece
and it’s summer
Last month the Royal Alberta Museum opened it’s much anticipated Western Threads exhibit in their feature gallery. Western Threads celebrates the history of fibre art in the western provinces. The exhibit showcases the Heritage Rug Hookers of Saskatoon, Studio Art Quilt Associates (Western Canadian Branch), and a retrospective of the Focus on Fibre Arts Association’s biennial exhibitions.
It occurred to me when I was dropping my piece off for the show, the majority of this work would most likely never be shown together through normal channels. This show was mixing work from artists at different points in their careers and development, as well as, bringing together technique specific communities. It was going to be a coalescence unique to a museum setting and it filled me with curiosity and excitement.
The excitement really started a few days before the opening with a yarn bombing at the museum grounds. There was a great vibe to the event with museum staff, artists,friends and family all chipping in. It was a pop up fibre community that perfectly reflected the spirit of the exhibit.
Featured artists gathered the following day for an exhibit preview where we heard remarks from the executive director as he showed off his new fibre lingo (apparently, embroidery floss and yarn bombing are not in everyone’s lexicon!), as well as, a speaker from each of the three organizations represented in the show. Listening to the presentation I felt a great sense of pride to be part of this event and the larger fibre art community.
The Western Threads exhibit is a feast for the eyes and one I will see a few times to fully absorb. My piece, Roundabout(2007), is exhibited as part of the Focus on Fibre Arts Association’s retrospective. Roundabout’s experimental nature helped pave the road to the artwork I create today. Participating in the Focus on Fibre Arts Association biennial was also my training ground to learn and experience the “call for entry” proposal process and show my work for the first time in a juried event. All three organizations offer important developmental experiences and provide gathering points that bring various guilds, fibre artists and artisans together through their programs, events and passion for fibre art.
I believe there is great power and goodness in these “Western Threads” beyond the visual beauty so dynamically displayed in the exhibit. These threads connect us and build our sense of community enriching our lives, artwork and culture. Wherever my fibre art journey takes me, it’s comforting to know my grass roots were planted in this warm and fertile soil.
If you happen to be in Edmonton between now and August 4, I encourage you to explore Western Threads for yourself. And if you feel inspired to try your hand, they have something going on for that too!
I have a new website with images and more information on my contribution. dianekrys.com
Thanks for stopping in!
For the past three year I have been an assistant in french classrooms.
The main requirement for the job was to have french as a first language.
I only have 1 year of university under my belt and even if I’ve done a few years of college, when it comes to certain jobs it doesn’t mount to much.
When I realized I could do this job in two nearby schools, one being where my kids went, I jumped on the occasion. I’d been self employed for a while and the prospect of a regular paycheck was rather incentive.
In three weeks I’ll be done my third year.
During these past three years I’ve had the chance to experience first hand what it is like to be in a classroom. From grade four to grade twelve I’ve spend time along side teachers going over the basics of the french language. Core french it’s called. During these years I have seen how in general the idea of speaking another language is, at first, for most, appealing. The little ones generally have fun with it. And they are quite good. They remember words and sentences, they have fun with it. But as the years go by, it doesn’t take too long, it seems like what was once fun becomes dull and unnecessary. By grade 8 or 9 the kids are done with it. Even though they are told how important it is to know another language, even though they could potentially get a better job (or a job at all), they are not interested any more and some seem to have lost the little they learned in previous grades.
Many times I’ve come across this attitude of “I’m not good at it” therefor let’s not even try and keep the door shut. I know better. I know better because I have been around those kids for a few years now. I can see the potential. I can see how smart they are. I have kids of my own. Been there. Open up little one, don’t do that to yourself.
It takes a lot of nurturing to convince a kid (or anyone maybe) that they should give themselves a chance. To keep that door open even if it is only a crack. To inspire them.
At the end of the day, after the first year, the important thing for me was not so much how much french they learned. It was that they had met someone from elsewhere who spoke a different language. It was that they could say that they knew someone from Quebec and that person was fine. It was to bring down barriers and let go of the fear. It was to create a relationship of trust and care.
I sometimes wonder how it goes for other subjects. Math, english, sciences. How are they doing there? How much of what we do, what is taught, is for keeps, is of use.
In three weeks I’ll be done my third year and I’m calling it a wrap.
My daughter, my youngest, will unofficially graduate from high school (she’s skipping grade 12 by doing two correspondence courses on her own). We will celebrate with a journey through Europe and after, who knows. I feel like I’ve been in school long enough. I need to experience new things. Have new challenges.
It’s been a good journey though. It has been really good to meet all these fine young individuals. It’s been good to find behind a rowdy front, attention and mindfulness.
It’s been good to nurture the needs and to be trusted to do so. It’s been good to see my own barriers and fears fall.
I’m looking forward to a new journey and I will be happy to hear, when chances come along, the sweet sound of: Bonjour madame Catherine.
I don’t know if I ever told you about my two cats
once upon a time about two years ago
after mourning our previous cat, Miche, for a good year
– by the way I use Miche’s pretty face for my profile picture –
my daughter and I embarked on a very short journey to find a cat
It was I believe a Saturday morning when I slyly asked my husband if he would mind having a cat again
there was a time when we had goats and chickens and a dog and several cats
the kids were babies, we were home all the time, we gardened, we did the whole self sufficient thing and it was good
then one by one the pets left or passed away, we ate some chickens and gave a few and we sold our goats
we were all itching to go traveling
my husband and I maybe more then the kids but they didn’t know that then
they hadn’t been bit (by the travel bug)
now they have
When Miche passed away I was devastated
she was the best cat ever
she had been born from one of our cat and picked from the litter to be kept
she was beautiful and smart and was an incredible mouser
she would somehow know when the kids were in distress and would sit between them to elevate tension
Pets do that
After she passed away we thought (my husband thought) this is it, no more pets, freedom to go whenever, where ever, no pet sitter needed
So that Saturday morning as I presented my question, there was no definite answer
there was not a clear “no”
That was all I needed
the house, after a year of cat vacancy, was crawling with mice
it’s an old farm house and has plenty of entrance for the little critters
I had two teens still at home, one of them being my daughter, whom I thought could use the love of a cat
My husband was to be gone for a few hours that morning, he was to pick up his sister at the airport
Daughter, I called, let’s go find a cat
On a mission we were
drive, drive, look around
I swear if I had seen a wandering cat I would have snatched it
I was looking for a young female
I wanted a good mouser and didn’t think a Tom would do the job
We drove to Pugwash, the nearest village, and looked around for kitten adds
None were to be found
when you don’t want a cat everyone has kittens to give
of course that day with little time on our hand we couldn’t find any
Pugwash has a vet clinic so we decided to look there
the clinic should have been close but by chance the vet was there
We inquired about a cat and she said that she had two Toms that needed a home
her next door neighbors had moved and left their cats behind
My daughters eyes lit right up
I thought two Toms
of course they were coming together
they had once been separated but the one that had been sent away came back
So off we go to see the cats and of course my daughter falls in love with them
and so home we go with two grown cats, two male grown cats,
and I’m hoping my husband isn’t home yet
and of course he is home yet and not at all impressed with my find
It’s been two years now
Buster the very large, unbelievably soft, most sociable cat
and Charlie, much smaller and reserved
have not only capture everybody’s heart, husband included, but there isn’t a single rodent to be seen around
now I’ll need a cat sitter for next fall
what was I thinking
Propaganda, Diane Krys, 2013
Negative space is a part of any piece of art or design. The spaces between the main elements or subject create forms that need to be considered. I’m thinking a lot more about this since my work has moved into 3 dimensions. With this new body of sculptural work, I found myself shaping the negative space as intently as the physical form; simultaneously carving into space and building. Sometimes the space between is the form.
