Saturday, December 29, 2007

Comfort and Joy

The Christmas miracle of a husband who doesn't have to work the week between Xmas and New Year's allowed me to get at my drum carder yesterday for four hours - yes - four hours! It was like painting with fleece. I love you, drum carder! And after that, I even spun up some of the completely irresistable rovings, including my first foray into silk blends--is that red, or is that red? (Because of some issues in learning to dye silk (ahem), I could only add about 25% silk to the wool, but it was still lovely to spin.)

Then, I was interrupted in my spinning by supper and, all through the meal, I was looking over at my wheel and wishing I was back there. Even eating becomes a chore with the spinning wheel out. Don't even start on dishes, sweeping up, etc. But all was done and, hooray!, back to the wheel until my eyes were blurry. The best part of spinning into the late of night is that it tends to make all my dreams be about fleece and yarn.

Comfort and joy, comfort and joy!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Still 2007!

It is still 2007 and I have already crossed one goal off my 2008 list! How's that for not procrastinating?

For sometime I have been wanting to update the look of my etsy shop and add a bunch of new hats I knit in between all the holiday knitting. Lo and behold, it's done!

Check it out!

Of course having a deadline for being featured on a blog called etsy treasures also helped out a little in the motivation department. I think my shop will be featured in the last week of January. Now to spin all that yarn on the list....

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Winter Solstice!

little tree

by: e.e. cummings (1894-1962)

Little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Have I Been Knitting?

Yes I have!

The proof:

This is a one-piece suit and matching hat for a one-year old. This project was a kind of commission. The woman who I sit next to for three hours every Friday evening while Lucy takes Irish dance has a new grand daughter, and after about four years of watching me knit, she finally asked me to make something. I feel strange about asking her to pay for it since, in those four years, she has told me all about her personal finances, which are tight. I dunno....I think I will just give it to her. Plus, it is awfully cute!

This is the only pattern that isn't my own invention. It came from Debby Bliss' Colorful Knits for Kids, although I made numerous changes to it--replaced a zipper with buttons, used different yarn and increased the sizing (for some reason the pattern only went up to 6 mos. so I had to extrapolate upwards to make it more a 12-18 mos. size).

This is a hat and scarf set made from merino I spun thick and thin (confession: done in the days when all my yarn was thick and thin!). I think it came out pretty nicely. This is destined for Wee Ball Yarns once I get my hat display in the mail. I purchased a set of three different sized wire hat displays because I began to believe that some people do not want to purchase a hat they see photographed on someone else's head. Here, Lucy displays all the hats, but don't tell anyone!

These are some wrist warmers made as a gift from Koigu. I couldn't resist the wild colours! They were quick and fun to knit up.

Another Wee Ball Yarns hat with those trendy ear flaps!

Experimenting with a more slouchy style...

And finally, a crocheted hat with more trendy ear flaps. To me it looks somewhat Aztec-ish but Dan suggested it looked like Gerald Ford's football helmet. For people with long memories perhaps?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Git Them Swiles

For the past couple of weeks, I have been in conversation with a graduate student at Columbia's School of Journalism who has made her thesis project on the subject of unschooling. For the unschooled, unschooling is a style of educating that is based on the notion that people have an innate drive to learn about the world and do not require experts, institutions or a state-mandated curriculum to do so. For a parent embarking on this adventure with their children, it means taking a gigantic leap of faith, esp. when said children are often found sitting around on the couch all day reading yu-gi-oh comics interspersed with some sitting on the floor reading Tintin comics. It has been a good experience talking with this grad student because she has really challenged me to assess why we are doing what we are doing.

We have embraced this philosophy for a variety of reasons, including the early experience of observing our infant children learn to walk, talk, read, etc., by watching and copying us and each other. I mean, if it worked for those things, couldn't it work for other, less important, less complicated things, like algebra? The experience to date has been very interesting. There are many times when I despair that the whole thing is a flop and I will have two illiterate know-nothings who will blame me for their wasted childhoods. Sometimes there are weeks like that. Months? Well, maybe a month. But then something happens and the light shines brightly again, I learn (again) that when someone figures something out on their own: on their own schedule, under their own motivation, it is the most powerful experience a person can have. The weeks of doubt melt away when these two people do things so amazing and wonderful and creative (and normal and ordinary), that I know we are on the right track.

Last week, the grad student stayed and hung out at our house for a typical, low-key day (rare though they may be!). She stayed at our house for six hours and we had fun, talking and playing. Lucy taught her to spin at one point. Right near the end, when I was feeling pretty good that we were a nice example of how unschooling works, she asked Lucy why her favourite doll had no fingers. The truth is that Lucy bit them off at some point. But Lucy just looked at her. So she asked again, "Did she have an accident?" Lucy nodded yes.

"How did that happen?"

Lucy's answer, "Sealing."

" What? Sealing? You mean hunting seals??"

"Yes, she had a sealing accident."

'nough said.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wee Ball on Ice

Shawn sent me this photo of my beloved island at the mouth of the Humber Arm in the Bay of Islands. She took the photo just yesterday while she was at her cabin on the south shore.

Oh how I wish I was there! It has been cold and snowy and I'll bet the cross country skiing (or as someone in Corner Brook once called it - uphill skiing) has been great. As much as I love Gillams in the summer, it was our wonderful winter there in 2004-05 that cemented my commitment to the place. I never tired of the snow and ice and cold. Ok, shoveling three feet on March 31st started to make me wonder when it might end, but really, I loved every moment.

Newfoundland, I miss you!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

When Buy Local isn' Quite Local Enough

We have been having a series of 12-hour non-stop, rush-rush days since I don't know when. Out the door in the morning and back in well after dark. It is all fun, fun, fun so there's nothing to complain about but, man, am I tired. And now Finn is sick and I have the shivers myself and a scratchy thoat and it is raining ice at the moment and I have to pick up the first winter share of the CSA tonight. Dan is off to a slew of holiday, must-go-for business parties so I, meaning "me," have to, have to, have to drag my tired, achy body the twelve blocks to pick up this box of root vegetables with my name on it. I keep waiting to be visited with an inspiration as to how I will not have to do this but the inspiration isn't coming.

Oh yea magical CSA gods, deliver my box of root vegetables unto me...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Mountain Comes to...

This morning we sat down to make our annual holiday list--who is giving what to whom--and to figure out where we will put a Christmas tree. Dan had the nerve to suggest that my "pile" nay, the word used was, in fact, "mountain" of yarn, fibre, and related items might need to be moved in order to make room for a tree. I responded that, with a little rearranging so that the greener items were near the surface, we would not need a tree but could just decorate the "mountain."

