Monday, 5 December 2016

Quotes: Morton Feldman

"Where in life we do everything we can to avoid anxiety, in art we must pursue it." –– Morton Feldman (1926-1987), American composer

Monday, 28 November 2016

Quotes: Angela Davis

"I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept." –– Angela Davis (b. 1944), American author, activist, and academic

Monday, 21 November 2016

Quotes: Wendell Berry

Make a story
Show how love and joy
Beauty and goodness
Shine out amongst the rubble
–– Wendell Berry (b. 1934), American author, farmer, and activist

* Source: Sabbath 2006 X

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Studio Series: Leucadendron Collagraph

Leucadendron leaves collagraph © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Leucadendron is my favourite flower. A few years ago I prepared a pile of collagraph plates that I didn't print until recently. On one of the small plates, I glued Leucadendron leaves as an experiment. I didn't expect much, but although the result isn't spectacular, it is better than I had imagined. The collagraphs are starting points for other prints using other techniques. 

Monday, 14 November 2016

Quotes: Albert Camus

"A person's life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art or love or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened." –– Albert Camus (1913-1960), French Algerian philosopher and writer. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1957.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Quotes: Aeschylus

"From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow." –– Aeshylus (c. 523-456 BC), ancient Greek playwright and soldier
* source: Traditional Medicinals tea tag

I keep this quote in various places around the house to remind me that small actions have the capacity to become life-long habits, for better or for worse.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Studio Series: Blister pack collagraph

Blister pack collagraph © Karen Thiessen, 2016
The sidewalk is my friend. I've been holding onto this blister pack (probably from throat lozenges) forever and finally put it to use. If I were to "Marie Kondo"  my house, I'd have nothing to work with.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Quotes: Kim Rempel

"We view a lot of images every day but then one day, you walk by a painting and stop. Something about it stirs you. It could be a feeling the colours are giving you or something in [the] subject that brings back a private memory. It's personal. And it takes you to another place..." –– Kim Rempel, Grimsby, Ontario visual artist

Friday, 28 October 2016

Studio Series: Egg carton collagraph

Egg carton collagraph © Karen Thiessen, 2016
The future is now. Today I inked this up and ran it through the press. I quite like it. I'm already planning to push it further.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Quotes: David Foster Wallace

"If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything." –– David Foster Wallace (1962-2008), American author

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Work & Life

Front porch cicada; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
I've been a bit absent from blogland for a few reasons. I've been writing various artist statements during my daily 30 minute office practice. It seems that the words and time that I normally dedicate to my blog are being used for my statements. On Monday I felt disillusioned with the results of this new month-old habit. I expected that I would have a resolved Poetic Memory statement and already be writing an essay for another series. Nope. Then yesterday I had a breakthrough for how to install my tags. Today I realized that the results of my 30 minute office practice are non-linear. Yes, my Poetic Memory statement is moving forward, but I am reaping other rewards too.

The other reason I've been absent is that I had surgery a month ago and I'm still recovering. S l o w l y. I've since learned that it can take 4 to 6 weeks for all of the chemicals to work their way out of your body. Like my new office practice, I've learned that recovery is non-linear: Some days I feel like my normal self and then I'm exhausted for a few days. Such is life.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Quotes: Cheryl Strayed

Negative space
"One of the basic principles of every single art form has to do not with what's there –– the music, the words, the movement, the dialogue, the paint –– but with what isn't. In the visual arts it's called "negative space" –– the blank parts around and between objects, which is, of course, every bit as crucial as the objects themselves. The negative space allows us to see the nonnegative space in all its glory and gloom, its colour and mystery and light. What isn't there gives whats there meaning. Imagine that." –– Cheryl Strayed (b. 1968), American author
* source: Cheryl Strayed. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. New York: Vintage Books, 2012.

