Heirloom Spoon

I have a huge appreciation for skilled craft and for unique approaches to materiality.  I’ve always supported emerging/existing artists and artisans and when I first saw Adam Weaver’s spoons, I knew that I wanted to invest in a spoon each month for a year, so that I would have a beautiful collection to enjoy for a very long time.

While attending the University of Lethbridge, my friend, Brian, carved me a beautiful wooden spoon and I treasured it for as many years as I could, when at some point, the spoon split and it was no more.  The idea of hand carved spoons has been nostalgic ever since.  Sometimes I think that with mass-production, we have lost touch with some of these hand crafted items.

This morning, Adam Weaver (Heirloom Spoon) came to my place in order to deliver January and February and so that I might select, from a collection of other carved spoons, March and April.

We shared a coffee at the feast table and I had the chance to look at and hold the spoons as he set them out in front of me.  They were all so unique and so lovely.

I’m very grateful for the new friendships, Adam and Pascia.  Thank you for taking the huge diagonal across the city to meet with me and to visit about travel, tools, art and life.  May you be richly blessed on your journey.

If interested, you can access Heirloom spoons via Etsy, as well as through various artisan events.

January: carved out of maple…a beautiful long-necked spoon with a leather toggle at one end and a beautiful scooped bowl on the other.  The wood was gifted Adam from Brampton, Ontario…so, given my family history and my connections with Ontario, this one sings to me.

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February: carved out of a piece of knotty birch wood, found right here at the edge of our beautiful Bow River.  It was harvested from trees cut down by some city workers.

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It turns out that I couldn’t resist May either…picking up a coffee scoop as a gift for my own birthday. The scoop is carved from Applewood, harvested right beside the studios at Artpoint Gallery.  They’re demolishing everything around there to build the new C-train line. :0( I love the many concentric circles that draw the eye into the depth of the bowl of the spoon.

The smaller lighter spoon is made from a piece of Ash (Latin name: Fraxinus Excelsior!) found in a small village called Clare, in England.  I like the feel of this spoon in my hand…it’s flat and seems to have some sort of interesting weight/balance thing going on.  I just like it so much.

The big ladle…I chose for March…it felt the most womb-like to me and I was thinking about the birth of my son on March 17, 1990.  Adam used the natural curve of the wood.  This piece was from an arborist-friend of Adam’s again, harvested in Calgary.  I’m wondering if this would be my favourite arborist who trims up May (Mayday) every year for me, before the spring.

 

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When Adam puts his tools down and stops carving, he plants and tends gardens and fits in a lot of travel… as well, he enjoys his authentic relationship with wood and beautiful objects.

 

Reflecting on Andy Goldsworthy With Grade Three

Back in June, I had the opportunity to teach grade three for Deb.  I created an experience that combined viewing, planning, and sculpting in nature and writing.  The students were over the moon with excitement and expressed some brilliant ideas.  I think I’ve written about a number of different ways that Andy Goldsworthy’s work has inspired my teaching…here’s one.

Grade Sevens built Goldsworthy-inspired sculpture over Easter holidays, documented their work and then wrote haiku poetry based on their sculptures in nature.

When I step into landscape of any variety, I am always hyper aware of the textures, light and the impact of one element upon another.  It really drives me as an individual in relationship with my natural world.  Andy Goldsworthy sculpture is very beautiful in its complexity and its consideration of natural contexts.  The manipulation of found materials is inspiring…the challenges seem impossible, but he finds solutions.

You may wish to try this type of project with your students, either in the spring or autumn, no matter the grade. Nice weather days are best.

I began by sharing a movie with the students.  There are several on YouTube.  Select something that is age appropriate, so, take the time to screen for yourself.  It is a good thing to learn about the artist so that you can support ideas/concepts and philosophy with the children, appropriate to age.

I asked each child to select a partner before we left the classroom. The students and I went out into the school yard and very automatically, they began their search for materials.  It was a lovely experience.  I photographed each sculpture as they completed it and once all were documented, we returned to the classroom.  There, I taught them the structure for a Cinquain and then they went to work responding to their sculptures, using words.  It is a magical experience when learning takes place despite anything you say as a teacher.  Inspire them.  Give them the tools and materials.  Then, watch that magic happen!  Congratulations, Grade threes!