Mountain indeed! In Newfoundland, it would be considered nothing more than a nob.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Double Cancer

In light of recent events, I shouldn't even make jokes like the one above, but I am feeling almost giddy with new self-knowledge. I decided to have my birth chart done by an astrologer and it was actually an amazing experience. I approached it somewhat skeptically but openly. Born in July, I knew I was "a Cancer" and I knew that I really fit the bill whenever I read anything about what that might mean (eg. loves home life ---ummm, House Museum anyone?---loves to bake, can be very sensitive and retreat into their shell, etc.) But this went way beyond that. I found out that I am "a Cancer" and I have "Cancer rising" so yeah, that's a lot of those characteristics swimming around. My moon is Leo, which balances some of the Cancer and perhaps explains my, ahem, somewhat single-minded forcefulness in appraoching certain things I want done. Anyway, the accuracy of what I heard was eery, and actually kind of helpful in a way. But my favourite moment was when she said, "Oh you have Jupiter sitting in your twelfth house--you are going to live a long, long life." Thank you, my dear.

I am getting the rest of the family's charts done too. Have I totally gone off the deep end? I'll let you know.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Man Hat and other gifts

Just added a new hat to Wee Ball Yarns. Note the grey colour...perfect for the man in your life! It is an alpaca/icelandic wool blend that was spun to a 2-ply DK weight, plying one strand of black alpaca with the icelandic, which has some flecks of very subtle colour. I kept thinking of it as my "man hat" as I knit it up.

Here is a shot of some of our dyeing we did last week, more subtle shades, although in the back of the rack where you can't see it is some firetruck red. I tried dyeing some tussah silk I bought at Rhinebeck just to see how it would work....not perfect but I learned a lot. I can't wait to start blending it up on the carder. That is the treat I have set for myself after I get all the holiday knitting done.

And remember The Dress? A project created by Mariana Frochtengarten, who is an artist living in Halifax and completing her MFA in textiles at NSCAD. She has made five dresses and she is inviting artists from around the world to work on them, each one having a theme and each one having five artists, including Mariana, working on it. The dress I selected is called "The Gift". Given recent events, I was even more happy about choosing that particular theme. Here are a couple of pictures of my response;

An experiment on using crochet to write words, not in my usual filet crochet style. I chained the letters then went back in worked single crochet over the chain. Here I am starching the final piece in the hope it will be legible. Can you read it?

Here is my contribution...the words "Breathe In" and eight small mirrors hung from the hemline. I was the fourth artist to work on this dress. Now Mariana will take it with her to her native Brazil for the last contribution. I am looking forward to seeing her project when it is all assembled into some kind of presentation.

Friday, November 30, 2007

More on Gifts

I have a new article up on It is about artwork and the gift economy. When I was asked to write for the website, the creator of the website set topics for each month. November's topic was "getting what your work is worth." I decided to play something of the devil's advocate and suggest we should give away our work as gifts, using two books ("The Gift" by Lewis Hyde and"What We Want is Free" edited by Ted Purves) and The House Museum as my primary arguments. Read the comments for some lively discussion! Looks like some people aren't quite up for the "give it away" idea!

Click here to link to the article.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

To Give or Not To Give

I have a question for all you handworkers out there. When it comes to giving your work as gifts, for example, at holiday time, do you edit who you give to according to how much you think or know they will appreciate the effort that went into the making of the gift?

My answer to that question is a yes. Several years ago, after working on a number of things and sending them off to the recipient and not getting so much as "your package arrived" phone call or note, I decided the gratitude factor had to reach a certain level or it was store-bought all the way. Part of me thinks this is kind of anti-gift in the sense that I am giving with some expectation of something in return, namely appreciation. And that ain't right, right? And then the more practical part of me says, "you are going to spend all that time and energy on something that they will probably toss in the dryer and ruin since they have no clue how to care for since they have no clue how it was made so don't do it!"

After talking about this with my friend Janine who is both very, very generous and an excellent knitter, she claims that I liberated her from a lifetime of frustration. She now gives only to the grateful. She actually scolded me the other day for venturing into unknown territory with someone new!

So, what about you? Give freely? Or give only to the grateful?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Between the jigs and reels

A number of things have been happening...

The good news is...I am probably not going to die very soon. The stitches came out and the news was generally good. But I am taking this as an opportunity, a gift, a reminder that I may not have 40 - 50 more years to diddle around. I am listening.

I have been knitting up a bunch of things: a one-piece baby outfit that is a commission of sorts (almost finished), a sweater for my sister-in-law for Xmas (nearly finished the body--did the whole thing in three days, then haven't picked up it again), several hats. Hats are my subway knitting. I decided to knit up what I have of left of my Wee Ball Yarns into hats and sell them. The two I knit up previously sold quite quickly, which was encouraging. On Monday, we skipped our regular schedule--the rain and cold and my deep desire for a quiet day at home with wool added up to the afternoon spent dyeing fleece. It felt soooo goooood. So, look for some new yarn and some new hats in the near future.

I am working out the details of my mile-long knitting project. I am waiting to hear the exact width of a Dallas road stripe and I may hit up a couple of yarn manufacturers for donations (I suppose, in theory, I could figure out from a swatch exactly how much yarn I need, right?). Then I start knitting. Yee Haw!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy Nothing Day

As a proponent of "do nothing" naturally today is one of my favorite holidays: Buy Nothing Day. So go out and enjoy the day: walk around your community, say hello to your neighbors, and then....go home!

Here is a graphic created by British graphic designer Jonathan Banbrook for the LA Times that explains it all (click on it to enlarge it):

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Go Tell It On The Mountain

Since I don't want to spend too much time moaning about my ailments (I am a very healthy person...really!), I wanted to share this very important bit of information for all knitters, crocheters, and other needleworkers who, from time to time, find their hands aching from overuse:

I have found salvation in a bottle! Yes, my friends, True Botanica's Relief 4X. One application and I was CURED!

Sing hallalujah!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Scary and Scarier

Thursday was a full day. In the morning I went over to QPTV (Queens Public TV) to be part of a panel discussion on artists who knit sponsored by the Queens Council on the Arts. Somewhat mistitled as "Hooked," the panel included myself, a woman named Nancy Rakoczy, Domenick Di Pietrantonio and his grandmother, whose name we never actually learned beyond Nona (she is Italian and speaks only Italian, so her grandson translated). That was a bit weird--she knits and crochets his ideas as a kind of collaboration--but somehow she never was given full person status. It seemed a little ironic considering that at least two of us were using knitting as a way of elevating invisible women's work to a level of fine art. As it did not seem appropriate for me to raise the issue on the air, I tried not to get too upset about what was happening. In any case, the scary thing was that QCA had hired a make-up artist for the day (they were shooting four different shows on different topics). Alfredo was a lovely man but his make-up style leaned a bit towards c.1984 with heavy lip liner and blue eye shadow. The last time I wore make-up was probably around 1984 so it is a look (and perhaps the only one) I am familiar with. In any case, I ended up looking like a transvestite visitor to "Desperate Housewives."

"Never again!" joked the old man as he stepped from the coffin....