Tiny Beautiful Things is among my top five reads for 2016. Strayed is wise, funny, and deeply honest. The book is part advice column, part memoir and it's powerful stuff. I highly recommend it.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Quotes: Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it." –– Antoine De Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944), French writer and aviator, Wind, Sand and Stars
*source: Gretchen Rubin. Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. 2015.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Rachel Zeffira: Poetic Memory inspiration

I'm in the midst of writing a third artist statement for my Poetic Memory series. Most series have a snag: usually it's an artwork that takes a long time to resolve. For this series, the statement is my biggest challenge. My new habit of keeping regular office hours is now one month old and I continue to enjoy it, a big surprise. It's in this time slot that I am sitting with the Poetic Memory writing and I'm giving myself as much time as I need to set down the words that will express the essence of this series. Yesterday, to help the writing, I listened to most of my Poetic Memory soundtrack and Rachel Zeffira's Here On In was among the songs. I hope that patience with the writing process will pay off ... the sooner, the better.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Quotes: Rei Kawakubo

"If I do something I think is new, it will be misunderstood, but if people like it, I will be disappointed because I haven't pushed them enough. The more people hate it, maybe the newer it is." –– Rei Kawakubo (b. 1942), Japanese fashion designer, founder of Comme des Garçons.
*source: Oswald Gallery (Alex Taves), Friday August 19, 2016

Friday, 30 September 2016

Watermelon Patch

Watermelon patch; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
During the high humidity and temperatures of late August and early September, hubby and I took to evening walks when the summer swelter had abated somewhat. One evening I spotted a mysterious front yard plant whose leaves intrigued me. Hubby knew what it was in an instant: a watermelon plant. The light was dim and I didn't have a camera, so I had to go back the next afternoon in the unfortunate heat, but it was worth it. 

I couldn't believe that I had never seen a watermelon plant, even though the fruit is significant to Mennonites and my family. My Opa loved loved loved watermelon. According to family lore, he would stash his crop covered in straw in the hayloft on the ground floor of the barn and disappear after lunch for some secret sweet sustenance. My Thiessen clan would gather for spontaneous Roll Kuchen and Arbuzen (watermelon) suppers. Some Mennonites made watermelon syrup when they had a more than sufficient crop. It's made like maple syrup: take a lot of watermelon pulp and boil it down until it forms a syrup, then can it as you would peaches or cherries. Watermelon syrup cake is mighty delicious, as is pickled watermelon.

The long story short is that I have a new leaf to explore and interpret for my accidental Mennonite series and it's a very satisfying leaf to work with.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Patterns in food

Squash; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
The other day, my eye doctor told me that I had super visual acuity. I'm not sure that this is true, but I do pay closer attention than most and experience wonder on a daily basis. I try to follow the advice of 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." 
Squash; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
When I saw this squash at the farmers' market, I bought it because of its pattern. My husband said that it tasted very good.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Quotes: John Steinbeck

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." –– John Steinbeck (1902-1968), American author, winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature

Friday, 23 September 2016

Found pattern

Wood offcuts pattern; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
During our August staycation, I cleaned and organized my office and pieced hexagons for a collaborative quilt top. My husband made drawers for the print and paint area of my studio. I can now find things and my husband still has all of his fingers! The drawer offcuts made a pleasing pattern.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Studio Series: Shake-n-make Collaboration

Hexagons panels © Karen Thiessen, 2016
The Shake-n-Make Collective, composed of Liss Platt and Claudia Manley, is mounting an exhibition called The Hand of Craft in May 2017 at the Cotton Factory and they are enlisting help. (I last wrote about them here). On exhibit will be a massive quilt top (approximately 16 feet by 6 feet), which will spell out "Labour" in shades of taupe against a purple background. The textile will be entirely pieced by hand using the English paper piecing technique. Liss and Claudia are piecing the letters, and volunteers are invited to piece the purple panels that are 3 hexagons wide by ten hexagons long (7.5" X 29").

To facilitate this collaboration, Liss and Claudia have been hosting English Paper piecing events where they teach the technique. They provide the hexagon templates printed on freezer paper, fabric strips, and thread. Volunteers are welcome to incorporate their own purple fabrics.

When Claudia asked if I would contribute to the quilt top, naturally I said yes. This summer high heat and humidity zapped my energy. English paper piecing was one studio activity that worked best in my "Zombie" state. It worked so well that I've pieced nine panels so far. It's addictive. In the process of fleshing out my own stash of purple fabrics, I learned that compared to other colours, few fabrics are available in purple colourways. The next time you are in a quilt shop, take a look –– you'll be surprised. I know I was, especially since purple is one of my favourite colours.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Quotes: Jamie Seaton

"One of the wonderful things about books is less that they influence one but rather that they seem to coax into the light ideas that one is already groping for. It's almost a magical process by which one finds oneself led to just the right book, making manifest inchoate feelings or ideas, at just the right moment." –– Jamie Seaton, UK co-founder of fashion and homeware label Toast
* source: Elle Decoration UK, April 2014, p. 73

**inchoate: adj. in an initial or early stage; imperfectly formed or developed

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Video: Bomba Estéreo

via Lynda Barry on The Near-Sighted Monkey, with thanks!

