A Day Spent With Laura Vickerson

The Esker Foundation opened its doors for a sculpture workshop on Saturday. Working with concepts and cardboard, the day was a celebration of invention.  Laura Vickerson met with us, first, in the darkened theater where our eyes feasted on a collection of images; sculptures created by former students.  I have never thought in three dimensions and signed up for this workshop as a way of moving out of my comfort zone and into space and form.

(I also forgot my camera.)

I wish that I had photographs of the cyclone of cardboard pieces!  The Esker had all materials and tools nicely laid out upon our arrival…caddies filled with straight edges and X-Acto knives, saws and such….stacks of cardboard boxes of every sort…a glue gun section with generous loads of glue sticks.  It was a dream come true for a creative!  WHOOT!

As preparation, on Friday evening, I perused Laura Vickerson’s website and thought a little about paper.  I’ve been working extensively on genealogy and knew that I would be dealing with memory, nostalgia and family some how…blood lines, as inspired by several authors I’ve been reading, memoir.  I just didn’t know what would be happening.

I also read snippetts on line from a context that Laura would be using as motivation for the work, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

“You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.”
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

“The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.”
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

As I went about the house harvesting my own collection of boxes, I knew that the labels were very distracting to me and wanted, already, to minimize the messages that were so dominant AND irritating.  I knew in the morning that I would bring along my bucket of gesso...and even applied a first layer to some boxes before eating my breakfast and while drinking my first coffee.

In the dark theater, I liked the topographical handling of foam core in a few of the student works we saw.  Given more time, I really wanted to build a model of land forms in just that way, but knew that it would be a monumental task for a single day.

The sort of impact I would like to create...given more time.

The sort of impact I would like to create…given more time.

Laura was very supportive.  In her first go-round she seemed to be most interested in observing whether or not we would be using the tools safely.  I know that I would be nervous in a room surrounded by artists carrying knives.  Gradually we all hit our groove…once the anxiety around ‘an idea’ filtered out and we tore into the experience.

Thanks to Doug Haslam and Esker Foundation for taking photographs of my sculpture.

Sculpture Kath 3

Photo Credit: Doug Haslam and Esker Foundation

Sculpture Kath 4

Photo Credit: Doug Haslam and Esker Foundation

Sculpture - Kath

Photo Credit: Doug Haslam and Esker Foundation

Sculpture Kath 2

Photo Credit: Doug Haslam and Esker Foundation.

I could not help but look around me and marvel at the huge variety of approaches that were taken.  I was so impressed with some folk and their ability to manipulate the materials to create crisp, balanced forms.  While my piece feels unfinished, I am delighted with the direction it was taking and with the sorts of things that I learned about myself through the process.

Thanks to Laura Vickerson for her inspiring session and for listening to me as I muddled my way along.  So generous!

I Did It My Way!

All in a Day's Work! June 25, 2011

It’s been days since writing and I wanted to let my readers know what I’ve been up to.  As per usual, I forgot to take a BEFORE photo of the backyard…let me look in my archives and see what I can find! 

Boardwalk to the Studio

Ah yes…here is a wee photo before building my boardwalk!  And yes, I did it myself!  It’s fun to look back and see the transformation!  And, apart from building the deck, I did all of the physical labour, myself!  From the beginning, I dreamed of having a place where I could grow both veggies and flowers.

My parents had always been the most remarkable gardeners!  Growing up with that experience certainly caused me to love being outdoors in the evenings, picking weeds before they became baobabs. And it is certainly one of the most relaxing times of the day, sipping a coffee in a backyard garden, while checking on the changes there.  I learned so much while building my first raised bed and purchased a good level, sledge hammer and got into buying neat drill bits of all sorts, so that I could pre-drill holes and set my reebar.

First Raised Bed

From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to plant ground cover and I am an avid rock collector, always have been and I wanted to display a variety of flat rock that came from many special places.

Initially, we set them out in dirt and through time I became really frustrated with the constant issue of weeds that grew up and interspersed with the ground cover and this is why, this spring, I decided to revise the layout of the back yard.  One of the problems was also, that I had placed our veggie garden down the center.  This was just NOT aesthetically sensible, although, highly functional!

Cayley and Mud Pies

My daughter, Cayley, was a ‘treasure’ as she created a patchwork of leveled rock in our first attempt.  It was so beautiful how the yard was changing!

Sometimes I consider moving into a smaller home, but as I look at the history of this place, it would be a very difficult thing to do.  We have created so many stories here, as a family!

Hmmm….I have to race off to church…more later! ;0)  (Funny how writing always carries me away!)  Ok….so, I’m back.  This is how the rocks looked before the ground cover and the weeds took over!  I can’t find a photograph of this overgrowth, likely because I really didn’t like it!  It didn’t matter how often I weeded, I couldn’t keep up.  Now that I hope to do a bit more traveling, I need something with less maintenance and so now I’ve floated the rocks on a bed of cedar shavings.  I love the smell of cedar and this is a big reminder of my Dad’s vegetable garden near Frankford, Ontario.

Cremona Rock: Step Down

It’s so much fun going through the old archives of this project!  The rocks were gathered up from Jack Pot, Nevada, the Teton River’s edge and a whole myriad of places from here to Mexico.  There are many memories, experiences and stories tied up with this garden!

The boardwalk was finished up.  When we visited my grandparents in the Magrath area, Grampa would take us out to the Hutterite Colonies in order to finish off his wool orders.  I loved the sound of shoes on  boardwalks. The buildings on the Colonies were edged with boardwalks and I remember that this is where mothers brushed out their daughters’ long hair, all bathed in evening-light. 

 As well, didn’t you love the sound of cowboy boots on boardwalks in those old cowboy- movies we used to see at the theaters?  Everything in my garden resonates with me!  I hold on to these stories because they cause me such happiness!   

Studio Boardwalk

When I moved here, the backyard was an empty canvas…clay overrun with weeds.  It has gradually become my oasis.  Since I tackled this project  on my own, it became a source of enjoyment.

Now, I love to spend time watching the birds at the bird-feeder and putting the finishing touches on things.  The catoni asters are no longer tiny sticks in the far left corner, instead they are becoming a frame for my ‘reading space’, a work still in progress.  I looked at early photographs of May, my Mayday tree, and now she stretches her arms up and becomes a place for the birds to rest.

As I move back into my day, curling up to a good book on a sunny afternoon, I am going to include  poetry by my favourite poet, e. e. cummings.  It is a poetic-sort of moment for me.

Laurie-dog Hangs Out