Friday, 30 May 2014

$$$$$ + artists

Today I share with permission, two letters about the business of art. I'm sure some of you can relate. Feel free to share this post with others.
1. Letter from ceramic artist Tara Lynne Franco to the National Arts Centre Orchestra (shared on Facebook May 27, 2014)
After receiving yet another request to donate a piece of art and being asked to pay for the shipping of it to Ottawa, I've sent the following email to the Friends of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Feel free to use this if you receive this request from them or from someone else.
Dear Friends of the National Arts Centre Orchestra,
Thank you for sending me the request for a donation as this gives me the opportunity to provide you with some information and provide an alternative arrangement.
As an arts organization I am sure you understand how difficult it is to make one's living from art - actually virtually impossible. Most artists live well beyond the poverty line yet are the people who are constantly asked for donations for fundraisers. It is a well know fact in the arts community that the "promotion" promised by the organizers rarely leads to future sales. Often the piece that is donated is sold for less than the retail value of the piece thus devaluing the work of art and the reputation of the artist. A tax receipt does not help either as most artists' income is so low it does not impact their income taxes. Despite this reality, from time to time I will donate a piece if it is a cause I support and does not cost me anything to do so.
May I suggest an alternative arrangement? If you are approaching corporate donors for your event, instead of them purchasing something random, why not suggest to them that they purchase a piece of art instead and provide them the list of artists you used to send out this email. This would be a win win to both the artist and the corporate donor.
Otherwise I am sorry I cannot help you. I have pieces that would be perfect for this event as well as beautiful photos that would compliment your catalogue, but I'm not in a position to donate them outright and pay for the shipping on top of that.
I hope you will take this suggestion seriously and understand why it is unfair request to ask artists to donate in this manner, especially ones who do not live in the Capital region.
Thank you,

2. Letter written by Cody Lanktree, a.k.a. videographer Hamiton Seen, for a friend (shared on Facebook April 2, 2013).

I wrote this for a friend who was approached to shoot and edit four videos at $25 apiece that would be a bargain at $500 apiece.

Dear ******,

I appreciate your interest in my work. I don't think that we're on the same page as far as costs go, and would love to explain why. When I go out to shoot something I bring thousands of dollars of equipment with me and utilize expertise gained over years of training and practice. That training and practice cost me tens of thousands of dollars. Afterwards, when I sit down to edit, I must do so on a cutting edge computer with tens of thousands of dollars of software on it.
I would love to be able to work for less than I do, but the amount of cost that exists in doing what I do properly is such that anything less than my minimum of (insert $) per day of shooting and (insert $) per day of editing results in me going without food.

Again, thank you for your interest, and if you would like to speak further about a way that you can accomplish what you need while I manage to be paid in a reasonable fashion, I am very open to it. I work very hard at what I do, and am pleased to be making a living at it.



Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Mark-making drawings

Lent drawing 32a © Karen Thiessen, 2014
This is an old photocopy of a security envelope pattern that I enlarged. Recently I ran it through the copier again with one of my Letraset drawings and then I added more evidence of my hand with acrylic ink and a fine brush. That I left an area unpainted is happenstance: I had done enough mark-making for the day and planned to fill in the rest at another time. When I looked at it the following day, I realized that it resembled a mountain during a snowstorm and decided to leave it as it is. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Studio Series: Composition in Red 3 (before)

Composition in Red 3 (before) © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Composition in Red 3 is one of the four Composition pieces that I made for my solo show at You Me Gallery in 2013. At first it and Composition in Red 1 were my favourites of the four. I've since changed my mind about Composition in Red 3 and in the process, have reworked this piece and am in the process of reworking Composition in Red 2. At another time I'll share images of the reworked pieces.

