Fenwick Hardware and Antiques is featuring Caribbean Escape, a selection of oils based on my Caribbean adventures.  The exhibition closes March 31.

Some paintings depict the cool blues and turquoises of the warm Cuban oceans.  The original watercolour sketches worked up in 2012, from which the oil canvases were painted, are included in the exhibition portfolio.  Other paintings are based on shell formations either painted in the Caribbean or in my studio from shell formations.  The exhibition also includes some of my more exotic Caribbean treasures from El Salvador and Mexico.  They will give you a sense of nostalgia if you are familiar with the Caribbean, and if not, guarantee to provide a winter Escape.

Shop and exhibition hours are from Mon.—Fri. 8:30 am—5 pm, Sat. 9 am—3 pm. Address is 782 Canboro Road in downtown Fenwick.

 

 

Progress on the sculpture is coming along.  I’ve spent many hours on the project, mixed between the physical construction of the armature – my scratches from the wire mesh have almost healed now and my fingers tips no longer hurt from the threaded end of the fine beading needle puncturing them.

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Introducing granite colours

I started this morning to incorporate some of the new colours that I found yesterday.  What I have here represents about two and a half hours of work.  This free-form technique is quite mesmerizing and relaxing as there are no guidelines to follow other than a sense of shape and direction.  It is a very fluid process similar to painting.  I use the darks and lights to push and pull the canvas and choose the colours of buttons and beads to represent the stratification of the sedimentary rock formations.  As the word “flashback” is used for this assignment, there are certainly moments of thought that link with the past and to cultures that have traditionally worked with this bead medium.

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I have photographed part of the label from a packet of beads – found at one of the Dollar stores.  They incidentally have a useful selection both in the above photograph and in my other supplies.  Chinese women have laboured at the task of producing beaded trade goods as well as the product itself.  I have other beads from Japan.  I think too of the Métis women who produced the most wonderful beaded moccasins and items of clothing, most of which were worked on fine Caribou leather using their own designs – initially from their traditional designs, then later florals from the European cultures who bought the finished work .  http://www.ameriquefrancaise.org/en/article-476/Floral_Beadwork:_A_Métis_Cultural_Heritage_to_Rediscover_.html.  The women themselves were a product and a resource of the fur trade.  All of the above is active as an industry today and represents those who labour out of necessity.

I could also visit women of a privileged feudal culture.  Reading any of Philippa Gregory’s novels set in Medieval Britain, it does not take long before the reader is introduced to the pastime of nobility in fine needlework.  A flip of the same coin might also introduce the working class and their labours to provide the fine couture demanded of the aristocracy that continued to the fashionable beadwork of the Victorian era.  There are grim histories of women who laboured at home with this form of “piecework” and others in the “fashion” trade who worked in the formidable conditions of mills and factories with materials that contained toxic dyes and flammable materials.  The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto houses fine examples of these “flashbacks.”

I am going to get my mind off such negative thoughts by working in my studio.  I have more background texturing to work on that will provide a setting for the “stone” beadwork and lichens.

February 1 update.

I continue with the rock outcrops, with a slightly different perspective.  As with most artists and artisans I know, I have saved and collected “items” for most of my life.  I have opened my treasures with a renewed sense of history and am excited about incorporating them.

I have also introduced small French knots worked with 6 x stranded Metallic (polyester fibre), Silk (rayon fibre) and Pearl (cotton fiber) threads.  Each has its own challenges.  The technique is easier worked with a single strand.

I have now worked toward the largest and most sculpted section of the outcrops.  On the top left of the base above is the section that represents a “shoulder.”  Earlier the silk fibres were laid across this section in 4 layers, each crossing the previous to provide strength.  Wallpaper paste was used to bond each layer.  Now dry, it has retained the sculpture’s form and with a backing of cotton quilt backing, the combined layers will provide sufficient strength and thickness to hold the beads.

As I work each outcrop with beads and embroidery, I must envision a continuum from once section into another.  As I work up toward the top of the sculpture I am thinking “lighter”, in weight and colour, and “smoother” in texture.

I am also departing, in some respects, from the original source of inspiration (the Beausoleil rock) and imagining the sculpture as a separate and new entity.  However, I must continually revisit this source to ensure that the sensibility of the piece remains intact.

When I next blog, you will see how this process in unfolding.

Thank you for visiting and hope you can take time to comment.  I will respond.

