The Chapel

…a place where MAGIC happens!

The Chapel

The Etching Leads Me Down the Rabbit Hole and I Arrive at Pam Marlen

We lived on Ferguson, just off of Fox Farm Road, in Great Falls.  The Marlens were our neighbours.  Charlie, a medical professional, was a big hunter.  I remember, at my age, thinking that was a pretty amazing thing, but really different.  My Dad and brothers were big fishermen, but they had never journeyed into that world.  As for Pam, she was a life-giving free spirit.  She exuded creative and fun-loving energy.  Our families shared many wonderful times.  A little younger than me, the Marlen kids; Jimmy, Chuck and Ann, were all sweet.

When I headed to Lethbridge for University and my family was moving east, my mother had my etching framed up professionally and I gave it to the Marlens as a gift.  I believe Mr. Winenger allowed me to take the copper plate home, and yet all these years later, I haven’t a print or the plate, but have only a strong recollection of both the process and the piece.

Searching for a photograph of the etching, led me to go deeper into the rabbit hole and there I found young Chuck’s tribute to his mother, eloquently written in 2017.  I tried leaving comments on his blog, but every time I clicked “POST COMMENT”, my words were eaten up and disappeared into who-knows-where.

I think that it is the fact that I haven’t been able to connect that has led me to this series of posts because today has been a day of nostalgia since coming upon the blog post about Pam.  Once, through University, I traveled by bus to Great Falls and visited Pam and Charlie.  I have also tucked away the gift of a Fanny Farmer cookbook they gave me as a wedding gift.  It is one of my treasures.

Young Charlie’s blog…

Art Studio Poster Explaining Pam Marlen’s Glass Bead Making Process

Today would be my mother’s 79th birthday, she passed away in 1997.

Pam Marlen ( Mary Pamela Smith) 1938-1997 Artist

I have very little of my Mother’s artwork, and if not for the kindness of my little brother sending me several items I would not have any.

As-well-as designing Passive Solar Houses, Gardens, and Landscaping – She also created amazing fused glass creations, pottery, glass beads, quilting, water colors, stained glass, and probably many other items I’m not remembering as I write this post.

She would even make the  unusual fun vests she would wear to events …

Back label on Pam Marlen’s ‘Buttons to Beads’ Self-Portrait

Much of my mother’s artwork was sold and anything left after her death was distributed amongst the family; therefore, the stunning Fused Glass pieces are owned by others, but I am very happy to have what might be one of my mother’s only artistic self-portraits.

Buttons to Beads Quilt with Glass Beads by Pam Marlen

Pam Marlen didn’t do anything normal, and if she was going to do a self-portrait of course it would be something unusual like combining Quilting & Glass Bead making to make the portrait of her making Glass Beads …

Paper that was pinned to Quilt – Houston National Quilt and Beads Showing

She also included herself playing with buttons as a child in the portrait …

Pam Marlen as Child Playing with Buttons

All of the Glass Beads attached to the quilt were made by Pam Marlen and they were sewn to the quilt using buttons on the back …

Back of Buttons to Beads Self-Portrait Quilt by Pam Marlen

My mother liked to save items that she didn’t feel were worth selling because there was an imperfection on those items… she didn’t save much but some items had imperfections she liked and would save them inside her studio, just for her own collection.

I’m not sure how many people knew about her ‘imperfection collection‘, but she and I talked about them once and it was fascinating how she liked something special about each one.

Fused Glass Examples in Background

A few years ago I found 2 new glass fusing/ceramic kilns for sale at a very good price and I purchased them … While my mother had taught me a little about fusing glass, I took a private ‘one-day’ class to refresh my memory.

Link to Post: Firebox-8 Kiln Height Extension

This Firebox-8 Kiln’s Temperature is Manually Controlled

Creating Fused Glass artwork is about predicting how it will look when finished semi-melting/fusing together … Thus, having no idea how to predict, I just overlapped interesting colors of broken glass into a pattern.

Cut & Broken Glass in Kiln before 1st Melting

After the first melting the instructor was very let down that the glass had cracked, but being my mother’s son I said, “Oh that makes it even more interesting, lets leave it and do the final melting to fuse it as is” …

Broken Slumped Glass that Broke and Re-Fused in Kiln

The final kiln firing softened the broken edges and created an interesting Fused Glass piece …  I placed it on my dresser and consider it the first of many of my own  ‘imperfection collection’ artwork pieces.

I imagine there will be many future Metal Castings to add to this collection 🙂

First Try and Glass Artwork on My Dresser

In addition to saving imperfect pieces, my mother also would create small pottery pieces that she could use to test out Pottery Glaze formulas …

Mini Glaze-Test Pottery Parts by Pam Marlen

It appears the items my little brother sent to me were part of a Green Glaze test and even these little items had her signature on the bottom.

While I only have test pottery pieces by my mother, I am proud to have those items because that is how I remember her – Always experimenting!!