One of the things I love about my new work is that I can change it when, after living with it for a while, I see that some of the elements don't work. If memory serves me correctly, I replaced five of the units in this piece. Abstract painter Leya Evelyn also reworks her paintings. She once told me that sometimes she would rework paintings that had come back unsold after a solo show. Inevitably, someone would have seen a particular painting during said show, inquire about it weeks later, and find that Evelyn had completely reworked it. In this case, you snooze, you lose.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Sandra Brownlee @ David Kaye Gallery 2

Sandra Brownlee textile 1a; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Sandra Brownlee's long woven textile hangs in the window of the David Kaye Gallery for her solo show The Word Made Physical: drawing, writing, weaving, stitching. I'm in awe of how Brownlee transforms humble black and white sewing thread into exquisite artworks. Over the years, her woven imagery has become more meditative. 
Sandra Brownlee textile 1b; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Here's a link to images of her early work where she poured her energies into each line of weaving. The new work conveys a confidence and calmness, yet is as strong as the early work.
Sandra Brownlee textiles; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The above textiles are the inclusions for her Deluxe Edition catalogue, Departures and Returns.
Sandra Brownlee textile; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
This textile is further evidence of the broadening of Brownlee's textile practice. In August 2011 she took a eco-dye workshop with India Flint. Naturally, Brownlee has taken what she has learned and has made it her own.
Sandra Brownlee textile; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The above text comes from Ray Bradbury's semi-autobiographical book Dandelion Wine. When I read Wikipedia's analysis and themes of the book, I realized that they summed up much of Brownlee's approach to life: elevating the mundane to a valuable possession (a weed made into wine), the magic and wonders of childhood, and working with one's hands and nature. 
Sandra Brownlee wire text; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
This is a detail of Brownlee's homosote studio wall that she shipped from Nova Scotia to David's gallery. Sandra is now working with a new "fibre" to make the word physical: wire. If one were to spend time with this piece, one would find actual words.

Sandra Brownlee: The Word Made Physical: drawing, writing, weaving, stitching
May 1 - 25, 2014 at David Kaye Gallery in Toronto, Ontario.

Sandra Brownlee @ David Kaye Gallery 1

Sandra Brownlee exhibition photo; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Sandra Brownlee's exhibition The Word Made Physical: drawing, writing, weaving, stitching at David Kaye Gallery in Toronto is up until Sunday May 25. The show is a mix of the textile work for which she is renowned, and newer mixed media work. It's the textile work that draws me in.
Sandra Brownlee exhibition photo; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Sandra shipped her actual (homosote) studio wall from Nova Scotia to Toronto. It's the large piece on the left in the above image.
Sandra Brownlee exhibition photo; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Above are framed tactile notebook "pages" excised from a larger book (left) and hand-stitched text (right).
Sandra Brownlee exhibition photo; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
These pieces exemplify the title of this show and Brownlee's kinaesthetic nature: they are words made physical, words deeply felt in Brownlee's body as she slowly couched the words onto cloth. Couching the words is a lot more work than embroidering them with a back-stitch or chain-stitch. Brownlee is truly committed to a slow and painstaking process of internalizing her chosen words.  The textiles on the outer edges are new. I wrote about the middle two textiles here and here. The small rust-coloured textile on the far left and Morning Ritual in the image below are evidence of Brownlee's time with India Flint.
Sandra Brownlee textile; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Does the "C" stand for coffee or candle? I guess that "Q" is for quiet, "P" is for plump, and "R" is for ritual.
Sandra Brownlee textile; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
If you were to commit to slowly stitching a text, what would you choose? As I spent time with this Ratnaguna text, I wondered what text I would want to deeply internalize.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Mark-Making progress

Lent drawing 33a © Karen Thiessen, 2014
My intuitive mark-making Lenten practice continues. Lately I've been rescuing old ugly prints of textiles and collages. Lent drawings 33a and 33c are photocopies of a machine-stitched textile that I drew on with white acrylic ink and a fine brush
Lent drawing 33c © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The acrylic ink marks give me an idea of how to go back to the original textile and hand-embroider it with chunky seed stitches. It's funny how that happens.

Monday was a national holiday and my husband and I had a coffee shop date where we chatted and I went through my current knapsack sketchbook and reviewed some of the highlights. I also asked myself what is calling me right now and the answers excite me: more mark-making, collage, and hand and machine stitching– all jumbled up together. I am committed to making piles of samples, tags, messes and mistakes all in the name of research and development.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Nui Project embroidered circles

Nui project circles by Asae Nakahara; Cotton & cotton yarn, handwork
Here's more stitching love from the first Nui Project book which I wrote about here. One of the textiles that I hacked apart to become part of the Shadow: Transformation IV quilt was made up of hand and machine stitched circles. It's time to return to this idea and see how it will evolve.

