Friday, 29 January 2016

Studio Series: material explorations

Pop tab sample © Karen Thiessen, 2016
On my long list of things to do in the studio this year is to make time for material explorations. As a textiles student at Sheridan College, I was expected to create all manner of samples: dye, print, stitch, and more. I made the pop tab sample for my Material Explorations class while I was a student. The textile pattern is my thumb print enlarged. I dyed the blue fabric and then screen printed my thumb print pattern with pigments. The stitched pop tabs followed. At the moment I'm in UFO (UnFinished Object) completion mode and I hope that I balance that with at least some material exploration–– I finished three textile projects since my last post!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

completion and new messes

UFO hexagons textiles © Karen Thiessen, 2016
January and February are my favourite months of the year. It is a time of cold weather and new beginnings. It is a time to dream, write, make lists, assess, think about the big picture, review, and build momentum for the year ahead. There's lots to do. My lists are taking shape and one list is dedicated to unfinished projects. It's a long list of personal and studio projects and I am determined to complete most of them in 2016. Completing UFO's frees up my energy and builds momentum. It's a form of tidying up so that I have mental space to make new messes. Since I learned English paper piecing in 2013, I've made piles of pieced textiles and, until recently, I'd only finished one. 2016 is the year of completion and new messes.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Quotes: Ai Weiwei

"Art is a tool to set up new questions." – Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) Chinese contemporary artist and activist

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Studio Series: B&W collage 5

BW Collage 5 © Karen Thiessen, 2016
I love colour but lately I've been playing with drawing, designing, and collaging in black-and-white. My studio flat file has a drawer dedicated to b&w photocopies of found images, my drawings, rubbings, and designs. It's ripe for the picking. Jane Hill, an esteemed potter, is a master of designing in b&w. About ten years ago, we took a collage class together and in the past few months her b&w influence has crept into my work, and I am glad for it. Many of my b&w collages will be translated into another format that will involve colour. I can't wait to see what works... and what doesn't.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Quotes: Lisel Mueller

"How swiftly the strained honey
of afternoon light
flows into darkness

and the closed bud shrugs off
its special mystery
in order to break into blossom:

as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious."

–– Lisel Mueller (b. 1924), German-born, American poet, awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1997.
* Source:

Friday, 15 January 2016

Studio Series: B&W collage

BW Collage 2 © Karen Thiessen, 2016
In my quest to reduce my paper glut and tame at least one area of my office, I went through files and purged most of my craft history course packs from my NSCAD days (I did a major in textiles and a minor in art history). Naturally, many of the photocopied pages had beautifully degraded images that I could use in my collages. My office filing cabinet now has wiggle room but my studio flat file is bulging with new collage materials. Marie Kondo would not approve. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Studio Series: printmaking

Birch-dulse-o-rama © Karen Thiessen, 2015
My fascination and appreciation of leaves has not waned. The above print is an amalgam of a collographed birch leaf and a screen print (the chartreuse flowers). They are both printed on foxed pages of Mennonite books. I printed these during my autumn Printmaking class. The winter session class begins soon and I have fifteen new designs to print.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Quotes: Helena Bonham Carter

"I love people who are still in touch with delight." –– Helena Bonham Carter CBE (b.1966), English actress
* Source of quote:, August 29, 2015

Friday, 8 January 2016

Studio Series: Miscellanea collage

Miscellanea collage © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Above is an unintentional collage. It's a gathering place of tiny collages and a few images that I've collected and drawn over time. I'll likely use some of the motifs in future screen print designs.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Does it spark joy?

Asian leaf; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
This leaf is twenty-years old, collected while I was living in Singapore. I found it nestled in an old address book while sorting through my dross during a Marie Kondo moment.

Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up entered my life in early 2015 and it has changed my life, but not in the way that Marie Kondo intended. Yes, I have a better curated bookshelf. I removed those books that didn't "spark joy" and replaced them with new books that do. I've managed to keep one space in my office clear of paper clutter to balance the messy areas. Unlike Kondo, I love paper and books and notebooks and sketchbooks. They hold ideas and knowledge. Claudia from Proper Tension and I have had several conversations about stuff and Marie Kondo. We are both makers and need a certain about of material to work with. Going Zen and minimalist will not work for what I do, but too much clutter is a liability. It's a fine balance not easily achieved in my work spaces. 

Read Austin Kleon's response to the book here.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Quotes: Buckminster Fuller

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." –– Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) American architect, designer, and author 

Friday, 1 January 2016

Reflections for 2016

What are you curious about? Go where it takes you. Be delighted.

What sparks joy? Let go most of what doesn't. Free yourself and live lighter.

Who do you love? As M. Scott Peck wrote, "Love is a verb." Show those you love with your actions. Don't wait. Life is short.

To quote Mark Byk: "Beware of Gods." What controls you? Anything can become a god: work, food, alcohol, volunteerism, exercise, screens. Take healthy breaks from those things that control you. Lent is a time when I play with disrupting patterns or auditioning new ones. Lent 2016 begins on February 10. You can begin at any time.

Do you have unfulfilled goals, dreams, or resolutions? Select one and devote five minutes each and every day to it. Play with this for one year (that's 366 days in 2016). Micromovements are powerful. You might be pleased with what happens. Use a timer.

What are you most grateful for? To mark Lent 2015, I recorded three moments of appreciation each day. Patterns emerged. Try it, you might be surprised and amazed. I know I was. The nice thing about recording moments of gratitude is that they are pleasant to revisit days, months, and years later.

Feed your mind with good books and conversation. Listen. Be open. Consider other points of view.

Happy 2016!