Bottom of the Green Glaze
Formula Test Pottery by Pam Marlen

She signed all of her Pottery with a PM symbol  (Click images for larger view)

Pottery Signature on Test Glaze items by Pam Marlen

She had shelves of these small glaze-test pottery items in her studio …

A larger piece of pottery that was probably a Green Glaze-Test item

Mary Pamela Smith (Pam Marlen) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma to E.R. and Mildred Smith on July 31, 1938.
She created most of her artwork in or near Great Falls, Montana.

This looks like a Bowl she used to test some Green Pottery Glaze

The pottery I remember the most as a child was a natural wash look as shown in the image below with hand-touched clay items added to pottery she had thrown on her potter’s wheel.

Natural Glaze with Clay Hard Artwork on Pottery

For years she would make pottery Christmas Ornaments and give them out to friends and family… Many times having us as kids help her.

Received photos of an items my mother made that I had not viewed before …

Hat made for Pat Erickson by Pam Marlen

Pat Erickson sent these photos to me of a hat my mother made for her …

If you enlarge the photo and look closely the bugs on the hat are glass beads.

Hat with Glass Bead Bugs made by Pam Marlen for Pat Erickson

Pat mentioned Pam Marlen made this hat for her birthday 🙂

Hat created by Pam Marlen with Painted leaves & Glass Bead Bugs

Thank You Pat for taking the time to send these photos!! 🙂

.   .   .

Pam Marlen had a stroke at age 58 in April of 1997 while giving a speech to get donations for the flood victims of the Grand Forks, North Dakota flood of 1997… passing away later in the year.

She lived an interesting life … and myself being a Star Trek fan it was almost surreal to come home to visit and learn her quilting group was asked to be extras in a movie directed by Leonard Nimoy… being very private director he would rarely talk to people on set; however, he would come over talk to my mother about quilting and other artistic items.

My mother met SPOCK …Too Cool!!


. . .

Old Photos of Charles J. Marlen Jr. … So when I lose them they can be found
online in a Google Search 🙂 CMR High School called Chuck Marlen

I think this photo was taken in about 1966

This photo looks to be about 1985 … Sometime during College

Sometime in the Late 1980s


Chillin’ in Hot Key West, Florida

Drysuit Scuba ‘Cold-Water’ Diving in Alaska

There *grin* … at least when I pass away, something will be online. *lol*


.  .  .


MY ’70s Show!

My life experience is very much rooted in the 1970s.  I graduated high school in Great Falls, Montana in 1973 and certain events of that period inform my memories. From 1970 onward, a  fund raiser was in place, selling bracelets for the soldiers MIA, as a result of the war in Vietnam. It is an interesting recollection that contextually, it was a very different matter to be a Canadian in this place and time.  When I look at That ’70s Show, I see myself and my family.  It is entertaining, but it is also a curiosity.

Being a Canadian, living south of the border through my high school years, I studied American History, Ancient Civilizations and experienced a huge focus on sports, clubs, expensive field trips, some racial segregation, even in the west, (although I was very naive about this and crossed boundaries of every sort), and a leaning toward a particular type of art.  Here is an example…a calendar that I still have, silk screened by my high school art teacher, Mr. Dwight Winenger and a piece of his work titled, Seriously Centric displayed at the Charles M. Russell Gallery in 1972.  Silkscreen was big at the time and I enjoyed the process.

1973 Winenger

Seriously Centric Charles M. Russel Gallery Great Falls Mr. Winenger 1972

This is where I went to high school, graduating in 1973…Charles M. Russell High School.

CMRKath GraduationThis is my bestie, Ramona.  We did the photo booth thing after one of our epic walks around the city.  We walked everywhere and this was great preparation for the lifestyle I took on once moved to Lethbridge, Alberta.  University was across the Oldman River from the city and so I bought myself a pair of gators and hiked in routinely, when the river was frozen and took the long hike over to the bridge (only one bridge in the day) when the river was open.

CMR MonaThis is family…AND our basement and our kitchen.

Great Falls 1 Great Falls 2 Family Photo Great FallsI had a crush in high school, but only one date, and not with the crush.  Dick didn’t have me out again because at the Drive-In movie, Castle Keep, I didn’t ‘keep him warm’. I’m laughing as I type this. The movie was fantastic!  My only regret was that my Mom had spent money on such a fabulous pair of lilac coloured bell bottoms.  I have hunted for a photograph of the Drive-In, but am having some troubles with that.

Someone found a photo for me!!  Whoot!  Thanks goes out to Rhonda M. Potts!


My family moved east again; Dad, transferred from Malmstrom Airforce Base back to North Bay, Ontario.  I liked the dry air of the west, the vast expanse of sky and really wanted to remain west, so having done my research, landed myself up in Lethbridge.

I don’t want to get into a huge narrative about life in Lethbridge, but I do want to say that it is my favourite place in the world.  It might be that this is because it was/is such a sleepy place, but something about the people in my life and the landscape, remained in my bones always.  These were years of formation for me.  I hiked those coulees until I knew them through and through.  I harvested cactus berries and rosehips, made tea in my room, listened to Valdy on my friend’s turn table.  I wore ankle length embroidered jean skirts and Progress store work boots.  Times were good.

