Posts Tagged ‘public speaking’

ASKING FOR IT – a special rant on International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

This morning I awoke with every intention of going into the studio for a major clearing session. I’d just put two large projects to bed and relished the thought of restoring order to the chaos that my fabric stash had become.

Complete with hula hoops, long story.

But then I remembered: today is International Women’s Day.  And I have a simmering rant to share, reanimated by an email I received only yesterday from an American quilting magazine’s editor. Her request closely ran as follows, with some edits to protect her identity:

She was writing a series of articles on how to stitch (particular styles of) quilts, and showcasing the quilts of various artists for examples. In her article for an upcoming issue, she was focusing on ‘a certain topic’. She came across my ‘wonderful’ website in her research for this article, and hoped I would agree to having three of my quilts (listed) shown in this article. She needed full and detail high resolution photos of each quilt, with its name, dimensions and copyright date, and a paragraph or so about how I accomplished the quilting, my thread choices and why I chose those threads, and what machine was used. She also needed a statement giving my nonexclusive permission to publish this quilt in print and digital media. She concluded by adding she was working on a very short deadline, so would appreciate it very much if I would get back as soon as possible.

Now, since I do not subscribe to magazines in general, I had never heard of this publication.  I generously assumed this was a recent startup, with an editor who, though polite enough, hadn’t quite mastered the etiquette of asking for a favour. Upon Googling, I learned that this is a large publication with physical and online subscriptions, with a Facebook following numbering over 200,000 Likes. Hello?

With my usual empathy for deadlines, I quickly sent my standard response,
“Thank you for your invitation.
I am wondering what is your fee to artists for using their images and information? There was no mention of this but I’m sure your publication compensates artists for their contribution to its success.”

And the swift response was,
“ … we do not pay a fee to artists for this type of publicity. If that is something that you would require, I’m afraid I won’t be able to include your beautiful work in the article.”


Fair enough. I don’t blame the editor. Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? And citing ‘publicity’ is the gold standard for this type of response. Translation: “the excellent exposure we provide for you should be enough renumeration in itself!”

If I accepted all offers of free exposure, I would have little time or energy left to do the real work in my life. Artists have been known to ‘die of exposure’.

But sadly, there’s nothing new here. I am frequently asked by commercial publications to contribute articles and images for free. I am not alone. I don’t know a single artist, textile or other, professional or hobbyist, man or woman, who has not been mined for free stuff, from auction donations to images for calendars, to public presentations.

Many requests come from a good place, with charitable intent, and I’m pleased to accept some of these commitments as part of my desire to make the world a better place, with gratitude for my luck and ability to be able to contribute. But over the years I’ve learned that commercial forces try very hard to prey on this generosity as well as the gullibility of new and emerging artists, and women are excellent targets. After all, isn’t the crucial work of mother, homemaker, family cook and social supporter usually done for free? Isn’t your quilt making part of that?

I make my living as a textile artist. Historically, very little has come back from free images and articles I provided to quilt magazines over my thirty years of professional practice. I’ve had articles published in Canada, Europe, Britain, the US, and Australia, and only one time has anyone contacted me for a (very small) purchase, and not one offer to teach paid workshops. This, after hours spent collecting the information, and wrapping it up the way the editor wants it – just the tip of an iceberg when taking into account the making of the artwork itself and all the years it took to get there. Moreover I’m struck by the realization that editors who ask for free services, and the audiences who enjoy it, likely earn a more stable income (with benefits) than I can ever hope to reach with my full time work in art making.  They are essentially feeding on my creativity while giving nothing back.

The problem is endemic. I wonder – Do we, as female quilt artists, offer ourselves up too cheaply? And what about the editors, many of whom are female? Do they not hold some responsibility?

As quilters and textile artists, it is time to stand up for ourselves whether we are professionals or hobbyists, and ask for financial compensation for the use of our words and images. It does work! One of my favourite successes was to convince a Seminar Series organizer at a local University to pay artists for their presentations. I am happy to say I was the first artist to receive an honorarium. My seminar was released online and got thousands of views, many times more than any previous count. It was excellent publicity for them. Both sides won. This is how we need to approach it. Ask politely. Explain. Enlighten.

And for certain quilt magazine editors, I respectfully suggest that you reconsider your historic stance of not paying your art contributors. Artists have a most difficult time earning income, yet their audience enjoys the visual benefits for free. Especially in this age of digital sharing, artists are already giving their imagery away. Of this I do not complain: this is one of the beauties of the visual arts and it brings me great joy to share. However, if there is no renumeration for creative work that brings profit to others, eventually the very foundation of your livelihood is undermined, as is mine.

On International Women’s Day and every other day, I want to see women supporting women where it counts. Please consider being part of the solution.  Stand up and ASK FOR IT.

Let’s help each other! Your opinions and experiences, successes and failures, are most welcome in my Comments box.





