With my first solo show up and running and the artist’s reception behind me, I’m living in a kind of negative space right now. I don’t mean bad or unhappy, just a space in between a year’s work leading up to the show and the next undertaking. I think a shift in pace is necessary to fully appreciate an intense experience. Nature works symbiotically: ebb and flow; calm waters after wind and waves. Appreciation develops through contrast.
This personal “space between” is my time to reflect and savour; a time to enjoy an accomplishment, to feel gratitude for everything and everyone that played a role. It’s a time to count my blessings as the saying goes. It’s exciting to be absorbed in the work and flurry but it’s also nice to gear down for awhile to where I can get lost in the rhythm of my knitting needles, take an afternoon nap or host my dear 82 year old aunt who traveled from Halifax to attend the show and spend time with the family.
I need time to ponder. I’m going over the whirlwind of it all: the work, the festivities; the new connections and opportunities starting to bloom. It’s been a truly wonderful experience so far. I went through the reception day buoyed by love and good wishes. It still gives me an effervescent feeling to think about it. I can’t deny it’s a thrill to have someone tell you they like your work but I was just as moved by the stories and experiences my work prompted others to share. I loved that kids liked the shapes and critters and wanted to take them home. Although the pieces represent more serious topics,on a pure visual level they invited play. That makes me very happy and sows a seed for other work.
The themes of this show were shaped by a personal difficult experience. Ironically, the darkest moments can shine the brightest light to provide clarity and bring you to your truest self. A negative experience may have burnt a lot of things to the ground but it also put me on a new beautiful path that I couldn’t imagine when I was in the thick of it. Standing alone in the show, in the physical representation of my story and journey I felt a great sense of personal growth and gratitude for that dark but enlightening experience. Even in life, negative can form positive.
Embracing my “space between” is deepening this whole show experience and shaping things to come. It’s a pregnant pause. It keeps me in touch with who I am and what I value. It tethers me to positive choices for a fulfilling creative path when the wind picks up again, and it always does.
My show, Illusions, Revelations, Transformations runs until November 30. I’ll be attending the Alberta Craft Council’s annual fundraiser on November 29, maybe I’ll see you there! Thanks for stopping in, I’ll be back on December 10th.
The day the new book arrived
It was exciting when the first box of books arrived at the studio; we were all waiting to see that first copy. At first we were looking at the books amazed at how bright and colorful the rugs turned out on paper, but then Deanne started to cry and soon we were all teary eyed. I was surprised how emotional the experience was watching our friend hold her new book for the first time. Congratulations Deanne, Singily Skipping Along is a wonderful book, both you and Sheree are amazing !
Wild with Style my online course about designing hooked rugs and developing your style and creativity in rug hooking starts next week. You can Register Here.
We will leave it up for you to access until mid January so you have lots of time to review or work on it after the holidays.
People who have taken this course tell me that it really motivated them and made the idea of designing rugs seem and feel easier. It is a good course and I check in daily to answer your questions and see what you have been posting on the activity stream. Join me !
There is no prerequisite, you can start with this course if you like.
If you want a texture package to accompany the course you can order it here
This next course will focus on design and creativity with an introduction to hooking faces, and hooking abstract design. It will be about creating your own style as you hook rugs, and being expressive and creative with it.
will start November
You can find out more information and register online by clicking on the link above. The course will start September 10 and will be an independent study class with articles, video, audio, and community participation. You can register anytime .
Here are some of the comments from participants in my online courses….
“I wanted to say if anyone is thinking of signing up for Deanne’s online course – do it! As anyone who’s taken a course with Deanne knows, she’s a great and generous yeacher who brings alot of experience, imagination, and , always, creativity to her courses. Getting Wild with Wool is no exception. I found the course chock full of information and inspiration with many different avenues of learning. And best of all was the communication with other participants from all over the world. It just made me so proud.” Maile in Seattle
“Thanks so much Deanne. I have thoroughly enjoyed your writings , videos etc. In a previous time I taugt painting and it was incredible when a person realized they could produce art when they always said, “I have no artistic talent.” I have thoroughly enjoyed your class and all the lessons and I keep going back and reading everything over and over”
“I wish I could bottle this feeling and sell it because I would be a rich woman. Wow, do you ever inspire a person.”
“Great Workshop Deanne, so much info and ideas. these lesssons have been really packed.”
The course website has been set up and once you register you create your personal password.
Once you go to the course site you use your password to log in. The lessons will begin on the start date of your course.
I will post the first lesson on the site on the day the course begins.
Once you are on the course website all lessons will be on the private course website.
It was all I could do not to add 20 more exclamation marks after Showtime. I’m in the final preparations for my first solo show. It opens October 26,2013 in the Alberta Craft Council’s Discovery Gallery. I’m very excited. It’s been a year in the making. Knowing I had to deliver this show has shaped and underlined my whole year in many ways. I streamlined my commitments so I not only had ample time to prepare the work but had time to enjoy the journey.
The call for entry process required a fairly detailed description of the show and the various pieces in it. It was a real challenge to think things through in a conceptual and comprehensible way before I had made the majority of the work. It essentially forced me to work out the rough draft of a story and a blueprint. I’ve spent the last year fleshing it out in 3 dimensions and in the process discovered a new way to approach my work.
Over the last year when I visited the Alberta Craft Council I always took a few moments to stand in the gallery to soak up the space: to feel it and imagine how my work would live there. Initially those moments left me petrified. The thought of filling the empty space daunted me: the current work on display humbled me. Can I really do this? As I completed more pieces I noticed those feelings mellowed and finally dissipated. Connecting to the space every once in awhile helped me mentally move into the gallery and feel comfortable. I don’t know if other exhibitors feel this way or if it’s just part of first solo flight jitters. Of course, a little bit of angst has cropped up again now that the opening is right around the corner. Mostly because you never really know how a show will land. Having said that, I can face whatever reaction the show brings because I know the work is authentically me. It’s a part of me like my limbs and organs. It’s a deep exhale of what I’ve experienced, learned, and developed.
I had been in a happy bubble of creativity for a good chunk of time when the first drafts of the exhibit invitation and ACC magazine article appeared in my inbox this past August. My stomach did a flip and I had to go have a nap to settle myself. Excitement, nerves, reality. Oh yeah, I have to show this stuff in public!
I must say I’ve really enjoyed the focus and intensity of working on a single body of work with a deadline. There’s a time to slowly ponder and absorb and a time to keep the synapses firing and moving. Sometimes there’s nothing like a deadline or something on the line to bring you to your most instinctive creative self.
The show itself explores the idea that everything is not always as it seems. It’s a story in a way; inspired by a personal challenging experience. It’s been rolling around in my mind for a few years. I had thoughts of writing about it but the words never came. When I started to combine my parallel explorations in rug hooking, knitting and felting it seemed like I had found a new language for myself and a way to express something inside that previously couldn’t find a way to surface. Exploring personal creativity is an unpredictable, exhilarating journey and I’m very happy to invite you to view a chapter in my story.