And speaking of coffins. In the afternoon, as I herded my children in to the New Victory Theatre for a performance of TapEire, along with 6,000 other school age children, I received a phone call from my dermatologist that the sample he sent off last week came back abnormal as a very rare kind of melanoma, actually an "amelanoma" meaning without pigment (so pale even my skin cancer has no pigment!). Naturally this kind of took the thrill out of watching the world's fastest tap dancer. As our friends chatted and clapped, I stood at the edge of the abyss, looking in. My mind competed with "everything will be fine no matter what happens" and "YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!!!!! SOOON!!!!!" Guess which one had won out by the end of the day?

Friday morning I was back at the dermatologist having more tissue taken for a more in-depth sample to be examined. To say I was something of a wreck does not really describe the way I had not slept or eaten nor really thought of anything besides how I was going to die!!!!!! soon!!!!!!! for the past 18 hours.

The "good" news is that, in this case, "rare" does not mean "more dangerous" and, according to the comments made at the time, the tissue sample looked almost totally normal, which means, IF the original diagnosis is correct, it is probably early enough that I won't die (soon). And there is the possibility that the original diagnosis is not correct, in which case I will have taken several years off my life through worry and self-inflicted mental trauma.

In the meantime, I wear my Frankenstein scar and hope for the best.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Road Trip!

I need your help! For the Dallas project, I need to collect thoughts, quotes, statistics, personal stories, etc., about cars, roads, oil, peak oil, the relationship between oil and war (if you believe there is one), and other topics of that nature. Please send them to me at the email address list under my contact information.

My plan? Well, the exhibition theme is Gestures of Resistance, which follows the notion that slowness, such as is illustrated by activities such as knitting, can be a political act of resistance to the dominant culture that favors speed and immediate gratification. When I think about that, as applied to Dallas (and yes, Mr. Picky, I do think Dallas can be seen as an epicenter of sprawl if you think globally or at least nationally), I have to think about cars and oil. And when I think about cars and oil, I have to think about war and environmental destruction. So I want to make something that uses knitting to discuss all of that. My idea is to knit a strip of cloth that will incorporate the words I collect in a kind of narrative, linear in shape but non-linear in the tale it tells. The strip will mimic the strip of paint along the side of a road (white or yellow--have to find out), by knitting the text in the colour with a black/grey background. Think of a very, very long scarf. A very, very long, narrative scarf. And I will install it along the side of the road where people will have to (gasp) walk along beside it in order to read it. And by very, very long, I mean....a mile?

Oh, Patti? Are you out there?

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Yesterday I heard from Shannon Stratton of Performing Craft (among other things) about doing a site-specific project in Dallas, TX, as part of an exhibition to run concurrently with the College Art Association's annual conference. I had originally applied to give a talk at Shannon and Judith Leeman's session titled "Gestures of Resistance" at the conference. My talk would have been about the artwork of Barb Hunt, Janet Morton and myself. Shannon and Judith didn't want to include my talk, but they did invite me to participate in the exhibition.

It is very exciting to think about how working site-specifically there might help me work out some of my Knitting Sprawl ideas--Dallas being an epicenter of sprawl.

But it does make me think that, sometimes, the universe just says "no." When we returned from Newfoundland, I decided that I would relax my need to always be working on my art "career" and just try to make some work, concentrate on homeschooling, and have fun instead of being caught in some imaginary idea of what I believed needed to happen in order for my career to stay viable. Relax and have fun.

No sooner had that thought cemented in my mind than I started getting a call here, an invite there. Suddenly, I actually had a career. Not so relaxing but definitely fun.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Deep Denial

For the past week or so, my right hand has been paining me. From my index finger down to my thumb, sometimes down my arm halfway to my elbow. This is not good. At first I blamed spinning a lot after not spinning a lot. Then I blamed knitting the shawl, which is rather heavy and the needles were a tad short so there was some wrestling going on as the thing became larger and larger. Then I started to panic, thinking about Patti and her three-month, carpal tunnel induced knitting hiatus. No can do--I have projects! Deadlines! So, Tuesday, I decided to "work through it" and see what happens. By Tuesday night, my hand was visibly swollen. So, yesterday, just a few rows of knitting and resting in between. This morning everything was normally sized and felt ok. A bit of knitting and spinning today is achy and a little tingly.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Ich bin ein.....

I did it. I clicked on the little icon and booked myself a ticket on Swiss Air to Berlin in March, 2008. While there, I will be visiting with artist Sonya Schoenberger and presenting a performance of Kay MacCarthy, host of The Well-Made Weapon, in Sonya and her partner, Alex's gallery space called Hope and Glory.

It is very exciting and terrifying. Eleven days alone in Berlin. Flying on airplanes (drugs! I need drugs!). Making art for an extraordinarily hip German audience. How many zazenkai's are there between now and March?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

SNAFU - the nature of my mind

What is it about sitting in silence, with only your breath and your thoughts (damn them!), for ten hours that makes one feel like a blithering idiot? Oh yeah, those damn thoughts.

I spent most of the morning yesterday with my breath, thoughts and my rumbling stomach. In the silence of the zendo, my stomach sounded like it was being broadcast over loudspeakers and I am sure I heard everyone around me mumbling about how they would be sure never to sit near me again, ever. And I was jacked up on rolaids too! Sigh....

After the first 4.5 hours of sitting and walking meditation, we had an oryoki lunch, that is a formal, silent lunch served in the zendo. It has strict rules about how to set up your three bowls, how to receive food, eat, then clean the bowls, fold things up, etc. It is beautiful but often very fraught for me, who is such a novice that I spend at least half the time glancing at my neighbor trying to be sure I am doing the right thing. Who knew serenity could be so stressful?

The second half was calmer--my stomach was silent at least. It was then that I had the chance for daisan, or face-to-face teaching with the Zen master. I look forward to that and I fear it. I so want to appear intelligent when, in fact, I feel like I know nothing about anything. And what is that all about anyway--wanting to appear intelligent? One is allowed to ask one question/session so you really have to think about what to ask, to making it important. This is hard since I have 10,000 questions. Fraught is the word that keeps coming back to me. I guess I have to have faith that, in trying to understand this little life of mine, I will understand some of the bigger things too.

Enter the room, sit, breath. It is, by far, the hardest thing I have ever tried to do in my life.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Off the Needles

In among all the World Series watching and other daily activities, I have managed to knit up a couple of things.

This is a hat, one of two identical ones, that I am knitting for the director and assistant of the zen center that I go to in Brooklyn. The design on it is the Mountain and Rivers Order symbol. I had been attending a class at the center and every week I would look at Shugen Sensei's bald head and think "winter's coming." And I am happy to do something for two people who so much for others. I am hoping to finish the other one tonight so I can bring them to the zazenkai (all-day sit) tomorrow. But we'll see how the day goes...