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Bitterly Cold Winter, Wrapped Up In Wool

Monday morning saw the accumulation of a whole lot of snow overnight.  The sun was shining and I was grateful for that, as I picked up the shovel and cleared the sidewalk, yet again.  I was excited to be heading for sister-friend time, a hearty soup and warm-biscuit lunch prepared by my Ya-Ya, Wendy Lees, and the experience of felting with a woman who knows wool, so well.  In fact, like me, wool is her history…her story.  Ruth Purves-Smith, oh, how I grow to love you!  Now, you have been my teacher and I treasure that!

Gathering together means the sharing of stories, the week’s events, creative projects, vision, frustration, hard work and yes, edits on cover letters, even dog tales/tails!

Meeting  Booster for the first time was more than fun!  This sweetie really wasn’t ever supposed to have a chance at life, but because of her willingness to negotiate around Booster’s many special needs, Ruth gave her that!  Apart from very unique dietary concerns and the fact that she has to consistently wear a little diaper, Booster seems to lead a very happy and contented life.  As Max’s best friend, I can tell you that this gives me great respect for Ruth.

Settling in, I loved the colours and textures that began to spill out into Wendy’s living room!

I’ve had opportunity before to watch a remarkable lesson on felting delivered by Leah C. Donald  to my grade three students.  However, I didn’t have the opportunity to share in the experience because it was necessary to supervise the students’ use of the felting needles and to be a part of their process.  So, I was excited to actually manipulate the media and to enjoy the hands-on practice.

Ruth brought some of her creations and I was at once, in awe.  Hmmm…no pictures of lunch, likely because I was enthusiastically ‘putting it down’.

 

I decided that I would like to create a hot pad for the table and to focus on technique.  I was definitely the slowest person in the room!  It took quite some time before I sorted out the use of the felting needle.  Thanks for your patience, ladies!

 

Yesterday afternoon was just one of those magical times that created memories, both in my heart and head, but also in my body.  The warm smell of wool, the texture and the concentration…all so wonderful!  The next time you feel really cold, I highly recommend wrapping yourselves up in wool, good food and friendship.

Support the Custom Woolen Mills, when you can.  Buy your gifts from artists and artisans.  Buy music from local artists.  Support the creation of treasures that come out of your local community.

 

November Paint

One of the components of the Alberta Elementary Art Curriculum is Expression.  Here lies the opportunity for students to explore media, personal narratives and ‘let ‘er loose’.  While I typically embed reflection and depiction in my lessons, as well as inherently guide the students to compose well (all of the strands are connected), sometimes I focus more on the act of painting or sculpting or learning what media can do.  Seasonal celebrations lend themselves well to Expression.  Those educators who lean heavily on Pinterest for their ‘art ideas’ need to remember that these are, for the most part, Expression lessons and often of the variety that focuses on the ‘how to’ rather on the child’s personal interpretation of their internal narrative. We need to be wary of the ‘paper cut out’ approach for the sake of a ‘pretty display’. I think it’s essential the ‘art idea’ bank be balanced with more unpredictable outcomes and never sacrifice the experiences that come with Reflection, Depiction and Composition.

This month the students in my care, painted.  The use of the brush continues to be a skill to be reckoned with.  Turning the brush sideways for thin marks and flat for wider marks, another technique to practice.  Dry brush and wet brush effects can be observed and discussed.

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Creating candlelight separately, to be cut out and glued to the candle after drying…one idea…in the case that you have short bits of time for painting, instead of a sustained period of time.

The resulting collages, including a wreath of evergreen that has been created using green on green, studies in pattern.  In this case a second candle will be added on the second week of Advent (taller), a Gaudete candle on the third week (taller still and pink in colour) and the fourth candle, the last week, leading to Christmas.

Fully painted Advent Wreaths, horizontally on large paper.  Concept in composition was overlapping…we did a few exercises with our bodies before beginning this…talked a little about perception.  Notice North, South, East and West marked at the compass points of the picture plane.  These dots give the students reminders to stretch their images to touch each of those edges.  Chalk allows the students to explore placement, change their minds and plan and scheme.  Pencil is debilitating at this age.  Erasers become appendages.  lol  Just get rid of both.  White chalk rocks!