I welcome the chance to say hello to my fellow fiber enthusiasts at the artist’s reception on Saturday, Nov.2 from 2-4. My show runs concurrently with Shona Rae’s “Mythcommunications”. A fantastical jewelry art exhibit that I personally can’t wait to see. More details and information are available on the Alberta Craft Council website. Or you are welcome to get in touch with me anytime at email@example.com
Thanks for stopping in!
My parents had these friends, Anne and Hutch. They were all buddies together during the war on the US Navy Base at Argentia, Newfoundland. Hutch was a sailor who married Anne, a Newfoundland girl. They used to come visit my parents in the summer when they were on the way back from the states, over forty years after they had all met. Anne had a recurring story about the time she was swimming, got over her head, and Hutch watched from shore as she nearly drowned. It would start out sort of light but then she would get serious, and more and more irritated at Hutch as he sat there saying that in fact, he had not been trying to drown her as she claimed.
I always found it odd that she went on about this so long after the fact.
Ahh, until last Sunday, now I know.
You see we were invited to a potluck at the beach. I had made a big bowl of Tabouli salad, using quinoa instead of crushed wheat, and orange tomatoes fresh from the garden. It was parsley Robert grew and it was all laid out in a beautiful blue glass dish.
It was pouring rain most of the day so we decided to drive up the lane instead of walking. It was hosted by a neighbour at the shore, and we were all gathering for an end of season potluck. It was labour day Monday.
We got out of the car, and I reached in the back seat to get the salad, but Robert said, it is back here. He had put the salad in the hatch back of our Ford. I went around to reach in to get the salad. I picked it up, turned around. While I stood there my husband closed the hatchback door right on my head.
I laid down the tabour and hopped around in pain, then finally mustered up enough patience to say, ” what were you doing?”
It hurt. I had a pain in the head. I can still feel it. Even as I write this I am getting pissed off again. Maybe I should stop. Hit the delete button. No, No, No, what was he thinking?
At first he said, I thought you had moved., but a little later in the conversation, after the tiger had tamed a little, he had the gall to say, “What were you doing still standing there?”
For the love and honour of goodness…I was getting the salad.
He wanted me to take some responsibility for having my head banged with the hood of the trunk by him. Well you know that did not go well.
Any way, all in all, I was okay.
I gathered myself together, rubbed my head, wondered about concussions and headed up to the door. The host, Rob, a very tall man, greeted me at the door , wondering if I needed an ice pack.
I said, you saw that did you?
He said, he had only witnessed the aftermath and had pieced things together.
That would have been me rubbing my head, with an angry puzzled look on my face, admonishing a grown man.
Oh he has been married for years, he knew the route, all this was no surprise to him.
I managed with out the cold pack.
I can still feel the bump.
Supper was lovely.
Robert was truly sorry a little later, but better late than never.
And on my walk I thought about Anne and Hutch, and I knew that in a long marriage there is lots to talk about.
Sorry I have no pictures of the event. It never occurred to me at the time to record this for the blog.
I was busy cursing under my breath.
We are moving my son to Halifax today
it’s a grey, warmish, drizzly day
the sun is trying to come out
a bright suggestion behind the clouds
thinking of it, I feel just the same
I am somewhat sad yet excited for the change in my son’s life
ready to take on the world
well, the Halifax world for now
one step at a time sunshine
my son is excited this morning
you have to know him to notice
I like to think of him as the Buster Keaton of the family
nothing ever seems to alter his mood
this morning though he is busy, attentive, sweet
his laptop is packed
bags, bed frame, mattress ready to go
he is vacuuming his bedroom!
last night I filled a box with some cooking essentials
going over what pot is good for what
when he is settled in today we’ll hit the grocery store
make sure he has what is needed to start cooking for himself
short and sweet is life
is a season
is the time it takes for a child to grow
remember this is a story…a fiction story
So Isabel walks in again today. The mystery shopper. Every once in a while she appears, buys three skeins of silk, whispers a little something to us and glides out the door like a movie star. We have no idea who she is but we know she knits and hooks rugs so that is enough for us. Today she bought the hand dyed champagne and Roses silk that was hanging in the back.
See I had been trying a new tea, hibiscus, and I hated it. It was awful I thought though Leana who works with me said, “It’s medicinal.” For what? I’d asked her and all she said, “is for what ails ya.”. Me? Tea is for joy. Tea is for rest. Tea is for hope. I don’t like the thought of tea for medicine, it takes the good right out of it.
Tea should be lovely. The hibiscus was a lovely colour. I will give it that. That is all I will give it. I might as well have taken a bunch of rose petals of my bush and soaked them in hot water. Not fit to drink in my opinion.
Since I could not drink it and did not want to waste itI took it into the dye kitchen and threw it over three skeins of silk. Then brewed another pot and did the same. Out came ” Champagne and Roses”, a soft blend of rose and cream. Looks like I’ll be ordering more hibiscus tea but I won’t be drinking it. In two weeks Imelda will be back looking tall and gorgeous with that as a cape around her. And to think it al started with a bad cup of tea.
I would have told her but she intimidates me. When ever she comes in I feel a bit frumpy with my flats and my five year old dresses. I took a customer’s advice on letting them sit out a season so they feel new again but still when I put them on I remember their history, where they’ve been and how they made out. They are still my old dresses after all even if they’ve had a summer’s rest.”
Isabel sort of glides around the room. She is tall, with natural curls. She wears lots of linen but it never looks wrinkled. She could be a former a model or the ceo of some internet company, or the wife of someone famous. I have no idea. She doesn’t try to make me feel that way. When she comes in I feel like I am in high school and she is the popular girl, and I am the girl who just spilled her spaghetti on the front of her dress in the cafeteria. I hide this well of course, or at least I think I do.
So after Isabel slid out of the studio I went into the back room to help unpack a bunch of wool. Mostly I like taking it out of the bags and feeling it and smelling it. As one customer says,” I’d like to take a bath in it.” Stacking it neatly and pricing it is not my best skill. Every time I touch the wool my mind goes to what I can make with. Greens become hills and Valleys, Blues, I am sailing across the ocean. Red, I am a flamingo dancer. I did though, stick with it and stack the wool and while I did it I heard Evie, the non pregnant Evie, I might add, giggling on the phone in the dye kitchen. Obviously she did not know I was there, and thought probably that I was gone out looking for candy or chocolate. She was giggling like a sixteen year old. I started to eaves drop then remembered that I shouldn’t so I called out to her about the pricing gun. It was firing off tags faster than I could find the wool. I just wanted her to know I could hear her. If I had to let her go on, I might have figured out who was tickling her fancy these days but I am trying to be good so I announced myself.
I walked, out with a big Ralph from the Simpson’s smile on my face, and said., “I don’t even wanna know.” Of course I do but she seemed to have gotten enough satisfaction from the phone call for one day.
“Evie is getting it” I sang as I walked by. I couldn’t help myself. then I sang, “…and it’s been a long long time.”
I heard Leana talking in the back to Evie. So I turned in around the corner and said, “What are you guys talkin about?”
Leana, quick as can be looked at Evie, and said , “She’s gotta know everything.”
Me, Hope, that is, it’s true. I am far nosier than I need to be. I like to know too much and then sometimes I am disappointed once I know cause then there is nothing left to find out. I love the element of surprise. Like the studio itself. You never know who is going to walk in. I always fantasize that maybe Lyle Lovett will come in and want a rug, and then we’ll get to talking and he’ll fall in love with me but me I’d stand by my man and tell Lyle that as much as I like his lyrics all I have to give him is my art. He’d bop out the door and write a song about knitting or something. My fantasy world…really the you never know what is going to happen here is true. But as for stars, ussually as exciting as it gets is that someone from the CBC drops in. We are not a place that attracts the rich and famous, though Anne Murray has a cottage down the road and she has bought clothes at my friend’s shop. She is too busy golfing and tweeting about hockey to crochet.
