Tuesday, 28 June 2016

My Dad's Workshop

A few weeks ago I had a chance to spend some time in my dad's workshop. He passed away a year and a half ago and his workshop remains a very dear place to me. As I was looking through old bins and drawers, I found many containers filled with "stuff". My dad never wasted anything and always found creative ways to reuse old things. As I sat there surrounded by bits of metal, wood and glass, I wondered was he saving all of this for me?! :)

This rustic piece is made from some of the beautiful pieces of metal that I found. It is mounted on a old piece of plywood that I painted with acrylics and hangs from a piece of barbed wire.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Gifts from Southern Ontario

A few years ago, while camping in British Columbia, we came across an old logging site that had sheets of birch bark lying on the ground. I gathered many pieces that day, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with them. A few days later I was sitting in the campground with nothing to do, so I picked up a piece of bark and some watercolors and started painting. I loved it! I spent the next year making mini birch bark paintings and mounting them on pallet wood. Here are some of my favorites.


Last fall I started painting larger pieces, thanks to a friend who gave me a pile of birch bark that she gathered on her holidays in BC.

While there are many birch trees in Calgary, it's a rare thing to find birch bark lying on the ground. Occasionally a neighbor cuts down their weeping birch and we salvage the stumps but the bark doesn't always come off easily. So you can imagine how happy I was to find all this bark last week in Southern Ontario. It came from very old decomposing trees. Some of the pieces are huge so we shipped them back in large bins on Greyhound. I can't wait to start painting and experimenting with berry and coffee inks. We also plan to use a few pieces to make book covers for our art journals. Thank you eastern deciduous forest.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Art and Ecological Consciousness

I've been thinking a lot about what inspires me to create and what materials I like working with and how this continues to evolve. I want each piece that I make to be unique, beautiful and reflect my ecological conscience. Lately, I've enjoyed making my own tools from the landscape. It's very satisfying to grind rocks to make pigment for paint, gather feathers and sticks to draw with and make ink from the berries in my garden. Through this process, I also feel more connected to this place that I call home. 

At the same time, I love working with wood. It's the process of salvaging wood from the forest and reclaiming discarded wood that excites me. I enjoy the hunt and the surprise of what lies beneath the bark or the dirt. I also like that my art doesn't mean that more trees are being cut down. 

Since I got back from my trip to Winnipeg I've been inspired to use old bits of metal in my art. The Rusty Tree is an expression of my love for the natural world and the importance of reducing our consumption of raw materials and reusing what we have. Other than the acrylic paint and water-based ink, everything in this piece has been reclaimed. The barbed wire was found hanging out of a tree in the mountains by my son, the wooden planks came from an old patio chair that my neighbor was throwing away, the paper was taken from the reuse pile in my studio and the pieces of metal came from my father in law's stash. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Making Tools From the Landscape: Pigments and Paints

We made paint today from mineral pigments and it was just as great as I imagined it would be. My sons discovered over the weekend that sedimentary rocks were the easiest to crush with a hammer and then grind into a powder with a mortar and pedestal, so when we got to the creek this morning we searched for colorful sedimentary rocks. Here's what the process looked like. 

Paul testing different rocks 

 Smashing and grinding rocks beside the creek

Some of the pigments we made

Getting ready to add our binders - spit or egg whites. The boys loved this part.

Here are the paintings that we made. 





We are loving this journey into the world of making our own tools from the landscape. More to come:)

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Making Tools from the Landscape: Quill Pens, Berry Ink and Clay Pots

It's been a great day. I biked down to the water with Paul this morning and he found clay! We were giddy and instantly started making clay pots for our inks and paints. It wasn't long before we had a bunch drying in the sun. But how were we going to get them home? We had our bikes! We asked my husband if he wouldn't mind swinging by with a box to carry them home. Our pots spent the rest of the day drying in the sun in our garden. The larger ones have a few crack but the smaller pots are looking great. 

Paul gathering clay

Our pots drying in the sun

Drying in our garden

While we were watching our pots dry on the beach we gathered two feathers to make quill pens. I've had lots lot of fun using the pens that we made from sticks and I was excited to make and use a quill pen. I also thought it would be fun to add another color of ink so I dug around in our freezer and found some blackcurrents from last summer. I filled a dish and let them thaw in the sun. The juice that was left was a deep, beautiful red. 

My next step was to make the quill pens so I grabbed Nick Neddo's  book and followed his instructions. I'm super happy with how it all turned out.  

Getting ready to make quill pens

Using the pens with the coffee and berry inks

My ink art