Sunday, November 1, 2015

Where has the time gone.....

François replacing window
Where have the past four months gone? I have not written here in such a long time. Our summer holidays this year were filled with   We enjoyed our time at the cottage this year. We were a bit more on our own with company not as prevalent as in previous years. Dear friends came for day trips and we enjoyed a few overnight guests.  Although we love to share our piece of "heaven on earth", this year it was nice to have more time for reflection and prayer on our own.

Most of our time was taken up with major and minor cottage maintenance projects-replacing a thermopane window in our front picture window, building a new walkway from the studio to our front deck, and adding solar electrical lights to the work-shed, the studio, and our lovely little cabin in the woods.

New Studio steps and walkway

We were very blessed to be gifted with cedar decking wood from a member of our parish that needed to be re-purposed. François used a good bit of it to build a proper front step and deck ramp connecting the studio to the front deck of the cottage.

He jokes that now I can move from the cottage when I wake up to the studio in my pj's and slippers! All kidding aside, it does make a great difference in being able to move from the cottage to the studio without tracking in dirt on my shoes.

Work-shed with solar lights!

Over the past five years François has bee working on putting together a nice solar system for our cottage. This year everything came together as he installed solar lighting in the work-shed, the cottage proper, and also in the studio.

The DC lights run directly off of our solar charged battery bank and the electrical outlets (studio and cottage) run from the power inverter hooked up to the system. It is amazing to me that we are no longer relying on kerosene lanterns for our evening lighting! Having electricity in the studio provides me with the opportunity to use my sewing machine and other electrical tools in the studio and not outside hooked to the generator.

Couching paper onto felts
I spent time this summer making handmade paper. Earlier in the year I had put out a call for old wool blankets to make paper making felts. I was blessed to receive a number of them from members of our parish.  I was able to cut them up and surge the edges before we left on holidays.

It makes everything so much easier when you have proper felts for making hand-made paper.  I really enjoyed making paper at the cottage, but did not make nearly enough. I will have to take some time in December to make more in my home studio.

During my academic career I was involved in codicological research on early printed books of hours. This research was primarily directed towards the concept of the use of a book of hours as a means for sixteenth century women to pray private prayers in public spaces and public prayers in private places.  I examined the books with an eye towards the work of the printer and compositor for design and workshop practice.

Mary of Burgundy holding her book of hours
The book of hours, one of only two books given to women by their husbands, brothers, fathers or uncles, (the other would have been a courtesy book on household management,) was a touchable, kinesthetic link to the prayers she would pray at a public mass, with her community, while at the same time reciting her private prayers and invocations about her family.

In the same way when she was in her home or private space, she could use the book of hours to recall the public prayers prayed in community with others and the private prayers for her family that most tugged at her heart.

This portrait image of Mary of Burgundy illustrates Mary at private prayer in her home, contemplating the prayers she would have said at her most recent participation in the community Mass at her church.

The stole is a garment worn by a priest in the Christian church, most often conveying a sense of dignity and power of the priest over the people. This concept dates from Imperial Roman times and the stole worn by the Roman elite involved in governing their particular part of the Empire.

Prayer Stole
This summer at the cottage I began a series of designs of stoles to be worn by women when they pray. My idea in using this symbolic garment is to provide women with a powerful, tactile item to be worn around their necks as they pray in their own private spaces.

It is my intent that the front of the stole contain the text to a public prayer that is said in community worship. My first stole contains the text for the Hear O Israel.  This text serves as the center piece for Jewish morning and evening prayers and is also said often in Christian worship services at different times of the year.

This first stole was created using soft leather pieces and hand dyed and printed fabric. The words were written with a pilot parallel calligraphy pen using gouache inks.  I am still working out the actual size and design for these prayer stoles and plan to make more in the coming months.

These past months have been a time of great change and growth in my creative soul. More and more I am linking my prayer life with the creative cravings that feed my soul.  My heart soars like a hawk as I prepare for the coming winter months of change. As the birds gather and hunker down for the cold that is coming, I too and preparing my studio and supplies for winter creative tasks. I long for the un-interrupted time in the studio I so enjoy during early winter mornings, with the fire crackling in the family room and the teacup simmering with cinnamon apple tea.

