Monday, 31 December 2012

Quotes: Stephen King

"You can't deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.  – Stephen King

Friday, 28 December 2012

Week 48: Adobe Illustrator

Pineapples pattern © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Last week I extolled the virtues of knowing how to make specific angle triangles (s.a.t.'s) in Adobe Illustrator. Here's more proof that s.a.t.'s are awesome. 

My grandpa had a few Hawaiian shirts in his wardrobe that he wore with panache. His funeral was on one of the hottest days of the year (six months earlier grandma's funeral took place during an icy blizzard!) and before the funeral service my mom, the matriarch of the family, insisted that family and guests remove their ties and jackets in the sweltering church. One cousin wore a Hawaiian shirt in memory of Grandpa. Grandpa would have approved. I could see Pineapples as a modern update of the Hawaiian shirt. It would also look great as wallpaper.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Quotes: Andy Warhol

Quote by Andy Warhol illustrated by Karen Thiessen, 2012. 
Rough Diamonds pattern © Karen Thiessen 2012 in background.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Week 47: Adobe Illustrator

Crosses IIc © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Nerd alert: this week's Adobe Illustrator pattern is brought to you by the triangle. Last week I had a significant breakthrough: I learned how to make specific angle triangles in AI. It's easy to make an equilateral triangle in Illustrator, but it's not so straightforward to make a right-angle, obtuse or acute triangle. Here's the website where I learned how to make a Specific Angle Triangle.
Crosses IIIb © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Learning how to draw any triangle that I can imagine has been such a revelation that I'm now obsessed with making multiple iterations of triangle patterns. Crosses IIc and Crosses IIIb are based on a long skinny triangle that I made crosses with and then put them into a repeat pattern. Crosses IIc reminds me of dancing stars. Crosses IIIb has the feel of an old-fashioned Formica pattern. While I was playing around with making Crosses IIc, I figured out a great way to fill the gaps between my initial repeat units and how to change specific colours in one easy step (Select fill colour tool). Yes, it's been an awesome week for learning new things in AI!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Jolie Bird @ Hard Twist

Jolie Bird Turntable wrapped in gold thread, 2012
If you haven't already seen it, Hard Twist is on at The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto until January 27, 2013. Hard Twist is a fibre arts exhibition associated with a larger fibre festival based in nearby Oakville.

Jolie Bird is hot stuff these days. I first encountered her work at Fibreworks 2012 and was pleased to see it again at Hard Twist. Her work was also accepted into Fiberart International 2013.
Jolie Bird Installation @ Hard Twist
Bird's work is installed in the lobby of the Gladstone Hotel at eye-level if you are tallish like me. The more examples that I see of her work, the more I am impressed and amazed. I'll bet covering that record was pretty challenging, especially the narrow edge. 
Jolie Bird Stand & Headphones wrapped in gold thread, 2012
I think we'll see a lot more of Jolie Bird's work in the near future. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Emily Comeau @ Hard Twist

Emily Comeau Cat's Cradle, 2012
If you haven't already seen it, Hard Twist is on at The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto until January 27, 2013. Hard Twist is a fibre arts exhibition associated with a larger fibre festival based in nearby Oakville.

Emily Comeau's Cat's Cradle must be seen in person to get a sense of the scale. Comeau's piece was the first artwork that I saw as I entered the first exhibition space. The piece measures 48" by 48" and consists of 80 plaster fingers mounted on board with yarn. The work is conceptually brilliant and technically well executed.
Emily Comeau Cat's Cradle detail, 2012
As usual, I'm curious. I'm curious to know if all 80 fingers are different, and whose fingers were cast. I love the roughness of the fingers –– they give the sense that they are the fingers of people who work with theirs hands and in Cat's Cradle, they really are working. After seeing this piece, ordinary string art will never be the same for me.
Emily Comeau Cat's Cradle detail, 2012
Comeau is a Nova Scotia-born artist based in Montreal who graduated from Concordia University with a BFA majoring in Fibre Arts.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Gillian Collyer @ Hard Twist

Gillian Collyer Bound, 2011
If you haven't already seen it, Hard Twist is on at The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto until January 27, 2013. Hard Twist is a fibre arts exhibition associated with a larger fibre festival based in nearby Oakville. Over three posts I'll share some highlights of the show. Some of the work was conceptually strong and looked fantastic from a distance but revealed disappointing technical flaws upon closer inspection. 

