Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Studio series: Forgiveness #5

Forgiveness #5 © Karen Thiessen 1999; Photo credit: Julian Beveridge
Forgiveness #5 is part of the Journey Series. The central panel was rusted using the heating grates from my parents' old farmhouse that I "rescued" from the scrap metal bin that dad kept behind the barn. When it was full, he would sell it to the metal recycler. (Hey dad, I only took one!) The farmhouse had gravity heat which meant that the upstairs bedrooms where my brother and I slept were cold in the winter. They were so cold that I would etch pictures on my frost-covered bedroom window. Obviously, gravity was not my friend. The furnace was a giant octopus heated with oil that had been converted from coal. It looked like an alien from Lost in Space.

The other quilt panels were also rust-stained and either dyed with onion skins or stained with blood. The striped fabric on the right edge was once my studio curtain in our first house. The quilt is machine-pieced and hand-quilted. Working to deadline, I quilted the Forgiveness #5 in 24 hours. It is in the collection of Bob and Michelle of Letraset Love fame.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Postcards: Kim Adams

Being married to Kim Adams would be tricky. He collects a lot of strange stuff. I collect a lot of strange stuff. Our home and studios would be chaos. Also, I'm already married. The Bruegel-Bosch Bus is a permanent fixture at the Art Gallery of Hamilton and is located in a light-filled gallery on the second floor. To give you a sense of its scale, that really is a 1960s Volkswagon bus that in its previous life may have been driven by hippies from their commune to attend Woodstock – you just never know. Hey, did you notice that the Volkswagon symbol is upside down? If you happen to be in Hamilton, check out the Bruegel-Bosch Bus. Kids love it and so do I. P.S. If you look carefully through the driver's door, you'll see an X-rated appendage on the driver. Hee hee.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Quotes: Marianne Vespry

Ohne Titel 3 © Karen Thiessen 2009
gothic text
obscured by
dripping paint

other alphabet

pale block
ohne Text

textile square
firmly mounted
crocheted doily
strange bead
sewed to 

spilled meaning
ohne Ende

- Poem by Marianne Vespry in response to Karen Thiessen's Ohne Titel #3

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Day In & Day Out First Anniversary!

Today is the first anniversary of this little blog! Thank you all for visiting me here. You come from 83 countries, some of which I had never heard of before, so as I learn to blog, I'm also getting a geography lesson. 

Thanks again,

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Studio Series: Red: Dim sum

Red: Dim Sum © Karen Thiessen, 2001. Photo Credit: Julian Beveridge
Dim Sum is one of my favourite textiles. It is composed of fabrics that I rust stained and then over-painted with screen-printing pigments, plus 14 brass washers. It was influenced by our time living in Singapore where red and gold were auspicious colours, dim sum was served here and there, and old Chinese coins were round with holes in them. The funny thing is that my husband and I rarely ate dim sum in Singapore, since we mostly ate in Hawker centres but now that we are back in North America, we have it most weekends. Our Singapore diet consisted of satay with compressed rice and peanut sauce, Hainanese chicken rice, banana leaf curry, claypot rice, durian, mangosteens, rambutans, lychees, longans, coconut water, and more. Mmm, this is making me hungry.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Postcards: June Clark

June Clark, Dirge 2003, 91.5 X 130.3 cm 
I bought this postcard from the Textile Museum of Canada gift shop years ago and then was pleased to see the actual piece exhibited in the now closed David Mirvish Books. Harlem-born June Clark resides in Toronto. She's a jet-setter, having had artist residencies in Paris, Harlem, and Toronto. Dirge was made from rusted metals that Clark collected. Her original intention was to make a map of the world, but then she realized that the world wasn't going to pot, the U.S. was. You can learn more about Dirge from her video. Like Clark, I have a soft spot for rust.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Quotes: Shaw + Ulrich

Here's to the trail-blazers, s.d.'s and prophets in our midst, those folks that society tries to shut up and stop: 

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." – George Bernard Shaw

"Well-behaved women seldom make history." – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Friday, 18 November 2011

Books: Kurt Schwitters Color and Collage

I am a lucky gal and this book is the proof. For six years I've been looking for an affordable book about Kurt Schwitters with no success until now. The other day I made an excursion out to Toronto's West Queen West and popped by Type Books on a whim. There I found this beauty for only $50 Canadian. On I could buy the same book for $546.47!