If the corners of your mouth are sagging with the weight of gravity, this video will move them up. I've already watched this video four times and I'll likely watch it again. 

Friday, 16 September 2016

Halifax Street Art

Barrington Street Mural; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
While in Halifax this summer, a massive mural by Jason Botkin (b. 1974) caught my eye. He's an ACAD graduate who originally hails from Denver, Colorado and is now a Montréal-based artist and a co-creator and co-director of en Masse Collaborative Mural project. The mural overlooks a sad parking lot on Barrington Street directly across from the Grand Parade, formerly the site of a gorgeous old Birks building, torn down in the early 1980s to make way for a government building. The empty lot has been an eyesore for more than 30 years.
Barrington Blocks Ceramic Installation; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
This Barrington Blocks installation by NSCAD ceramics graduate Catherine Laroche, is interactive. The ceramic blocks are glazed with a different colour (orange, yellow, green, grey) on each of the four sides and rotate independently: they are pixels one can touch. The installation screened the aforementioned sad parking lot. 
Halifax poster detritus; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
And finally, a collage of chance.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Sandra Brownlee Tactile Notebooks samples

Sandra Brownlee class samples; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
As I was cleaning out my blog photo files, I stumbled across two images from Sandra Brownlee's Tactile Notebooks and the Written Word workshop.
Sandra Brownlee class sample; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
The cut paper is a beauty. Enjoy!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Quotes: Iris Murdoch

"People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us." –– Iris Murdoch (1919-1999), Irish novelist and philosopher

Friday, 9 September 2016

Tree pods

Tree pods; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
In late July I had the opportunity to hang out with my cousin Paula's artist friend from Thunder Bay, who is now my friend too. We gallivanted around town and I showed her the galleries. It was a treat to spend a day-and-a-half with a fellow artist who sees the world as I do and who also picks random bits of discarded beauty from the street. On our travels, we stumbled upon this beautiful tree with its showy seed pods. Nature really does put on a nice show. It's up to us to notice.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Future collagraph

Egg carton; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
I spotted this gem in a parking lot close to the Farmers' Market and had to have it. It's now in my studio waiting to be adhered to stiff cardboard so that I can ink it up and run it through a press. I hope the print is at least half as interesting as what I imagine it could be.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Studio and office practices

source: Austin Kleon

Today, the day after Labour Day, is my equivalent to New Year's Day. It's a season of fresh starts, new opportunities, and recovery from holiday busyness. Earlier this year, Claudia at Proper Tension recommended Gretchen Rubin's book about habit formation Better Than Before. I've been reading it slowly over the past two months and the lessons are sinking in. The one habit that I'm flirting with this season is to establish better office practices. This includes filing, keeping my work surfaces clear of clutter and dust, and to schedule regular office hours. When I graduated from NSCAD, I dedicated three mornings a week to office tasks and the rest to the studio. Over the past few years, my office work has become more erratic and it's time to change this. The Tom Sachs video (via Austin Kleon) coupled with Better Than Before motivated me to overhaul my office and it's now a thing of beauty.

This week I realized that I function better in a neat and tidy office but require a bit of mess in the studio (as long as my tools are put away). Fellow creatives, what works best for you? Feel free to comment.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Quotes: Pablo Picasso

"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls." –– Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Spanish artist

Monday, 29 August 2016

Quotes: Lykke Højriis Larsen

"Art is good for the soul. It says a lot about what you like and who you are." –– Lykke Højriis Larsen, Danish-born, Surrey, UK-based interior designer
*source: Livingetc. March 2014, p. 82

Friday, 26 August 2016

Found Halifax collage

 Found collage; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Isn't it interesting that all the posters on this pole are black-and-white?

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Different kinds of Halifax stars

Ship from Colombia; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
While vacationing in Halifax recently, I encountered all sorts of stars. This dignified ship from Colombia attracted a lot of attention. It was definitely the star of the waterfront for several days.
Stars on the Halifax waterfront pavement; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
If you looked down while walking along the Halifax waterfront, you'd see a family of sea stars (formerly known as starfish).
Found star; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
I found this star in Halifax too. Can you guess what it is?