Gillian Collyer's Bound is one of the highlights for me. I first became familiar with her work when she exhibited hand-held at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in 2000. In the AGNS exhibition, Collyer donned a white lab coat and wrapped kitchen utensils with white hand-spun wool yarn in the gallery. The wrapped utensils were exhibited on mayo (surgical) stands that reinforced the clinical nature of the performance and the work.
Gillian Collyer Bound detail2011
Bound is a kitchen chair wrapped in twine and hand-spun wool yarn. Wouldn't you love to see a time-lapse video of the wrapping of this chair? I wonder how heavy the chair is now, how much yarn and twine were used, and if Collyer hand-spun the yarn herself. Collyer is a graduate of NSCAD and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and now teaches at OCAD while maintaining an active studio practice and exhibition schedule.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Quotes: Brian Eno

"I like the idea of making things that exist quite happily without me being around them. In music, you talk about releasing records, and I always liked that expression because that is exactly what you do: you release it from yourself. You release it from you standing around and defending it and saying this or that about it. You set it free and it is just floating with everything else out there and then it takes whatever value is conferred upon it. I am very keen on this idea of conferral of value. The old idea with artists is that they take dead material and fill it with value, and I never liked that. From the age of fifteen I didn't like that. What I liked was the idea of making things that attract value to them. They can be quite small. You put something out into the world and either it disappears completely, which often happens, or it starts to accumulate resonance." – Brian Eno, from interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, 2000

found via Keri Smith, "Resonance"

Friday, 14 December 2012

Week 46: Adobe Illustrator

Dotted Diamonds © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Dotted Diamonds would look great as wallpaper. My powder room is painted the background colour: a deep greyed violet. The other day I was taping paint chips to the bedroom wall and I realized that it was almost the same colour as the powder room. Then I remembered that I've had two other purple bedrooms in my past. I also have a purple purse, a purple coat, and a purple knapsack. I have a few purple sweaters and tops and at least two purple scarves. It's all an accident. Naturally I do wear lots of other colours, but purple seems to stand out to the extent that my three-year-old friend refers to me as "Purple Karen." I love it!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Andrew McPhail @ Hamilton Artists Inc

Andrew McPhail Prick II, 2012
Andrew McPhail Prick II detail, 2012 
Andrew McPhail does it again! Prick II garnered a lot of attention at the Hamilton Artists Inc members' show opening. If you have your heart set on owning this prickly beauty, sorry, it sold.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Studio Series: Tags Study II

Panel of blue tags © Karen Thiessen, 2012
When I hand-stitch my tags, I adhere them to a large piece of fabric with 505 spray. Once I've finished stitching them all, I cut them away from the background fabric and add eyelets for hanging. Recently I brought this panel while it was in progress to a craft night and a colleague remarked that it was beautiful. She thought that the background fabric was part of the piece. That got me thinking about alternate ways of presenting the work... more options to consider.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Swedish Weaving: My Trip Through Life

Once again, my mom steals the show. My Trip Through Life is a baby afghan that my mom made to commemorate all the vehicles in a man's life. Mom used the Cars and Trucks pattern by Cindy Young and Lisa Clark as her guide.
My Trip Through Life reads from right to left. On the far right is the car that brought the boy home from the hospital when he was born. The pickup is the first vehicle he learned to drive, then the truck (it looks like a 10 wheeler to me) and then when he retired from trucking he bought a camper trailer and travelled all over North America.
Mom and dad ran a transportation company before they sold it and retired. Dad started with a 10 wheeler and eventually moved up to a fleet of 18 wheelers. 
When they retired they bought a camper trailer and now travel around North America like my grandparents did before them.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Friday, 7 December 2012

Week 45: Adobe Illustrator

Diamond Totems © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Despite my cold I managed to practice Illustrator this week. Unless I take a week off for Christmas I'll practice AI 48 weeks in 2012. When I started this project in January, I assumed that I'd know all of the basics by now, but I don't. This year-long project will stretch into 2013 and I hope by December 2013 I'll have mastered the basics and more. Pattern continues to be my passion and text has captured my attention. It's fun pulling them together for my Monday quotes posts.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