Go out and name your world

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Last Monday evening I presented a slide lecture for the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. The title was “Roots and Rocks: From Darkness to Light”. It was a talk that meandered through various themes I’ve been working on for the past few years – trees, rock, soil, roots and what happens beneath the surface. Sure, Roots and Rocks, obvious title! But why the qualifier, From Darkness to Light?

HARMONY 2014 36X30 s

Harmony 2014 36×30″

A while back I found an intriguing video of my hero, Canadian author Margaret Atwood, being interviewed by Lorna Dueck, in an episode of Context called “God’s Gardeners”.  She was accompanied by Leah and Markku Kostamo who head the Canadian branch of an international environmental organization called A Rocha. It was classic Atwood, filled with her wry wit and plenty to sink one’s teeth into. (I also loved how she nimbly fielded a barrage of cringeworthy questions – I digress, ahem) But the most significant question came at the end. What can each of us do, as individuals, to help make the world a better place?

Markku offered three simple suggestions:
1.   Know where your food comes from
2.   Know where your garbage goes to
3.   Go out and name your world

The first two points, although harder to put in practice than they sound, are no-brainers, elegantly tying together many issues of rampant consumerism that is eating up our beautiful Earth. But it’s the third point that hit home with me, and I am going to tell you why.

Go out and name your world. As a horticulturalist and science-a-holic, I love learning the names of the wild things I come across. A snazzy new plant? What can it be? I get a good look, grab a leaf, and head home in a hurry to look it up online or in one of my books. Once it’s got a name, I can’t help but ponder: What is its life story? Where else does it grow and where does it come from? What bugs does it host, what animal does it feed? What do its seeds and flowers look like? Does it have medicinal properties?  It all begins with naming. And I would never have met this plant had I not first ‘gone out’ and explored my surroundings. I would never have had the opportunity to love it.

Lorraine and rare Columbo plant

Me and the rare Columbo plant enjoying a staring contest at Cartwright Sanctuary near Dundas, ON.

However, many things in our natural world are not so easy to name. They can be too small to see. They can be hidden deep inside the bark of a tree or up in the branches beyond reach. They can be nocturnal or secretive or shy and complicated. And they can be buried and tangled deep in the soil.

N EW LIFE 2007 12X12 copy 2

New Life 2007 12×12″

Enter our biologists:  dedicated individuals who devote the full force of their knowledge, time and resources to uncharted territory. Where would we be without these scientists, naming and knowing more and more of the wonders of our universe?

But herein lies a problem. Scientists work hard… but their skill set may not always include effective communication beyond what is necessary to spread the word amongst other scientists. And really, we can’t expect them to do it all, can we? In comes Opportunity! With a science background, love of nature, and passion for imagery, could I become a visual spokesperson though which a scientist can share discoveries? Yes. This is what I want to do.

This is why I called my lecture Roots and Rocks: From Darkness to Light.  To me, art making is an all-encompassing and spiritually fulfilling quest. I hope to leave the world a better place: to bring to light these hidden worlds in such a way that others can see, feel and marvel as I do.

Because we can’t love something until it has a name.

SHADOW 2 2008 24X18

“Even the darkness is not dark to You.
The night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to You.”
Psalm 139:12


Don’t judge a book….

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Well I’m back from a hectic 48 hours of teaching two one-day workshops and presenting one trunk show in St Marys. Yes, tired. Yes, happy. Hoping I accomplished all I set out to do, to the best advantage for everyone in spite of a rocky start.

Now, I have significantly altered this posting since I first wrote it. It was suggested it might be misinterpreted by residents of St Marys and for this I profoundly apologize. My intention was to find humour in a stressful situation, but this was NOT the way to do it! I would love nothing more than to spend more time in this jewel of a town. My dream is to book 3 nights at a B&B and just walk the entire village, along the river, around the train station and that beautiful park, and try out every restaurant.

Queen Street, St Marys

On to my story:

Thursday morning, I decided to check at which door I should unload Friday morning at the Pyramid Centre, where the Quilt show was also being held, a huge complex with many entrances. This is when I first learned my workshops were not at the Pyramid Centre, but at the Masonic Hall. This shook my composure: what if I hadn’t asked? Showing up at the wrong address before a workshop is my idea of a nightmare.


So, rattled, new map in hand, I decided to head out to St Marys that very afternoon instead of the next morning as I had planned. Quickly booked a B&B on Google. My intention was to check out the Quilt show, find the Masonic Hall, and have dinner then a quiet evening at the B&B.

Hathaway House B&B

It takes around one and half hours to get from Dundas to St Marys and I took a new-to-me country route to get there, a beautiful drive. The Piecemakers Quilt show at the Pyramid Centre in St Marys was in full force, and I ran into lots of friends. The display was huge! On to the Masonic Hall, which at first appeared an unpromising structure… Peeking in, I wondered: will it be big enough? will those small tables accommodate sewing machines, cutting boards, and the ever expanding materials of my participants?

