Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Back to School Update 2020

Last back to school instalment - well ... sort of back to school. What a different experience it was going to school virtually during a pandemic. It was sad in many ways for this to be my last semester but I am DONE and will graduate in the spring which is satisfying. Taking studio courses virtually was pretty challenging but the instructors did a remarkable job of making the best of a very difficult situation. There were obviously many downsides - like not seeing work in-person and not being able to touch fibre which is so important, plus getting to know other students and their work was challenging. Don't get me started on the technology side, especially living remotely with poor reception - I attended a few classes in a wifi parking lot while freezing (my feet, not the screen which was happening at home). But there were also upsides - a very short commute and I feel like I got to know the instructors much better. There is something very valuable about close eye contact that rarely happens in a classroom. Anyway, it was a very good semester under the circumstances.

I completed three courses (essentially equivalent to four courses because of their credit value) which was a pretty heavy load. However, because most of the regular shows that I participate in were cancelled and I opted not to teach in-person workshops, it was actually a pretty manageable semester.

The History of Ornament course was fascinating and different than I anticipated. The first assignment was about surface design. We did quite a bit of reading and then had to create three pieces. The first was a repeat pattern inspired by hillside medieval villages that look like buildings are stacked on top of each other.

The second was a felt tessellation. So fun to make tessellations! I've always wondered how Escher created some of his figure ground pieces and now I know. There are lots of great "how tos" on the internet if you are interested.

The final piece was a landscape inspired by some of the patterning on Gustov Klimt's pieces.

The second assignment was about creating an adornment. 

I chose a paleolithic take on an elizabethan collar felted from raw fleece and closed with a cave art cameo.

In the final assignment we were to create a garment. I chose to make one more hat for the "Sustainability on My Mind" series of head gear that I am working on. It was about extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes. It was a fun and different technique made with three joined stuffed cylinders. Turned out to look like something between a top hat and a turban.

Another class was a 4th year directed studio. These are wonderful classes in that you create your own proposal for the work for the semester. I was the only one in this class and it was attached to a different course so followed their projects to a certain extent so that I could participate in the critiques. I also had to write a research paper. I chose to research the history of mask making and their uses - very interesting. The first project was about identity - not one of my favourite topics. I chose to do a "Fall" mask as a metaphor for my stage of life. It was quite the technical challenge. The felt was eco dyed and then mounted on a thermoformable material called fosshape. My instructor thought it would be interesting to do a video - not my favourite thing to do but eventually came up with a video of a series of stills that I am quite happy with.

I completed two more hats for the "Sustainability on My Mind" series as well as making supports for displaying them. This is a Tricorn Venetian hat.


I finished off my Covid Hat and Mask.

The last class was a senior studio - also self directed. I also had to develop an exhibition proposal which was a very valuable experience. I created a proposal for the "Sustainability on My Mind Series" so a lot of the work has been done when an appropriate exhibition call comes out.

I spent the first few weeks experimenting with how to work with fosshape in conjunction with felting - it is a thermoformable synthetic felt. It has the potential to add rigidity and structural integrity that cannot be achieved with wool felt on its own. After sampling lots, I started with some simple covid face masks.

Then did a full face sheep mask - reflects my annoyance with being called a sheep for wearing a mask when their use is clearly supported by science, never mind being required by law.

The final piece was a coral mask - another addition to the "Sustainability on My Mind" head gear series.

So ... I am finished my degree and am very happy to have done so. There were a few points where I was wondering whether to persevere to graduation. The curriculum changed along the way and there were lots of administrative hurdles. At one point, it looked like I would have to take some courses which really didn't seem worthwhile for me personally, although I understand their importance in general (e.g. 3rd year English course). Fortunately, after reviewing my transcripts from two other degrees, I was given transfer credit. In the end, I mostly needed studio and art history courses which were all very worthwhile. I cannot say enough good things about how supportive the faculty and staff were in helping me find my way, especially towards the end. I am not sure that I would have completed had this not happened. Regardless, the journey would have been worthwhile. After all, a degree is just a credential and a piece of paper - my objective was to learn which I certainly did!

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Back to School Update: Fall 2019

Fall 2019 was a busy semester with taking three courses covering 12 credits which equates to four normal courses. I am officially in fourth year so there was additional work to prepare for graduation including a panel critique.

Fibre 419 was a very interesting and worthwhile course that focused on gaining a coherent understanding of where our art practice is going. There was a major graduating paper (almost a mini-thesis) plus studio work. For this class and the FINA class I planned to work on a series of hats. Climate change has been a hot topic everywhere and I decided to use this as an opportunity to do research and create work related to what I learned. I wish that the media focus would be more on the sustainability of our society rather than just climate change which seems to result in an emphasis on government and large industry needing to take responsibility for fixing the problem. While this will be necessary for some aspects of change, I think it is going to take all of us thinking about what our lifestyles contribute to the issues. Hence the "Sustainability on My Mind" hat series. I began researching specific issues and created a hat during the process leading to "Forest Fire," "Melting Glacier," and "Svalbard Seed Arc." As a challenge to improve my technique, each of them involved techniques that are new to me and I used locally produced wool when possible and hand dyed fabric.