TOAE 2012: Amanda McCavour

Amanda McCavour Floating Garden; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
In 2011 I wrote about Amanda's installation Scribble at the 2011 TOAE. The mass of cheerful orange textile spirographs moved in the warm breeze. Scribble grabbed your attention from long distances and invited you to check it out. This year Amanda McCavour installed a Floating Garden at the 2012 TOAE. The work itself was strong but suffered from a less-than-ideal setting, as you can see from my photos. The hanging devices and weights got in the way of seeing the work properly. For a better installation photo go to her website. Can you see this series floating over wall-to-wall astroturf?
Amanda McCavour Floating Garden; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Yesterday I received my Fall 2012 Surface Design Journal and was pleased to see an article highlighting McCavour's work. This fall she moved to Philadelphia to pursue an MFA in Fibers and Material Studies at Tyler School of Art. I am curious to see how her work will evolve.
Amanda McCavour installation Scribble at the TOAE 2011; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen
Here are two images of her 2011 installation. Wow! Right?
Amanda McCavour installation Scribble at the TOAE 2011; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Studio Series: tags study

tags study; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Beginning in October, I set about to pierce, punch, score, fold, cut, bend, curl, freeze, bake, soak, ink, and wreck a whack of #6 tags in order to loosen up. My ploy worked and now I have food for thought.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


Soup for a sick gal; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2011
It's been 19 months since my last cold. That much luck is bound to run out and it finally did. Since last week I've been nourishing myself with gallons of soup, tea, and green smoothies. Between naps I manage to get some studio work done and that makes me especially happy (being sick is boring). Since I am too tired to work my usual long days, I have an excuse to indulge in some fiction. Over several evenings I read Maggie O'Farrell's The Hand That First Held Mine, a story about artists and writers in 1950s and present-day London, that has stayed with me days after I finished reading it.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Friday, 30 November 2012

Week 44: Adobe Illustrator

Shibori Stripes © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Shibori Stripes is a detour. I attempted to replicate the stripe pattern of the Japanese bowl in Adobe Illustrator but it looked stiff and boring. In order to get the correct spacing of the stripes in the boring pattern I needed to create several iterations, so I wasn't about to toss all that work away. The "rough" effect saved the day and now I have a dynamic pattern that reminds me of a gorgeous scarf that I Shibori dyed many moons ago.
Japanese Bowl; Photo credit Karen Thiessen, 2010

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Dave Hind Caribou

Dave Hind Caribou Artasia; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Dave Hind's Caribou were installed at Supercrawl 2012. Through Culture for Kids in the Arts (CKA) he collaborated with Hamilton children to create a Charter of Rights for the Parks that became the Caribou Charter.
Dave Hind Caribou Artasia; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Each of the Caribou is constructed of recycled aluminum and engraved with pictures and messages about care and respect for Hamilton parks generated by the children. The message above reads: "Every park has the right to... allow pets." The Caribou stand about 5' high and wide and represent each of the fifteen neighbourhood groups where CKA worked with Artasia students.
Dave Hind Caribou Artasia; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
The orange and white Caribou is particularly touching. It reads: "Every park has the right to... be treated like mum with love and respect." I haven't heard if the Caribou will migrate back to the parks where they were conceived. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Titanica @ Mary Black Gallery

The Iceberg by Wilma Butts & Crying Fish by Laura Kenney; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Titanica at the Mary E. Black Gallery in Halifax is long gone. The show commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland ran from August 3 to September 9, 2012. Susan Charles, the Director of the gallery and the Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design, reluctantly gave me permission to only photograph large views of the show. Since I (mostly) complied, the photos aren't great. Three textile pieces stood out: two by Wilma Butts and a hooked rug by Laura Kenney. In the above photo Wilma Butts' The Iceberg hangs to the left and Laura Kenney's Crying Fish hangs to the right. For a better image go to Kenney's blog and Butts' Artwork section of her website. The Iceberg is made with sericin scoured silk and Crying Fish is made with second hand wool clothing and recycled sari ribbon on burlap.
Fractured by Wilma Butts; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
The piece that stole the show for me was Wilma Butts' Fractured. All that I know is that it is constructed of shibori-dyed paper, silk fibre, and wire. Normally I photograph the didactic panels so that I can provide you with more information, but I complied with Susan Charles' request of overall shots, *except* for the bottom image, a detail of Fractured. I couldn't resist. Shibori dyers will recognize my pun.
Fractured detail by Wilma Butts; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Swedish Weaving: To-Ni-Lih Navajo pattern

To-Ni-Lih Swedish weaving pattern
My mom finished this afghan early this year. She was working on it during our Arizona visit in February and she made it specifically for herself. To-Ni-Lih is a Navajo style Swedish weaving pattern by Linda Allen.
To-Ni-Lih Swedish weaving pattern detail
It's interesting how our experiences shape us. While I was growing up, my parents' decor was "early Sally Ann" thanks to a combination of tight finances and their quirky creativity. Mom's term "early Sally Ann" was derived from Salvation Army, and stood for second-hand furniture and furnishings. I grew up with cast-off antiques that mom and I would refinish.  We collected vintage furnishings long before they became the hot trend that they are today. 
To-Ni-Lih Swedish weaving pattern detail
In the years since my brother and I moved out to establish our own households, mom and dad's collective decorating style has evolved to be "early Sally Ann meets Native American and Mexican." The evolution reflects their travels and new influences. It's an interesting mix and naturally they make it work with their usual √©lan. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Week 43: Adobe Illustrator & 2nd blogiversary!

