Since I last blogged I have been working tirelessly towards the submission date.  I like assignments that motivate you – not all the time, but every so often.  It’s like proving that you are able to compete, and yes, this is a competition!

The top section of the work was completed with a small bone button that I had among my collection.  I added it to the outer circumference of the “breast” that you can see to the top right of the sculpture.  It reminded me of a mole and by incorporating it I opened the discussion of breast cancer.  The section below, where the breast would anatomically belong.  I whitened that area with silk that had not been dyed to accentuate its flat, bare and scarred appearance.

I had removed the central panel of the front and wanted to replace it with a section that read in a more significant way.  I began with an old green button, quite large, that reminded me of New Zealand Greenstone.  A similar stone is called Jade in Asia.  Greenstone was traditionally carved into icons or amulets that represented birth and life.  We know them as “Tikis”.   After beading the perimeter, I decided to leave the space open to represent the uterus.  The panel was attached to the sculpture.

The next week was spent working up sections for the side and back of the sculpture.  The panel that I had removed from the front had a certain weight and strength that would better serve to give a hip-like structure to the torso.  This meant working up a second piece to balance the sculpture.  The beading was much denser; however the new piece would rise upwards towards a lighter protruding form on the sculpture itself.  This area suggested a shoulder blade.  I was now constantly turning the sculpture to assess its form and balance.

The process at this point was leading me from one problem-solving area to another; I was beginning to wonder at the amount of work still needed to complete the work, and needless to say, I was working during every minute I could find.

The process was similar to what the Quebecois Automatistes were exploring during the 1940s  In many ways abstract, but through the imagination the imagery becomes very representational and real.

It is at about this time in most of my artworks, that I become disillusioned by their success.  I begin to doubt my vision and ability to turn the individual parts into a whole.  The only thing I can do for now is to fill areas of the background with silk to better bridge the gaps in terms of height and colour.  I am hoping that once I introduce the lichens, I will be able to unite the components.

Lichens:  I’ve been looking forward to this change and looking again at the rock that I began with, don’t want to overdo this element.  I estimate that I’ll need about 20 pieces and cut enough of the linen fabric for this number of lichens.  This time I decide to back the fabric with iron on cloth backing.  I’ll be able to maneuver the layers under the machine foot a lot easier than with the cotton backing that I experimented with earlier. It will also provide a much cleaner edge when I cut the individual motifs.

I quite like the quilted composition of the lichens and will keep this process in mind for a wearable piece.  Colouring each of the lichens with the aquarelle pencils provides a guide for the stitching that will give each piece a 3-dimensional look.  As I work the piece they colour works its way into the fabric and becomes more muted.  They are white lichens; therefore I will emphasize the whiteness of the perimeter and darken the centres once they are in place.

It is now March 2 and the deadline for entry was March 1.  What happened?

Yes, I completed and submitted, a day early!

In total I made over 40 lichens.  I wasn’t going to add the small seed beads as I had done previously, but decided I would as they added a further dimension which tied nicely to the rocky outcrops.  The purpose of the beads was to expose some of the rock beneath.

The edges of the lichens were sealed with wallpaper glue which also stiffened the pieces nicely.  The sculpture kept asking for more motifs to balance and complement the beaded outcrops.  I used an excellent fabric glue to adhere the pieces to the sculpture.  I didn’t feel this process was out of keeping with the piece as lichens do adhere themselves to the rocks.  My rocks have been indoors now for a year and a half and the lichens are still firmly attached.

The sculpture was taking shape now; however the pinkness was not what I envisioned. I used my own dye mix to deepen the colour of the centres of each lichen – a mix of steeped tea and some butternut dye to strengthen the colour.  I was planning to use the dye later to soften the pink overtone.

The work at this point was the most exciting.  Adding silk filler where needed, deepening the background colour, and further shadowing and highlighting where necessary.  I left the most exciting detail to the last.  I have found that white oil pastel adds a magical quality to work that asks for an icy highlight.  I was most satisfied with the way the silk noil played off the beading, especially the smallest white seed beads.  The white pastel further enhanced the background to relate to this element.

The last job was the photography.  Until now I have used my handy cell phone camera.  However, the competition required a much higher quality.  I am going to blog that process in a separate entry.




Since the last blog I have been working on the rock outcrops and beginning to add more depth to the background texture. The beading is beginning to take on a more refined look.  I have begun to leave more space between beads in some areas and am incorporating the French knot embroidery technique.  Working with the two mediums is giving the work a more varied texture.  I delayed fixing the last completed section in place until the next was well underway.  Lining up the “flow” is becoming increasingly important.

I began adding more texture to the background after gluing the last section in place.  As I look at the overall composition I am thinking about refinement and what will be needed to achieve a sense of unity to the piece.  Today I removed the first section at the lower centre of the torso, which had become a representation of the umbilicus/naval.  I felt it was too densely beaded and dark to tie in with the more delicate work recently completed.

I am beginning the shoulder section here that acts as a “sash” extending from the right of the torso over the shoulder.  The silk fibre mould has provided a rounded pocket-like form that I am beginning to visualize as a “breast-like” form.  I am adding in my “antique” buttons and beads to provide more history and depth of meaning to the work.

The top section provided a form that suggested the female breast.  A mixture of embroidered knots, and seed pearl and coloured beads provide the texture of the areola and nipple itself.  I am going to leave the smooth silk casting exposed, which provides another texture and metaphor to the suggested form.  I have added in another of the white lichen forms taking the history of this work further back in time.  Many of these lichens are estimated to be hundreds if not thousands of years old.  Around the perimeter of the lichen I have incorporated some small grey and black beads not only to create the shadowing, but to introduce the darker basalt rock.  I am thinking at this point, more dark beads  will be added to the background/support sculpture itself.  I’m not sure if they will be stitched or strategically placed and glued down.

I have added the photograph of my original Beausoleil rock.  The meaning of this name is “beautiful sun.”  The Island, located in Southern Georgian Bay, is a large rock formation that was home to the Beausoleil First Nation Today it is enjoyed by boaters and campers.  The original people retain some of this land, but the remainder is owned by Parks Canada.

I have worked on the adjacent panel to provide a second breast-like form – a slightly smaller section than the one above.  Working on these representational and distorted female forms is reminiscent of the Pablo Picasso’s later works such as Girl before a Mirror (1932)

Because of its irregularity and the way that I have had to cut and stitch the underlying cotton support for the protruding section, I am seeing this as a surgeon may.  The tiny white seed beads have been applied closely to represent the thickness of scar tissue.

The reading of this section has additionally become map-like.  I see a form that reads like my former home:  the North Island of New Zealand.  It is an elongated island with Auckland towards the north, Wellington at the Southern tip and a protrusion of land to the east and west.  The island is volcanic with a significant range of active volcanoes in the centre.  Together with its South Island, the indigenous people, the Maori, called it Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud.  Go to this site for some spectacular filming

Today I cast some of the last sections for working up.  I have lichens to create and complete, and then the background to work on to tie everything together.  Can I do it in 2 weeks?



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.

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.








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 .étis_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.