I smiled, saw that Evie had a a big brown bag in here hand, so naturally I queried, “What’s in the bag?”
She opened it under my nose and screamed happily, “Three kotex, are you happy now you know?” I looked in and saw three big thick pads. The same kind my daughter used to use for Barbie Mattresses. Now sometimes she duct tabes tapes them to her legs to stop the bleeding if she cuts herself when she shaves her legs.They grow up so fast. Della, my girl went from barbie mattresses to shaving her legs in a month when she she was thirteen. I did not bother sharing that with Evie. Instead I breathed a sigh of relief.
I thought to myself yes I am actually happy. Evie was forty nine and last weekend was going on that she thought she was pregnant. I didn’t even know she was dating which was amazing because the info from that one, love her I do, is sometimes a little too free flow.You know there is quite a bit you do not need to know even if it is really interesting. The problem with me is I think in pictures. So what ever she tells me I imagine. That can be a burden depending on who you are talking too.
I had calculated that she would have the baby right around the time of the big wool festival here in Atherton, and I thought that would be a bummer. Then of course I quickly remembered that it would be much more difficult for Evie than for me. I was only worried about staffing. She would have been fifty with a baby. Probably the oldest new mother in town in the last twenty years, and she’d be mothering through the Wool festival until she was seventy. That put things in perspective. I could always drag an unsuspecting friend into help out.
Of course , it was just the old menopause and the wonky periods. We were all having a little mental pause to think it was pregnancy in the first place. That Evie looks on the bright side though it is her nature. She probably spent last night looking at baby bootie patterns. This morning she is rejoicing that she got her period. Actually I am too.
I said, “Now that we don’t have to plan the baby shower, maybe we could plan on making some kits?”
Already started said Leana, we are doing up a half a dozen, and we have a few patterns ready to transfer as well.”
“Grand “, I said, ” Did you see the order for the woman who wants a hundred hoops? Do you think she wrote that down wrong? Should I call her?”
Evie said, “Maybe she is making a sculpture or something. Just ship it.”
I said, “Evie, really?”
“Call her for lord sakes , she added a few zeros where they don’t belong, anyone can see that. She just laid too heavy on the zero key when she placed her order online.”
“I know” said Evie , “Women on the first day of their week late period are very wise.”
Yeah, I thought, wise enough to know better. How the heck did she manage to sleep with someone and no one in this studio notice. Who was it?
How far would you drive for a doughnut? In my case, the answer is 300 kilometers or 186 miles: the distance from Edmonton to Calgary. Last Saturday four of us jumped in a car and made a day trip to Calgary to sample Jelly Modern Doughnuts. It was a bit of whimsy on a warm sunny day.
I think every culture has some version of a fried dough confection. I remember my Ukrainian aunties making a fried dough ball loaded with raisons. It seemed to take forever for those raisons to cool down enough to eat but it made for a fresh and tasty treat once they did.
On a daily basis, Jelly’s pastry chefs put their talents to work creating home made delights with a modern twist. Instead of a hole in the center, there’s a depression filled with all sorts of creative concoctions like Mexican chocolate cream topped with a candied slice of jalapeno or vanilla chai cream topped with edible flower petals. Even the basic jelly is filled with homemade raspberry jelly. I thought it was my favorite until I remembered the one with real lemon curd and icing. It’s tangy with just the right amount of pucker for a lemon fanatic like me. With a group you get to do some sharing. Thank goodness. It’s hard to choose one when they all look so artful and delicious.
For anyone concerned about us having a day fueled by doughnuts and a 3 hour drive home on a sugar rush we did have a proper meal and got in some great exploring and walking too. We ended our day in Prince’s Island Park. It was glorious to be in nature with kids, dogs, hula-hoopers and other strollers like us. There was a jailbreak glee in the air. We were all busting out of a long winter.
On the drive home that night I began thinking how we weren’t driving for doughnuts we were actually driving for excellence. Something simple and abundant like doughnuts was elevated by someone’s passion and care. I first tasted them almost a year ago when I had a short stay in Calgary. Tales of this cute bakery cafe had the others keen to make a trip some day. Excellence can do that. It can be a magnet. It can create an experience in relation to the thing itself and around it. Excellence begets excellence. I’m excited when I find someone doing something really exceptional because it adds depth to my life experiences. What would you go the extra mile for? Do you go the extra mile for yourself in your own endeavors? To me it’s not about perfection it’s about taking a step beyond the status quo and out of mediocrity to create something a little more personal and special. It requires effort on both sides of the equation. I make the effort to support it in others and strive for it in my own life. Excellence is about passion and passion always resonates for me , even in a doughnut. .
This display window in downtown Victoria,B.C. instantly brought back memories of my mother’s knitting. Years ago she made a multitude of these type of sweaters. Growing up I was accustomed to living amongst these sweater parts as they were being made and then seeing my Dad, uncles and family friends wearing them once they were finished. Even so I didn’t fully appreciate the cultural history that inspired them until my recent trip to Vancouver Island.
We called them buffalo sweaters because of the Buffalo brand yarn used to make them, which was in fact not buffalo fiber at all but sheep’s wool. Also referred to as Indian, Siwash, Mary Maxim or Curling sweaters, the original iconic sweater was developed by the Coast Salish people in the early 1900’s and is now know as the Cowichan Sweater.
The Coast Salish have wool working traditions that go back hundreds of years;however, they used these skills primarily for weaving wearable blankets until European settlers came to Vancouver Island and introduced them to knitting.
The Coast Salish women combined this new technique with their love and knowledge of wool to create a unique garment perfectly suited for their coastal climate and to keep a husband warm while he fished. They only used the natural colors of the sheep and processed the fleece by hand into a roving style yarn. ( as opposed to twisted and plyed like most yarns) Thick wool was warm and leaving in some of the natural lanolin also made it very water repellent. Using a Fair Isle technique they incorporated symbols and images from their life and culture in the banded motifs. These were hard working, practical, stylish sweaters and because of that they gained popularity far and wide. Times were extremely tough and Coast Salish women would make sweaters to feed the demand and feed their families. In some ways this history reminds me of rug hooking and how it evolved from a practical need and a “work with what you have” sensibility where designs came from daily life and immediate surroundings.
A cottage industry developed that continues to this day. This shop on Government Street in Victoria has been there since 1967. They have different women hand knitting their sweaters. Each one is authenticated and signed. While the original roving is still used, spun yarn is now favored by some knitters. Martha was a knowledgeable salesperson and with her help I could appreciate the details that were unique to each knitter. Variations in yarn thickness, construction techniques,collar style, pocket details, etc revealed the person that made them and the sweaters were more special for it.
In Sylvia Olsen’s wonderful book,”Working With Wool-A Coast Salish Legacy & the Cowichan Sweater “, one story recounts a grandmother’s advice to a young granddaughter learning to make a sweater,”… do it with love in your heart and care in your hands so you do a nice job.” Perhaps this simple philosophy is the real key to their enduring beauty and appeal.
“Cowichan Sweaters have been worn by Queens and Presidents and Hollywood stars but for most of us they are simply old friends– well worn treasures that have been part of our lives and part of our families for generations.”
