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