Archive for January, 2007

No, I’m not being sarcastic. I mean it.

VibrantArtists and craftspeople are a strange bunch. We tend to work long hours, are very wrapped up in our work and quite often we came to the business of craft or art through a pastime that grew. When your hobby becomes your job or profession, it ceases to fill the function of “hobby”. Ergo, you need a new one (even if you don’t think you do).

bob on topsail beach

Side interests or extracurricular activities are an important part of a person’s life. At some point as you grow up, you realise that your university degree alone is not what will get you a job or make you good at it. What actually counts is the personal experience that you bring to the degree and the way in which you use your cumulative education to perform your chosen life’s work.

cozy toes (colourful, too!)

Artists and craftspeople (artisans, if you will) are no different. A mastery of skills and an ability to transform concept into tangible object needs to be supplemented by a vision or ideas that require transformation. An artist without side interests and curiousity creates their own artistic void, the kind of void that gives rise to the, “I need to create something, but I have no idea what to do,” conundrum.

Quite apart from sources of inspiration, side interests (I actually rather dislike the term “hobby” as it sounds superficial) can allow you to fulfill other aspects of your persona. Being isolated in a studio for long hours is a personality trait that many artists share, but most of us still reach the point periodically of needing to talk to real, live people. Don’t underestimate the virtue of simply getting out of the house!
A miracle of construction, 2001

Finally, and this is the real point, they get you doing something other than work. This is why your hobby or pastime needs to be different from how you spend your working hours. Many people have overlaps between them (a landscape artist whose hobby is photography and hiking, for instance), but they should be different enough that you switch gears and forget about work for a while.

To improve your work in the studio, try getting out of the studio for a bit consistently. The results may surprise you.



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A tactile nature

I discovered something rather interesting about myself the other day and, being that all-to-common combination of altruistic and narcissistic, decided to blog about it so that others might benefit.

I’ve been trying to take better care of myself as of late. This breaks down into exercise, food and water. Sleep is great when I can get it, too. During my revitalisation, I’ve noticed that certain types of words keep appearing; appealing words like crunchy, solid, cool, “felt good” and negative ones like “bundled”. Sensation and touch words are important to my perception of activity. If something doesn’t feel good, I will not keep doing it long-term.


One of the hazards of any sedentary job is that the better part of your waking hours are spent…. well…. sitting still or moving minimally. Throw into the mix trying to get basic housework done, sleep and mealtimes and suddenly there’s rather little time left over for exercise.

Optimally, I’d be constantly on the move all day long, gardening or walking or whatever, but that just doesn’t happen to most artists who spend any consistent time in their studios. Let’s face it, when you spend ten hours a day in the house working on stationary projects, you need to get your exercise in more intensive spates. So I’ve been walking/running for an hour every second day and doing various strength-building exercises daily. Must remember to start stretching more, too.

As I progress, I walk faster and run more. I’m being careful to progress slowly as I have had knee problems in the past and (touch wood) they’ve not been back again in several years. By working up to running hard and long gradually, I intend to forestall any resurrection of ligament and cartilage pain.

I have come to grips with the fact that I avoid exercising outdoors in winter and have taken to using the high-tech rubberised university track, which is available to the general public at $2 per drop-in (bring indoor sneakers with you) for as long as you like. Hours are posted here. I’ll probably move back outdoors when spring comes along, but for now, the field house track is a godsend.


We’re actually pretty good about food in this house most of the time, but when things get frantic for both of us at work, food is one of the first short-cuts we take. Instead of eating out or cooking nuggets and fries, though, I’ve started planning for frantic times and have been gradually making casseroles, pies and soups and putting them in the deep freeze in the correct portions for three people for supper. No time to cook properly or shop? Haul out a chicken pie and throw it in the over. To this end, I’ve been amassing a few casserole dishes that are the right size (flea markets are great for this sort of thing).

Stir-fry veggies and rice are the majority of our produce now. I keep sauce ready-made in the fridge for faster suppers. Katherine is also a big fan of curry, quesadillas and pasta, so those frequently make the list, too.

We also don’t keep junk food in the house, apart from the odd treat. Popcorn has become the crunchy food substitute for us and it works great!


If you’re trying to eat less, exercise more and generally increase your energy levels, increasing your water intake is perhaps one of the more productive moves you can make. My particular problem was that I wasn’t interested in water. Then I bought a new set of glasses (they were on sale for half price) and suddenly I’m drinking water all day long without a struggle. What gives? Well, for starters, the glasses are cool, solid, heavy and fit my hand. They also look nice, but that seems to be a side point to how theyt feel to me to use.

This was what triggered my revelation. I finally figured it all out. I’d been going at the whole healthy lifestyle thing from the wrong angle for me. I was quantifying and analysing my workouts, caloric intake and rationalising drinking water. It wasn’t working on a long-term basis. My rational approach was being thwarted by my tactile nature.

I knew I should drink water, but until I found glasses that felt good in my hand, it was a constant struggle.

Not snacking in the evening is great in theory, but my hands get fidgety and I frequently want something munch-able. To counter this, I’ve been knitting socks and, when I get a craving for something crunchy, I make some popcorn (sans butter).

I like exercise, but hate the feeling of being bundled up in sixteen layers while battling snow and cars to get it. The track works wonders and is easier on my pocket than a gym membership. I can also listen to music safely and be in my own little world for a while, with the added benefit of people watching.

I wonder if other textile artists and craftspeople have found that their lifestyle habits (exercise and nutritional intake) are heavily influenced by their predisposition to texture and feel?