Christine Welsh from The Story of Coast Salish Knitters
All photographs were taken with permission. The spinning artifacts and archive photograph are displayed in the Royal BC Museum.
This trip altered my normal posting date but I’ll return to schedule with my next post on May 10th.
Thanks for stopping in!
I’ve been chasing spring to the lush, green tulip haven of Victoria, British Columbia. My husband’s work event was the catalyst so we extended the visit and made a little holiday of it. Since we were installed at the historic Empress hotel for the conference we embraced the experience and called it home for our entire stay. We’re pretty casual travelers so it was a treat to immerse ourselves in it’s lux ambience.
The hotel was built between 1904 and 1908 in the Chateau style as evidenced by the steep slate roof and Gothic Revival gables. The CPR ( Canadian Pacific Railway) ocean liners linked with CPR trans-continental railway and a network right across Canada of grand “railway hotels” like the Empress.
It was such a different era in travel. The world moved at a different pace and the features in the hotel reflected that with amenities like a writing room, conservatory, library, and a ballroom to name a few. Changing times and two subsequent expansions have seen the detailed craftsmanship and general architecture preserved but most of the lavish original common spaces are now parceled off for meeting rooms or special events. Some ,like the writing room, were reincarnated. In 1954 it became the dark, exotic Bengal Lounge. In the past, it was all about luxury and leisure and I sense a different kind of dynamic now that it’s a hub for the hustle and bustle of many conferences.
The Empress is filled with beautiful black and white photos of days gone by,as well as, an archive. As I wandered the hotel I was able to piece together the original layout to some degree. I’d spy a feature like a stunning stained glass ceiling and remember it from an old photo of the conservatory filled with wicker chairs nestled amongst an array of foliage. A spectacular decorative treatment that looked like carved wood but was actually original horse hair and plaster relief carvings placed the area as part of a much larger elegant dining room. I kept imagining what it must of been like to stay there during it’s original splendor. Ladies would be trailing steamer trunks full of frocks to take them through days filled with high teas and evenings in the ballroom. Oh the glamor of it all.
The Empress continues their infamous daily high tea tradition and a rainy afternoon provided the perfect occasion for us to partake. The tea room used to be the hotel’s grand entrance and reception area. It would have been quite a welcome for those traveling for weeks and months crossing country and continent.
We sipped our tea and sampled dainty sandwiches and sweets while a pianist played softly in the corner. We watched the inner harbor through the rain and the steam roiling off our expertly brewed tea. It was lovely.
There was a richness and quality of experience you just don’t get with a giant “to go” thermos sitting in your car cup holder. Some of those old traditions can make you realize how nice it is to take the time to stop and smell the roses or enjoy the tulips as the case may be. Suddenly I want all my meals served on three tiers and prefaced with a bowl of fresh strawberries and cream. I also wonder how I could have missed the divine taste of a scone dolloped with cream and strawberry jam all this time. I feel inspired to work up my own version of high tea on occasion now that I’m home. I’ll miss the harbor view but at least I know the tulips will be popping up relatively soon in Edmonton. Anyone with a great scone recipe?
I never imagined my article for Rug Hooking Magazine(Sept./Oct.2012) would lead to an invitation to Atlanta, Georgia. Every year, Atlanta’s ATHA Dogwood Guild hosts a Saturday hook-in and a 3-day workshop. Last month, I was thrilled to teach a workshop based on my combination knitting/rug hooking work, as well as, be the guest speaker for their Saturday event.
No matter how many arrangements you make, there are always elements of the unknown in this type of situation. For starters, I didn’t know a soul and I had never been to that part of the world. On the flip side, they had only met me through my writing and photos save for a few emails and phone calls with my host. Artistic growth is fueled by taking risks whether it’s a personal or community pursuit. One of the hardest things about taking a risk is letting go of the inherent uncertainty. I had moments of disquiet but the antidote was to work on what I could control. Putting time and effort into preparing for this commitment gave me a sense of ease going into the unknown because I knew I had done the work to give my all. Once I boarded the plane I was excited to just let the whole experience unfold. I’ve come to learn a big part of taking risks is also having faith in yourself and your instincts, and being open to let come what may.
After a week in Georgia,I can say for certain, southern hospitality is not a myth. It’s real and warm and I felt it everywhere I went from the moment I landed. I had a few extra days before the workshop to take in some of the rich local culture. I enjoyed great company, saw a few historic areas, feasted my eyes on a Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera exhibit at the High Museum of Art, discovered amazing regional folk art and sampled delicious southern cuisine at every meal: so far so good!
Developing original work and finding your own voice is not an overnight journey. Going into a teaching situation to share something so personal can bring a sense of vulnerability because it’s like putting your baby in some one else’s hands. My “out of the box” techniques were not always comfortable for the participants; however,their perseverance and fearlessness ruled the day. They expanded the techniques and process in individual and inspiring ways. What made each of their pieces so original and exciting was how they took the new and combined it with elements of their own diverse backgrounds, tastes, and talents. For me, the beauty of teaching is scattering a seed and watching it blossom in someone else’s mind and hands.
On Friday, the workshop drew to a close but the party wasn’t over. Saturday was the big day with about 110 registered to attend from Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.I thoroughly enjoyed giving my talk, sharing my work and soaking up the camaraderie. As much as I prepared, coming through with your best also speaks to the kindness and respect you receive. I admire a group that makes room to entertain different ideas. In true southern style when I concluded my presentation we ended with this, just for you readers. A friendly, “Hello Y’All” from Atlanta, Georgia!
Looking at the work displayed, perusing the vendors and chatting as I mingled, it struck me what a diverse and strong regional community had come together. These kind of gatherings and festivals, big or small, are so important. They give us all a chance to bump into new ideas and appreciate the unique work of others in person. I think it was a day ATHA Dogwood Guild should be very proud of. They put in a tremendous effort and produced a wonderful event that seemed to be enjoyed by all. It’s amazing what kind of magic can happen when you’re willing to take a chance. Atlanta, you rock!
My new friend from Atlanta adjusting to the snow in Alberta. The ladies made one of these for each table at the hook-in and then drew names to give them away.
I spent the day with Deanne yesterday
As you may know she has created a new online course about hooking people
She asked me out of the blue a week ago if we could shoot a video
I didn’t ask much, I said sure, when
There’s no point asking too much
I like working with Deanne
it’s always a little bit of a challenge and it’s always fun
so I just say yes
Working with her is like trying to capture a whirlwind
you never quite know which way it’s gonna go
Be ready, place your nets around and hope for the best
I had to be bossy a couple time
I actually had to take her sharpie away from her
when she wasn’t able to stop herself from moving on when the cameras were not rolling
Sure enough a sharpie magically appeared in her hands again
There is no stopping her
I tell you
I love seeing someone create
it is beautiful and somewhat magical all at once
In front of me over the course of the day
I saw different figures appear
as Deanne was talking away
I heard the story of these woolen figure come to life
In a group of sisters one got a flamboyant red dress
Not to be left out, pouting
the one in plain blue
was given a colorful scarf
She seemed content after that
whoever is in for that course
is in for a good time
No one gets left out
Most nights I read before I go to sleep even if it’s just a quick flip through one of the many magazines piled by my bed side. Right before I start reading I like to slather my hands with a nice luxurious hand cream. A delicate fragrance wafts as I turn the pages; some TLC for my paws and a little aromatherapy before I drift off into the land of nod.