As I prepare for this creative winter, I know that all will be well, and all will be well, with the grace of God our mother, all will be well.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Preparing the Cottage Studio

We have had our hands full here in Deep River since my last post. It seems like life has been conspiring to keep me away from the studio!  I have been working in the yard, making perennial gardens and planting vegetables. Last week I repainted the garden bench and bird bath, pulled weeds, trimmed trees and shrubs, transplanted hostas, and put in brick edging on some of our gardens. It has been great to be outdoors working with the plants, but I am itching to be back in the studio soon!

We spent last weekend at our cottage in Quebec. I have started setting up the studio for our summer there, and can hardly wait to start making paper!  My husband has helped to create some more permanent working spaces for me in the studio. Last weekend he helped to create proper counter spaces with paper storage shelving made from old IKEA shelf sets our good friend Kathren Jackson gave to us. This weekend he hopes to duplicate the first shelf and help set up the light table we were gifted last year here in Deep River. One of his projects last year was to start creating a solar power system for the cottage. It worked really well to provide electricity to power my sewing machine for leather embroidery and hopefully this summer I will be able to use the light table too!

Some photos to show our progress!

We are able to return this Sunday through Tuesday noon, our weekend.  I am hoping to get the final studio furniture in place and install the new attic pull out stairs to the sleeping loft. Once this is done, I can build the railing for the loft and start to think about putting in a book shelf!  Our guests will be sleeping on a king sized bed in the studio-and I am sure to be taking a few naps there myself this year!

As I was working in the garden this week, I was struck by the subtle changes happening in the sky and the air as the weather changed. I love being outside and with my hands in the soil. My mother was an avid gardener and I learned so much from her.  As I was planting the new perennials that I hope will weather our Canadian winters to bring much joy to our home, I thought about the lasting growth that comes from making pieces of art for people to share inside their homes. Whether it is a piece of work that hangs on the wall, sits on a shelf, or is experienced held in the palm of your hand (like and artists' book), the experience of the work changes subtly when the light changes. Our perception of the colour, the texture, and how our human eyes see both is influenced by the illumination in which it is presented.

For me working in the garden and working in the studio are one in the same. In the garden I am working with living things that I hope will bring joy to those who see them. In the studio I am working with inanimate objets that I hope will come to life in the minds eye of the beholder to bring them joy. Both activities, for me, are a version of active living prayer that fills my heart with a passion for life and the sharing of spirit with all whom I encounter.

In each instance, with each breath I make, each handful of soil I take, each seed or plant I place, for me matches the energy I feel with each stroke I make, each book I create, in the studio. In my heart, I know that as the seasons turn, so do my creative urges. I know that all will be well, and all will be well, with the creative and wise energy of God our Mother and the Earth she provides, all will be well.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

STUDIO RESET: Spring just might have SPRUNG!!!!

I have been away from my blog for much too long!  This winter has been one filled with family visits at Christmastime and mountains of indoor work at home. I have been heavily involved in my annual "Studio Reset" that has been more extensive this year than in previous years.

Over the past three months I have been engaged in a major clean out of my studios. We purchased a shredder and I have happily been shredding everything from tax returns from the 1970's to high school research papers and miscellany that I have no early idea why I saved.  I have made numerous trips to our dump with bags and boxes of paper and plastic for recycling, items for the perpetual garage sale there, and old paint tins as well. I have managed to save hundreds of postage stamps and other ephemera, but it is all now properly filed and tagged.

Throughout this process I have managed to sort and organize all my supplies, clean the studio closets, and sort all my bookbinding and collage materials. It has been a blessing in so many ways. I now have places for most all of my supplies that are neatly organized and accessible. I am not quite finished-still have to work on the flat files over this weekend. They, I am certain, will bring treasures of paper to light that I have forgotten I had on hand.

