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.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Quotes: Finn Juhl

"One cannot create happiness with beautiful objects, but one can spoil quite a lot of happiness with bad ones."  –– Finn Juhl (1912-1989), Danish designer
* source:, Tuesday March 22, 2016

Friday, 10 June 2016

Keith Shearsby Useful Things @ YouMe Gallery 1

Keith Shearsby Light Spade, 2015; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Drafts of this series of three posts about Keith Shearsby's March 2016 exhibit at YouMe Gallery have been waiting patiently for me to add words for several months. Whenever I encounter artworks that strike me as profound, words escape me. So, I take my time and eventually something emerges. 

Two things struck me upon entering Shearsby's Useful Things exhibit: the artwork was both humorous and beautifully crafted. The objects invited viewers to take a long time looking at and thinking about them. 

Shearsby explores the idea of usefulness through his art objects. To quote his artist statement, the objects "almost work or have been improved so much that they can't work at all."
Keith Shearsby Light Spade detail, 2015; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Light Spade was one of my favourite pieces, with its beautiful cast shadows. Can you imagine shovelling sand or trying to dig heavy clay with Light Spade?
Keith Shearsby Paint Hammer, 2016; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Many of the objects had a beautiful patina that only the passage of time and use could impart. At the end of the exhibit, Shearsby "painted" part of the gallery with Paint Hammer. I wasn't there to witness it, but I imagine that it would have been quite the spectacle.
Keith Shearsby Ball, 2008; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Gallery owner Bryce Kanbara told me that whenever Shearsby exhibits Ball in juried exhibitions, it wins awards. Displayed in the front window, it drew in viewers in who wouldn't ordinarily enter.
Keith Shearsby Litter Ball, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
The imagination of the viewer completes each art object. Litter Ball rests loosely on a small cup-like structure set upon a plinth. The 'push' doors of litter bins are notoriously stiff. Try drying your hands with a paper towel and then stuffing the paper into this Litter Ball. Shearsby's exhibit has the potential of being comedic performance art with unwitting participants trying to use these Useful Things.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Studio Series: Chortitza oak leaf silhouette

Chortitza oak leaf silhouette © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Twyla Tharp, via her excellent book The Creative Habit, taught me to dedicate a box or two to each significant project. I have one for each my tags project and an ongoing Mennonite project. The latter box gets more action and is filled to the brim. The other day I was searching for a specific image and after some silent swearing, I found it in another place. There is something to be said for the collision of images in a very full box: It can be great for ideas to emerge unexpectedly. 

That being said, I realized that I needed a categorized repository of images. Deep in my office closet teetering on the top shelf, I found an empty binder and my filing cabinet offered up some empty page protectors and some page dividers. With these previously used office supplies I set to create order. It's still a work in progress, but I'm excited to be able to simply go to the "flora and fauna" section for my drawings of wheat, Chortitza oak leaves, and outlines of doves. For now my images of the Red Gate mingle in the "places" section with outlines of Pelee Island, and copies of Mennonite villages. In time, I may move the Red Gate images to a "structures" section that I hope to fill with images and drawings of windmills and the like. The "words" section is filling up, whereas the "food" section contains one lone drawing of Zwieback. The above image of the Choritza oak leaf silhouette will be filed in the "flora and fauna" section once I've finished writing this post.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Quotes: Alice Walker

"Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed."

Alice Walker (b. 1944), American author and activist, Living by the Word: Essays, 1988
* Source: Art Propelled January 6, 2016

Friday, 3 June 2016

Studio Series: calligraphic collage

Calligraphic collage © Karen Thiessen, 2016
My cousin Paula visited over the Christmas holidays. We hadn't seen each other in fifteen years thanks to geographic dysfunction. We're both artists, avid readers of obscure works, lovers of poetry, note-takers. She's four years younger and four inches taller than I. When I took her to my favourite indie art supply store, we were amazed to discover that we were looking for the same Sheaffer ink cartridges for our calligraphy pens. What are the odds of that? Above is a collage of small drawings that I made with the Sheaffer calligraphy pen that I received for Christmas when I was a teenager... and a fresh ink cartridge.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Studio Series: black & white collage I

black & white collage 1 © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Three weeks of three day mini-retreats reset my studio practice. I completed two dresses and have started to wear them. While sewing the first one, it didn't occur to me to test how it functioned before cutting out the second and third dresses. I haven't yet sewn the third dress and I have enough fabric to restyle the pockets. Although I don't like the pockets in the first two dresses, the garments still feel good and fit properly. Tackling and completing a host of personal projects has injected new energy and confidence in my studio practice. I knew it would. Above is a collage that I did in my sketchbook yesterday.