Gramma Builds a Puppet Theater

It came to me like a dream…a waking dream. For weeks I had, during daytime hours, pondered what to do for my grandson for Christmas morning 2019. For some reason, I thought that this decision would lay down the tracks for every other decision I would make on his behalf for his entire lifetime. (Crazy, I know.) I don’t take my place as Gramma lightly, exemplified in my willingness to put myself out there as a bumble bee.  Isn’t my grandson handsome?

My mother had such a talent for sewing that for every Christmas and birthday, there were sure to be homemade gifts arrive in the mail or delivered, personally. They were tagged and finished beautifully, “To my Grand Daughter, with Love!” I follow in impressive footsteps. 

So, it was on a morning in October, that a waking dream came to me. I sleep in the deepest darkest lowest level of the house and it’s pretty cold at times. I was curled in snug under the covers, when ‘it’ came to me in half-sleep. “I could build my grandson a puppet theater!” I imagined him as he is now, watching his Mommy and Daddy being funny and laughing behind the stage…and then, with little friends, growing up…and then making hilarious fun as an upper elementary student…and then, possibly, with his life marked by all sorts of little stories that Mommy made up…and stories that he performed for evening entertainment, he might even take the puppet theater with him, after a long and probably painful storage dilemma between his Mom and Dad and him. Yes, I conjured all of this up in the rumblings of a dark morning in October.

When I woke and got up that morning, shuffling to the kitchen to make my first cup of coffee, I said aloud, “Gramma is going to make a puppet theater!”

It began with a plan.  I scoured Amazon, Ebay, Kijiji and puppet companies the world over.  Finally, I came up with a plan that I wanted to work with, a little homemade theater that I spotted on Kijiji.  If I had an interest in driving to the city of Lacombe to pick this one up for 100.00, it would have been easily revised.

But, nah…I would create something amazing, at least I would be the one with the vision!  In terms of tools, I just don’t have what it takes.  I needed to track down Santa’s helper, and quick!

After my communications with a high school shop teacher came up empty, I went to my go-to guy, Len, a neighbour who helps me with all sorts of odd jobs when I don’t have the tools necessary.  He works independently and I like to support him in his various efforts.

I took in account Steven’s height and the fact that I wanted at least one little friend to be able to participate with him during his childhood productions and so I drew up this plan.  Now, this wee sheet that was sketched out in my day timer was not so simple as it might appear!  Lots of thought went into this, so please, readers, don’t think that this came fleetingly!

Within a week or so…Len came up with some ideas of his own.  I talked to him about a concept of design that would align itself with Steven’s birthing songs and art…something to do with ‘Under the Sea’ or ‘An Octopus’s Garden’.  Insert music here.

I was pretty darned happy when Len and James brought the puppet theater off the truck and into the studio, even though the weight of this beast certainly didn’t mean that I would be moving it around a lot.  It would have to find itself a space and it was at this stage that I first became concerned that it might never really find its way into a forever-home.

Safe in my studio, I was able to begin measuring and planning for curtains, backdrops and decoration.  I began by applying two coats of primer.

In the evenings, I was bopping in and out of shops, planning and scheming a system that would work for the draperies.  I wanted them to mimic the velvet curtains I imagined in the grand theaters.  In the end, the installation of curtains ended up being so darned challenging.  This lady became one of my friends on this mission…taking several different exchanges as I would return rods…experiment…ask for help.

In the end I settled on these velour panels…and now, to seek out someone who might hem them up for me.

I won’t go into details (is this a detail?)…but, at one point, these small bits of hardware were purchased as a bit of an experiment.  I feature them here simply because the man who helped me in this department of the big box store, Home Depot, was such an angel and was seriously the greatest guy to talk to.  He was so excited about my ‘Gramma Builds a Puppet Theater’ project, that my problem-solving ended up being a huge conversation.  I just really treasure people like him and only regret that I didn’t ask his name.

I solicited a lovely high school student, Emmanuella, to sew the draperies, under the supervision of her Fashions teacher, Fierina.  Emmanuella has excelled in this area and advanced beyond all of the projects assigned.  It was a great idea for the both of us and I really enjoyed getting to know such a conscientious and beautiful person.

Rooting through my basement storage cupboard, I located some old tins of house paint and selected a colour that would help me achieve my underwater theme.

While pursuing the painting and project, I began to search out puppets.  Late into my evenings, I would explore on-line sites and finally decided to write a story about an Eagle Walk.  Ikea is the only store to have an eagle puppet, and ironically enough, I never did get myself to the store to purchase the puppet.  One day, perhaps. The eagle, therefore, was represented by a sound effect…very very cool!