This is shawl knit with the handspun yarn made from the fleece that came with my Suzie Pro spinning wheel. I knit it for my mother-in-law for Christmas. She likes to read and she likes to keep the thermostat in their house very low, so a shawl seemed in order. Also, she isn't a lacy kind of a person, so this simple pattern seemed more appropriate than a more complicated one. This is especially fortunate for me since I have a severe mental block against all things lacy when it comes to knitting. I hope someday to work through it, but for now, I must accept my limitations.

And yesterday...

this arrived at our door. It is a detail of a handmade dress, made by the artist Mariana Frochtengarten. Mariana is from Brazil but is living in Halifax, NS, working on her MFA in textiles at NSCAD. Her thesis project is called "The Nomadic Dress Project" and it consists of five dresses that she designed and stitched. Each dress has a theme and she invites five artists from all over the world to work on them. I elected to work on the dress titled "The Gift" since that is such a theme in my own work. I have a couple of ideas but I want to let them sit in my mind for a while before committing to one of them. I have a month to spend with the dress and then it gets sent back to Halifax.

And people with very long memories may remember this:

Yes, "knitting sprawl" the very reason I started this blog. I never phtotographed the state it reached last spring but suffice to say that it sat unattended in my studio all summer. I had very hard feelings towards this particular bit of knitting. I speak in the past tense because, last time I was at my studio staring at the damn thing, I decided that I would frog it. There was no way I was going to keep going on it since in about 6" I had grown to despise it, so six feet was out of the question. And then the final indignity! Frogging fair isle intarsia is as about as much fun as knitting it. Finally, I just threw the whole thing in the waste basket. I never felt better in my life!

The project continues, but the first attempt to realize it, is history.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Today, we celebrate:

(The Red Sox sweep the World Series by beating the Colorado Rockies in four games--pictured are David "Big Papi" Ortiz and Julio Lugo in the 2nd game.)


(Today, the NY City Council officially - and finally - votes to make Sunnyside Gardens a landmarked Historic District.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

So not a Virgo

One reason I wrote about figuring out what one's work is worth is because I am a "featured writer" on this new artist community website, art bistro. And as such, each month I am asked to write about specific topic related to being an artist. In November, the topic is "getting what you're worth".

In a nice follow-up to the conversation I had with Shawn this summer, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Jackie Battenfield for her new book on artists and the business of art a couple of weeks ago. Jackie is the coordinator of The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Artist in the Marketplace program, a really wonderful program in which two groups of 16 artists are selected each year to attend and then are shown in a group exhibition together at the Museum. The program consists of weekly meetings and field trips where everyone does things like write and critiques each other's artist statements, talk to gallery owners and curators person-to-person about what they do and why, meet with tax consultants and draw up long-term goals. Anyway, it is a really useful program and I am happy to be an alumni of it. Jackie invited me to speak with her, I assume, because I have taken a path not often taken by artists in that I have made my work very collaborative and community-based, to use art world lingo. Our conversation made me realize that, although I have sidestepped the studio/gallery practice that is most common to artists, it doesn't mean I should be less serious about being organized or less attentive to my goals.

What is it about setting goals that makes me so uncomfortable? Superstition about jinxing things by saying them outloud? A belief that, since the future does not exist, that we should concentrate on the present moment? A fear of failure? Not wanting to be too corporate-y in my art (as if!)? Part of me thinks, for chrissakes, you're 42 and you are still working this fundamental thing out? What do you want to do? Make it a priority and it will happen! And part of me, I guess, likes the meandering flow of life, art, projects, children, art, life and thinks a sheet of paper with lists will make it less...less fun, less authentic, less...less....

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I have had the opportunity several times in recent months to talk about what one's work is worth. This summer, I had a very memorable conversation with Shawn about how to price work. She makes hooked rugs, painted wood objects and children's clothes for sale at high end craft galleries and she sells her work herself. She said a very wise thing, which I remember as being something along the lines that it is impossible to actually make what your time is worth so you price what the market will bear and if that makes you enough to live on, then that is enough because you are doing what you love. It makes so much sense to me, especially where Wee Ball Yarns are concerned. By the time I have washed the fleece, dyed it, carded it, spun it, there are so many hours involved that I would have to price a 50g skien at about $300. But since I do actually want to sell some yarn, I don't price it according to those standards. I have researched what the market is for a similar product and I priced accordingly. Maybe even a little lower in the hopes of attracting some loyal customers. But the end result is that, were I to measure my worth in an hourly wage, the result would be pitiful.

When it comes to my artwork, it is a whole other thing. I have been deeply influenced by a book called "The Gift" by Lewis Hyde. In it, he maintains that artist's talents are a gift to society and he spends a good deal of time discussing the method and results of how we attach a price to those gifts. He also talks a lot about gift economies and what exactly a gift is. This book has certainly shaped how I think about The House Museum and its role in the community. It also, increasingly, has made me less and less interesting in making money off my art. What a dangerous thing! I still apply for grants and very sincerely hope to receive them, but I have very little to sell and I am not terribly interested in selling anything. I, I love giving my work away. On principle. I love it because it completely negates all the ugly, messy stuff about making art a commodity and the business of the art world, which is a business first and foremost, like any other. And in this hyper-commodified world, I love simply not participating. When you give a gift, the value is in the eyes of the receiver. When you sell something the value is whatever is on the price tag.

When I participated in the 25th anniversary project for Art in General with my piece on Canal Street where I made (well, Patti made too) 60 granny square afghans for each street light, stop light and sign post along the street, I allowed the afghans to be taken by passers-by. Of course it was initially a difficult thing to do given the amount of work that went into them. But it was also a heady experience. But one of the crowning moments was when one of the gallery assistants told me that her boyfriend had been walking near Canal Street some time later and a possibly homeless person was selling some stuff on a blanket. Her boy friend saw one of my afghans, so he bought it. A totally new economy was created! Her boyfriend was thrilled, the homeless person made some money, and it made me very, very happy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

In Which We Return From Upstate With Much Wool

How to describe an entire day spent looking at fleece, yarn, sheep, alpacas, llamas, rabbits, equipment, brooms, food? Suffice to say we had fun. Patti, who is not yet a spinner but clearly on her way, and soon, was adventurous enough to buy a drop spindle and several smaller bits of fleece. I say smaller only in relation to my own purchases. I arrived with a Mission and it was my duty to fulfill it.

Before we had even parked the car, we saw several people we know from NYC, all of whom I would gladly spend any amount of time with on any other occassion. They are wonderful, lovely people. They are interesting, fibre-loving people. But, alas, they were there to enjoy their day of wandering through the exhibits and vendor stalls (and it was a lovely day) and then camp out overnight. They did not have a Mission. I am not proud to say that, while they went to get in on the chicken pot pie line early, we took the opportunity to head off to the first barn full of wonder. We did re-connect later for a moment, but I think it was ok that we parted ways. With Patti, I could be as unihibited as I wanna be in my lust for fleece. You know, I would have had to hold back in front of the others.

