For the Birds: 2016

This morning, I needed to get out for a walk…no connection to photography or the act of stalking birds.  It was raining and then, so cold, that the snow began to fall.  It was a very wet morning at the pond.  But, OH!  What a celebration!  Birds of every type seemed to be singing joy, singing love and hanging on the wet air!  It seems that the black birds, of every kind, just arrived…by the hundreds!  I made my first siting of a Ruddy Duck for the season.

I’ve watched the posted videos of murmurations of starlings on line…ones like this…

Well, this morning, I had the blessing of watching a smaller version of the same thing (not such a dense number) and a dance that moved just over the surface of the water and then up high, to return again and again.  Because the water was so much warmer than the air, a blanket of dreamy fog covered the pond.

In the trees, so many black birds…both red winged and yellow-headed blackbirds.  Max and I walked along the path and on both sides, the trees were filled with the birds.  They didn’t budge, but remained as we passed through.  It was an unbelievable experience.  And, through it all, I said to myself, “Lord, this magic is just happening for me…no photographs necessary…no Instagram…this is your gift for me.”

I’ve been tirelessly stalking first, one pair, then two and yesterday, five pairs of Northern Shovelers, trying to get a good ‘shot’.  This morning, I counted the males…15!!  What???  The females are more difficult to find, but, where there are that many men…there have to be a few chicas!  Again…no camera!  Wow!

I continue to be disappointed that Enmax has removed the nesting platforms for returning Osprey due to development of Stoney Trail.  A lone Osprey has been sitting in the vicinity for over a week, given that the nesting season begins in April.  Today, he was gone.  I noticed there are nesting materials stacking up on the top of a power pole, some distance away.  Normally, I would be watching the nesting behaviours of these beautiful Raptors, but, I guess this year will be different.

Posting a few of my favourite photographs here.

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The Practice of Shibori

Since attending a workshop at the Esker Foundation last Saturday, I’ve been reading a little about the practice of Shibori and discovering the many ways that one can, using Indigo, create brilliant patterns on fabrics.

Keep in mind that this was my first experience.

Esker’s workshop presenter was Lyn Pflueger, generously assisted by Jeri, also from Bragg Creek.  Borrowed from the 2009 Annual Report for the Immigration Services of Calgary, this beautiful photograph by Fritz Tolentino.

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Everything about this workshop reminded me of working side by side with my mother…learning to crochet, knit, sew garments, embroidery and basket weaving.  My mother loved these things.  One of my biggest regrets is that I never had opportunity to learn the skill of weaving on a loom with Mom.  She was an inspiring person for so many reasons.  Lyn and Jeri demonstrated the same patience and the Esker programming staff was so wonderful, providing materials and a smooth pacing of the event.  Thank you.

While I stitched a running stitch (the first technique described) I thought about Mom and while I evidently did NOT pull my stitches tightly enough (optimally, you achieve a beautiful white to contrast with the deep colour of the indigo), I enjoyed every minute learning the methodology, with intention of pressing forward with such exploration.

I decided to explore a gesture of the bush that I visit and document every day at the pond.I felt a lot of strength in my surroundings.  I was emotional, I must admit.  The technique at the bottom of the image is called binding, in this case, around soya beans.  In the end, I wrapped these tightly enough so that the ink did not manage its way into the cloth.  My running stitches, on the other hand, were not so successful.

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Kath Stitching Esker Shibori 2

Photo Credit: Esker Foundation

 

Kath Stitching Esker shibori

Photo Credit: Esker Foundation

Break here for a song that came to mind…I had heard the St. Mary’s University choir do a version of it…and I was thinking how I’d like to be with my Mom.  She would so enjoy Shibori techniques!

 

The samples that Jeri and Lyn showed us were so absolutely beautiful.  I liked the connection between the exhibit, Colleen Heslin’s work and the process.

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The technique used for the samples below is a clamping technique.  I have not yet documented my clamped sampler, but was pleased to learn this second technique.

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An amazing process of dye baths and oxidation…all timed.  It is easy to get absorbed by the interesting process of it all.

 

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I managed to catch the gesture of the bush…very strong sense of the rock with the bound soya beans…a  strong border, but the loss of some branches, likely by a pulled thread or two or three, lost and not knotted properly.

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We enjoyed the various fabric samplers that demonstrated the limitless possibilities of applying these techniques and more to other types of fabric…felting, organza and others.

 

Thanks to all, for a beautiful morning at Esker! There was a powerful bonding to fabric artists, both present and those who have left this world…to feel that spirit of connection and creation was awesome!

April’s Angel

I drove out to see Alvise  (pronounced Al vee zay) at his wood working studio on location at the Folk Tree Lodge.

I gave him a call, as we arrived and in a minute or so, he appeared at the studio door, on bike with an angel raised up and suspended in one of his hands.  It was a bit of a surreal image.