Basically, I ended up purchasing puppets that I fell in love with, after exploring so many toy shops in town.  For the sake of this post, I have spared you archives for several locations.  It was actually Scholastic, on Macleod, where I tracked down chicken and monkey in a barrel, both two of my favourites.

I found a perfect stuffie border collie at the Goodwill store and at home, washed and dried it, gutted it, inserted a glove and created our Maxman character.  Thanks, James, for exploring so many stores with me, looking for the perfect puppet collection.

I began to decorate the puppet theater, first locating a dry erase board for puppet show announcements, at the Dollarama…hmmm…or did it end up being Staples? While at the dollar store, I picked up some rolls of ribbon, thinking I could create a celebratory effect by placing some of that here and there.  I am really NO DECORATOR!  Let’s face it, the greatest problem of them all was the curtain.  It was getting close to the wire, by this point, and while really wanting to pain scene backdrops for the theater, I let go of that project, thinking that this would be an idea for later gifts.

I painted a few bits onto the outside panels and opted to leave the front of the theater plane.  Embellishments definitely made a difference!

I think it was only a short time before the actual performance when I solicited the help of friends, Angela and Nigel, to create puppet figures for Doug, Erin, Gramma and Steven.  They came to our Christmas feast, with felt puppet figures in tow…and while Christmas went remarkably long due to an unforeseen crash by young Steven and a trip to the hospital so that his forehead might be taped back together…THE SHOW DID GO ON!  But…I get ‘A HEAD’ of myself here.

The puppet theater, at completion…

It was at the pre-function on Christmas day that the screenplay came to be created in a very collaborative way and with many laughs…all directed by our writer/editor in residence, my sister-friend, Karen.  The traditional big feast happened and then, interspersed with the drive to hospital and back, the $10 gift steal that happened incorrectly this year (and did I listen to the five people who tried to tell me?….next time, don’t be so polite), under my direction, the puppet show was set, complete with eagle sound effects provided by Tyler (mind you…the timing might have been a little off) and narration delivered, confidently, by Shawn (you are such a good sport!).

A small capture of that…

Sending love to all who helped this dream happen…

Somewhere out there, there is a video from this debut, but I don’t know where it is or if I have permission to share.  I just am grateful for Christmas magic.

Wood!

That’s it…three sessions of scrubbing down my sanded furniture and I’m ready to apply the primer.  I thought I’d capture a photo of the living breathing wood before I seal its pores again with paint.

P1170482

After some discussion with daughter #2, I’ve decided to free-form the pieces for my bedroom to capture the feeling of autumn.  So…forget Marc Chagall.  Onward and outward, Kathleen Moors!

I used this furniture for healing.  It took me a long time to recognize that…but it is so!  Alzheimer’s disease steals layers of memory so incredibly slow.  My heart goes out to every reader who has had to find strength through years of watching your dearest loved ones make this journey…and I pray with everything in me for families who have just received a diagnosis and who need to find creative and accepting ways of taking this same walk.  I came to discover as I peeled back the layers of paint over so many nights and weekend afternoons that GRACE is what helped me…GRACE is what healed me and the quiet of hours picking away at paint in the warm light of my studio.  Mom, you remain, with all of your memories, inside of me always.

 

I picked up the green vanity on September 12 of 2011 and the other pieces August 22, 2013. The fronts and backs of every piece were totally suffocated in multiple layers of paint.  I will not be removing paint from furnishings again…let it be known!

Vanity Headboard Stripping Paint

 

 

 

Phantom Wing

Phones were busy at cSPACE last night, snappin’ pictures  of pretty much everything!  I’m feeling as though the internet is already swamped with images of the fantastical Phantom Wing, but who cares…here are a few more!

P1130047I go to these things alone…I know…it’s pathetic…but I’m really the driver of my own ship these days and find that my sails take me into the most magical places.  Sometimes my voice collides with another voice…sometimes not…it’s all fairly wonderful.  I DO thank the two gentlemen who seemed to have some interesting interactions with me about various spaces when we bumped into one another…and thank you for grabbing a photo of me at the wings!

P1130097 P1130098By the way, I’ve recently started a writing residency with the CPL, delivered by Barb Howard (I was intrigued by one of her published titles…Embedded on the Home Front : Where Military and Civilian Lives Converge) and have learned from one of the library books being passed about, on the topic of learning to be a writer, that a writing ‘rule’ is to avoid using adjectives.  My eyes were opened!  I am a freak who uses MANY adjectives.  Try to overlook them.

