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Sunday, December 31, 2017

2016 annual project


For the past few years, I've been working on a yearly project. In 2015 I made 52 small books - about one each week. In 2016 it was all about fabrics. Weaving, knitting, crochet, dyeing, printing, felting, stitching and embroidery all made an appearance during the year. 

I started the year thinking that I would make 52 art dolls, and I started work on the first one, but I was not feeling very inspired until I realized that I had chosen the wrong theme. I actually wanted to spend the year working with fabrics in different ways. When I made the decision to change my plans, the ideas just started to tumble out of my head. The first piece that I stitched includes the art doll that I had started - it's just flat rather than stuffed. The powder pink background fabric is some corduroy that I've had since the 1980s. Yes really - it was originally a skirt that I used to wear back in the day when pastels were all the rage. I cut it into a pair of baby pants that my kids wore when they were little. I hadn't anticipated how many memories would work their way into this project, but I love all the bits of nostalgia that got stitched into this project.

week 1-5


weeks 4-10

weeks 9-16

weeks 16-23

weeks 22-28

weeks 27-33

weeks 32-38

weeks 38-45

weeks 45-51

weeks 49-52

The whole year


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Anvil Centre Residency Week 4

I didn't actually spend any time at the studio during this last week. I had several things that I needed to work on, but all my supplies are at home, and it made more sense to stay at home to work. I managed to finish the red/pink wrap which I'm going to call Maillardville since the inspiration for the shape came from my students at Place des Arts in Maillardville. I also got a good start on two other garments - a lightweight linen poncho and a white vest. Both these pieces need more work, but I'm happy with where they are going. I had been hoping to get more garments made this month since I have so many pieces of handwoven fabric, not to mention, hand dyed fabric as well as an assortment of scarves and things that I want to make into clothing. However, I realize that I can't rush the process, and I need to spend the time to let the ideas percolate. After some reflection, I've decided to devote my 2018 annual project to making garments. Rather than a weekly entry (as I've been doing for the past few years), my intention is to make one garment each month during 2018. If I make 12 pieces by the end of the year, I should have made a considerable dent in my "stash".


My very last task for my residency was a community engagement activity. I did a community weaving that was conveniently scheduled for the same day as the annual Santa Claus parade along Columbia Street. We had a really good turn out and many children contributed to the weaving. A few of them had learned about weaving at the exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology. I think they enjoyed having another opportunity to use their new skills.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Anvil Centre Residency Week 3

This residency is plodding along. I haven't been able to spend as much time in the studios as I had anticipated when I first considered this residency. At the time that I put in the proposal, I had no idea how much work I'd be doing just a year later. Last year my residency at Leigh Square was my major focus at the time and I was able to spend two full days on site working on my art. This year, the residency is just one of many things that I'm juggling. Although, I have studio space booked three days a week, I've only been managing to spend a few hours there on each of those days. 

This week I was able to spend some time working on an actual garment. I hand stitched the red/pink fabric into a wrap. The fabric is a 1/2 twill fabric that I wove with two heddles on my rigid heddle loom. I put the warp on the loom last year at Leigh Square and finished most of the weaving at home. I finished up the fringes during the first week of this residency.

We came up with this shape when I took this fabric to show my students at Place des Arts. It's a basic ruana shape, but with the back draped rather than cut. I decided to add a gusset at the back neckline to give a bit of ease. Since I didn't have any extra fabric, or access to a sewing machine, I decided to needle weave the gusset. I like that it is a seamless finish, but it sure took a long time, and I had to repeatedly remind myself of something that I often say to students who are impatient to finish things quickly: "This isn't a race". 


I've been doing a sketch each week at and around the Anvil Centre. I wasn't feeling very inspired the first week. The person I started sketching got up and walked away before I got very far along, so I ended up drawing the garbage cans. Last week I went over to the River Market to say hi to Susan from Cosy Yarns as well as Leslie and Alice who are involved with managing the Market. Leslie even ended up in my sketch for the week! This past week, I sketched the view from my studio window. 


I finally finished the crow tapestry. I was quite happy to get this one off the loom. I was determined to weave this piece intuitively without using a cartoon. It is okay, but I don't think that the SAORI idea of weaving without a plan is really well suited to pictoral tapestries. 


I was quite surprised to see some Salish looms in one of the offices at Anvil Centre and I barged right in and interrupted a meeting to find out about them. It turns out that the one on the left belongs to Debra Sparrow, and I think the other one is used in New West school programs. What a coincidence! Debra and I lead a weaving group that meets at the Dunbar Community Centre a couple of times each month.





Seeing these looms gave me an idea for the community engagement activity that I'll be doing as part of the residency. I'll be doing a collaborative community weaving: on December 2nd using my own Salish loom.
All the details are here: Community Weaving with Dawn Livera

I also came across a display of woven baskets from around the province that were being put out for a youth program. They belong to the New West museum. This is just a small sampling. I asked how the museum came to have so many First Nations baskets, and they said that they don't know the history of most of them, but some of them came from residents who purchased them from someone "who came knocking at their door". One of the weavers in the Dunbar group had recently brought in a piece that she had purchased that way. She said that people have got to know that "she buys things", so they show up at her door when they need some cash. The fellow from the museum was surprised to hear that the practice still continues today.






Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Anvil Centre Residency Week 2

I actually got a bit of weaving done this week. All my looms have warps on them right now - mainly leftover student warps from classes and workshops. I always "plan" to use warps like these to make samples mainly because I don't like wasting things - in this case it's more about the time invested in putting all those threads through those little holes than the thread. In reality they often sit around until I realize that I need to clear the looms off for my next set of classes.

I was amused that the first loom that I grabbed had the warp wrapped with some recycled paper from my time as the Literacy Outreach Coordinator in New West - in a previous life it was an agenda for one of our task group meetings.


I also did a bit of work on a tapestry that I've been working on for a while.


I finished the set of nine wish flags that I had been working on and I made another set of four. The hand stitching on these took much longer than I had expected (doesn't everything?) These are for a "house" themed show next month. I also wanted them to work for a couple of exhibitions that I have coming up next year. One is themed around recycled art and the other is about handstitched stories that were something else before becoming art. I think they tick all the boxes. I'm glad that they are done now, and that I can focus on some more weaving.

...and just like that, this residency is half over. My original proposal was to spend this time making some garments from my (previously) handwoven fabric and I haven't even started on that yet.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Anvil Centre Residency - Week 1


When I applied for this residency, I thought I would spend my time making garments from some of the hand woven fabric that I've been accumulating. I have several pieces from last year's residency at Leigh Square, as well as some other pieces that I've worked on over the year.

I've had to rethink that plan. If I want to do any garment construction, that would mean that I'd have to bring in a sewing machine, mannequin, mirror etc, etc. This residency is just one month long, and I realized that I would spend most of the first week moving in and getting stuff set up. It would likely take most of the last week to get everything packed up and taken away again. That all seems to be too much effort for what would end up being just two weeks of working time. As it turns out, I also have some other more pressing priorities.

I've somehow talked myself into being part of a group show next month with the theme of "houses" - the actual title is still under discussion. I also have a show next fall themed around hand stitched textiles. I've started work on some "wish flags" that can be used for both shows. Wish flags are like hand made prayer flags that share messages of good will when they are hung in public spaces. This group can be hung together or individually.


I did get some work done on a piece of handwoven fabric that is destined to become a garment. I spent some time twisting the fringes on this twill fabric that I started weaving last year at Leigh Square. Twisting fringe is not the most exciting thing to do, and I've obviously been putting it off for a year!. At the spinning class that I'm taking we were talking about "thigh spinning", and I realized that I could use this same technique to twist the fringe. I was quite pleased with the results.

I had taken this piece ito my weaving class at Place des Arts and we started playing around, draping it on some of the students. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures, but we came up with a very elegant way to wear it that would just need a bit of hand sewing to make it into a very wearable garment.


Like I said, it was a slow start to the residency.  Let's hope I get more done over the next few weeks.




Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Artist Residency at Anvil Centre in New Westminster

Last week I started a month long residency at the Anvil Centre. This is brand new facility on Columbia Street in New Westminster. I used to work right around the corner at Purpose Society running parenting groups, and I also worked in New West as the Literacy Outreach Coordinator for the community. Being back there feels very comfortable and familiar to me.

My residency got off to a slow start. I was supposed to start last Wednesday, but I had had a very heavy workshop schedule and I just did not want to leave the house, or even open my mouth that morning. By mid afternoon, I decided that I would go and check out the space without planning on doing any work. When I arrived at the Anvil Centre, no one there even knew I was coming. They managed to find someone to give me a key to my office space - it's a bit like a windowless cupboard really, but I'll mainly use it as a private and locked storage space - something that I didn't have at the residency that I did last year at Leigh Square in Port Coquitlam.


 Fortunately, I don't have to work in the office. That would have been a deal breaker for me. I cannot create in a space without natural light. There are some very nice bright studios with large windows right across the hall from my office that I can use whenever I'm there.




Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Drawing like a child

I'm teaching an adult class on "art fundamentals" - things like line, colour, shape etc. It is an interesting exercise for me because my contrary nature makes me not want to follow the "rules". Last night's session was on shape. This was a particularly difficult one for me. I've actively avoided thinking about the basic shapes of objects for most of my life, and I know exactly why.

When I was a child, someone (yes, I do remember who it was) gave me a book about drawing birds. The book had step by step instructions for drawing a variety of birds. Each drawing started with a basic egg shape and built from there. I tried to follow the directions. I really did, but laying down those basic shapes sucked all the joy out of drawing for me. I tossed the book aside, and kept drawing my own way. However, somewhere deep down inside, I believed that one day, (when I became a "grown up"), I would understand how to do things in a logical, systematic way, instead of in my own random, childish, juvenile way. Well, perhaps I didn't quite use those words at the time - I was only 8 after all, but nevertheless, that's what I thought for a very long time.

In one of her books, Lynda Barry (look her up if you don't know her work) writes about how kids draw simply for the joy of making lines on a page, they don't worry about what the lines look like, or what they will become, they just draw. She says that for many of us, at some point that all changes, and we start to worry about whether or not our drawings look any good, and the "two questions" that take over. The two questions are "is it good?" and "does it suck?" I feel like teaching adults to draw is really about teaching them to forget about the two questions.

Here's some of the art that people did yesterday. I'm really excited at how they turned out.


Before the adult class, I had two children's classes. We read a book called "A Perfect Square" by Michael Hill, and then made art from a "perfect square" of origami paper. I liked the activity enough that I used it in the adult class as well. Here's a peek. The top row are by 3-4 year olds, the middle row by 5-7 year old and the bottom row by grown-ups.