The funny thing is my hands don’t look like they get any attention at all. My nails are short and uneven. Working with wooly fibers in the dry Alberta climate takes a toll as well. One look at my sturdy digits it’s clear the gene for long graceful fingers bypassed me completely. I don’t give it much thought but I’ve always considered my hands unattractive.
On that note, I confess to an impulsive decision last fall. In the final few days before my trip and presentation at The Nova Scotia Fiber Art Festival, excitement and nerves got the best of me and I decided my hands just wouldn’t do. Before you could say “fake nails”, I was sitting in front of an esthetician getting some “work” done. My nails were lengthened and sculpted into the polished look of my dreams. I see many who wear gel nails naturally and gracefully but I couldn’t get used to them. In fact, my hands felt completely impaired. I handled everything differently from a pen to a piece of wool. I knew I couldn’t do any serious work with them: I could barely tie a shoelace. Unfortunately(or fortunately for most) they’re chemically fixed so they don’t come off at whim. I must say I’ve never thought more about my hands than those weeks when me and my fake nails were bonded together traveling through Nova Scotia.
I realized the irony in showing and celebrating my hand made work yet somehow feeling the very hands that made it weren’t up to par. I thought about how much my life revolves around my hands; how they allow me to express my inner world through all the things I make. They bring my creativity to life and let my soul breathe fresh air. I see my father’s hands in mine. We have the same odd curvature and taper in each of our little fingers. My mother always told me it was the first thing she noticed when I was born.
Oddly enough, this small, silly pursuit of perfection served to enlighten; fakery finds authenticity. I found love for a perceived personal imperfection. I fully appreciate my hands just the way they are. I missed them so when they were under the beauty parlor spell. It’s my practice and my joy to work with them everyday.
When I massage my hands an night, I work in moisture and work out kinks from hours spent holding a hook or manipulating fibers. It’s a ritual; a transition to sleep and an homage to what brings me joy. I ease my mind out of a busy day with an inspiring magazine or a good novel and I lay my hands and heart to rest in a fragrant field: gratitude, rest and a promise for tomorrow to give my best to make it beautiful with what I have.
Organic Formations#1, Diane Krys, 2013
There’s a blizzard this week end
Surrounding my house, the wind furiously blows
We had a house concert scheduled yesterday
Mr Doc Maclean blues man made it through the storm
actually he did get stuck in a snowdrift up the road
thanks to good neighbors with big wheels we got him safely home
Of course no one else showed up
but between my husband and kids and the Doc there was some nice music
played to an audience made of myself and our two cats
I feel lucky sometimes
This morning I walked up my road to assess the situation
See, the Doc has to play 260 km from here later today
and that blizzard is still comfortably blowing
with no visible intention of leaving anytime soon
I dress in layers
one, two, three, four
I grab my camera
I get out there
The wind is fierce but I am made from the blood of the great explorers
or so I pretend
First there really is no big deal
the road seems clear
Around the bend it’s a different picture
the Great White Beckwith Desert opens up to my view
Dunes of white snow are scattered in my path
There’s a challenge I think
I must get to the end of my road
As I plow through I see beautiful snow formation
it’s neat how wind, like water, shapes the elements
By the time I reach my mailbox my feet have gone through several deep snowdrifts
Doesn’t look good Doc
Unless the plow comes by you’re in for another night
As I walk back
working up some appetite
I think that maybe
I’ll be treated to another private concert tonight
In a place called Sunset where forgotten residents live
a place regulated by the hours meals are served and duties done
where people like you and me for reason unknown or by natures draw
have ended there
People of all ages
people in need
in need of physical care
that can be charted and checked
and spiritual care
that can be forgotten or overseen
In this place I saw Joy like I have never before
I saw a woman who’s face shone so bright that all who surrounded her were lit by it
This woman whom I don’t really know
except that she is a musician and is employed at Sunset
has been getting live music happening once a week for a couple hours
in the heart of Sunset
I was invite to see
because my husband is a musician and because I am a filmmaker
We walked in and were welcome into the cuckoo’s nest
The music made was chaos at times and bliss at others
But for every time a resident picked up a shaker, a harmonica, banged on the drums or hummed to the tune the women’s face shone brighter and her smile got wider
And so it was contagious
and it went round and round
I was introduced and welcome
I gorged on the faces around me
Like old forgotten beacons
all were lit and engaged in the ongoing music
The women kept the fire going
Offering, feeding, engaging, never pushing
A little man went up to the drum set
for the first time
bewildered like a child who’s been given a magic wand
and like a child with only a few teeth
he came back stumbling around
after his first performance
How did I do, how did I do
Joy, I tell you, is that smile and the one responding
You did great
These photos are not from Sunset, they are from a trip I took years ago in Honduras where I produced a short film about niños especiales (special children)
The older lady is from a center for elders that I visited at the time.
The image of the upside down laughing child is my daughter.
Clutter: “a collection of things lying about in an untidy mass”
I’d say that describes my immediate surrounding pretty well
I got up this morning thinking about a blog
There’s always a few possibilities
First I went around the house and took some pictures
I like to frame things just as they are
I find beauty in my clutter
I thought about a couple phone calls I made yesterday
One to my sister who finally came out of the hospital
She’s had cancer, many operations, chemo, radio, the whole thing
She’s out on recovery row
She has to rebuilt herself from the inside out
It’s a long road, at the moment she is tired all around
I talked to a good friend of mine who lives too far away
Not just hello, hello; a real talk
I hadn’t talked to her in ages, maybe two years
From her I received a great Christmas card
Featuring her beautiful self; a 40 something women with gorgeous grey hair
She’s from Portuguese descent, has a wonderful olive complexion and doesn’t dye her hair
I love it
She is surrounded by her three kids age 4, 6 and 11
She is a single mom forever finishing her master in health or something
The card didn’t give me any signs
It seemed like all was good
If anything the card prompted me to call
First I didn’t reach her, so I left a message
Then I got a message on Facebook and it didn’t sound good
I offered to listen, she agreed, I called again, she picked up
It was a conversation filled with pain
After a long talk of the latest distress we took a left to an old dirt road and amongst the desolation found some gems
It was at times a scary ride but by the end she felt better
or so she said
On this January morning, under a grey sky, at the end of my dirt road I feel lucky
The clutter that surrounds me is so much more manageable then what I heard
I woke up to pink and blue
I wonder why snow has a blue hue under this morning light
I know it’s scientific, I don’t think about it
It’s pretty, I don’t need to know why
I get up, the house is cold, I hear my husband tending the fire
Sweet sounds of the fire being stoked
Promise of heat
I get up to capture those colors, quick before they go
The magic hour doesn’t last
It’s so easy to miss it
I go back to bed
It’s Sunday after all and I love spending a little extra time reading in bed
I bring my notebook and a pencil to write down a couple thoughts when I notice the tiniest spider walking on my page
I get up again to take a picture of it
It’s so small, one would hardly notice
I wonder how big it will get
I don’t mind spiders
This one is plain cute
My feet are cold, why didn’t I put on my slippers
Get back to bed I say
It takes a while but I get warm again
That’s when I hear my cat’s paws against the kitchen window
He stands up and rubs the window as if he was washing it, back and forth, back and forth
squish, squish, squish
and at it again
SQUISH, SQUISH, SQUISH
For a moment I hope my husband will hear and open the door but he is in the living room far away from that window while I am right above it cozily nestled in our bed
I get up again
This time I put my slippers on
Coffee, breakfast and a walk
Have a good Sunday
ps: I read a good post about walking by Michael Moore on Facebook yesterday, check it out
Trimming the Christmas tree at our house is a literal undertaking. As a pup,Baboo was a champion chewer. He inspired the “tree on a stick” look. Even though he’s well past his days of lopping off pillow corners and shredding Christmas ornaments, we’re still doing it because it’s also a good space saver at times.