Fibre 327, a directed studio, was a last opportunity to learn about dyeing from Bill Morton. My objectives were to experiment with natural and synthetic dyes on fabric and wool and to create three and two dimensional objects. I was also experimenting with combining different types of wool and using local wool when possible. I finished a series of vessels entitled "Seasonings."

I created a relief landscape "Felting on the Edge"combining 8 prefelts.

Then I took my first stab at portraiture in felt. The concept was to paint three faces on silk and then to nuno felt and cut them creating an organic version of Picasso's Cubism. However, the fabric paint did not stand up to the felting process, so there was a lot of pulling it back from the edge. I opted to minimize the cutting. I want to try this concept again but with a different starting point.

I had great expectations for FINA 450. The class I chose was described as helping us to identify where we fit in the contemporary art world. Unfortunately, it felt to me like it focused on a narrow slice of the art community - one in which I don't belong. But, none-the-less, I did learn a lot although it was a pretty challenging experience. I planned to create hats for the "Sustainability on My Mind" series. The first critique of "Melting Polar Ice Cap" went totally in the wrong direction with all of the conversation being about the display of the piece. 
The second hat was to be about consumption in the fashion industry with a hat made out of discarded and recycled garments. Because many of the fabrics I had were too closely woven to nuno felt, I started experimenting with an embellishing machine and created a number of felted objects to include on the hat. However, in talking to the instructor, I explained how these discarded fabrics had become appreciated objects as I worked on them which she found interesting. So the last project became an installation about material culture and the contrast between contemporary fast fashion versus repair and reuse which characterized my ancestors fashion.

One more semester to go. I took the winter off with plans for travel which mostly didn't happen because of the Covid 19 pandemic. Fall 2020 is going to be a very interesting one. All of my remaining classes are studio classes - I'm not sure how that is going to work!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Back To School Update: Fall 2018

Apologies for the delay in posting about my experiences with school last Fall. It has been an amazingly busy year with travel and art. But Fall 2019 is approaching so there is no more time for procrastination!

The best news of all about last Fall was that I met with faculty and advisors and we have come up with a plan for me to graduate in two more semesters! The changing curriculum and my slow pace with only taking classes in the fall so I can travel in winter made it a challenge. After reviewing my transcripts for previous education I was given credit for more courses which means I will only need to take primarily studio courses - wonderful!

I took three classes last Fall.

Fibre 327 was a directed studio. In this class we were able to focus on concepts and techniques of interest to us. I chose to take the time to do some research about the use of the body within contemporary art and to create pieces relating to the body. I also wanted to push my felt making expertise and experiment with techniques I hadn't tried. I learned a lot completing these four pieces.

The first one, Off Balance was a huge technical challenge of creating a hollow form using a resist, stuffing it, supporting it with an armature and incorporating a base.

Off Balance
Every so often, life pulls us ahead in all sorts of confusing directions into an unpredictable future. It unbalances us. Should we resist moving forward? Which path should we take? Off-balance is about that instant when we are faced with a challenging or confusing future. Everyone can be thrown off centre, It’s how we proceed that defines not only who we are but who we will become. The fibres on the base and incorporated into the body represent the paths that we have taken, the potential paths in the future and how they are integral to who we are.  

It's What's on the Inside
Over and over again we hear that it is what’s on the inside that counts. But in our visually-focused reality, how do we let our personality and inner-self shine through – and by doing so, do we risk losing something of who we are?

It’s What’s on the Inside represents this struggle. The literal display of “the inside,” and the lost fragments are a commentary on the challenges of representing who we really are to the outside world.

Suspension of Disbelief
Suspension of Disbelief is a representation of our ability to temporarily accept as credible something that we know to be incredible. Whether we are willingly able to suspend our disbelief as suggested by S.T. Coleridge or whether we are able to create imaginary worlds which operate under different logical rules as advocated by J.R.R. Tolkien, we overcome the pragmatism of reality and experience a host of emotions and unreal realities that make our lives richer. But with this can come a sense of absence or loss when we return to the reality of day-to-day life.

The suspended felt head armour (or chanfron and criniere) of a unicorn are intended to represent the beauty and wonder of the mythical while conveying its absence in the present reality. Positioning of the piece at head height with top lighting is intended to support the notion of a body being absent.

This piece was definitely my favourite but was also very tricky and involved creating and integrating seven prefects into the final piece. I submitted it to the Priddis and Millarville Fair this summer and it won the Award of Excellence for the Fibre. It can be worn as well so I'm thinking it may have another future. 

Like many other people, I was finding the political environment very disturbing last Fall which inspired the last piece.

It is human nature and comfortable for us to align ourselves with a belief system that makes sense to us, to associate with people who share the same views, and to seek out information that validates our beliefs. This tendency to polarize is being exacerbated within today’s political and social environment: the media clearly take polarized positions and seem to focus on fueling emotions rather than presenting information; families and friends are being divided by political dissention; and politicians tend to demonize those with different views rather than engage in knowledgeable debate.

