Inspired by our January felting & looming workshop at Leola’s Studio, Renaissance Woman Sheila challenged the rest of us to commit to creating art every day for a month.
We thought it was a great idea, and each signed up for a few days in February. (Not coincidentally, the shortest month of the year …)
As a result, 28 pieces of art were created by our collective of members. On March 2 we came together at Teafarm to celebrate Art Month and “show and tell” our work.
Here are our creations:
Love is in the Air, by Sheila Ie:
A homemade-from-scratch Thai dinner, by Cindy J:
A springtime necklace, by Patti Talbot:
Some subversive cross stitch, by me:
A soother clip, made by Kim K:
Daffodils by Kim K — one of our photographers:
“Morning Cupcake, Any Way I like It,” by Sheila Ie:
Tessa says: “I gave myself a one hour time limit and the task of creating a thank-you card for a friend.”
Brenda says: “I like to create small spaces for special things in my home and office. This is my Wild Woman corner that I have had in every office for a decade – my ‘wild woman’ does not like sitting in front of a computer all day, so I give her things to play with while I am working. I just made this one yesterday in my new office – I change it up from time to time just to keep things fun.”
Maeve says: Acrylic on canvas paper. First time painting with something other than children’s washable paints. I call it “What my heart looks like on the inside when I watch my daughters dance an Irish jig in their pyjamas.”
Cindy J’s art: “It is wet felted and finished with needle felting. My inspiration was drawn from the amazing new energy and growth being brought forth by spring, so appropriately titled Spiralling Energy.”
My 2nd art day! I gave myself an art moment by attending one of the Writers on Campus poetry readings. It was WONDERFUL to hear poetry in Duncan. Here are some of my favourite lines from Patrick Friesen tonight:
“I felt like I was walking over a plowed field.”
“You come home with stones from the beach and then you wonder why you bothered.”
” . . . naked in your green dress . . .”
“I don’t like long cars. They hold a human like a tiny seed.”
Also, the word “anaphora.”
Preschooler Valentines by Sheila Ie, made with construction paper, tissue, glue:
Patti says: Meet “Florencia,” my beautiful piece of turquoise seaglass found at Florencia Beach, Tofino. I made a lovely cage for her out of copper.
“Tofino Dream Catcher,” by Patti:
To the mountains! we declared.
A roaring midnight fever
silenced our call.
This rare February day
so bathed in sunshine,
now spent indoors
snuggled on a couch
with books tottering
piled high on blanket folds.
We took council by the fire
with chicken soup
and stories of camping
years past and those to come.
And tonight I sit in gratitude
for tottering books
and this messy life
with her gifts
of unexpected pauses
and so full of fevered blessings.
Maeve playing “Chariots of Fire” on the piano with video footage of her amazing daughters:
For my 3rd art day I experimented with hand-quilting designs, using some drawn designs and some freehand. I usually just stitch the seams of my quilts (straight lines), but after seeing Angie’s designs on one of her quilts I was inspired to try this. This quilt has been my “play” quilt — I used it to learn how to hand-stitch curved pieces.
Front of quilt (look carefully to see the yellow thread …):
Katie made fridge magnets featuring Bruce Springsteen. She says: “The picture of him in the toque is from 1975, the year Born to Run came out.”
Angie says this about her quilt: “I’ve been working on it since November, with a fabric line called Botany. It’s my first full quilt, and a whole lot more work than I had anticipated (I thought it would be done for Christmas, which is so comical they could make a movie about it). I used a shot glass for the circle patterns, a ruler for the lines and a leaf template for the, well, the leaves Today, to make sure I was doing something arty and specific to to our goal of trying something new, I changed up my pattern for the edge (gasp!), which I was going to leave plain, and did some crazy freestyle.”
“When the dog bites, when the bee stings,” by Heather K. (mixed media collage)
Sheila Z. calls this ”The Art of Thrifting.” She says: “a roll of salvaged vintage upholstery webbing, a thrifted hanger, and a creation to chart your little bundle of love’s growth.”
Pressed flowers from last summer made into tiny fairy cards made Linda D:
Heather K says: “This is what happens when the dog wakes the baby from his nap, the one you were counting on to make some art! This was co-created by myself and daughter Sami after a family hike down to the water where we found the driftwood. It’s called “fairy seahorse”. Her vision; I merely followed instructions.”
Cindy J says:
Yoga! I feel an hour and a half practice is most definitely an artistic expression. And since I cannot share this visually with you (thank goodness), here are some of my feelings, emotional and physical, during yesterday’s art of the practice of yoga:
holy moly I can’t hold this any longer
Namaste, my Renaissance sisters.