April’s angel features a nesting goose.  I’ve been watching the same at Frank’s Flats.  The nesting has begun!  Our little angel’s skin tone is just slightly darker and the symbolism for the month is April showers.  Such a beautiful day for Max and me!  As we pulled out to come back home, there were, indeed, very light sprinkles.  I think, given our dry winter, it would be a welcome thing to experience some rain showers.  Another gorgeous weekend!

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At home…with February and March…

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Through the Looking Glass in Words of One Syllable

I didn’t know that there are a series of books out there, in circulation, that are written in syllables in order to facilitate reading at a young age.  I came across one of these this afternoon in a second hand store.  I paid a dollar for it.  A treasure, this is a first edition, written by Lewis Carroll and published in 1908.  The ads in the back are for Akron, Ohio.  This beautiful book once belonged to Goldie McConnell.  A great find!

Lewis Carroll

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Ruth Purves-Smith and David Holloway

I’ve suspended my writing for the week because I’m teaching elementary children on a month long contract and I’m focused and inspired and need to line up all my jelly beans. What I really want to sustain over this month is my time in nature because things are evolving so quickly out there…and so many new birds are on the wing.

I’m writing diligently about an art tour that I took at Pason Systems on this past Saturday…one piece at a time…it was such a fabulous experience!  I suppose I’ll publish that during the coming weekend.

But…

…here’s an exception. I felt I needed to write my gratitude for Wendy Lee’s invitations to meet and listen to the music of Ruth Purves-Smith, accompanied by the fantastic guitar player, David Holloway.  So, for Juno weekend, I ended up having time on Sunday to attend Wendy’s house concert where chili was served, chilled white wine and the most wonderful company ever!  It was a hub of Juno energy and such a down-to-earth experience.

It turns out that Ruth’s father, Bill Purves-Smith and his wife, Fen Roessingh, have a connection to my own family patriarch, John Moors…and so, Ruth and I are connected by the beautiful warm smell and coziness of wool!  My grandfather is pictured below, a young man, in the throws of excitement about wool.

John Moors Woolen Mill Magrath, Alberta

Bill Purves-Smith and a photograph that appeared on his memorial 1934-2011.

Bill Purves-Smith

This story about the collision between Ruth’s family and my own appears on the Custom Woolen Mills website…

Fen Roessingh and husband Bill Purves-Smith developed a keen interest in weaving while studying at the Leighton Centre near Calgary, Alberta in the 1970’s. After being given a truck-load of raw wool in order to pursue their weaving, they began searching to find a mill that would process it into yarn. This took them to Magrath, Alberta, to work with John Moors in his mill, Wool Carding and Spinning. John had started in the woolen mill business at the age of 12 as a bobbin boy and worked his way up to running his own mill. When Fen and Bill came to work with him, John was in his 70’s and looking for someone to take over his business. Game for a challenge and motivated by their love of fibre arts, Fen and Bill bought the mill from John and moved it to Carstairs. They then acquired a wool washing system and additional carding machines from a small mill called Custom Woolen Mills in Sifton, Manitoba. The mill was owned by Anna Weselowski who, also in her 70’s, was looking to retire. Combined, the new mill was called Custom Woolen Mills Ltd. Wool Carding and Spinning, but everyone just called it Custom Woolen Mills for short. Over 35 years later, Custom Woolen Mills is still going strong; a hub in the community, a multigenerational family enterprise, and a producer of quality, Canadian grown and manufactured wool products.  

Of course, as soon as I could, I grabbed onto Ruth…gave her a big hug…and we began to spill out the memories.  I loved hearing about her playing in the back of the mill and watching the old television…I could picture it all.

Thank you for the stories, Ruth…and the music…and the generous heart.  Thank you David for the absolutely amazing guitar accompaniment and the talk of clocks.  And most of all, thank you to Wendy and Dan for their hospitality and for the sharing, always, of music and art!  Good to see so many friends that we now share and for the introduction to so many more!

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There’s nothing like a bookshelf filled with interesting titles…and a guitar that’s about to be played!

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It was a wonderful experience…bought the recent CD….so should you!

 

Related Posts:

Woolen Mill

Objects of My Affection: Woolen Blanket

Of All the Places

The Sunshine of Your Smile

Leah Came to the Door

May 8, 2015

Going to the Country

Southern Alberta Roads

Wool Card and Spinning: My Grandfather’s Story

John Moors 1908-1988

Ancestry Geek

John Moors 1876-1918

John Moors 1841-1914

 

 

 

 

Christine Klassen Gallery

I’m learning something new about the Calgary art scene every week and I’m so excited about the seeming expansion of visual arts events the city-over.  Given that I’m living in the south, I like it that this includes the Manchester Industrial Park.  One such gem is the Christine Klassen Gallery.  This afternoon I was the beneficiary of fantastic light, scrumptious munchies, a glass of nicely chilled champagne and over-the-moon art works…today, featuring the works of artists Teresa Posyniak, Lisa Matthias and Carl White.

I found the work uplifting, predominantly textural in nature, with a dominance of pattern.  On a warm Calgary day, seeing such works could only lend itself to a sense of optimism.  I had a lovely chat with Lisa and was, given a body of work that I’m exploring, intrigued with her  interest in ecology, natural history and environmentalism.