At the beginning of my collage education I pored through my teacher's Schwitters books and on occasion I would try to emulate him. His collages look so simple, so easy, but six years ago I couldn't come close to achieving his style. Schwitters' collages are well-planned. Look at the second image. Do you see how the red, black, and white squares move your eye through space? Awesome, isn't it?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Patterns from the Everyday II

Artists collect the oddest things. We see potential in ordinary things like twigs, seeds, sidewalk detritus, and yes, bones. I dug out the big camera and played with photographing objects on my copy stand (an old enlarger converted to hold a camera). I tossed a handful of chicken bones (from my former chicken wing habit) onto the paper and snapped a picture thinking that I was wasting time but going ahead with the impulse. On their own they don't look that interesting, but put into repeat they made a rather nice pattern. Wouldn't it be fun to paper the wall of a kitchen with this? OK, maybe not for vegans.
Dem Bones Pattern © Karen Thiessen 2011

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Studio series: Mennonitemare #3

Mennonitemare #3 is an early quilt that I made while I was a student at Sheridan College. Mennonitemare is a play on words: Mennonite + nightmare. The building is the Mennonite church floating through space. I dyed and silkscreened most of the fabrics, then hand-stitched the whole thing while watching truly bad TV until all hours of the morning. The quilt addresses the issues of sexual abuse in the Mennonite church. It incorporates textiles silk-screened with articles about abuse from a national Mennonite newspaper along with textiles printed with images of a security grill from a court house. The cheerful colours of the quilt draw you in and then whomp! you with surprise once you start reading the text. Tricky, very tricky.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dirt vs. Soil

As a former farm girl and a present-day gardener, I wince when I hear people talk about planting their gardens or houseplants in dirt. Dirt is the stuff you wash off your car and sweep off your porch. Soil is the stuff in which you plant seeds, trees and plants. To me soil represents fertility: the substance that will support life. Dirt calls to mind soil stripped of all its nutrients: a worthless substance. To be fair, some farms are just dirt because they've been over-farmed and they must rely on chemical fertilizers to be of any good, but that's a whole other topic. Whew, I'm glad I got that off my chest! =)

Postcards: Liss Platt

Liss Platt is brilliant. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. When I saw her installation of postcards printed with candy papering the walls of an alcove of the McMaster Museum of Art, I was mesmerized. I'm a sucker (pun intended) for pattern and modular art. If you haven't figured it out, an image of Platt's work is in the middle. The candy patterns are from her Comfort series. She has also done a series of Spirograph digital prints (another obsession of mine). Candy + Spirograph + pattern = fun, fun, fun!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Quotes: Bourgeois

"Tell your own story, and you will be interesting. Don't get the green disease of envy. Don't be fooled by success and money. Don't let anything come between you and your work." – Louise Bourgeois, French-American artist

Friday, 11 November 2011

Marla Panko: Detours & Hybrids

Marla Panko Trojan Horse 2010, 10" X 16" acrylic
Marla Panko Faktura I to VI 2011
Marla Panko Neubecker II 2011, 7" X 5.5"
Marla Panko Study I 2011, 6" X 7.5" acrylic
Marla Panko's exhibition Detours and Hybrids at the Carnegie Gallery came down at the end of October, but it's still worth highlighting. The show was a mix of paintings, collages, prints, textiles, and sculptures. Panko's collages and paintings are her strong suit, although the Faktura sculptures were noteworthy. My favourite pieces were the collages: Neubecker I to IV and Bounce, Slice, Stack, and Sparkle. Because they were all framed behind glass, I was only able to photograph Neubecker II. You can view her collage drawings Bounce, Slice, etc. on her website here. Panko's collages look simple and spare, but they contain layers of information that you notice only from looking at them for long periods of time. Whether it's a subtle line here or a small jolt of colour there, each element is well-considered.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Children's art

A highlight of the last month was drawing with my four-year-old cousin. I met Braden for the first time at an extended family gathering and we clicked. He expressed an interest in drawing with me and I was surprised by his precise description of colour. He asked for a green that had a bit of grey in it and for a blue that had a bit of purple in it (not shown in this picture of a dinosaur). With such an early understanding of colour he could be the next Ellsworth Kelly, if it isn't hammered out of him.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Studio series: Ohne Titel 1