Monday, 22 August 2016

Quotes: Issey Miyake

"Design is not for philosophy, it's for life."–– Issey Miyake (b. 1938), Japanese fashion designer

Friday, 19 August 2016

Sandra Brownlee + string-making *updated 24/08/16*

Sandra Brownlee teaches how to make string; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
In July, Sandra Brownlee taught Susie Brandt and me how to make string, a technique that Sandra learned from India Flint, who learned it from Australian visual artist Nalda Searles. Earlier that week, Susie Brandt taught me how to make rope (more about that in a future post). 
Sandra Brownlee's string ball for Warren Seelig; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Sandra is making this ball of string for Warren Seelig. He wants it to be B I G.

Once home from Nova Scotia, I practiced making string while standing at my kitchen counter. I cut up several tea bags and got to work, making a fine string. It took a few tries before I found my rhythm. While cleaning out my studio, I found fabric strips leftover from a rug-hooking project that I undertook while I was a Sheridan student. The results are similar weight to that of the above ball. I am grateful to Nalda, India, and Sandra for passing on this skill.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Studio Series: ink spots

Ink spots © Karen Thiessen, 2016
When I last saw Dorothy Caldwell at the opening of her travelling exhibition Silent Ice/Deep Patience at the IdeaExchange in Cambridge, Ontario, I asked her about the washes on her newer quilts. Dorothy told me that she had grown tired of drawing the designs, waiting for her silkscreens to be exposed with her designs, be shipped back to her, and then her finally printing the fabric. Too much time elapsed between the initial mark-making on paper and the final result on fabric. She decided to work more directly by brushing washes of India ink onto the fabric. 

Dorothy's use of a non-traditional colorant inspired me to play with India ink on fabric in my own way. I used Dr. Ph. Martin's Hi-Carb India ink in black. I discovered this brand a few years ago from Keri Smith's blog: it's her favourite ink. It's mine now too.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Quotes: Arthur Miller

"Where choice begins, Paradise ends, innocence ends, for what is Paradise but the absence of any need to choose this action?" –– Arthur Miller (1915-2005), American playwright and essayist

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Mr. Toad

Mr. Toad; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Isn't this guy a beauty? The symmetry and the colouration of the marks are very inspiring.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Quotes: Marcel Proust

"My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing." –– Marcel Proust (1871-1922), French author

Friday, 5 August 2016

Turkey Vulture

Turkey vulture; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Every summer my husband and I visit Niagara-on-the-Lake for a picnic in the park. On our way home we took a different route (okay, we were slightly lost) and a bonus was seeing a trio of Turkey vultures that each appeared to be the size of a Smartcar. Holy schmoly, look at this guy's beak! They really were scary-wonderful.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Package Design

King Soba package; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
I confess that I bought these noodles partly for the beautiful patterns on the package. Since I've been off wheat for twenty years, these were the first ramen noodles that I've had since before my gluten-free days. Pretty packaging and delicious food are a nice combination.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Quotes: Theaster Gates

"Every art idea for me starts with some kind of compassion or curiosity or care." –– Theaster Gates (b. 1973), American sculptor and social practice performance artist
* source: Bozikovic, Alex. "Public Practice: Theaster Gates brings his uniquely social art to the AGO. The Globe and Mail, Saturday July 23, 2016, p. R1, R4.

Friday, 29 July 2016


Mama frog; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
In early June, my parents' pond was teeming with toads and frogs. I had assumed that toads lived strictly on dry land, but I learned that they gather around ponds during the breeding season. 

The above frog appears to be tending her eggs which are hidden under the foliage. The frogspawn looks a bit like a plastic bag submerged in water.
Teen frog; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
This is a frog in metamorphosis. Note the tail.
Tadpoles; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
The pond was thick with tadpoles. They looked like swarms of commas punctuating the water.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Studio Series: Graphic Screen prints

Graphic screen print © Karen Thiessen, 2016
My printmaking class finished a few weeks ago and now I have a nice pile of prints to collage with. When I sorted the pile, I realized that I also have a substantial number of duds (or works-in-progress) to screen print over. 
Sunny graphic screen print © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Most of my prints are an accretion of patterns. I've learned that some prints go through an ugly process and eventually evolve to something that I am excited to collage with. In the above screen print I can see at least four layers of patterns and I'm pretty sure that they are printed over a colour copy of a collage or quilt. Some days I think that I'd like to make two or three screen registered prints like some of my classmates, but my accretion technique still gives me a lot of energy and satisfaction and unlike conventional approaches, these prints really function as monoprints because no two prints are the same.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Quotes: Clarissa Pinkola Estés