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Since studying the Private Eye for an integrated educational program based on observations of natural and found objects with jeweler’s loupes, I’ve been collecting samples on my pond study and analysis of atmosphere around a single bush located at the site.  I was immediately drawn to Lisa’s works.  Described in part, on her website…

Her work frequently draws from her experiences as a biologist, and she often captures microscopic images and videos in her creative practice. The idea that everything is part of a larger assemblage, emphasized by the recognition of patterns and relatedness across species and scales of life, is a central theme in her work.

I’ve consistently enjoyed Carl White’s paintings as expressions of a very absorbing and melodic sensibility.  I was happy to reconnect with that feeling today.  It was a beautiful thing that as the huge doors were left open because of the warmth, Carl’s paintings seemed to mirror back to me the spring air, light and sound.  It was truly beautiful.

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Teresa’s work was fascinating for its layers of media and texture.  Surfaces were dripping with colour and intensity.  While reflecting upon ‘Eating the Sun’, I am salivating.  Some art just creates that response in me.    Again, I enjoy Teresa’s link with science.  The following, a summary from the CKG website.

My childhood fascination with “things microscopic” resurfaced about ten years ago when my friend and science journalist Alanna Mitchell shared her research and images of plankton with me while working on her international bestseller SEASICK: the Global Ocean in Crisis. I was struck by the fact that plankton produce more than half the earth’s oxygen through photosynthesis (the conversion of sunlight to carbon-based food) putting oxygen into the air as waste from the chemical reaction. Although these “sun-eaters” keep us breathing, their well-being is being threatened by human activity.

It wasn’t just the science that intrigued me. As an artist, I am fascinated by these beautiful creatures ranging from microscopic marine viruses and bacteria to single-celled plants with stunningly ornate shells, and plant-eating animals.

As I embarked on this ten year journey to create this series of paintings and sculpture, I thought about the myriad ways that pattern is enmeshed in our existence and how the tapestry-like qualities in these almost invisible creatures and plants are echoed in the macroscopic world – architecture, decoration, lace, flowers, trees, skin, clouds, stars – the comparisons are limitless.

Both artists and scientists are keen observers of life.  Science has inspired me to expand my artistic vision to another realm, a world that I yearned to see as a child.  

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This stop was a delightful way to begin my afternoon art walk here in Calgary.  I’ll continue by writing about my ‘second stop’ tomorrow morning, a tour led by Naomi Potter (Curator for Esker Foundation), Jim Hill (owner of Pason Systems and along with his wife, Sue Hill, an enthusiastic collector and visual arts advocate) and Dr. Shepherd Steiner ( Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba School of Art, who has recently completed a manuscript looking at Modernist painting, sculpture, and criticism from 1945–1968) of a portion of the extensive collection of works on view at Pason Systems.  What magic!

I’ll be seeing you again, Christine.

In the News

I’ve been looking for archival boxes for a few newspapers that I’ve saved over the years.  I don’t know what it is in me that has always collected history?  Had I identified this interest as a younger person, I might have explored other careers in research…museum archivist? curatorial work?  I just didn’t know what was always naturally going on in this little bean of mine.  If you have a similar interest, don’t laminate your news and try, if you can, to sustain the integrity of the magazine or newspaper by leaving dates/headlines etc.  As a child, I didn’t know better…used glue…used some sort of bizarre blue marking pen.  I’ve photographed some of the news stories that I was intrigued by.  This scrapbook was not kept for a teacher or a class, but simply for my own pleasure.  Weird??

This is proper storage protocol for newspapers and good instruction…

Newspaper

Studio news…how NOT to archive newspaper!

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Little bits of what I collected in my scrapbook…

Space travel and moon adventures…I have several others on this topic.

President Kennedy’s assassination…1963, I was living in Battle Creek, Michigan.  Black and white television and the over-and-over-again playing out of the car scene…Jackie Kennedy crawling out onto the back of the car…the President’s head exploding.  Pretty traumatic stuff.  And then, again and again, Jack Ruby pulling out the pistol and Oswald, dropping.  The images have never left my head.

Local news and funny little bits on fashion…I was consumed, for a while, about the Dionne Quintuplets.  I’m glad I had a chance to visit the museum in Callander in 2013.

In 1967, the great Georges Vanier passed.  Interesting, if you read the articles, the language of the time was so absurd.  For example, his son, Jean is described as working with “retarded” people.  Hmmm…reflections of the time.  I’m glad that we’ve moved on.

In 1965, this ten year old archivist (that was 50 years ago!), collected the news on the life of Winston Churchill.

So…when I DO manage to purchase an archival box, I’ve several newspapers to store…not a ridiculous stack, but certainly the Calgary Herald the day that Obama became President.

Since retiring, I’ve become fanatical about family history research, but I find that this preoccupation has surfaced around archives of almost anything.  This is a compulsion and had I been attentive to this natural inclination, I might have steered toward  another career in life.  At the age of 60, almost 61, I will never know.