When one of our members was unable to art it up, Sheila Z. came to rescue with this snazzy magazine holder. She made it using burlap from the same roll she turned into her February 22 art, plus a thrift shop-ed frame (shown on the top left). Final product is on the right!
“Jewelry Graveyard Resurrection,” by Tessa.
She says: “My art tonight was taking a few broken necklaces, and mending and mixing them together to make a new one! Many of my ‘art’ projects are often more creative repair projects.”
“Quick trip on a Rocket Ship,” by Sheila Ie (Oil Pastel, Chalk Pastel, Black Ink Pen, Illustration Marker, Paper 2013)
To share in the adventure and cheer on our members, please join our Renaissance Women Facebook group!Continue Reading »
I grew up in a small town with a spectacular thrift store. It was run by the local Hospital Ladies Auxiliary, and I vaguely remember lining up with a crowd of shoppers in the entrance-way of the pharmacy in anticipation of their weekly opening. A little old lady would open the door, hug the wall, and we’d race down the stairs to the thrift shop in the basement.
T-shirts went for 25 cents. Pants for a dollar. My hometown was rife with hippies-turned-yuppies and there were wonderful clothes on those shelves: threadbare shirts with fun slogans from all across North America, polyester and velour pants. My three favourite shirts had a logo from the Slack Alice, the words “World’s Greatest Dad,” and an ice cream cone with the slogan “Lick it. You’ll like it.” (I’ve always been a shit-disturber.)
Once I left home for the University of Victoria, my love affair with thrift stores ended. I browsed Value Village but couldn’t handle the prices. Twenty dollars for a used shirt? Seriously? So I wore my high school thrift shop finds until they wore out, then stuck to the malls.
But this Christmas I had a reawakening.
We had an End of the Year party with friends. Our host and hostess have an actual style to their home decor, as opposed to the cluttered functionality of Brock and my possessions. Sheila gave us a tour of their living room and told us the stories of their knickknacks. The vintage bar cart that they longed for, and finally found at an antiques place in Chemainus. The 1960s cocktail glasses for which Sheila hunted, for months, until she found the right ones to match her husband’s Madmen aesthetic.
We were awed by the treasures Sheila had collected: by the stories of how and where and why Sheila had rescued them. We wanted in.
So earlier this week Sheila took me and our friend Angie thrifting. We started with an antique store, to help us get an eye for the different eras and what was considered a “find.” We saw a lot of kitchenware that looked like corn cobs. Apparently ducks are a cultural meme.
Then Sheila let us loose on some thrift stores, and we practiced seeing diamonds in the rough.
I didn’t bother with t-shirts this time, but did score some plant pots — a very functional investment for our farm. Sheila lured me into seeing the beauty of a vase. (Which I bought because it will serve our farm stand well, should we decide to sell cut flowers. Practicality is a hard habit to break.)
Angie scored a beautiful old dish set that, according to Google, looks like it could be worth ten times its thrift store price.
And Sheila found a story in two gold-teardrop lamps, their beauty masked by mismatched lamp shades. She will undoubtedly restore these finds to their original beauty, or paint them and make them even better.
In this age of consumerism and throw-away materialism, there is something satisfying about rubbing the dust off something in a pile and finding gold.
I overheard two men in the Chemainus thrift store talking about things they’d donated to the store while browsing. Thrift stores create a cycle — instead of objects having a beginning and an end (usually in a landfill), they are reborn into new homes again and again. Having furniture and dishes and lamps and t-shirts with a story behind them make them more than just possessions. They become something to write about.Continue Reading »
I write a column for The Winnipeg Review, an online literary magazine. My fifth column was published November 22, 2012 and is online here.
My partner Brock, a full-time vegetable farmer, spends his work day lifting heavy tubs of carrots, yanking out overgrown weeds and balancing precariously on ladders to build greenhouses.
Surprisingly, I was the one injured this summer.Continue Reading »
I was jonesing for a kitchen project this weekend so finally tried something on my bucket list: making a sourdough starter from scratch.
