Posts Tagged ‘textile workshops’


Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

During workshops, one complex topic that always arises is the issue of copyright, or, more specifically, the moral implications of imitating the teacher’s personal design and style. Takes on this issue vary wildly, so I am going to speak here about my philosophy about teaching and outreach. In a future blog post, I will talk about image theft and copyright, because that covers a slightly different aspect.

Years ago, I took a one-week papermaking workshop with Tootsie Pollard (now deceased) at Haliburton Summer School. She was a lively little lady (Tootsie comes from tout–p’tit, meaning tiny-little in French), as round as she was tall, and full of binnes (French Canadian for beans 😉 ). Over the years she had developed a method of pulling thread grids through paper mulch to make elegant lacy papers. She even used this technique to make installations, which, because of the size of elements involved, was a true tour-de-force. The real magic is that she unstintingly shared every detail about her own research and technique. For a full week she offered her personal from-scratch recipes and methods, with no worry that perhaps we might take this information and become better-known, better-paid, and better-equipped for her signature forms than her, the humble artist who inspired it. Feeling honoured but horrified on her behalf, we broached the subject. This is how she replied: “When I teach my technique, I want it to go out into the world because I know that somewhere, somehow, it will come back to me in a different form, and then I will learn from it.” What a wonderful way to be! I loved this lady and I have since used and taught her technique in her honour, but the most important result of the class is that it helped form my own ideas about teaching and outreach.

Lace Paper from recycled paper

Artists in all mediums face a difficult path – the balance between honest artmaking and income, especially in cultures that do not fully support it, is a challenge. Becoming established is the result of years of exploration, experimentation, and physical and financial investment, to build a unique style and process. This is why some artists jealously guard their secrets, even to the point of patenting certain techniques. The huge investment in time and energy is easily diminished in the wrong hands, or, at the other end of the scale, can be taken to broader commercial success that does not benefit the artist who did all the ground work. It would be painful to me if participants in workshops took to copying and selling my work and imagery as their own, without permission or acknowledgement.

So, it all boils down to trust. Like Tootsie, I don’t hold back in showing all I have learned so far. In 15 years of mining this technique, I am still finding new ways to use it! When I teach it, I know participants will eventually ‘branch’ out in their own way. One of the beauties of this technique is that it can be mastered with simple equipment and inexpensive materials, yet the results, like painting, are always innately beautiful and very much linked to the maker’s personal voice and imagery. Of course, at the start, samples and designs will to look like mine. In fact participants might wish to use my work as models for their own personal growth, or for their own homes and as gifts. Plus, they might even teach the technique to others. I encourage it! I learn from what participants are doing during and after workshops – new ways of juxtaposing colour, or modifications of stitching, design ideas, and so on. It’s like the flame from a candle, igniting an infinite line of new candles, so that the light is never extinguished.

Soul is not a ‘vapour’ that floats away from the body when we die: Soul is what we leave behind in our actions and in their tangible results, and in the memories of those whose lives we touched. The light from my candle was sparked from an infinite number of others who came before. I believe eternal life results from passing it on, while we are yet fully grounded on this earth.

So this is where I stand with teaching. I try to show everything I know so far. I encourage everyone to play with it, enjoy it, and take it to any level that provides excitement and accomplishment. I want them to pass it on, and feel the inner peace and joy that comes from letting go and trusting in the wisdom of the universe.

Lace papers from a workshop, with thanks to Tootsie!

The workshop community

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Back from the cottage – what a glorious May weekend! I meant to work on designs for my show in Comox, but somehow, between gazing over a cool lake and inhaling the scent of warm spruce needles, the time slipped by. Apparently nothing has changed since my undergrad days. But… a closer deadline brings me back to reality, my Net Collage workshop, starting tomorrow at the lovely St Aidan’s Hall at Christ Church.

Christ Church Flamborough

Christ Church Flamborough

I’m checking my list of participants, most of whom I have not yet met, and I wonder, how will it go this time? Each workshop has a different feel. And how could it be otherwise, with this diverse mixture of creative characters thrown into one pot for two intense days?

Over the years, my issues of timing, hall rental, food and help have worked themselves out. But set up can still be stressful at times, when upon unpacking, it dawns on each participant, one by one, which crucial item got left behind at home…  tantalizingly abandoned in full view – the bagful of special fabric, the darning foot, the box of pins…

The wonderful thing is, no one is ever without for long. Someone forgets her plugin cord for her machine… but it just so happens another participant has the identical machine and is more than willing to share. Another time, it’s the cutting board that goes missing – instantly, someone produces a large board and sets it up so everyone can use it. Fabrics, yarn, needles and threads are freely and generously offered to those who don’t have enough or who just didn’t bring the right thing. Infinite patience and advice are doled out to the inevitable few dealing with stubborn machines.