As I have learned so many times in the past, things are rarely as dire as I imagine they will be. I arrived promptly next morning, and the custodian unlocked the door to an immaculate interior. It was one of the best-lit spaces I’ve ever seen. There were extra tables available from storage and we quickly had the place ready for the class. The first group of 9 were easily accommodated, and the second group of 15 were tight but not inconveniently so. Both groups were eager, creative and productive:

View from my station

A froth of netting

Sandra, the workshop organizer, was a whizz at helping with sewing machine issues, and we had great fat sandwiches from a local Cheese shop for lunch. One of the highlights was the presence of some good friends, one of whom had registered her 14-year-old son, Chris, who dazzled everyone with his innovative use of colour and sense of design.

So – happy campers all around. My Trunk Show on Friday evening, despite dark warnings that ticket sales were slow, was very well attended, with around 70 visitors. It was an alert, engaged audience and I enjoyed every minute.

I’m in recovery at the moment, having unloaded the car and rehung my work in the Studio. I’m looking forward to a long walk on this gorgeous day.

What’s next? Not sure yet… got a few irons in the fire, and some ideas… but for now, I’ll be kicking back, checking in with friends… and watching the birds at the feeder.

(By the way, if you plan a visit to St Marys, may I recommend: Hathaway House B&B, and the Black Angus Restaurant.)


Getting ready

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

For the past few days, I’ve been preparing workshop materials for my two one-day classes in St Marys (for the Piecemakers Quilt Show) coming up on Friday and Saturday. I like to have fresh demonstrations ready for every workshop I teach… it keeps me challenged and allows me to try out new teaching techniques. My workshops have changed a lot over the years as a result of constant experimentation. I always tell the participants they are guinea pigs for all my crazy ideas.

For each workshop, there at least three hours of preparation, even if I’ve taught the subject dozens of times. I always have new samples to show and lots of finished work for people to see. I’m working on expanding my subject matter as well… more workshop options are coming up!

I have no idea what the facilities will be like at the Centre in St Marys… it’s always a creative challenge, setting up in new spaces…. let’s hope the lighting is great and the coffee is flowing!

This coming weekend I will also present a slide talk and trunk show, “The Sylvan Spirit: Trees as inspiration for textile art”. It will take place at the Pyramid Recreation Centre in St Marys at 7pm on Friday, April 27. The entry fee is $5, and everyone is welcome! I hope to see you there!

Workshop at Royal Botanical Gardens, 2010

Positive thoughts about old machines.

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

My old sewing machine ‘miraculously’ recovered after a few hard pokes from an experienced hand (my husband’s) and I am back in business. One of the reasons I love these old machines is that they respond to old-fashioned tampering, like a hard knock or a tweak with a fork. Newer models are like hothouse orchids… they must be ‘sent away’, sometimes for weeks on end – devastating for someone who makes a living from them.

This situation reminds me of my current challenges with public speaking technology. In the past, I would bring along a carrousel of slides. We would put the carrousel at the top of a projector, and it would crank  down one slide at at time, sometimes two for an ‘interesting’ effect. If there was a problem you could always feed the slides in by hand, or change the bulb. Now, with Powerpoint and digital presentations, you need to make sure the host laptop has the same program. All the components must match. All the equipment must be in top form. And God help you if there’s a problem – your toolbox is useless in the face of this technology. Instead of a ‘possible save’, it becomes a ‘total loss’. Hey, not that I’m complaining… I love new technology! I love being able to label my images and add inserts.  I love those high-rez projectors and being able to add sound and video! But it’s always a balance, isn’t it?

Rosy Dawn #2 12×24″

Seminar at the Arboretum

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Hello out there!

It’s a beautiful rainy day here in Dundas – a long awaited rainy day. My garden is breathing it all in, and the robins are on patrol.

At the moment I am enjoying a few days’ free time, which I have officially given myself as a reward. On Friday afternoon, I presented my talk “The Embroidered Tree: My journey with Science and Art” at the University of Guelph Arboretum Centre. Since this was to be part of the popular Plant Science Seminar Series, and open to all faculty and students as well as the public, it had to have a distinctly Science-based focus… which was a first for me. I have presented talks to quilters, artists of all media, naturalists, and even a spiritually-based audience, but not science. It’s not unfamiliar territory… I do have a BSc in Horticulture… but it was a challenge to make sure my words and images would be relevant to an audience that came from both disciplines of art and science. Well, with all the advertising by the amazing organizer (Fawn Turner) and all the help from a patient and dedicated Tech guy (Jim Hoare), and about 50 hours of prep time (me) we pulled it off – and ended up with at least 70 visitors. They were a wonderfully responsive audience. To see the recorded webinar, click HERE.

That’s Fawn on the left, and me in the middle.

Seminar at the Univ of Guelph Arboretum Centre - photo by Jim Hoare


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