Sourdough bread is my absolute favourite, with its chewy moistness and subtle sour aroma. I usually feed my addiction by investing in $5 loaves from some of the Cowichan Valley’s many amazing bakers, but (like heroin) that quickly becomes an expensive habit. So every few years I decide I’m going to bake our own bread. In 2008 that meant adopting Brock’s parents’ breadmaker. I used yeast from a jar and we endured a few of my fresh-and-organic-but-not-as-good-as-store-bread loaves. Once we started going to farmer’s markets regularly we discovered artisan bread, which is usually made with starters and not dried yeast, and we were no longer able to settle for anything less.
in 2011, our Renaissance Women group shortlisted bread-making as a skill we wanted to learn, and some of our members taught us their secrets. These breads involved a yeast starter that had fermented overnight (“poolish”), and a sourdough starter that Tessa had maintained for years after being gifted it by her baking mentor in France. I kept my starter, Sabrina, alive for months, but eventually my daily commuting to work in Victoria made it too difficult to service her needs: living starters need to be fed flour and water at least once a week. Sabrina died a grey, stinky death.
This weekend I atoned for her murder by creating life where before there was none, simply by following the instructions in my much-beloved Joy of Cooking:
- Stir together 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup barely lukewarm water in a non-metal bowl.
- Knead or stir it for 3-5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
- Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then poke 5 holes in the plastic with the tip of a sharp knife.
- Let stand away at room temperature away from drafts for 12-15 hours.
After 12 hours the dough looked the same, which is normal. So I stirred in another 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water.
According to Joy of Cooking, my dough should have needed another feeding at 12 hours before resting for 24 hours, but I neglected my starter-in-progress while working and sleeping: about 18 hours later I woke to find my dough bubbling. Yay!!
Bubbles mean that my flour + water dough collected enough wild yeast from the air in our tiny house that the yeasts were able to reproduce. As the starter continues to ferment, bacteria will also reproduce and make my starter “sour” (which is what I want, so I can make sourdough).
I took a picture in celebration, then fed my new pet another 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water and covered it with plastic wrap (without holes this time). After one more feeding, my starter should smell slightly sour. It will hopefully have developed enough leavening strength for me to use it to make bread. I will keep my starter in a jar in the fridge, then take her out once a week to feed her and make a few loaves of bread or pizza dough.
Making the bread, of course, is a whole other challenge. I don’t want my starter to die again, but that requires using my starter to make bread at least once a week. Also, my hands are still gibbled from having uber-bad tendonitis this summer, and it is very difficult for me to knead bread properly. Luckily, it’s winter and Brock will be inside more — and he has the hand-strength to knead dough. So maybe our pet starter will prosper until the spring.
But say she does die, or the Apocalypse comes and we can no longer buy dried yeast at Thrifty’s. I now know I can make my own starter using just flour and water. I can make dough bubble, just like my great-grandparents could, before our society decided that individuals didn’t need to be bothered with that knowledge.
Reclaiming that knowledge this weekend tastes as good as the most expensive artisan sourdough bread, oven-warm and buttered.Continue Reading »
I write a column for The Winnipeg Review, an online literary magazine. My fourth column was published June 27, 2012 and is online here.
I crave an apocalypse. Not the sort where the earth implodes, or even the kind that wipes out half the population and creates a Lord of the Flies society. I want an apocalypse where we no longer have electricity, fossil fuels or chequing accounts. (Okay, maybe I’m not pro-apocalypse: maybe I’m just a Luddite.) For years I’ve felt that our decadent, hedonistic North American society is a single Jenga block away from collapse. Call it “peak oil” or “climate change” or “I can’t afford to stay home with my new baby because child care is cheaper than me not working”— call it whatever you want. We’ve built a tower so high that we can’t remember how or why we started. I want to see what happens when the pieces fall and we have to rebuild.
p.s. I’m not the only one.Continue Reading »
Want to know how it feels to have a dream, work really hard at it for a long time, and then have that dream come true?
It feels amazing.
I’ve wanted to write books since I was five. I know that because I have an illustrated flipbook I made in kindergarten that says: “When I grow up, I want to … write books.” Despite being an uber-responsible eldest child, I checked the box beside “creative writing” on a whim when filling out my university application form, and then reveled in five years of English literature seminars and fiction workshops with only the occasional panic attack at the thought of making a living post-graduation.
At age 24 I stumbled into a job in “corporate communications” and have sat at a computer for the eight years since. This career could have been a death sentence for my creative writing, and for awhile I did forget that I wanted to write books. Luckily, one day I was bored and depressed and asked Brock: “what’s my purpose in life?” and he said, “I thought it was writing.” And then I remembered.
So for the past two years I’ve been, once again, working on my writing. I started the Renaissance Women and this blog to motivate monthly posts. I found myself a wonderful mentor, Susan L. Scott, a writer and editor who sees themes and angles to my stories that I can then develop. And this year I started writing monthly columns about our life on the farm for The Winnipeg Review, an online literary magazine.