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Smaller format…still, on coloured construction for an activated picture plane.  Later, to have the candle flames whitened with chalk or white oil pastel…I would suggest that these smaller compositions might have oil pastel underlines or embellishments added after dry.

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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!

Meeting Jean Richardson

Jean-short-for-Eugenia, a retired nurse, came to be with the grade three classes yesterday and left me, both fascinated, and in awe of her passion for eggs and her organization as a workshop presenter.  The class was informative, seamless and so much fun!

This is something that Jean has always enjoyed doing with her husband, Al.  Her eyes lit up as she mentioned him and their shared love for Eggs-Quisites.  They’ve been going out into schools and organizations to share their experience with different aged children and adults for almost thirty years.  When they come out to your school, they supply dyes, books, wax and amazing exemplars of this traditional craft.  They even manufacture their own kistky!  After a fascinating history of Pysanky, Jean shared a hands on adventure through the application of beeswax in preparation for six different dye baths.

I enjoyed the stories that Jean shared with us and the children adored her.  Such a gentle and truly lovely person!  Thank you, Jean!

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Calm Can Be Found in Ashley’s Classroom

Monday morning, I wasn’t at my very best.  I knew I was coming down with something…head aching…throat, sore.  I hoped, from the onset, that I would have the energy to give these grade four children a lovely day and a bit of a painting experience.  I was already tickled to be welcomed by beautiful office and instructional staff.  These guys always rock!

I stepped into Ashley’s classroom and immediately felt a sense of calm.  I think that there has to be some sort of link between productivity, learning and an ordered space.  Is it possible to be creative when there is order?  I guess I’ll check out the psychology of that aesthetic as I think of Ashley’s work space.

Hmmm…the Psychology Behind Messy Rooms.

Tidy Desks and Messy Desks..

K…so I’ve wandered a little on the world wide web, sipping grapefruit juice as I go and what I can surmise is that our living and working environments need to be constructed/designed/maintained in a very individualized way, to suit our very personal way of functioning and creating.

On Monday, this ordered space was absolutely what I needed.  I have Ashley’s permission to welcome you into her space.

Love is in the air…first of all, it’s February!  Gracie was my #1 assistant all day.  Thank goodness for her efforts.  She really took up the slack!

?????????? ?????????? I just really like the philosophy behind these seven habits…language that grade fours can understand…but, ideas that we might all put to good use.DSC_2258A sense of space and order as I entered the classroom…I think I actually vocalized…”Ahhhhh” as I breathed out.  The new buildings are so wonderful because the flooring allows for spills, building, exploration and easy tidy-up.DSC_2257Winter art was cheerfully displayed.  I think that mats, while very inexpensive, somehow emphasize the individuality and the special nature of each creation.  Once the display comes down, the other side can be used for the next piece of art…so reuse!

DSC_2256 Light…so wonderful and necessary for a peace-filled day.  I like the touch of personal objects that give the children a sense of home and community.  A place for those teacher’s gifts.

DSC_2255 Storage buckets with a sense of humour.  These make me smile just looking at them.

DSC_2254A nook for spirtual objects contributes to a sense of calm.

DSC_2253 Ideas for daily physical activity!  Good stuff!

DSC_2251 Students like to know how they’re doing.

DSC_2249 DSC_2248 DSC_2247 DSC_2246I liked how every thing had its place.  I felt in control, even in moments when I would typically be feeling anxiety.  The desks were in such an arrangement that it made very quick work to move them into pods of two students for easy access to the paint station.  The how-to of this lesson can be found here.   Here are just a few of the students’ creations.  Thank you, Ashley, for a day with your class.

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Other Classrooms…

Elisa’s Classroom

Carli’s Classroom

 

A Very Special Grandmother

For love of her grandson, a friend of mine orchestrated and pulled off a twelve year project. The other evening, before ordering a post-movie Humpty’s breakfast, she passed me the gift of a photo archive of the project, in the form of a book, made by her grandson (photographs by her son), a response to his experience of receiving my hand made ornaments from the time he was a little boy up until he became a young man.  I am in awe of her persistence.