Rhinebeck isn't about holding back.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sheep and Wool and Patti

One word: Rhinebeck! This year, Lucy and I will have the privilege of heading to Rhinebeck for the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival with Patti. Patti used to live within an easy, 2-minute walk from us in Woodside. We met at "playgroup" as it is called, which is a program in a local church basement where parents and care-givers can bring their small children for a couple of hours of playtime, singing, and one of the most pathetic snack times in all history (I loved playgroup, but I never want to see another pink wafer cookie in my life!). Patti was there with her daughter, Kate, who is the same age as Finnian. Someone pointed her out to me and said, "I think she knits too." Being rather shy, I just looked. The following week, Patti and Kate were there, but Patti was actually knitting! Knitting at playgroup! I don't remember exactly what was said, but a bond was formed and, since we shared other areas in common - a love of art, a deep interest in our children and how they learn, and a fondness for laughing - we have become good friends.

Patti once made 1,250 granny squares for me for an art project. If that isn't friendship, I don't know what is! She taught me to filet crochet so I could make the curtains for The House Museum, and she has answered more knitting technical questions than anyone should have to if they aren't actually on somebody's payroll.

Sadly, Patti moved away from Woodside to Rochester, NY, a year and a half ago. She took her considerable talent and knowledge and packed up and moved (along with her husband and Kate). I am still smarting about that since it leaves me with no one who lives within walking distance that I can ask if I ever need 1,250 more granny squares, for one thing. But fortunately, Patti is heading to NYC today via Amtrak (may the train gods be with us and let the train be on time), and tomorrow morning we will head up to Rhinebeck and all the sheepy, woolly wonder of a, no, THE Sheep and Wool Festival. I can't wait!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


A collection of pictures and related thoughts, such as they are.

A new item posted on Wee Ball Yarns. A fair isle patterned hat using two Wee Ball colours. Look for another, differently patterned hat tomorrow. The two hats were made from a total of two, 50g sock weight merino skeins. They were a delight on the needles and are light and warm on the head. And now they are for sale.

We spent the Columbus Day (US) or Thanksgiving Day (Canada) holiday weekend up in Rhode Island, where blind devotion to the Red Sox is not only normal, but widely displayed. Including on the covers to Hoodsies. Can you get more New England-ly than that? Wicked pissa! (does anyone still talk that way? even in New England?) I once worked at a day camp in Westchester, NY, as a counselor and at the end of the day, each child was offered a little cup of vanilla and chocolate ice cream along with a little wooden spoon sealed in paper. The first day, I called out, "c'mon kids, come get your Hoodsies!" Blank looks. "Hoodsies, kids! Hoodsies! C'mon!" More blank looks. Alas, it was another world in Westchester. Different words for EVERYTHING!

Some people collect teapots, some people collect owl figurines. Me? I collect citizenships. After 2.5 years of waiting, my post-nuptial, as it is called, citizenship to Ireland arrived in the mail. I am now officially a member of the EU. Talk about wicked pissa! Can Canada be far behind?

Big Bobbins, My Gal's Got'em

Yesterday I had the chance to try out the bobbin capacity on my new spinning wheel. What? did I just write that? A new spinning wheel?? Yes, it's true. I found a used Suzie Pro at a very good price that came with 12 bobbins, a tensioned lazy kate, book and 1/2lb of fibre and I couldn't resist. The Suzie Pro is what is known as a "production wheel" in that it is meant for production spinning such as I hope to acheive for Wee Ball Yarns. Since we returned to NYC, I haven't had much time to really try her out but with the unexpected lull in our schedule enforced by Finnian's barfing on Monday, I had a chance to whip up the fibre that came with the wheel. And whip I did--this wheel is fast and smooth and low maintenance while spinning. And those bobbins! Check it out:

This 260 yards of two-plied yarn (I actually have no idea what the fibre content is, some kind of blend that includes little bits of silvery stuff). 260 yards! This is double the capacity of my Ashford Travellor, which is very exciting as one of my main frustrations with that wheel (in terms of making yarn for Wee Ball Yarns) has been the tiny amount that fits on the bobbins. But please do not mistake this frustration for anything like disenchantment with my Travellor. I love her dearly.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yesterday morning, Finnian woke up and threw-up. While I was rubbing his back and warming up a cloth to wipe his face, I was also secretly cheering--we don't have to go anywhere today! So how sick is that? Your child is barfing and you are celebrating.

Fortunately, he seemed fine afterwards, or at least, he didn't throw up any more, and so we had our whole day ahead of us. Baking, spinning, mailing off packages, reading books, listening to books on tape, drawing, talking about Cuba, math as life, communism, the purpose of writing essays, baseball--it all happened yesterday and it was great. Except for the throwing up part.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Seven Years

I think it is actually quite easy to create photographs of things American that point out how creepy and fascist things have become since Bush took office seven years ago--the signs are everywhere. But here is an interesting slide show of photographs from a White House photographer that uses a bit of nuance, making it all the more powerful.

Have a look here.

I discovered this on one of my favorite blogs in which the blogger deciphers media images for their politcal subtext. I don't know of anyone else who is doing it, and it is very interesting. It is called BAGnewsnotes.

Buche de Printemps?

For almost a year, Lucy has been asking to have a Buche de Noel for her birthday cake. I confess to owning the complete set of DVDs featuring Julia Child's show "The French Chef" and we watch them regularly. Lucy loves the Buche de Noel show (and who wouldn't??) and so it was that, last Friday evening, I was rolling up a sponge cake and hoping for the best. The results were....rather small actually. Instead of mushrooms and fake snow, I used flowers to dress up our buche. Alors, c'est une buche de printemps.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Enough is Too Much

In thinking about balancing all the pieces of life, I was reminded of hearing someone, somewhere (my memory is almost gone--it is a terrible thing to lose one's mind, as Dan Quayle once said) say something along the lines of "when you think you know how much is enough, then take less".

Well my dear! This is a pretty radical thing to say in this day and age of more is more. How many times a day do I start a sentence with "I want..." or "I wish..." or even "I"?

Maybe it was a yoga class where the teacher once asked us what it felt like to reach the point where we felt we could go no further. Then go a little further - what does that feel like? Then go less than what we know we can do - what does that feel like? Which one is harder?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Balancing Act

When we arrived in NYC from Newfoundland, we had exactly one day to unpack and adjust before our schedule kicked in. In retrospect, this was not enough time. I struggle to find the right balance between activity and quiet, and it gets complicated quickly when one is homeschooling two children. Last year, I aimed for a "less is more" schedule and I found that Finn and Lucy were a bit bored. So, this year, we signed up for all sorts of great things but we are being run ragged. The problem is that everything is great--we love it all. So what to give up? It is very American of me, I suppose, I to WANT IT ALL.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Article on ArtBistro

The article on negative feedback is up! Check it out at artbistro.

And thanks so much to all the artists who contributed their stories and strategies. Hope you like the article.