Ohne Titel 1 © Karen Thiessen 2009
Since mid-September I've been living in my studio, putting in joyously long hours during the week and then prying myself away for the weekend. I've been purging excess paper and finishing unresolved collages. As I sorted through my flat file, I found a lot of bad collages. Some I tossed into the recycle bin, some I cut up into 2 inch squares for use in my ongoing Day In Day Out project, and others I attempted to rescue. Out of my efforts, I've resolved over 20 collages out of my flat file pile, with still more needing attention (or recycling). In rescue mode, I realized that I like having something to respond to: it's better than beginning with a blank slate. 

Ohne Titel 1 began as a series of crappy collages on panel. Yes, it was another problem child. With nothing to lose, I painted, collaged and played with string art for the first time since grade 5. It was exhibited in the Painters and Potters Show at the Carnegie Gallery in 2009. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Postcards: Gary Taxali

Gary Taxali's art makes me smile. I picked up this postcard from his 2007 solo show, Last Year's Winner, at Magic Pony in Toronto. Until I checked his website, I thought the text said: "Fred 24 hours." Nope. Regardless, angry Fred is pretty flexible given how he can clasp his hands behind his back and up away from his torso. I can do it. Can you? A sixteen year long yoga practice is good for something.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Quotes: Häberli

"To be creative I need books, art, objects, materials, colours and daylight. And silence." 
– Alfredo Häberli, Buenos Aires-born designer (from Elle Decoration U.K., November 2009, p.101)

Friday, 4 November 2011

More Sandra Brownlee: Tactile Notebooks Workshop

* Welcome to all you who are visiting from India Flint's blog. The following links to posts about Sandra Brownlee give a better overview of her work (with better images): Sandra essay part one, part two, part three, and more. Thanks for visiting! (January 22, 2012)
textile by Jan Baker
This Fall I'm back in the studio in a big way, to the degree that my sleep is compromised – and I'm loving it. The Sandra Brownlee workshop that I took this past June at the Contemporary Textile Studio Co-op in Toronto is influencing my thinking. If you ever have a chance to take a workshop with Sandra Brownlee, take it. You'll learn a lot from her and your fellow classmates, but I warn you, it may affect your sleep.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Allergy Ad

Have you seen this ad? It's brilliant. If you or someone you love has a food allergy, then you'll relate to this ad from Anaphylaxis Canada. Our society gathers around food, but if you have a food allergy or intolerance, you'll often feel different or excluded. As someone who has lived with this reality my whole life, I understand that it is inconvenient or intimidating for others to try to accommodate my allergies and intolerances. I get it, but my friends who are newly diagnosed grieve their new food limitations and that they stand out at parties, potlucks, weddings, and any social gathering that involves food, including sharing Communion at church. Some churches, including my own, offer both regular bread and gluten-free options for Communion. One day I hope churches rise to the occasion and just serve one allergen-free bread so that we can all feel equal, even just for a moment. Food for thought.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Studio Series: collage of Gauguin's Yellow Christ

Collage: Gauguin's Yellow Christ © Karen Thiessen 2008
If you want to understand an artwork inside and out, try collaging it. My collage teacher assigned each student a work of art to collage. Initially I was resistant to the idea until I was half-way through. At that point I started noticing detail after detail, and then I became obsessed. My intention was to get the feel for Yellow Christ, not copy it slavishly. I'll leave you with an apt quote from John Cage: "If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all."

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Postcards: Dundas Museum & Archives

The Dundas Museum and Archives is a hidden gem. Until I was invited to interpret a piece from their collection for a 2007 show called Out of the Past ... Into the Future, I had never heard of them. While looking through the archives, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Initially I intended to select a textile to respond to, but by chance I stumbled across a collection of Victorian hair jewellery. During the Victorian era, brooches and rings were made with the hair of loved ones and were worn to remember them. 

I found a brooch of woven hair surrounded by pearls, and knew that this was what I would use as my inspiration. My beloved grandma had died just three weeks before, and I was still in deep mourning. One day I'll show you the brooch and the resulting artwork.

What I love about the postcard is all the buttons. Have I told you yet that I collect buttons? One day I'll share some images with you.