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