Polarized is a visual commentary on the hazards of becoming polarized.  As we bath ourselves in what we want to hear and avoid re-examining our beliefs and considering other points of view, we run the risk of becoming encrusted  in our own narrow mindset.  
Yup - that's bee's wax on felt.

Painting 300 was a 3rd year studio class. From the get go, I asked my instructor to critique my work from a painter's perspective and to push me in ways I might not have thought of. One of the most important things that I got from this class was creating samples and trying to understand and explain the similarities and differences between blending colour with fibre versus paint. It is one of the things that has got me very interested in creating complex colours in felt.

Lots of experimentation with fibre, paint, fabric paint, and dying.

I have to admit that I put off taking PPRL  202 as long as I could. The issue was that a good part of the mark and effort involved group work which I was not looking forward to based on my experience at the school. In most circumstances I enjoy working in groups, but in school there are lot of dynamics which have the potential to go sideways. Suffice it to say that it was every bit as bad as I feared but I made it through and did well in the class. Despite the negatives of the group project, the rest of the course was extremely valuable. I learned a great deal about how contemporary art operates as a profession.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Back to School Update: Fall 2017

Last Fall was another great semester. Now that I am in 3rd year, the curriculum is shifting from experimenting broadly to focusing on our own practice directions.

I took an Art History course that focused on landscape and place within our local context. It was interesting to learn about local history and to gain a better understanding about the debates associated with landscape painting such as the works of the Group of Seven and Emily Carr.

In the studio classes I was able to turn my attention to felting and surface design.
In Fibre 312, we were given 4 concepts or ideas to work with.

 The first was about identity. Given the last Fall's time of heightened nationalism, political posturing, and mass refugee migration, it seemed that we were falling into an “us versus them” mindset. I chose to focus on identity in general rather than my identity. The message was that  despite our differences, we have a great deal in common with the rest of humanity - recognizing our commonalities can help us to understand and empathize with “others.”

Repair was another concept. In Heirloom Legacy I created an installation of items that I have inherited - the focal piece being my grandparents' lamp which I refurbished. The biggest challenge was recovering the lampshade with felt. It worked beautifully and is now a fully functional piece in my home.

In the third project we were challenged to create a garment that addresses a concept. The Gaze is intended to disturb the experience of looking at a garment and the body lying beneath it. The subject/object relationship is called into question as the subject looking at the garment becomes the object of the garment’s gaze.

The final project was to consider the concepts associated with "Pink".
Growing up during the feminist movement of the 70s I believed that I would, as a woman, have the opportunity and the agency to be a strong individual. For the most part, this has been true, but there have been challenges and compromises along the way. Since then there have been systemic changes that make it easier as a woman to obtain an education in a broader range of fields, to participate more equitably in employment, and to maintain personal safety, but issues clearly still remain and traditional values about the “female role” still pervade. It is more than a little dismaying that the Oxford Dictionary still defines femininity as: “having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.”

Given this societal context, how does a woman frame herself as strong and yet feminine? Duality is about this challenge but also about celebrating the potential to be both – it is about embracing our own inner strength, taking hold of our own destiny, and framing ourselves as we want to be.

In Fibre 312, which focused on surface design, we were asked to define a series of our own objectives for the course and to create four to six projects that would help us achieve these objectives. This was perfect because I have a huge list of things I never get around to trying. I wanted to learn more about using different types of dyes and using resists and tying techniques. 

I particularly wanted to take the time to experiment with different surfacing techniques on felt. It was great fun and I can't wait until next Fall when I return to classes. This winter I am busy working in my studio, travelling and teaching workshops - life is great!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Millarville Fair Outcomes

The commemorative pillow challenge for the Millarville Fair got me motivated to submit some of my other work. I am very glad I did!
The pillow took first place as did Shamus for needle felting and 'Something's Fishy' for wet felting. 'Something's Fishy' was awarded best in the felt division. It was great fun and very rewarding to take part in this wonderful local fair.

Monday, 4 September 2017

More Felt Wall Hangings

What a fabulous summer - lots of warm sunny days and lots of days spent in my studio. Fall is coming very fast. I'll be back to school in a week and have several sales coming up so am busy making.
Green Floral #2
 Whimsical florals are always a joy to make.

Something's Fishy #2
I had so much fun creating 'Something's Fishy' that #2 was not far behind.

It is so interesting to see the fibre and resist embellishments resolve during the felting process. It is like unwrapping a Christmas present in slow motion.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

New Adventures with Felt Wallhangings

I love trying new things! I've done some experimenting before with shibori tying felt and adding on prefelt, but thought I would try creating some different types of relief on a 2 dimensional felt surface. 

In this one called 'Breakup', I overlaid the light blue felt and tucked in edges and stitched in some ridges to create  relief.

In 'Something's Fishy' I created the fish in prefelt and used resists to keep the fins from attaching to the background felt. 

A bit of 'stuffing' inside the fish created a quilted quality when stitched. The eyes are slices of felted marbles made from concentric circles of different colours.