My Favourite Picture of the Summer

Monday, October 01, 2007

Spin, Span, Spun

The Spin-out was great--lots of people spinning and knitting and talking and teaching. And lots of other people looking and gawking and wondering what the heck we were all doing of a Saturday in Central Park. I took some pathetic pictures (since I was so busy spinning and talking and teaching the pictures were kind of an afterthought). But you can see some great ones, including two shots that include me and Lucy at Mason Dixon Knitting. I'm glad someone was out there with a camera, esp. for the shots of the tourists and others who wandered by, looking totally amazed to see 30-40 people sitting at wheels or with spindles. I mean, like that was weird or something?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Do Nothing

This piece is the first in what I hope will be a series of crochet works that I think of as my antimacassar sutra series. I am working on a set of antimacassars that use phrases (sometimes from sutras) that I think about regularly. This one, as I hope you can see, says "Do Nothing." I am a firm believer in the power of sitting still. Often that means meditation, but it also means looking out the window and day dreaming. Although our current schedule belies this important message, I recommend it nonetheless.

PS. You can purchase my "Do Nothing" crochet piece (it will be framed) as part of the Sunnyside Community Services Benefit Art Auction on October 18th. Or you can bid or purchase it outright online. All proceeds support this wonderful organization that does so much for Sunnyside residents. Check out the link--besides my own work, there is a lot of excellent work up for bid, and most of it is by local artists supporting their community.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Spin-Out, Baby!

This Saturday is the second annual Spin-Out in Central Park. If I remember correctly, last year's event was moved indoors due to rain (I didn't even spin then, but I was already following spinner's events with a deep longing in my heart). The forecast for Saturday looks good, so expect a sizable number of spinners gathered at the Cherry Hill Fountain from 11 am to 4 pm. Learn more at The event is a good excuse to raise money for The Heifer Foundation. (As if we needed an excuse, but it does make it feel even nicer!) If you can't make but want to contribute, follow the links on the website.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

If it's grey enough and dull enough... must be a sweater knit for a man.

A variation on a sweater designed by Charlotte Quiggle in The Natural Knitter. Knit for my brother-in-law, David. I know there must be men out there who love sweaters in wild colours and adventurous patterns, but I just don't know any of them. As I was stitching up the sleeves last night, both Dan and Finn were oohing and aaahhing over this sweater.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Don't Tell Customs

It has become a tradition for me to make up our winter's jelly supply in Gillams and carry it back to New York. It always seems a bit iffy in terms of customs regulations but the risk seems worth it for that magical mid-winter taste of early September blueberries. This year the take was some where in the 60 jar range. As Olive says, about a third are to give away, so don't be alarmed at our jelly consumption! But it did account for close to one third of our trunk space, with another third given over to wool/yarn/spinning wheel. One must have one's priorities.

Fortunately, we noticed this box before we left the driveway.

And here was a remarkable mother-to-be found on the side of the house, just before we left:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When someone tells you that you suck

In among all the activities of getting back into a life in NYC, I have been working on an article for a new artist website, artbistro. The article is about how artists handle negative feedback; stories, tips and advice. It started, of course, with my own "filthy embarrassment" experience but as I spoke with people, and received comments here, I began to realize that this is such a universal experience of artists of all kinds, that it might be interesting to look at it from a more general perspective and see what comes up.

To that end, I am asking anyone and everyone who has ever been told that their work sucks (or words to that effect), to share their story with me. What happened? What did you do? How did it affect you and your work? Also, let me know if I can quote you directly or simply refer to you as "an artist," "a writer," or some other more anonymous title. Since this is a web-based article, I can put links to your website if you have one.

If you prefer not to leave your story in the comments section, then please feel free to email it to me at thehousemuseum(at)nf(dot)sympatico(dot)ca. Put the @ and . in the proper places, of course.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Leaving Home to Arrive Home

We are back in NYC despite the two-days of gale force winds that preceeded our exit from the Bay of Islands. Mercifully, the winds moved northward by the time our ferry left Port aux Basques so the overnight trip was only a bit rocking and rolling, and the day dawned bright in North Sydney. We made it to Bangor, ME in 10 hours, where we collapsed into HoJo heaven--a slightly seedy room with sagging mattresses but all the Red Sox/Yankee action one could wish for in the first hours back on American soil. We were all out cold before the Yankees rallied in the 8th inning and snatched victory from the grasp of the Sox. The next morning in weird fit of collective unconscious, we all reached for our Red Sox t-shirts - separately without realizing the others were doing it also. A family of four, all in Red Sox Dazed and confused though we were, I still had a shred of dignity and quickly made a change. And before you can say "two children, 18 hours in a car with only one book on tape," we were back in Sunnyside, soaking up its ambiance and checking out the four months of weeds in our back garden.

Can you believe fall has only just begun here???

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11

Mostly I have avoided giving too much attention to September 11th, not because I feel callously towards those who lost so much that day but because it had become an opportunity for the current US administration to use the tragedy for highly questionable ends--the worst kind of opportunism in my opinion. The term "9/11" has come to mean so many things that there seems like there is little chance to really think about and remember what that day was like for people living in NYC at that moment. But last year, Dorothy King called me and asked me to write a commentary about 9/11 for the CBC morning show, particularly focusing on how those events shaped our decision to spend so much time here in Newfoundland. At first, I really didn't think that it had, but upon reflection, I realized there was a connection. So here is my piece, to be tossed into the pot with all the other words that this day has conjured up for us:

My first visit to the west coast of Newfoundland was in August 2001. I was participating in the now-defunct artist residency program in Curling. I stayed for the entire month of August with my husband and two young children in the old Bank of Montreal building, which had been transformed into artist studios. We traveled around the Bay of Islands, I made art, and we fell in love with this amazing place. We arrived back at our home in New York City in early September and had barely settled in when the events of September 11th took place.

Like everyone who was in the city that day, we have our stories—what we were doing at the moment it happened, what we saw and heard, and how we reacted. And like any witness to events as terrible and tragic as those that occurred that day, our stories are filled with the horror as well as the mundane; laced with moments of profound realization as well as moments of humour. Our stories, like many others, highlight the absurd juxtaposition of ordinary life bumping up against world-altering events. We cried and laughed. We felt scared for our lives and we did all we could to help our neighbors who had needs greater than our own. And like good, tough New Yorkers, we went back to work the next day. While the city was filled with the smell of smouldering remains, we went about our business, convinced that “the terrorists had won” if we let what they had done interfere with our life.

For my husband and I, Newfoundland became closely associated with 9/11. The contrast between what seemed to be an earthly paradise here in Newfoundland and the burning pile of rubble in New York never seemed so great. Newfoundland became a vision that we would conjure up when we needed to imagine a place where it was calm and felt safe.