Robert Waldren has kindly shared some archives with our common friend, Ed Bader, and has given me permission to use them here, so with gratitude, I share them.  I’m also including here a few coloured photographs that really pick up on the ’70s.

A hundred years later…Pauline and I share time out in Argenta.  I love and miss you, Pauline.

1977 February-u-of-l-pauline-mcgeorges-watercolour-class-01 Photo Credit: Robert Waldren

1977 February University of Lethbridge Pauline McGeorge’s Watercolour Class 01 Photo Credit: Robert Waldren

1977 October: Dennis Burton Opening Ed Bader and Paulinemcgeorge

1977 October: Dennis Burton Opening Ed Bader and Pauline McGeorge (Photo Credit: Robert Waldren)

1957_60115820210_602_nArt Department Magic

1977 March U of L Herb Hick's Drawing Class (I include this photograph because my friends from residence would sleep on this platform at all hours of night while I worked.) Photo Credit: Robert Waldren

1977 March U of L Herb Hick’s Drawing Class (I include this photograph because my friends from residence would sleep on this platform at all hours of night while I worked.) Photo Credit: Robert Waldren

October 1977 Dennis Burton Opening: Charley, Ed, herb, Pat

October 1977 Dennis Burton Opening: Charley, Ed, herb, Pat

One of my favourite people, Larry Weaver, ceramics prof…a man who has fathered me on more than one occasion.  Grateful always to him and to his beautiful wife, Nina.

March 1977 Larry Weaver in Ceramics Studio (Photo Credit: Robert Waldren)

March 1977 Larry Weaver in Ceramics Studio (Photo Credit: Robert Waldren)

Larry and Nina Weaver 1979

Larry and Nina Weaver 1979

I don’t think I have a single photograph of me from ’73 until ’77.  It was not the age of the selfie.  IT WAS THE TIME FOR LIVING.  A short musical interlude at this time…a tune coming out some time around 1968.  If this isn’t enough for you, I’ll point my readers in the direction of the song, Time for the Seasons by the Zombies.  Same time, same sentiment.  Just not such a self-focused world at the time.  This is what I grew up with.

Recently, I attended a fantastic event, Art on the Rocks, a figure drawing experience hosted by the Glenbow Art Museum and taught by a friend of mine, Tim Belliveau.  I told him that I would give him feed back about his workshop to share the differences between his approach to figure drawing and the practice he has been taught and the experience of my own practice, coming out of the ’70s.  As I was drawing gesture, contour, negative space and focused on the model, I was swept back in time…the whole reason for this post.

This was the University of Lethbridge, the year that I graduated with a B. Ed degree in 1977.  The architect, Dr. Arthur Erickson, is no longer with us, but this particular building, its residence, academic rooms, landscape surroundings and people, had huge impact on my life.

University of Lethbridge April 1977 Panorama Robert Waldren

Photo Credit: Robert Waldren April 1977

My bedroom in residence…overlooking the coulees; and YES, that IS macrame!

Kath University RoomThe art and physical education buildings were separated from the main block by ‘the worm’.  Freezing cold in the winter and stifling hot in the warmth of other seasons, I walked up and down this structure more times than I could ever guess.

University of Lethbridge April 1977 Panorama Robert Waldren 2

Photo Credit: Robert Waldren April 1977

The Worm Winter Storm 1977

The Worm Winter Storm 1977 Photo Credit: Robert Waldren

Billy McCarroll in the day. Fantastic person, artist, teacher, musician. Photo Credit: Robert Waldron

Billy McCarroll in the day. Fantastic person, artist, teacher, musician. Photo Credit: Robert Waldren


Robert Waldron 4

Ed Bader, drawing in beautiful light. We were always surrounded by lots of concrete. Photo Credit: Robert Waldren

Robert Waldron 2

Carl Granzow; Spirited sculpture prof. Maker of magic and full of laughter.  Photo Credit Robert Waldren.

April 1977 SAAG opening Dale Ketchison Guitar Photo Credit: Robert Waldren

April 1977 SAAG opening Dale Ketchison Guitar Photo Credit: Robert Waldren

It’s time to take Max for a walk, but it’s been really wonderful looking at the impact of the 1970s.  I am grateful to my friends and teachers of the time.  I developed a real hunger for experiences in nature, a desire to create in both written form and in art.  Great professors caused me to teach more than anything and so I did.

Here are a couple of tunes.  My very first concert wasn’t a big name band, but rather, Bruce Cockburn, sitting on a stool center stage at the Yates theater.  It wasn’t until years later that I heard Valdy singing in a community center here in Calgary, but his music was a part of my creating back in the day.

Coaldale Farm House 1973-1974.

Kath with FidoMaking home made bread 1976-1977.  Photo credit: Lorraine Lee

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