Vandercook 01, Etching Press, Challenge Gordon 8x12
A boon to all this reorganizing is the addition of my etching press to the press room. Previously I did not have room to have it out all the time, but now it rests between the Vandercook 01 proofing press and the Challenge Gordon.  The etching press has been unused since we moved from Cambridge and I am thrilled to have it set up and ready to go in the press studio.  It is supported by a heavy duty rolling typing table that has lockable wheels.  I can move it when needed.

I received this press from a posting for a free etching press on Craig's List when we lived in Cambridge and love it so.  Next after the flat files I need to give all three of my presses a good cleaning.

New roller trucks!
A very good friend here in Deep River has helped me get a third set of roller trucks for the Challenge Gordon.  When I received the press it had three rollers but only two sets of trucks. The previous owner had sent a set of trucks with the roller cores to be recovered and did not receive them back.

Murray Mitchell took one of the sets of trucks to another colleague here who milled a set in aluminum identical to the ones I had.  I have never printed with three rollers on this press and will be excited to do so next week.  I did check the roller height with my gauge and am quite pleased with how it all looks for now. The proof will be in the printing!

Angel Pins
Over the winter I have been working on a new item to sell, a bit different than my book arts projects. For many years I have made "Angel Pins" from heirloom cutlery, but had gotten away from making them for one reason or another.  Over the past year I have had many requests for them, so I have added them to my display at Valley Artisans' Co-op Gallery in Deep River and will also have them for sale at all my shows.

In addition to the pins I am making "Angel Magnets".  Both make great gifts for the bride to give members of the wedding party.  I make custom orders using heirloom cutlery from the families of the bride and groom too!

Letterpress & Stamp decorated leather
I have also been working more on my embroidered and letterpressed decorated leather covers for sewn journals.

These smaller journals are perfect for carrying in the briefcase or airplane carry all and are filled with heavier stock paper, wonderful for quick sketches or for attaching keepsake tickets, post cards, or other paper ephemera from your trip.

Some of the journals have machine embroidered designs in the leather. I have been using my grandmother's Singer Featherweight sewing machine for these.  It has been really fun to use.  This machine was the first sewing machine I ever used as a young girl. As I work with it in the studio, I am
reminded of my Grandmother Domsalla's admonitions to "be careful in threading the needle" as sometimes I was apt to thread it backwards!

I love the freedom that free-hand embroidery with the machine gives me for creative expression. The softness of the leather pieces I am working with also provides the opportunity for the use of different weights of thread and embroidery floss.

As I finish up the last of these covers over the next couple of weeks, I hope to amplify the designs to include some narrative elements. I am not sure how that will go, but will post images when I am finished!

As I have concentrated on "getting rid of stuff" I no longer need or want in the studio, I have been reminded of my entire creative journey.  My daughter Kris always tells me that my gathering of materials and supplies for the studio over the past ten years or so (usually always from the 'FREE' tab on Craig's list) is a testament to my creative process.  As I have honed my direction more towards artists' books and manuscript books, I have realized that a number of objects and also some materials are no longer important to my creative process.  My silk screen kits and materials have all gone to my friend Laura Mayo who has a passion for colour and wants to learn how to print using these materials and techniques.  I have given away stretcher bars and odd bits of canvas to two friends who are learning to paint with acrylics and boxes and boxes of smaller objects I collected for found object sculptures I will now never make are destined for my garage sale in April.

The result is my studio now has space for more creation.  I now have shelf room to have several artists' books in process at one time as well as a proper narrow wheeled cart for prints to rest on as they dry, a gift from Bert Fleury.  My type has all been cleaned and sorted into cases and my press furniture nestled back into the proper place in the cabinet.

My heart soars like a hawk as I complete this studio reset this Spring. I feel the energy of the wind blowing and the warmth of the sun flowing through the studio windows as the snow begins to melt.  My creative soul feels reborn as I prepare for new work to come forth.

And I know with each breath I take, each step I take, that all will be well, and all will be well, and with the grace and joy that God in her infinite wisdom shares with us everyday, all will be well.