 

 

The last several days have been exciting as I begin the surface texture and embellishment.  More and more this work is speaking to me as a human metaphor.  I’m also thinking of a title and wondered about “Beausoleil Saracen“. Beausoleil Island is where the inspirational stone was found; however Saracen seems to be specific to the British Isles where the silicified sandstone of Stonehenge is found.  But my Pre Cambrian megaliths were intended to play off the Stonehenge photograph that we took when visiting these prehistoric standing stones (dated at 4-5,000 years old).  Our Georgian bay, Canadian Sheild rocks are said to be 570 million years old.  Are there any responses to the title?  Could it be interpreted as my version of a Stonehenge Saracen?

 

I am now indulging in the surface of the sculpture and have the stratified, Pre Cambrian bedrock to capture.  This rock consists of igneous:  granite (the pinks), dolomite (limestone), basalt (the dark volcanic sections) and metamorphic:  schists (quartz) and marbles.  Here are my supplies:

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I will be using raw mulberry silk dyed in 3 tones to pick up on the overall granite.  I have used silk dyes.  This raw silk comes with little bumps (noils) which I hope will provide the texture of the granite.  In the second photograph I have an assortment of beads and linen cloth from which I will form the lichens.

First, however, I must work on the defined sections of the sculpture that will contain the limestones, marbles and quart components.  For these areas I am using a finer processed silk fibre over the white areas of the sculpture.  Plastic food wrap works well as a barrier that is simply taped in place.  The fibres are attenuated (stretched out) and wallpaper paste is used to adhere the layers (4 layers, each worked against the other (as in crosshatching), provides a good thickness).  It takes about 12 hours to dry enough to be able to peel off in a sheet.

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I will be working on the “background” granite and the featured quartz, marble, limestone areas simultaneously.

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The silk fibre, feature sections are first backed with thin cotton, quilt batting to provide a heavier cloth to work on.  I am beginning here to work with the shell buttons and various beads to provide texture and monochromatic colour.  I work, by hand, with the rock in front of me as a continual reference.

The first section is completed and attached to the sculpture with fabric glue.  The silk edges will be integrated into the background.  I am working first with the lightest colour of my dyed silk noil.  Once this is dry I can begin to build the texture and colour density.  Note that the black charcoal of the foundation layer is strategically left to show through.

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I am ready to begin the lichens.  They are flat and intricate.  The actual lichen below (one of the 3 varieties that I will be depicting) is identified at a white lichen, specifically, Diploicia Canescens.  My research tells me that this species is also found in the British Isles.  Could it therefore be growing on the Stonehenge Saracens?

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I back my linen with cotton quilt batting, then take it to the sewing machine.  Machine quilting is very acceptable today among textile and fibre artists.  The motifs are cut, pinned in place, stitched/quilted (this process involves puckering the motif to create a three-dimensional formation). The “fingers” of the lichen are worked up with my acquarelle watercolour pencils to enhance the forms and push back the background rock areas.  These are completed with a scattering of black, grey and reddish glass beads to create a rock background and to tie the plant form into the beaded rock formation.

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Here I am now with the second beaded section completed.

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I found some interesting beads today that I may incorporate in my next section.  They are much like granite, in colour and are dull, as the unpolished stone.

Please feel welcome to comment and to ask any questions about what you have seen or read.  I hope you enjoy this process as much as I do.  Thanks for participating.

2016 is a new year and time to diversify.  I had an invitation from my friend Dianne Gibson http://connectionsfibreartists.blogspot.ca/ an amazingly talented textile artist, to enter a work in the tri-annual Threadworks competition.  The deadline for entry is March 1, 2016.  I had given the theme, “Flashback” some thought and decided that my rocks from Beausoleil Island in Georgian Bay offer suitable inspiration (featured image above).  I love not only the sense of history, but aesthetically, the depth of colour in the granite, the imbedded quartz and amazing lichens that continue to cling to the rocks.  Yes, this is my challenge!  Parameters:  “A substantial part of the piece must be made with a threaded needle” and no larger than 36″ x 45″ x 9″ (wish I had noted this last detail before starting my 5′ x 2″ sculpture – size chosen to reflect my exact height).  Still, it’s the prototype and I’m now underway with the smaller 2′ version.

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My first job was to build an armature that was sturdy.  If this sculpture is to be publically displayed, it must stand up to being knocked and not topple over.  Here is version 1.  The base is built from layers of wood with a centre that is drilled out to act as a mortice for the tenon of the tree branch – My twig supplies and tools for rustic twig furniture building came in handy here.  The structure was then well rapped with chicken wire mesh and well secured with wire and the cut ends of the mesh – oh don’t my cut fingers know this well!

I further braced the interior with more heavy wire threaded from one side to the other in an attempt to counteract any collapsing.  I am not entirely satisfied with my efforts and am now looking for suitable material that I can stuff into the cavity through the openings at the base.  I’m on the hunt for packing material such as Styrofoam peanuts or bean-bag pellets – free source preferably.  Can anyone help?