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Sari yarn

I picked up some sari silk yarn today at the local wool store, Wool Trends. It’s fabulous stuff and should prove eminently useful as I work through some of my next projects (another couple of books, a series of boxes and some bowls and vases). I have great hopes for it!

As an aside, Wool Trends is one of those fabulous shops that is crammed with all sorts of fibres.

One that caught my attention, apart from the sari silk, was Seasilk, a seaweed fibres and silk composite. I almost bought some and may yet go back for it (I just need a definitive purpose for it, as it was expensive). Have a look at the colours. They truly are as vibrant as they appear in the photos and the feel of the stuff….. it’s like flexible pussy-willows that drape like they were a part of your skin. Amazing stuff. All I need is a use for some….

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Ah, I love having an chance to play with some new products. Recently I wandered through Kent Hardware store (Kent are the spawn of Irving, a New Brunswick company) and discovered that they are ceasing to carry the Pebeo line of art supplies. The remainder of the paints were seriously discounted (I paid $1.30 CDN for a $7 bottle) and included some of the silver glitter finish and the expandable paints. Score!

The silver glitter finish isn’t bad at all. It’s basically glitter in some sort of acrylic medium suitable for use on fabric. You can paint it on already painted and dried fabric and the base dries clear. You can also mix it in with the other acrylic-based paints. Opaque paints will obscure the glitter a good bit (unless the glitter happens to be on top of the paint), but the transparent paints mix well with it and the transparency of the paint allows the glitter to shine through, although the sparkle is somewhat diminished.

The glitter hold on well during a wash (I didn’t machine dry it) and is fine after being ironed with a pressing cloth (ironing the fabric from the back would likely achieve the same effect). It seems to rub off a bit when you rub it hard, so it’d probably be better for things that got minimal abrasion and washing.

The sparkle of this isn’t overpowering, also, so it’d be reasonable to use moderately in landscape quilts (snow in moonlight, for instance, or water shimmering). Heat setting makes a definite difference to how well the glitter adheres, btw.

The expandable paint was also rather niffy. I’d read about it a bit in Quilting Arts (issue 24, winter 2006 – Linda Schmidt) and was therefore rather keen to add it to my repertoire of techniques and tools. Finding it on sale was an added bonus!

I tried it several different ways. Firstly, painted on parchment paper rather thickly, allowed to dry, ironed and then peeled off. This gives me the option of creating pieces that could be sewn or glued as layers in a work. The resulting pieces were rather brittle, however, so care needs to be used in peeling them off and handling them. They painted nicely, though:


The expandable paint was wonderfully easy to work with, although I think a squeeze bottle with a fine applicator tip would be excellent for very detailed work. As it expands in all directions after heating, you need to start with rather fine lines for such things as tree branches:


But I like the effect. It’s white and dries white, so tinting it before using is helpful. After it has dried and then been heated, you can rather easily paint right over it as I did with the tree above. A keeper as far as materials go!

Finally, I ‘ve been playing with the Sprinklettes (not a girl group from the fifties), purchased at Michaels.

Basically, it’s iridescent glitter that can be mixed with paint and used on fabric. You can also stick it on with fabric glue. I’ve only played with this a little, but I have found the following:

  • it needs to be mixed with its adhesive, not just sprinkled on top
  • if just sprinkled on top, much of it will wash or rub off
  • a fine coat of thinned fabric glue over top of it really helps to keep it on
  • it mixes well with fabric paints, especially transparent ones
  • it’s quite visually powerful and easily overdone
  • it is attracted to everything via static electricity
  • it gets everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Places that will astonish and thrill your husband kind of everywhere.

Here’s what colours come in the bottle:glitter_bottom.jpg

Now that I’ve got the sparklies out of my system (and underwear), I’m off to do some preliminary sketches for another series.

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It’s not really “work” work, but…

Soy-wool, felted

I’ve been knitting a lot, lately, in and around other things. I don’t knit in the warmer months as I find my hands just get too sweaty, but cold winter evenings are perfect for clicking together needles (I like bamboo) and wool. This winter, I’ve discovered the joys of felting or fulling wool and have been trying different types of wools, just for kicks. This is a 70% wool, 30% soy silk mixture, which is beautifully soft to handle and felts rather nicely.

Warning note: make sure you felt wools inside some sort of bag (i.e. a pillowcase) when using the washing machine. Felting sheds fibres and the soy-wool mixture sheds more than most!


sample of soy-wool

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A recent studio play session yielded a personal frivolity: an mp3 player case for my personal use. I’ve fitted it with a piece of velcro for an adjustable armband, but one could just as easily make a belt loop.


Did I mention that I made myself a matching coffee cup sleeve?
Nice to have time to fool around with ideas for a change!

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The deadline for Art Procurement has been extended until January 22. Further details on the Provincial Art Procurement Program (2006) are available on The Rooms website.


Please note that for artwork to be considered, artists are required to submit images of the work in either 35 mm slide format, photographs or digital files on a clearly labelled CD-ROM. Digital images should be saved in JPG or TIF format at a resolution of 150 dpi or higher.

The jury will meet at The Rooms for deliberation on January 29, 30 and 31.
Please note there will be no traveling and no studio visits.

Please contact Chris Batten (709) 757-8047 if you have any questions regarding the Provincial Art Procurement Program.

Chris Batten
Collections Management
Provincial Art Gallery – The Rooms
Tel: (709) 757-8047
Fax: (709) 757-8041

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