Two (Wonky Hexagons) © Karen Thiessen, 2012
As of tomorrow, two years will have passed since I started this blog on November 24, 2010. Little did I know that it would introduce me to so many fabulous people. Thank you to all who visit, follow, and comment!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Unlimited wonder

Big dead bug; Photo credit Karen Thiessen, 2012
One of the jobs of an artist is to pay attention. Any mundane activity can be enlivened simply by looking deeply. Have you ever washed dishes and noticed the shapes, sizes and colours of bubbles? Chores take longer when you pay close attention, but they are more fun.
Big dead beetle; Photo credit Karen Thiessen, 2012
This summer I took my camera on a walk around the house and found two large dearly departed insects. Beautiful.
Moth (alive); Photo credit Karen Thiessen, 2012
Notice the velvety texture of the moth and the scalloped edges of the wings. Every day we have an opportunity to look closely, deeply, slowly at the unlimited wonder that surrounds each of us. Go ahead, take a look. What do you see?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Studio Series: Seven Houses quilt

Seven Houses quilt © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Three words come to mind when I look at this quilt: hot, sleep deprived, and homesick. Moments after I graduated from Sheridan College's Textiles program, I packed up our house and moved to the other side of the world. Singapore was a grand, scary adventure where I was forced to learn how to cross the street without getting hit, how to buy groceries in the Wet Markets, and how to sweat. That's right: prior to living in Singapore I was unable to sweat, a trait that I inherited from my mom. My naturopath gave me a supplement that remedied that situation permanently. Prior to this, my face would turn pink or red in lieu of perspiring and on occasion I would pass out from too much heat. 

My husband and I lived in a serviced apartment on the sixteenth floor where I set up a make-shift studio in the spare bedroom. My wobbly cutting table consisted of two twin mattresses and their box springs stacked on top of each other. Not great, but it did the job. Three months into our stay, the empty restaurant at the base of the building was converted into a disco called Body Shock. Base machines pounded in sync to the music. For the remaining nine months our bed vibrated to whatever music was playing from 11 pm to 3 am. My husband could sleep through it, I could not. To preserve my sanity I shifted my work hours and went to bed when the disco turned off its torture device. In the wee hours of many a Singapore morning I pieced parts of Seven Houses with fabrics that I dyed and printed while at Sheridan and fabrics that I bought in Singapore, Bali, and Malaysia. Later in Halifax, I dyed the golden panels with Ted Hutten's onion skins and then pieced the whole thing when we moved back to Ontario. Seven Houses really is an around-the-world quilt.

Seven Houses is part of the Tangents series of quilts and measures 65” W X 87” H or 
165 cm X 221 cm.
Materials: cotton fabrics, cotton/poly binding, cotton quilt batting; cotton & polyester threads
Techniques: most cotton fabrics dyed, discharged, screen-printed, and/or hand-painted with Procion dyes, natural dyes (onion skins) and/or screen-printing textile inks; machine pieced, hand & machine stitched
• Machine quilted by Jacqueline Harris as designed by Karen Thiessen (wonky random grid)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Preparations for studio work

Light © Karen Thiessen, 2011
"The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel." – Piet Mondrian, Dutch painter 1872-1944

This week the studio beckons me to dig deep and be a channel. The porch is swept, my office and mirrors are spotless, the mending and the ironing are complete: it's now time to get on with the real work.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Quotes: Matthew B. Crawford

"... creativity is a by-product of mastery of the sort that is cultivated through long practice. It seems to be built up through submission (think a musician practicing scales, or Einstein learning tensor algebra)."– Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft, p. 51

Friday, 16 November 2012

Week 42: Adobe Illustrator

Yip! © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Yesterday I involuntarily uttered the word "Yip!" as I filled my mug to overflowing at the kitchen sink. I have said "Yip!" in fun to mimic my late Grandma, but never instead of my usual "shit!" Yip! was my Grandma's word, a word sputtered high-pitch in surprise. Grandma was so well-known for her word that one family of five cousins nicknamed her "Grandma Yip-Yip." At her funeral we cousins gathered at the front of the church hall and yipped in unison after the meal and time of sharing; it was our light offering on a day of heavy grief.