A few reactions around the various Phantom Wing exhibits…

I thought about education a lot….the ways that we have educated children over time.  Sorry for all of the dot dot dots…I just seem to NOT be able to write sentences right now.  My thoughts are disjointed.  Perhaps it is because I sat in a dentist’s chair for five hours on Monday, just to have my face go numb today…off I go again in an hour to have him ‘take a look’.  Sigh and back to the subject…

P1130072 P1130077 I felt sad for all of the dumb work sheets. (I never used the things…but see them used to this day by some.)

P1130073 P1130074 P1130075I felt sad for the controlling approach to almost everything.  But, let us remember that ALL of those teachers were being controlled at the very same time as you wee chickens were.  (Yes, I am a teacher.)

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Teacher's Rules in Sarah Birch, Michael Oxman, and Sara Peppinck's room

Teacher’s Rules in Sarah Birch, Michael Oxman, and Sara Peppinck’s room

I thought about how redundant things must seem/be sometimes in schools.

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Cliques are destructive.  I believe in being a person ‘on the fringe’.

I didn’t ‘belong’ to the girls’ group in school…any school…so, in the second floor bathrooms, where Melinda Topilko and Lindsay Joy had prepared for a Girl Gang Dance Party, re-inventing the all-lady bathroom space as a vehicle for girl talk in all its many forms, I felt very uncomfortable.  I exited as soon as there was talk about writing down your confessions…assuming that you did mean things in school.  Ah, but I remember being ‘the nice girl’.

P1130119 P1130120Because of my preoccupation with feeding and watching birds these days, the Winged Apocalypse piece left the deepest impression with me.  I mean, things have gotten so bad that I’ve actually visited my neighbour and talked to her reasonably about the cat Bylaw because she has a mouse/bird-tossing-cat that she watches each morning while drinking back her coffee and smoking her cigarette. In summary, this particular installation was meaningful.

Blue Jay at my Feeder Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Blue Jay at my Feeder Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

One Sparrow Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

One Sparrow Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

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Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Winged Apocalypse (Jack Bride, Chris Zajko, and Jayda Karsten)

Some of what I saw and experienced just gave me a good feeling…re-purposing materials, the inventiveness and genius of people and their facility to expand upon their initial concepts into creativity. Some of the work was thought-provoking around many different topics…construction, architecture, reuse, resources, friendship, community.

Part of a glowing room of installations by the Prototype Lab collective — with Dana Schloss at PHANTOM WING: a predemolition project at King Edward School.

Part of a glowing room of installations by the Prototype Lab collective: a pre-demolition project at King Edward School.

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A performance by Sarah Smalik, Sara Tilley, and Jamie Tea inside their Gut-workshipping installation.

A performance by Sarah Smalik, Sara Tilley, and Jamie Tea inside their Gut-workshipping installation.

Suzen Green and Yvonne Mullock's "Politergeist" installation

Suzen Green and Yvonne Mullock’s “Politergeist” installation

Artist: Svea Ferguson

Artist: Svea Ferguson

Viewers in Jennifer Crighton's scary fairy tales installation.

Viewers in Jennifer Crighton’s scary fairy tales installation.

Part of the Waterways installation by Alia Shahab, Ivan Ostapenko, and Lane Shordee, in collaboration with Antyx Youth :a predemolition project at King Edward School.

Part of the Waterways installation by Alia Shahab, Ivan Ostapenko, and Lane Shordee, in collaboration with Antyx Youth :a predemolition project at King Edward School.

The Bells built a bell-installation. Leslie and Chris Bell collected over 50 fire bells over the past few years. The couple  re-purposed the fire bells to create a (relatively) zen, hand-powered sound installation.  The evening at Phantom Wing was spectacular.

Wood Fillin’

I’m excited to have a couple of cribbed panels parked up in the church balcony and this afternoon I got busy filling nail holes and getting their surfaces prepared.  I am repainting two pieces for our church, St. Albert the Great Parish.  They will become some sort of legacy for my friend and priest, Father Kevin Tumback.  This is one way that I can demonstrate appreciation for the support he has given me artistically through the last many years as we’ve built our community.  I painted these pieces first as banners, but with the up and down of them, the surface became damaged and I decided to create something more permanent.