"It is in the middle of misery that so much becomes clear. The one who says nothing good came of this is not yet listening." –– Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés (b. 1945), American author and psychoanalyst

Friday, 22 July 2016

Studio Series: Naturally Dyed Hexagons WIP

Naturally dyed, hand-quilted hexagons WIP © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Hand-quilting my solids hexagons pillow cover gave me a "next step" for this naturally dyed hexagons textile. I pieced it about a year-and-a-half ago but didn't know what the textile needed next. The above textile is still a work-in-progress and I'm curious to know when another "next step" will announce itself and how the textile will evolve. This is one of my slow-to-resolve textiles, but once finished they are often worth the long incubation period (Here's an example of a problem child that was well worth the wait).

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Studio Series: Solids hexagons pillow

Solids hexagon pillow © Karen Thiessen, 2016 
I finally finished this sucker and it looks fantastic (if I do say so myself)!
Solids hexagon pillow detail © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Each hexagon took about an hour to hand quilt.
Solids hexagon pillow verso © Karen Thiessen, 2016
I appliquéd a patch of my screen printed fabric onto the back. Soon I'll write a post about a work-in-progress inspired by this hand-quilted hexagons pillow.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Quotes: Carrie Brownstein

"I always felt like such an outsider, always existing on the periphery, and I am really grateful for that. Starting from a place of normalcy or mainstream, you don't get the same gumption or drive that you do from the fringes." –– Carrie Brownstein (b. 1974), American actress and musician
*source: imdb and sketchbook #28

Friday, 15 July 2016

Studio Series: Matrix collage

Matrix collage © Karen Thiessen, 2016
While I was a textiles student at Sheridan College I developed a complex three-print pattern, but due to time constraints was unable to push it as far as I knew it could go. Fast forward twenty years and now I'm playing to see where it can go. The bonus is that ten years ago collage wedged its way into my studio practice, and now I have a thinking tool that I didn't have during my Sheridan days. Oh the places that this matrix pattern will go...

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


Woad plant; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of touring textile artist and natural dye expert Thea Haines' natural dye garden. She grows all manner of colour-yielding plants. Of particular interest to me was this large clump of woad. The leaves yield an indigo blue dye.
Woad seeds; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Thea has already collected the seeds for future woad crops. I look forward to seeing what depth of blue her plants yield.

In addition to natural dye plants, she is also growing a test plot of flax for an Upper Canada Fibreshed initiative. The goal is that the flax will be processed into fibre, and the UC Fibreshed is still working out the details of how to do this as there are no processing plants here in Canada. A few years ago, one of Sandra Brownlee's NSCAD textiles students grew a plot of flax in Sandra's Dartmouth garden. Naturally, Sandra crafted a beautiful low wattle fence to encircle it. I believe that the test plot was for the same initiative that Thea is involved in.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Quotes: Andy Goldsworthy

"Whenever possible, I make a work every day. Each work joins the next in a line that defines the passage of my life, marking, and accounting for my time and creating a momentum which gives me a strong sense of anticipation for the future." –– Andy Goldsworthy (b. 1959), British environmental artist
*source: Judy's Journal, Wednesday May 11, 2016

Friday, 8 July 2016

Studio Series: monoprint

Cabbage monoprint © Karen Thiessen, 2016
New studio rhythms means time to muck around. This cabbage monoprint really does look like the cross-section of a brain. What do you think?

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Studio Series: Two inch collages e

Two inch collages e © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Summer is officially here and with it I am experimenting with new rhythms. I'm stitching less and am mark-making and collaging more. I've learned to sit at the patio table on the back deck overlooking the tangled garden and feed my sketchbook. Normally, I enjoy nature by trying to tame my unwieldy garden. Sitting in nature is new to me. The weeds are still there and the daffodil bulbs still need to be divided, but I'm now almost able to ignore them. New rhythms are uncomfortable, but necessary. 