Nearly every time, this group of perfect strangers magically bonds and becomes a small community, with each individual contributing in her own unique way. I always look forward to this process, just as fascinating and rewarding as the teaching itself.

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


Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Hello there,

Been a long time since my last post. Good reasons for that, including the fact that at this very moment I am working on a new website, soon to be launched. From that moment on, I will be able to do all the updates, all by myself! Welcome to the New Age!

So, for now, below are my latest upcoming events. On my new website I will also be able to provide links to the Application forms and supply lists for my workshops… but for now, just email me and I will send them to you as attachments.

Thanks, and see you soon on the ‘other side’!!!


Lectures and Presentations
“The Embroidered Tree: My Journey with Science and Art”
for the Plant Agriculture Lecture Series offered by the University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
Friday, April 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm
This free event will take place at the Arboretum Centre. This is the first time a textile artist has been asked to do this kind of presentation!
“Stitching the Sylvan Spirit”
Lecture and trunk show, as part of The Piecemakers’ Quilt Show
St Mary’s, ON
Friday, April 27, evening Time to be announced.
Basic Net Collage – Two one-day Workshops
April 27 and April 28, 2012
Location: St Mary’s, ON
Please click on the link for more information or to register.
Saturday, May 26 and Sunday, May 27, 2012 9:30-4:30
Location: Dundas, ON
Please reserve early to avoid disappointment!
Contact me for more information.
Upcoming Workshops in Edmonton, AB and Vancouver Island, BC …. October 2012….. details coming up soon!

November update

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Hello everyone,

It’s time for a quick update while we await the busy holiday season. 

Renate Min Oo and I taught two one-day Lace Papermaking workshops up at Christchurch here in Greensville on November 20-21, and they were a great success. The most fascinating part was in comparing just how different the two classes turned out to be, in the kind of experimentation, the volume of production, and the input from participants. Each group had its own strengths. I will be posting images on my Facebook Page as soon as they are out of my camera.

On the evening of December 3, you are invited to the yearly Design Hope art and music fundraiser for Hamilton Out of the Cold, that provides regular meals for our homeless population. One of my pieces will be part of a Live Auction that evening. Many excellent talented Hamilton musicians will be performing and offering a compilated CD for sale. This evening is always a good time! 

I’ll be adding images and more news shortly.


September update

Sunday, September 5th, 2010
 Courage  2010  24×24″

Hello friends!

Summer was wonderful, classically hot, and steamy. My cottonwoods are already turning and dropping their leaves. It’s time to let go of that lazy hazy feeling, and get back in the saddle. Cool mornings, hot porridge! Although I was working steadily through the summer, I was stricken with a terrifying eye infection in August, which took three good weeks out of my life and added a few gray hairs. But all is well at the moment and it’s catch up time.

The Dundas Studio Tour that was held on October 2-3 was huge success. In spite of terrible, and I mean truly dismal, weather, visitors flocked to our location. It was our most successful tour EVER. We’ll have to remember that for next year! 🙂

 A while back, I was approached by a representative for the Long Island Jewish World, Manhattan Jewish Sentinel and Rockland Jewish Tribune, asking to feature my large commission, the Seven Days of Creation, as the cover image during Rosh Hashanah.They were so pleased with the result that they have asked for more images.

  The Seven Days of Creation 2008  69×80″ 
My quilt, Luck and Skill, has been selected to be on exhibit at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX from October 30 to November 7, 2010. It will be part of the Quilters’ SOS – Save our Stories exhibition. This quilt was the subject of an interview with Bernie Herman, the George B. Tindall Professor of American Studies and Folklore at the University of North Carolina in 2008. Here is the link to the interview: Luck and Skill . It is well worth reading. Sometimes I can’t believe I said all that!
 Luck and Skill   2007  30×30″
 I will be teaching a 3-day workshop, Collage with Nets, in London, Ontario, in May 2011. This will be one of the many activities associated with the major Gathering Threads Conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Embroiderers’ Guild in London. I owe a great deal to this wonderful organization, and if you are a textile enthusiast, I am positive you will find much to see over those 4 days. Visit this link for more information as it unfolds.
That’s all for now… as always, send a note, give me a call, or come and visit. You are always welcome!
Early Snow #5  2010  24×12″

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