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Version 2: I built the support around a slate base from a broken water feature.  The branches are screwed into place and further supported with wires and cables in a woven spider-web that will hopefully prevent the sculpture from collapsing in on itself.  I have used wire screen mesh tied to the cables and fashioned as a “skin” over the surface.

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Here are the 2 versions with just their support surfaces in place.  The white film on the smaller sculpture is white glue which I will explain in the next step.

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Once the armatures were built they needed their first “skins.”  In the larger, version I began with cheese cloth and other fine porous fabrics glued together with my favourite, wallpaper paste.  This is much the same process as paper maché except that it’s difficult to rip the pieces which means they have to be cut in irregular shapes for better and more seamless interlocking.  For the smaller sculpture I used white glue for better adhesion to the mesh to ensure a bonding between the armature and skin.  I have used a muslin cloth for this layer.  Dampening the cloth makes the gluing easier – penetrates the fabric better and crinkling it first creates a texture.

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Now onto the fun part:  I have for the past several years been exploring the use of charcoal, raw from the fire pit.  There are black textured areas of the rock where I felt this medium would work.

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The process involves placing cheese cloth over a granite rock and rubbing with charcoal to leave a textured imprint.  The cloth is cut into workable sections, wall paper paste applied to the surface of the sculpture then glue is applied over the surface to adhere. Scrunching and manipulating are all important, and so too is determining the composition of the dark and light areas.

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I have employed the same charcoal texturing to both sculptures, determining where my light quartz areas will stand out.  The more I worked on the smaller piece with its 9 inch depth limitations (set by the Threadworks parameters) the more the work began to suggest a torso.  If you recall the initial shape that was determined by the arrangement of branches, this likeness is quite coincidental. It means that there is a metaphorical connection that allows me to feel out the composition and the need for balance.

Working up the granite colour and texture comes next.  My medium is dyed mulberry silk noil fibre.  I will be posting these results shortly.  I have been collecting shell buttons and various beads to work up the reflective quartz.  Can’t wait to get there.

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Bubbles on the hardware store display table, painting on the easel in my studio

You’re invited to Fenwick Hardware and Antiques in downtown Fenwick (782 Canboro Rd.)

to view “Bubbles and Friends” featuring some of Fenwick’s most loved rescue cats

The opening is this Saturday, December 12 as part of Pelham’s Santa Claus Parade – starts at 1 pm (please note that the Fenwick section of Canboro Road will be closed to car traffic for the Parade)

The exhibition continues until January 30, 2016

Open during store hours: Mon.—Fri. 8:30 am—5 pm, Sat. 9 am—3 pm 

Closed on Sunday

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Planters range from small, $15, medium, $18.50 to large, $24.

If you have your own planter and would like a custom made garden, please contact me (available to local customers only unless you would like to drive to Fenwick, to visit this beautiful community). For my personal gardens, I have used everything from old unused containers, to precious gifts that have broken over the years.

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Poster Ledger Size This selection of images from my summer exhibition Barns and Homes of Fenwick was held at the Maple Acre Library as part of the Fenwick revitalization project.  The exhibition was picked up by the Welland Tribune http://www.wellandtribune.ca/2015/07/10/exhibit-features-historic-fenwick-properties, The Voice of Pelham and the Pelham News http://www.pelhamnews.ca/2015/07/10/exhibit-features-historic-fenwick-properties

Thank you to home owners who participated by extending their interest and information about individual properties. All will be returned to Pelham’s Historical Society for their records.

Notecard reproductions of the featured barns and homes was generously organized by Jack MacGregor of J & J Florists and are being sold at the library as a fundraiser towards the new Maple Acre Library extension.  They sell for $4.00 individually or $30.00 for a set of 19.  A new facility was approved by Pelham’s Town Council in March, 2015 with the original historic building expected to be incorporated into the new build. This move came after The Friends of Maple Acre Library petitioned to have the Fenwick branch remain open.  http://www.bulletnewsniagara.ca/index.php?p=sections&id=3946 Residents are hoping this will mean extended hours for the Fenwick library branch, which in turn will bring more people to the downtown on a regular basis.  It only makes sense as part of the overall “revitalization” project.  Jack has them for sale at his Fonthill shop as well.  http://www.macgregorsinternational.com/brides-attendants-flowers.html

If anyone is interested in purchasing the original paintings, many still remain with me and are now being offered at 10% off the original price of $165.  Consider as a birthday, anniversary or Christmas gift. If you have seen these paintings and would like to ask me about a special commission: a larger version, perhaps from a different angle, or of a different property, please contact me through the website home page. I also work in oil on canvas.