Thanks to another parishioner, Yves, for having built these two panels, 10′ x 6′ in size.  There is no way that I had the financial resources to have these constructed, so in this, I am also truly blessed!  I hope to capture these images in process as they reveal themselves to me and I give gratitude and honour to our Lord who inspires all art within me.  It is for his glory that I paint.

Luke 22:19

19  And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

 

Matthew 4

The Temptation of Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

During that time the devil[a] came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,

‘People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’[c]

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’[d]

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.’[e]

11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

April 2, 2012 3:30 p.m. Weather 12 degrees, sunshine and some cloud.  It was a beautiful day at the park!  Max and I took our time, clearing out plastics and packaging from the south edge of the pond and up on the north slope, edging on the road.  I enjoyed the sense of life and energy, every direction I looked.

Do people really have to trash their water bottles?

I received correspondence today from both SFCRA and Chandos and I’m glad about the response on both fronts.  From Chandos Health and Safety Manager… 

I am just emailing you to let you know that I have coordinated a team of our staff to help tomorrow clean-up the area around South Fish Creek Arena. We will be starting around 7am tomorrow morning and should get it all completed best we can by end of day. When I say best we can I mean that some debris that may be in the dirt may be left until our landscape phase that will happen in 2-3weeks time. Otherwise I hope we can give you back the clean park you had.

And from the Assistant General Manager of the South Fish Creek Recreation Association,

I can assure you that we do take this issue seriously.  As mentioned last night, SFCRA has budgeted for & scheduled a staff member whose specific duty is to clean the outside property and parking lot.  We appreciate the work you have been doing; and look forward to a cleaner spring & summer season at our newly expanded facility! 

My Mother’s Hands Have Made…

Advent…and I think of my mother and father every day.  This morning, before setting out on my hill-walk with Max, I have uploaded just a few photos of things that my mother has done with her hands over the years.  I have some other items to share…her sewing and her crafts, but this is a beginning.  My mother’s hands have been busy…and the fruits of her labour have been beautiful, enriching all of our lives.  Little did she know as she made these things, that her children would be treasuring them always.  As I lit my first purple advent candle this Sunday, I thought of Mom, Dad and my sister and brothers.  I love you, dear family.

My Mother's Letters 1970s

 My mother wrote me beautiful descriptive letters.  In this letter, dated September of 1974, she described the changes in the Catholic church, St. Patricks, in Sherbrooke, Quebec.  She described my little sister as she was the flower girl for my auntie’s wedding.  Mom had a way of bringing me close to her heart, even though I was at such a distance.

Detail

 Mom described how she was preparing for yet another bazaar for her church…something that she did each and every year right about this time.  She ‘worked herself to the bone’, she would say…and she did.  Now days, surprisingly enough, I almost feel that her urgency was coming from a place deep within her.  I didn’t know that at the time.

Cross Stitch Reflections

 Mom’s stitches were so even, so careful.  She did several cross stitch pieces…it was a phase she went through.  So many years ago, when we were very young, she did very tiny petit points.  I marvelled at her patience.

Loom Weaving

 It broke my mother and father’s hearts when Mom had to let go of her weaving loom.  It represented better times…it represented Mom’s joy of weaving…of good health.  Mom’s weaving was very special to her.  I still marvel that she could figure out how to set the warp strands.

Detail

 Mom was ALWAYS knitting.  She knit each member of the family an irish knit sweater, toques, scarves and winter hats of every variety!  Some of her patterns for hats were so bizarre that I used to really wonder about them! I remember one that was like a latticed pumpkin pie and another, a vertically striped stocking hat…just where did she get these ideas?  I did not appreciate or treasure these objects enough and would give anything to still own one of them so that I could give them to my daughters.

By My Mother's Hands

 This is a profoundly complicated pattern…but something that my mother gifted to me.  I will treasure it always!

Sleeve Detail

 While most were going to the wicker store to purchase their baskets, my mother was weaving her own.  She learned several different techniques and then work shopped and taught others.  While Mom and Dad lived in Brampton, Ontario, I remember visiting and having Mom teach me how to prepare, soak and weave in this manner.

Authentic Weaving By My Mother's Hands

 This was Mom and Dad’s Easter gift to me…

Detail

 Corn husk dolls were something that my mother created, with a flourish.  These little ladies, as well as many other folk art pieces filled her home and provided generous gifts for family and friends.  While there are many other hand-crafted items that Mom created, these photos capture a wee taste of my mother’s abilities.  I love and cherish my mother’s hands!

Corn Husk Doll