And so the ceremony began last week with a tree laid across a couple of big planters on the patio outside the kitchen window; my husband bundled up and ready with a pruning saw and myself inside available to give the signal. A thumbs up means cut higher and remove another layer of branches. Every year, without fail, when the pile of cut branches mounds to a certain height, he ignores me and comes to the back door to holler up the stairs that it’s too much. Just one more layer I insist. I won’t go into what that hand signal looks like.
I crave the smell of winter and the woods. When that fragrance comes through the door it signals the festive season has arrived at our house. While the tree thaws I unpack the ornaments. It’s like seeing a group of old friends again. It’s a quirky, eclectic bunch with good stories and memories that expand and evolve over time.
I believe anything that can fit on the branches without toppling the tree can work as a decoration. When I was in a more dedicated retro collectiing phase I used to hang all sorts of stuff including vintage beaded purses and gilded picture frames. Charlie Brown style trees were choice. Gaps and holes between branches accommodated my odd bot finds perfectly. When my interests moved into the world of fiber, our tree followed suit. I’ve hooked, knitted, felted and crocheted my way into the the season. I give many of my hand made ornaments away to guests like a zealous zucchini grower happy to share the bounty. Last year, Mum and I were on a roll knitting little mittens. This year I tried my hand at a few crocheted balls.In the midst of an earlier knitting fever, I covered the bare tree trunk with a colorful cozy. It’s become a mainstay along with things like a set of small crocheted figures from my childhood Christmases. My sister coveted them too so part of her Christmas tradition is to give me a hard time for absconding them before she did. It’s all in good fun, but she’s still not getting them! When I hung a new ceramic owl I picked up from a recent maker’s market, I was already thinking how it would fit into an eye spy game my young nieces invented around all the different art and doodads in our house. Yup, there’s going to be a”find the owl”round when they come over next week.
When you’re a kid it’s all about what’s under the tree. As you get older you realize the real gifts are the things that surround the tree. The rituals, memories, passions,and connections to who you love and what you care about. I love setting up the tree because it brings the spirit of all those things close for the season. Life shapes the tree, and the gatherings around it shape our life.
by Catherine Bussiere
there is a distant buzz, a chatter, laughter
walking through the first two rooms
wools of all colors
on shelves, hanging, posing
woman, looking, feeling, pondering
busy hands cutting, arranging, tying
I walk in another room
the dying kitchen invites me to dream
long skein of wool hanging
pots, dye, washing machine, filled with promises
the chatter is louder
I enter the last room
it is everywhere
in all forms and shapes
backing of all kinds
piles of wool cuttings
a sense of community, of joy, of ease
and the best
the infinite variation of design
from the hands holding the hook
I’ve never been one to pay much attention to the hoopla surrounding my milestone birthdays. That is until I turned fifty last year and a small inner voice accompanied the occasion wanting to talk numbers and reckon accounts. Ideas are infinite, time is not. It left me with a sense of urgency. Not panic, or gloom just an awareness to get on with it. “It” being my art, my path, my potential. I decided I didn’t have time to be scared.
I didn’t start jumping out of airplanes or into race cars, but when Rug Hooking Magazine called, I embraced the opportunity and committed to write my first magazine article. When the Alberta Craft Council’s “call for entry” deadline loomed in the middle of a busy period and a bout of artistic self doubt, I pushed myself to go for it instead of waiting until next year’s call. When Deanne honored me with an invitation to present at her October workshop, I let my excitement guide my decision instead of fear. Sometimes the things I care about the most are the ones I want to hold back on. They bring out an impulse to wait for a more perfect state of readiness as if that will quell anxiety and guarantee a perfect outcome.
Good, bad or ugly, it all came to fruition this fall in rapid fire. The article came out in September and I received word my exhibition proposal was approved shortly before I jumped on an Atlantic bound plane to make my public presentation debut. When I pinpoint the start of my real artistic journey the marker sits on Amherst in a workshop with Deanne six years ago. At that juncture, Deanne opened my eyes to where individuality and art comes from. She set me on a path to travel inward to find my way and voice. It was an extraordinary experience to return to Amherst, to be in Deanne’s company sharing my work with such an enthusiastic group. Cradled by the wonderful energy of the workshop and the Nova Scotia Fiber Arts Festival right when my inward journey was moving out into the world was a big, beautiful, profound experience that I will always be grateful for.
I left Amherst with a glow inside that matched the fire like intensity and beauty of Nova Scotia’s fall landscape. I was home for two days and still living in those embers when I almost forgot I had tickets to see Dr. Maya Angelou. In her wise, witty way she spoke of many things including courage. She says It’s not something we are born with but something we develop like a muscle. Bit by bit, over time. It can start small and imperfect. The important thing is that is has to start somewhere. It got me thinking how creativity, art making and finding your own voice are journeys of courage too. Personal growth is not about always feeling comfortable.
Edmonton may be buried in snow but I’m still feeling warm and giddy from my trip and recent run of good fortune. It represents a significant move outside my comfortable creative bubble. With deeper reflection perhaps the more important step came when I was willing to try things even though waves of doubt and uncertainty threatened. The small steps I took and want to build on are the ones where I looked my fear and angst in the eye and realized I may have to bring them along for the ride but I didn’t have to let them take the wheel. Maybe the biggest act of courage we can take for ourselves is to make peace with what grieves us; to find a way to release ourselves from the things that can leave us pinned to the board like a beautiful butterfly, poised but unable to take off. What my experience has taught me is that with a little courage we can build the freedom to find our own flight path and soar.
“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind,true, merciful, generous or honest.”
Dr. Maya Angelou
by Catherine Bussiere
My 15 year old daughter Charlotte is a singer songwriter. About a month ago I made a music video for one of her song. Here is the video and the lyrics. Enjoy.
(Click on the photo to view the video)
“Laying in an open field, letting the tall grass cover my fears, I’ll let the sun shine down on me today.
But the shadows of my life, still linger close behind. Where the sun don’t shine and the devil likes to play.
But I can forget even a minute enough to believe that the goodness is here to stay.
So hold out your hand and we can take a stand. Make a memory out of us today.
Moments pass me by each one a treasure trying to hide but I will dig them up for my sake.
And I will forget each moment that I regret and let the good ones back in.
Walking down the street, a stranger smiles to me, I hope he knows that he’s brightened up my day.
And I do believe that its moments like these that make the dullest days seem great.
Moments pass me by each one a treasure trying to hide but I will dig them up for my sake.
And I will forget each moment that I regret and let the good ones back in.
All these little things mean so much to me, so I’ll think about them till they bring a smile to my face.”
Dear Diary, Years ago, I have no idea how many, but maybe nine or ten, maybe even more, a slight, pale pretty red headed girl knocked meekly on my studio door when it was still in the back room of my house. She came in and asked if maybe I had a job that she could have in the summer. It never occurred to me that I had a job for her, but after she left I thought if I hired her to be here in the summers then I could take my kids to the shore and be there to run around with them It made sense. At first it was part time, but after awhile she spent most of July and August looking after my studio while I raised my kids. She gave me a chance to relax a bit with my kids in the summers. She was majoring in textiles so she also dyed wool in my back yard. I would return from the day away to find the clothes line filled with dyed wool, the yard covered in drying fleece. It always made me happy. She has had a lot to do with met palette over the years.