A few weeks ago I realized that I needed a vacation. This perplexed me. Vacations stress me out because they take me away from my work and my daily routine. So, I decided to take a vacation without going away: I am engaging in pattern disruption. One of my goals for this life experiment is to be mildly bored instead of being constantly over-stimulated and over-committed. It's working. It's uncomfortable but it's allowing me to play with smaller projects for which I might ordinarily not make time. If you aren't able to take a vacation this summer, try changing your routine. It might surprise you.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Quotes: Edgar Allan Poe

"Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears." –– Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), American author

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Videos: Patrick Castro's book of ephemera!!

LP/w Design Studios, Interior and Graphic Design from on Vimeo.

From 4:35 to 6:03, designer Patrick Castro of LP/w Design Studios shows his book of ephemera. He kept a box of random newspaper clippings, bus passes and filled one page per night. "I would randomly grab stuff and plop it on a page and try to create something out of it and what happened over time... because I got in the habit of just making stuff.... I became comfortable with ugly.  ... To make something interesting, you have to make something ugly every now and then or be comfortable with ugly and so this thing for me was a big part of being comfortable with accidents and being comfortable with handmade stuff." –– Patrick Castro
* Source: Uppercase All About You newsletter, January 23, 2016

Monday, 27 June 2016

Quotes: Aristotle

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." –– Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), Greek philosopher

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Studio Series: black & white collage II

Black & White collage II © Karen Thiessen, 2016
The studio is a happening place these days: I seem to have cultivated a new rhythm, a new sense of being alive in my work process. It is all thanks to the six weeks of classes that I took at my local indie fabric shop where I learned how to sew a dress, a flowering snowball pillow, and a pair of leggings. These were all personal projects that took time away from my regular studio work, but this investment of time has paid off in spades. First of all, I am now hyper-aware of clothing construction: of seams, lines, darts, shapes. As a result, I now see that my work could eventually move into three-dimensions. Second: I have returned to my stitching and collage practice with new energy and awareness.

I just finished reading The Art of Slow Writing (2014) by Louise DeSalvo, a book I highly recommend for any creative, whether or not you are a writer. In one chapter about supporting the work, she shares how Vita Sackville-West encouraged her friend, Virginia Woolf, to take time from her writing practice. "From Sackville-West, Woolf learned to be less obsessive about her art and to take more time for relaxation, travel, and excursions to enrich her work. She subsequently spent time bowling, doing needlepoint, knitting, bread baking, and listening to music (DeSalvo, 108-109)." So, I encourage my dear work-obsessed readers (you know who you are) to try something new and see how this enlivens the work. 

Source: DeSalvo, Louise. The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2014.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Quotes: David Himel

"I'm committed to building a culture of skilled craftspeople, rather than a culture of whatever's cheapest. Once you lose that ability to make things, you're really losing your ability to take care of yourself as a culture. If you don't know how to grow food or make clothing or fix things, how are you going to run your society?" –– David Himel, owner of Himel Brothers Leather, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

*source: Freed, Jeremy. 'The 25-year wardrobe.' The Globe and Mail, Saturday December 5, 2015, p.13

Friday, 17 June 2016

Keith Shearsby Useful Things @ YouMe Gallery 3

Keith Shearsby Useful Things; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Three overall views of the gallery give you a sense of the number of objects, their scale, and how they relate to each other like one useless but photogenic family.
Keith Shearsby Useful Things; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Each object begs to be used or attempted to be used.
Keith Shearsby Useful Things; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Keith Shearsby Hatchet, 2015; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
What would happen first: would you break your wrist or slice open your thigh if you attempted to use Hatchet to cut some kindling for your campfire?
Keith Shearsby Chain Saw, 2015; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
It's clear that Keith Shearsby has been making this series with great care and humour over many years. I look forward to seeing what more he has up his sleeve.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Keith Shearsby Useful Things @ YouMe Gallery 2

Keith Shearsby Broom, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Broom was another of my favourite pieces in the show. It's an object that I could spend a few years admiring. Sadly, none of the work in Keith Shearsby's March 2016 Useful Things exhibit was available for purchase. Sweeping a floor with Broom could be fun or frustrating, depending on your expectations.
Keith Shearsby Spring Hammer, 2015; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Take a close look of the handle of Spring Hammer. Its grooves and patina indicates that it was used in its previous (useful) life.
Keith Shearsby Cane, 2009; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Cane and Crutches are worthy of performance art. Cane's bell is a nice touch, as are Crutches' hand brakes.
Keith Shearsby Crutches, 2009; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Keith Shearsby Steel Wool Gloves, 2008; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Good luck using Steel Wool Gloves.