April 17 was celebrated with my good friends and supporters of my work.  The opening at the Wellington County Museum and Archives was both inspiring and wonderful to be part of.  Thank you to the organizers of this fabulous exhibition.  It was well worth taking time to visit. The show is now travelling to various venues through Ontario.

My work was not selected for the travelling show; however, is now available for other venues as opportunity presents itself.

I am updating the above as the sculpture will be included in Fibre Content opening at the Art Gallery of Burlington on September 8 and runs to Sept. 18, 2016 http://artgalleryofburlington.com/category/upcoming-exhibitions/



Opening Invitation

I am pleased to announce that Beausoleil Saracen has been accepted for the Threadworks 2016 exhibition and has won the award for “most innovative use of materials”.  Please see details of the exhibition at the Wellington County Museum and Archives in Fergus.

I am just back from Cuba with many ideas for the next artwork.  Keep watching for the start of something new!  Contact me with any comments or ideas.


I am down to the wire now and the weather has gone from warm to cold and windy overnight.  I am now having to photograph outdoors and the first indoor attempt yielded less than acceptable results.

Although the outdoor conditions were uncomfortable, the results were quite satisfactory, at least I think they are.  Have I done justice to the original inspiration?

Final results.

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  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Automatistes  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 http://www.chimnissing.ca/ 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) http://pakmevsphings.blog.com/2011/10/30/pablo-picasso-girl-before-a-mirror-meaning/

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 http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=aotearoa&view=detail&mid=DA66451F69E5BE60D674DA66451F69E5BE60D674&FORM=VIRE7

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 .  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?


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.


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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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.