We returned to the Bay of Islands in 2002, and within a year had bought a house in Gillams, on the North Shore. By 2004, we were spending as much of the year here as possible. I was working on a large art project, the kids went to school, and my husband traveled between New York and Gillams as much as his schedule, and our budget, would allow. We now find ourselves shifting our household to Gillams on a permanent basis.

When I reflect on the changes in our lives in the last five years, I reluctantly acknowledge the way 9/11 has affected our lives. I don’t really want to admit that it has helped to push us closer to leaving the city and made it easier to imagine a life here in Newfoundland. I don’t want to because I hate to think that I have allowed fear to dictate my actions. But I can’t dismiss the enormous sense of relief that is palpable as we drive off the ferry into Port aux Basques. It is a sense of relief at being back in the place that I have come to feel is home, but it is also relief at no longer wondering if each subway trip will be my last, always looking up at any low-flying aircraft, all the 1001 ways that anxiety about the uncertainty of life has flavored our existence in New York.

Yet, even as we may see Newfoundland as a kind of oasis in a brutal world, we hear stories here too. Stories about lost jobs and a lost way of life, about out-migration on a grand scale. Stories about a rapidly changing culture that describe another kind of world-altering experience that seems no less filled with anxiety as my daily trip on the subway. While it is unlikely that Corner Brook will be the target of a terrorist attack any time soon, and pot holes aside, my trip down the North Shore highway rarely leaves me my contemplating an untimely death, I see that life here has its own dire concerns, no less real to people’s lives than suicide bombs and hijacked planes.

It makes me think that September 11th is actually happening everyday only in a less dramatic way. I think the term 9/11 has become so loaded—emotionally, politically, even economically—because it is a graphic illustration of a fundamental truth about life, death, and change. Maybe one of the best lessons of 9/11 we can learn is to take a deep breath, look around at where you are and appreciate it. Be alive right now.

Monday, September 10, 2007

How Do You Tell the Newfoundlander in Heaven?

We are packing up and getting ready to head south on Wednesday afternoon. This is always the most bittersweet moment for me: while I am usually totally worn out by the summer's activities and the fact that my life is open to the public from Thursday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm for eight weeks, I hate leaving. I hate not being able to make long-term commitments here, always having to cut things short. I will miss the air, the mountains and bay out the front windows, the autumn, the winter (yes, I love snow and cold weather--I loved every moment of our winter here in '05!). I will miss the people who make living here so satisfying and complete. I will miss how F&L can run free, cross the street, walk to the store, and play all day outside without me worrying (too much). Safe to say, I will miss it all.

I have studiously refused to let my mind wander into "I don't want to leave--this is my HOME" territory, but as push comes to shove, I have to let myself have a good cry and then try to get excited about all the grand adventures of life in NYC. The best of both worlds, as many have said. I have found one world that I really like--can't I stay here??

P.S. Although I won't be able to write more until 9/17 or thereabouts, there is much more to think about regarding culture and its representation/consumption. I hope our dialogue can continue.

P.P.S the title of this post comes from a joke: Q. how do you tell the Newfoundlander in heaven? A. they are the one that wants to go home.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Freecycle comes to the Bay of Islands!

Residents of the Bay of Islands, from Lark Harbour to Cox's Cove and every town in between, no longer have to send their cast-off furniture and odds and ends to the landfill! Now, you can join Bay of Island Freecycle and give your old stuff a new home.

Click here to join the Bay of Islands Freecycle Group:

Touching a Nerve

The initial shock of being called a filthy embarrassment has eased a bit and I have been able to think about why someone would write that about THM. Odd bits of wool floating around aside, I feel I can say with some certitude that our house is, in fact, not filthy. Occasionally untidy, yes, but not filthy. So what was that person trying to say? And why?

Before I examine those questions, I want to explain why I think it is important not to simply dismiss those comments as ridiculous and ignore them. As an artist, I have many, many times had my work critiqued by wise ones and fools. It isn't always a fun process, it doesn't always result in understanding more about the work and how people understand it, but sometimes it does. I think back to a critique I had in 1994 (as Shawn said, we remember the one negative among the many positive, and we remember them for a long time!). I was at an artist residency in Vermont that included visiting artists who gave critiques and the very first one came and really trashed my paintings--I think she called them "Franceso Clemente rip-offs." Then she turned to this fabric I had pinned to the wall on whim and said, "now this looks interesting...what is this?' After a couple of days of licking my wounds, I went back into the studio, thought about my paintings and looked at that fabric. I thought about how I actually dreaded painting and disliked a lot of the processes related to it (stretching canvas, etc.) but how I loved everything to do with fabric and yarn. Maybe I could make art from them instead... The rest, as they say, is history. So, thank you Ms. Harsh Critiquer! You were a total b*tch, but I owe you a lot.

So, when someone calls my project a filthy embarassment I don't just toss it aside as so much philistine ranting. For one thing, why did it hurt so much? Could that mean there is something there? And I have decided there is something very, very juicy there. I believe what that person meant was that my house, with its cracked walls, ceilings with holes and rough floors represents a Newfoundland that some want put far behind them. They don't live in a house like that--they have a new house, new appliances, new dishes, floors, curtains, furniture, smooth walls, nice fixtures, etc., etc. Many people live in Newfoundland in a way that is identical to someone living in Ontario or BC or New York. That is as much a way of being Newfoundland as any other. I think for some people who live like that, for them to see the rough edges in my house recalls the poverty and hard times of the past, when Newfoundlanders were called backward and stupid and made the butt of jokes. For some, all they see are the rough edges and it really pisses them off.

I have encountered this reaction before and was surprised as the vehemence I was met with. After the first time I realized that I had to be very careful to tell people that I am not trying to tell anyone that THIS is Newfoundland. Although called a museum, this project is not intended to be didactic "representation" of Newfoundland but rather a way of generating discussion about what that might be. Obviously not everyone gets that message.

Of course, trying to say what a culture "is" is a slippery slope. Is it THM? Is it a new house on Carberry Road in Corner Brook? Is it moose, icebergs and fishermen? Is it Wal-mart, Canadian Tire and McDonalds? Is it lace curtains, jellies and jams and homemade bread? Is it wide-screen TVs, Hummers and a 5-bedroom house? You tell me.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My Filthy House or Why it Sometimes Hurts When You Open Your Doors

The story goes this way...a friend was in Dominion (the supermarket) and bumped into a fellow North Shore resident. They get to talking and the subjects came and went and then they were talking about the Doors Open event. And the one starts telling the other how the organizers don't want to invite THM back next year (along with another participant) because we received negative feedback. My friend is surprised because it all seemed so successful to them but returns home to let me know the latest gossip from the Dominion check-out line.

I am shocked too since I thought it went incredibly well and I am wondering how it is that this other person even has access to the evaluations (esp. since I never heard a word about anything negative or positive). Finally, today, I reached the source of actual true information--the local organizer of the event--and ask her straight out about what was said in Dominion She tells me that there were a couple (three total) negative comments. This is not so bad considering the number of people who came through--we're talking a 90% satisfied rate, at least. Then she reads the three comments.