Each year, well before Christmas, this amazing lady organized the posting of the ornaments to connections in distant countries, beginning with Okotoks, Alberta. :0)  These people would use her funds, included in the double wrapped packages, to post the gift back to her grandson, living in Vancouver.  Imagine receiving an anonymous package from a different part of the world each year for twelve years!!  I am so grateful that I was the artist chosen to participate in this Christmas magic.  Needless to say, I shed a few happy tears while leafing through these pages while sharing an evening breakfast with my daughter and three of my dearest friends.

Usually in a bit of a rush, even to the point of waiting for the ornaments to dry, I only archived by photograph, one set of these ornaments, but got them out the door and delivered to my friend, just in the nick of time for mailing.  So for me to receive this carefully constructed archive is heaven!

The speech that was written and shared with his class was written prior to his receipt of “On the twelfth day of Christmas…”

True love comes from Nanas….everyone knows that!

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Have you ever seen a red bird?

That’s a question I asked Grade Two this morning and there were only three students who had seen Cardinals and they were delighted to tell their stories; two of the three had seen Cardinals on television.  The most interesting story was the one told by a wee boy about going on a trip to see Grampa and in the wilderness (his word) they saw four red birds.  I told the story of seeing Cardinals in Belleville, Ontario when I went there to visit my father.  Someone talked about those kind of birds having Mohawks on the top of their heads.  And then this guy came up.

Angry BirdsI’m going to tell you the truth…I found today’s idea on Pinterest.  YIPPEE!  Inspired by illustrator, Charlie Harper, many variations of this same activity can be found and managed, with, I hope, a focus on unique interpretations of the theme.  Here in Calgary, these children would not be as familiar with Cardinals as they would be with Northern Flickers and Magpies.  I think these activities could be suited for local birds as well. But today, I was into the red.

I wanted to manipulate the compositions to teach EMPHASIS and so the red was a pop of colour in an otherwise muted background.

Materials: Blue 18 x 24 construction paper with tooth.  White chalk for foggy fuzzy edges of background trees, White tempera, large bristle brushes, flat, two sheets of red poster board cut into small squares….two sheets enough for 23 students.

First, the students had depiction time.  I talked to them about how the Cardinals that we created were going to be like cartoons of birds.  Every single bird would look different depending on a lot of factors.  To begin with, we would practice drawing shapes…the body being a raindrop shape with the Cardinal’s Mohawk feathers on the top.  “Try big wide raindrop shapes and thin ones.  Try big and small.”  This little sketch was borrowed from one variation of this art lesson, found at Art On My Hand.

Angry Bird DepictionsThe eyes will be oogie boogie eyes that pop out past the bird’s body.  The legs…”Try long, short and bent. How can you make the bird look like it’s flying? How can we show wings? The beak is like a diamond shape and then just draw a line through the middle.”

Our drawing practice looked like this.

DSC_1459 DSC_1458 DSC_1457After sketching for a while and exploring all sorts of possibilities, out came the large blue paper.  I demonstrated how to press chalk and make dark lines and then showed how to move it and press on it to create light marks.  I touched the top of my paper and the bottom, on a vertical, to show how large the background trees needed to be.  I asked if any of the students had been outdoors recently when we had wind and snow and fog.  Lots of stories there! :0)  “What did the trees look like?”

“Our foreground tree…the one the closest to us…is more detailed.  We see more when something is close to us.  I can see your noses right now, but….when you are out on the playground, I can’t. We will paint the tree that’s close to us. What do we call a tree’s body? (trunk) What about its arms? Where are its legs? (limbs, branches? and their legs are underground) What about its fingers? toes? (It’s fingers are twigs. branches?) Expression and Composition time…with one short pause to remind the class not to SCRUB, but to STROKE. Here is what their trees looked like.  Off you go!  Recess!  PUT ON YOUR SNOW PANTS!