Joanna Close has been coming back to my studio ever since. In between she has done a masters in textiles in England, had shows of her own, built a weaving business, and started teaching at the Nova scotia College of Art and Design. She has been an integral part of establishing the Halifax Crafters and occasionally she still returns to the studio to dye a batch of wool. The difference is that Joanna is no longer returning as the summer student anymore, she is more of a peer. I am always interested to learn what she is up to and how her fibre world is. Still in her twenties, Joanna offers me a fresh perspective on the world of craft and fibre art, and art in general. I really enjoy a chat with her. Over a cup of tea at the Art of Eating Deli I invited her to guest post here to create a series about her artwork. It is an interesting mix of story, history, and contemporary art.
Over the next ten weeks Joanna is going to tell us about the land she grew up on and how it has come to be the focus of her art. I am always interested in the stories of other artists, and we learn from their inspiration. Joanna as a summer student working in my studio allowed me the chance to enjoy the simplicity of my home and family when my children were younger. I am so glad that she still keeps in touch, throws on a dye bath for me once in a while, and has her own story to tell. You’ll meet her tomorrow.
Do you have people in your life like Joanna? Some one you have watched grow as an artist? If you do , then you know the pleasure of it and can imagine how pleased I am to let her meet you. and you her.
Some things change your life. They are usually big huge things, big deep experiences or are they ?
Sometimes the things that change your life are silly little things. Sometimes they are chance encounters, sometimes they are the little risks that you take, sometimes they just flow, one thing to another, and you flow with them.
For example the time I saw Harry Moore, before he was Harry the Printer, on the street outside my window and I ran out and said, “You don’t know me but…” , more or less I asked him if he’d be my friend and show me how to do some stuff. He said, ” Maybe sometime next week.” and next week actually did materialize. He came by and gave me some good ideas for the studio and has been coming by ever since. And then somewhere in there, he and his brother took over Acadian Printing, and we began making things together. That was just a little thing, but I made a nice friend, and he is full of good ideas.
Or the day I called Dan Casey, a local businessman, and said, “Maybe I’d like to rent that spot behind Mansour’s Men’s Wear.” , and kindly and sweetly, he rented it to me for next to nothing, and had keys in my hand with in an hour, just in case, I should decide that is what I wanted. I had just been pondering the thought of moving my business out of the house. Dan, believing in me made me believe in myself. Over the years I have learned lots from Dan, a few phone calls, a few sit downs, one conversation over a child size box of raisins in the basement of the studio few years later, changed how I saw my business. But mostly from Dan over the years, I learned about kindness, and I am still watching.
The winter before I moved into my Church Street Studio I took Yoga Classes in Sherry Smith’s new Hatha Yoga Room, on Victoria Street. She had just moved there, renovating it just the way she wanted after being in a smaller space. Watching her that winter, and seeing her make her idea into reality, and being in her yoga classes motivated me to create something similar for myself. One part of me kept saying, “just appreciate what you have..you have enough…work with what you got.” but this bigger voice kept interfering and “saying spread your wings and imagine.” I struggled that winter. Once one of the yoga teachers asked me, “Are you still doing some private counselling?”, I said, ” No, I can’t cause right now I need counselling.” I was so sad and I think now part of the reason was because I was holding myself back.
I just wanted my “enough to be enough” but it wasn’t enough, even though it was plenty. This made me sad, the fact that I wanted more. I was coming to the realization that in I was relentless. I was learning that I was never going to stop striving. Accepting that made me sad, because I wanted to a bowl and a cup kind of person, satisfied with the simple. I wasn’t and at 42 , I was coming to accept it. It was not more money, or more business, it was just coming to an acceptance that even though I had met many goals, I would always want more, more new ideas, more interesting people to work and collaborate with, more books, more thoughts, more space to create in. If ideas were endless, then so were my needs. So it was that chance encounter of watching Sherry that winter realize her dreams that inspired me to pursue my own.
I stopped stifling myself and let go. I opened up a big space on Church Street, expanded my website, started blogging everyday, and eventually opened up a workshop space in the back which was my old studio. I did not do it in a day, or a week, or even a year. It took a long time, but every time, I had an idea, I listened to it and considered it. I stopped saying, “You have enough.” and started saying, “You can do more.” There was a lot of learning here at this time. I stopped criticizing myself for wanting more, and started nurturing the fact that I was creative, and could no more stop myself from growing, than I could stop the dandelions on the side of the road. I was a weed. I just needed to cultivate myself a little.
Then, there was the time, once a long time ago, I went to this bar called the King Lamb, and saw a man across the room, and I have not stopped looking at him ever since. And every time I do I still see he is handsome, and good, and kind. When I walked into that bar I had no idea that I would walk out changed for ever. I did not even know it when I was walking out. But it changed me forever. And he , like his beautiful mother, has been telling me how to do things ever since, things like, ” turn down the heat on the pancakes”, that was this mornings order, or “you should stop dressing like one of Jonathan Ettinger’s painting crew and look like you own the place” when I started working down town. And I boss him around too, and he tells me to mind my own business. l He gives me lots of advice . I give him lots of advice. It gets on my nerves. It gets on his nerves. We pretend not to listen to the other’s advice but some times I take his because he has got my back, and he has my heart. He would say, I think that he does not take mine on principle, for fear it would encourage me to give him more.
Thing is though, he gave me one piece of vital advice, and he has also told me from the very beginning, even when I was walking away from a career and had no clear idea of what I was doing, “Do what ever you want to do.” He saw what I could not see and believed in what it was that I might be. He did not care what that turned out to be, a long as I remained myself.
Then one day , somewhere in all of this story, I went into the rink for my daughter’s hockey game and told my neighbour Lorna, I needed someone to do some simply accounting, and she said, “I can teach myself. My friend Denise will help me.” Lorna was always good to me with my kids as they were growing up, but when she came to work with me and started keeping so many things organized that were swimming around in my head, it was like time started to spread out before me. Instead of filing, looking after business stuff, and organizing stuff, I had time to create, generate new ideas. It was a bit of serendipity, and a leap of faith on both our parts.
I won’t even go into the chance encounters that led to the women who work with me in the studio because they deserve a post all their own. They are so lovely. I am so thankful.
Then there was the blog readers who kept saying,”what about an online course?” and I kept ignoring it, but storing it in the back of my mind. Then as time opened up and I felt more confident in front of the computer, I kept stretching myself. And of course Hollis Bartlett helped me so much with the blog and website over the years, and told me what direction I needed to go in. He pushed and tweaked the site so that I actually could imagine running a course online. He is just so smart with computers and knows things I’ll never figure out but that I need.
All those notes from blog readers to do an online course, led me to do it, and in doing it I taught myself so much, and learned so much from the process that now I feel like there is so much more I can do. I am excited about the possibilities online, and here in the studio in that back space. I am imagining more online courses but I think those courses will lead participants here to Church Street where they can retreat to the back space and create beauty , hands on with me, here in my place……
I see people coming and learning and making, and resting their bodies and souls. Next year I want to work with Damaris, the spa across the street that my friend Elizabeth owns, to create a beautiful retreat. I want to bring in some other artists to use the space to teach. I want it to be a space that inspires people. I want to live up to the name of that last book I wrote, but not just in rugs…cause there can be beauty in everything we can create.