Friday, 16 May 2014


Rope 1; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Up until Wednesday, this rope looks like how I've felt for the last 39 days since the accidents. Thankfully I'm moving out of the Twilight Zone and back to my usual optimistic, energetic self. 
Rope 3; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
It's been an interesting time, as the accidents served as a rupture event and I'm just beginning to process the change in thinking that they introduced.
Rope 4; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The new thinking is good, but I still don't like being in a car, which is unfortunate because I really want to see the Dorothy Caldwell show while it is still up.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Mother & daughter lines

Mennonitemare 3 quilt back © Karen Thiessen, 2014
These lines are brought to you by happenstance. Lately I've been thinking about stitched lines. A few weeks ago I pulled out a bundle of quilts for an exhibition and Mennonitemare 3 was among them. I didn't need it for the show, so I set it aside upside down. The machine-stitched lines caught my eye. This is useful information for my new work.
Boy fishing; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
This textile of a boy fishing is a kit that my mom stitched up a lifetime ago. It's probably the only example of my mom following instructions. As a fellow redhead I get this quality from her. The embroidery is next to the guest bed at mom & dad's place. On Easter morning I noticed it in a new way. The minimal lines suggesting water spoke to me. Minimal lines would be good for me to try. I'm a maximal kind of stitcher. We'll see what happens.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Quotes: Picasso

"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it." – Pablo Picasso

Friday, 9 May 2014

Lenten Mark-making practice update

Lent Drawing 20 © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Lent is long over but my mark-making practice continues. As of yesterday I've practiced 65 days in a row and I'm only now just beginning to make interesting patterns. To get to this place, I had to make a lot of messes and play with materials and techniques in new ways. I had to put in a lot of time, at least 40 hours worth. I've now filled three old sketchbooks with my Lenten marks and two more are waiting for attention (I had five sketchbooks that I had abandoned and needed filling). Lent drawing 20 is the combination of two Letraset drawings that I scanned into Photoshop, played with and then printed separately onto the same piece of paper which I then scanned to create one file. With each scanning and printing, the image degrades slightly, and this is interesting. I can't wait to integrate these drawings into my collage and textile practice. The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Meghan Macdonald @ Hard Twist 2014

Meghan Macdonald What Remains in the Drawer, 2012-2014;
Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Meghan Macdonald's free-motion embroidered ephemera was a major discovery at Hard Twist 2014. Since her eponymous website is now defunct, I had to do some online sleuthing. I learned that Macdonald is now involved with Calica art and design studio and writes the Milk and Bread Vintage blog. Through her blog I discovered that she is a graduate of both the Sheridan College (2010) and NSCAD (2012) Textiles programs and had residencies at Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design in 2011 and at Elsewhere in Greensboro, North Carolina in 2012

Based on her blog I surmise that What Remains in the Drawer is an ongoing development of her NSCAD graduation exhibition What Remains in 2012. According to her blog, What Remains is "based on the life of a mysterious recluse. Rumoured to be a multi-millionaire freemason with a mean streak and boasting three ex-wives and three estranged daughters, these objects piece together his intimate world left behind after his passing."
Meghan Macdonald What Remains in the Drawer detail, 2012-2014;
Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
I'm a sucker for the stitched tags.
Meghan Macdonald What Remains in the Drawer detail, 2012-2014;
Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Her ability to stitch the fine details is impressive. Free-motion embroidery requires a great deal of practice, skill, and thread. It is accomplished using a sewing machine with the feed dogs dropped and a special foot, lots of thread, and dissolvable stabilizer. Amanda McCavour is another practitioner of the electric needle arts.
Meghan Macdonald What Remains in the Drawer detail, 2012-2014;
Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
What Remains in the Drawer: Free-motion embroidery on dissolvable stabilizer, gouache, watercolour, ink and pencil on paper. Various dimensions. Meghan Macdonald.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Quotes: Pema Chödrön

"Things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy." Pema Chödrön, American Tibetan Buddhist nun and author

Friday, 2 May 2014

Philip Hare @ Hard Twist 2014

Philip Hare TERROR!ST, 2012; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Also seen at Hard Twist 2014Philip Hare Terror!st, 2012, hand stitched felt. 10.5' X 5', $8000.00 
No the black faces do not form a bomb as I originally thought. To learn more about this textile, read Philip Hare's Terror!st essay
Philip Hare TERROR!ST detail 2012; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
For those who don't mind paying a fee to exhibit ($113 if your work is accepted), here is the call for Hard Twist 9. The deadline is June 6, 2014.