DSC_1447 DSC_1448Ti DSC_1449After recess, not much had to be said…a factory of Cardinal makers nested at their desks and the room was an industrious hush.  Absolutely amazing stuff as they created, invented, problem solved.  We all agreed that the tools we needed from the bins were scissors, glue sticks and thin black markers.  The fat ones were just too tricky.

This is what they created.

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?????????? ?????????? ?????????? DSC_1479 ?????????? DSC_1481 ?????????? ??????????Thank you, Grade Two, for an amazing day at Our Lady Of the Evergreens School

 

Art-Based Games

Recently, I had opportunity to be a guest teacher in a junior high Social Studies class where the teacher is using an Art Arena Game to teach concepts around the colonization of land.  There are three art games going on, one for each of his grade seven classes.  I won’t speak directly to his process, just write as an observer and to share some of my past experiences with this type of learning.

Art-Based Games by Don Pavey

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The use of the term, handicapped, on the back cover of the book is merely a reflection of the time…published in 1979.

I read Don Pavey’s Art-Based Games a zillion years ago and in my practice, incorporated role playing and key concepts that are outlined in the book, but sometimes with a spin.  That’s the point to Art-Based games.  I have no archive of the completed murals created by my students, but will post an image of a completed mural from Art Arena Games UK. info@artarenagames.co.uk

Energy Art Arena Games

From the UK site, this…

Art Arena is a team game format designed to develop social interaction and group skills.  The game process creates large works of art such as paintings, drawings, wall murals and  composite prints.

While there are all sorts of art games, beginning with simple group games like the Exquisite Corpse, tessellation games and fractal games, for the purpose of this post, I’m writing solely about those leading to the creation of large gridded murals, no matter the media produced through role play.  (these may also be produced as three dimensional or relief sculptures).  I have taken some digital photos of images in my Art-Based Games book…likely a huge infringement of copyright.  They just help me to explain this process…and yes, eventually, I will post images of the Social Studies project.

??????????The process of creating an art game and then producing the resulting art involves productive communication and requires a variety of skills.  Some might call the process a group drama as participants go into role as master planner, production line managers, communicators, colour mixers and artists.  The art game might take place in a single afternoon, but my students typically worked on their arena over a period of a month, sometimes longer.

????????????????????The largest mural project created during one of my Art Arena Games was the creation of a huge bridge down the entire length of a hallway at St. John Fine Art’s School here in Calgary.  This was a great game because it expanded from one space to another and involved journeying between those spaces.  The master planner did not have visual access to the large project (in fact he was seated, like the REAL Wizard of Oz, behind a tri fold that contained a window where instructions were passed in and out to the department managers).  In fact, the managers of the project and the master planner did not see the physical art until after each day’s class had ended and they were using the hallway to move to the next scheduled class. I think that the young man who was in role as the master planner was the son of an architect here in town who was, in part, responsible for the design of the 10th St and Memorial Drive pedestrian and LRT bridge, very cutting edge for the time.

?????????? ??????????Wh ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ??????????When these experiences happen, it is amazing.  It is empowering to students and also teaches a huge responsibility to ones own vision and contribution to a community.  It requires risk from educators to leave a traditional approach and to allow for a more grand learning experience.  These can be fashioned to each particular classroom culture, space, size and can be used in order to teach any number of concepts, whether that be in math, social studies, science, pure art, drama or any traditional ‘subject’.  The greatest fear that most teachers have is a loss of control or management.  These scenarios, once designed, place that management on the learners.

The following is a series of photographs I took of the social studies game that is happening in grade seven.  It involves trading up and colonizing a physical space, much as Europeans would have experienced.  Included here…farming and grain, flora and fauna, trapping and hides.  It was easy for me, as a guest teacher, to step in and watch the game happen.  Each class was broken into three clans…the Anishinabe, Haudenosaunee and Mi’kmaq.  Each of the clans had three clan leaders.  There were three Trustworthy People in each class.  Each participant in the game had their own personal icon and avatar and contributed to the game through their trading.  A conference was shared in each clan as clan members made decisions amongst themselves regarding their moves on the game and the trades that they would make.  Absolutely amazing to watch!  I hope to visit to see the final outcome.  The blue spaces on each board represent the water bodies…lakes…rivers.  These were determined on the boards before the games commenced.

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