One is about how, as an outsider, I should not be allowed to represent Newfoundland culture. Ok, obviously my message did not reach that person because I am not in any way trying to represent Newfoundland culture. I am trying to provide a venue so that others can discuss Newfoundland culture. But I can handle that with some extra attention to my greeting at the front door. At this point, I am dusting my hands off. Heck, these are easy! Bring on the next one! This one I can't remember word for word but it was something along the lines that there was nothing to see here. Well, if that's what you think, that's what you think and there is not much I can do about it. Next! But here is where it gets ugly. The person wrote that they found my house "filthy" and "an embarrassment" and that it never should have been included in the tour since it is a shameful representation of Newfoundland--who picked these sites anyway?


I have to admit I was really taken aback by that one. Filthy? The word rang through my head as I picked up things to prepare for a class coming through this afternoon from the college. I see wear and tear that hasn't all be glossed over but I honestly don't see filth. Such a strong word! More than just dirty but dirty with a tinge of evil. Well, well, I have to confess that one really hurt.

But to find the silver lining, it is good hear from people who aren't all supporters since it is all too easy to surround oneself with the people who say nice things to us. I wish the person had had the nerve to speak up while they were actually in my house--it is the very purpose of the project: to talk about everything here, the good and the bad, the stuff they like and the stuff that pisses them off. And I like to think that getting such a strong reaction means I have touched a nerve, not a nice nerve, but a nerve.

I never meant this project to be easy, and somedays it really is not.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Labour Day

In honor of the holiday, some pictures of our recent labours:

We got 10.5 jars of jelly from our day out. But I forgot to put aside some for muffins, etc. so we will have to go back. Where? I'll never tell!

I collected some lichens when we picked blueberries to make some dye, but it didn't turn out so interesting. At the last moment, I tossed in some onion skins I had around and it made a lovely colour. The top picture is the wool I mordanted with alum and cream of tartar, the bottom is some that I just tossed in the pot to see what would happen.

Two of the fleeces that Janine sent - the brown was, I think, her first foray into shearing so the staple lengths are very short and it hasn't been very usable. The white is icelandic and just lovely to dye and to spin.

The colours of this picture don't do justice to this yarn--they are a bit more intense. I was aiming to replicate the colour of some lacy looking seaweed we found on the beach on the South Shore and I am happy to say, I got it pretty much right on. It is about 60% icelandic and 40% alpaca.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Today is my last official open day and so it is natural to want to reflect on how things went this season. This year was so different from last year--last year was an attempt to make it all work perfectly in one go, to solve all the problems, to be everything all at once. This year, I have been going slower, trying to be more true to my original intent whether or not it jives with what people are expecting when they walk through the door. Of course I want everyone to have an interesting experience and become engaged in what I have here but I realized that last year I was trying to guess what each visitor wanted and bend into that shape. Whew! Talk about a futile, and exhausting, endeavor! This year, I have kept two ideas in my head as a kind of guiding philosophy for this project.

I made the discovery of these two ideas through two experience over last winter. The first was to go to the Sunday salon that the artist Louise Bourgeios holds each weekend in her house in Chelsea in Manhattan. Louise was sleeping that day (she is well into her 90s) so two men took her place as the leader of the discussion. What happens is that anyone can come and bring a sample of their work. Each person is allowed a few minutes to describe it and then the rest of the group talks about it. The two men, one was the former director of The Brooklyn Museum and one was a curator from Brazil (and this why I will never be a successful, famous artist--I can't remember their names!!!), invited each person to sit in the special chair and say their piece. They were remarkably good considering the range of work and the range of quality of work was pretty broad--they were not insulting or demeaning but they were critical in the best way. On my turn, I discussed THM and shared some photographs of the place. The Brazilian curator said that, in a place where there is no real notion of visual art (and he meant like here in Gillams), then I had the opportunity, or perhaps the challenge, to invent one. At first I felt some loyalty to my fellow residents of Gillams and thought "hey! we got art!" but later I understood what he meant more clearly. My making this museum and calling it art in a place where there is not really a complex idea about what art can be means that I have the ability to break new ground and establish new boundaries and definitions--a very exciting place to be and one worth pushing.

The other experience was attending a lecture given by Mierle Ukeles at Erika DeVries' photography class at NYU. Mierle was speaking about her project called "Touch Sanitation" where she shook the hand of every garbage collector in New York City (along with other things) in the 1970s. I asked her how she gained their trust, how she entered this all-male, rough-edged community which would seem pretty closed off to a female artist. She answered that she did it by being completely honest with them. Each morning she went to the garage where the trucks were in whatever district she was to be in that day and she gave a little speech about what she was doing and why. And perhaps most importantly, she made it very clear that what she was doing was art. She said that her honesty broke down the barriers and she only had one person refuse to shake her hand.

Since most of my most recent work has been with non-artist communities, the idea of gaining trust is often at the forefront of my mind and shapes my ability to create whatever project I am working on at the time. When Mierle answered my question, I realized that my bending into a pretzel to provide the experience that I imagined each person wanted was a form of dishonesty. So this year I have greeted each person who comes to the door with a very brief speech about what this place is and its intention. And guess what? People have really responded in a very open way. Hmmmmm...honesty is the best policy....must remember that....

I have kept these two thoughts in my head all summer and I think they have helped to shape this summer's experience. I feel good about how things have gone and I feel excited about where things seem to be heading.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why Can't We Be Friends?

Tomorrow (Thursday) is the last official open day for THM. I do have several groups planning to visit in early September but tomorrow is the last day to drift in anytime between 10 am and 6 pm.

To celebrate the end of the 2007 season, THM will host a discussion led by Grenfell professor, Ivan Emke, titled "Why Can't We Be Friends?". All are invited to join in the informal conversation about how environmentalists and residents of rural Newfoundland can work together to make sustainable communities. The discussion starts at 7pm. Refreshments will be served.

See you there!

Friday, August 24, 2007

More South Shore

We had another spinning frolic the othe day. Our friends have a cabin in York Harbour on the South Shore of the Bay of Islands that is a little piece of paradise and even sometimes a little scary--we have been there when water witches have been screaming off the bay and the idea of a cabin perched on the edge of the ocean suddenly seems like a rather suspect notion. But not earlier this week. All was calm and beautiful, at least it seemed that way when we looked up from our work.

As the local pusha-man, I managed to hook two more people on spinning by bringing one of Janine's beautiful fleeces to work with. One thing about group dyeing is that we encouraged each other to try more and more interesting combinations, which we were then very impatient to spin up so we set it near the wood stove.

The two first time spinners were fearless in making colour combinations and they made fantastic looking yarn, making me feel very uptight for wanting to be all consistent and subtle. We split the riches at the end and I came away with one skein of yarn to die for. I had to immediately knit it up:

I set aside my other project. Can you guess why?