Then, out of nowhere I got an email from New Society Publishers. They saw a need for a book about all the amazing local grain-growing projects in North America, and they wanted me to write it because Brock and I had created the Island Grains project. I slaved over two sample chapters, put together a proposal and eventually signed a contract for my first book deal.
I’ve been writing this book for a month.
And ohmigod, I am so meant to write books.
Sometimes I cry because it feels so right.
And then I feel a bit guilty, because not everyone knows what they are “meant” to do, and because not everyone is lucky enough to have a husband who invents innovative projects like Island Grains that cause publishers to cold-call wannabe writers.
Today I realized (while drafting the book’s introduction) that I am writing in my own voice, for my own purpose, for the first time … ever? I’ve ghost-written for CEOs and government officials, and composed essays to impress my professors. I’ve written confident how-to articles for magazines. I write perky marketing pieces for our farm. But my book is mine — at least until the publishers get it in August — and I don’t have to write in someone else’s voice, or consider brand, or even try to craft a piece of fictional art that literati will appreciate. It’s a story about something I find interesting, and I get to tell it.
(Okay, I just realized that this blog is kinda the same thing. It’s mine to write as I wish. But it’s never inspired the heady feeling of freedom I get with my 60,000 word book.)
I can use the word “apocalypse” as much as I want to.
I can insert a side comment that I think is hilarious.
And, I can start a sentence with “and.”
One more wee story:
I had a panic attack last Sunday. My manuscript is due in 73 days, and I work full-time and commute three days a week: there isn’t a lot of time for me to write. Although weekends are my book-writing time, I committed to making food for a family dinner. I got back from the grocery store, felt a tsunami of guilt from not working on my book, and imploded.
After a good cry and a hug from Brock, I realized that my book is mine (despite the contract and the publisher’s expectations): this is the dream I’ve been working toward for decades, and it is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to be able to write books while also having a life that includes family dinners. So I calmed down, made the food and enjoyed the family time.
I am learning how to live as a writer.
Okay, now back to work.Continue Reading »
I write a column for The Winnipeg Review, an online literary magazine. My third column was published April 9, 2012 and is online here.
On a hot August day a middle-aged Greek man strides through the farmers’ market, sees our sandwich board, and stops to read it again. “Makaria Farm!” he announces, and comes over to my table. “How is it that everywhere there is Hopping Rabbit Farm and Singing Bird Farm, and here you have Makaria Farm?” He is mispronouncing “makaria” but he’s Greek and it’s a Greek word, so it’s probably us who have been mispronouncing it for two generations. Awkward.Continue Reading »
I write a column for The Winnipeg Review, an online literary magazine. My second column was published February 21, 2012 and is online here.
I invented the iPod. I was walking past an antique store and saw a jukebox, and thought: “how amazing, to own a personal jukebox – you could have all your favourite music in it. If only it were portable, so you could take it with you around town.” And then I realized: the iPod. It was 2005 – the iPod had been launched four years earlier.
Once we started our farm Brock and I began to (re)invent all kinds of things. We planted our fruit trees in aesthetically-pleasing locations. When they died from lack of watering, we decided it made sense to plant in rows for easier irrigation – or “orcharding” as this strategy is commonly known. We mourned our rusting tools and exposed equipment, and concluded that what we needed was a very, very large shed. Oh … that’s called a “barn.”
And then I invented the farm wife.Continue Reading »
Re-Skilling in a Virtual Reality …
I’ve never been a gamer. Aside from Mahjong Solitaire and the occasional click through Minesweeper I’ve never been tempted. Perhaps it’s because I already spend the majority of my day staring down a computer screen, so when I earn a free evening or weekend I prefer to debate philosophy with my sweetie (e.g. “is there objective truth?”) or sip a crantini while reading Can-lit.
A casual conversation with my friend Kate introduced me to Glitch.com, a multi-player virtual world created by Tiny Speck where players “learn” skills that allow them to interact in progressively more interesting ways with the pigs, trees, barnacles, fireflies, etc. that populate the game. (Note: I’m justifying this blog post with the “skills” bit.)
An innocent foray into this alternate universe one evening led to Glitch becoming my new favourite past-time. (Along with Twin Peaks, courtesy of Netflix.) Within a week I’d logged 11 hours as a glitchling and found a new passion: bootlegging, courtesy of a virtual still and backyard patch of potatoes and corn. Now, three weeks later, I’m at level 19 and am mastering Teleportation III, which will make it even easier to move from my homestead in Groddle Forest to the Community Herb Gardens and the caverns of Ilmenski Deeps where I can collect the guano I need to make Raw Bio-Organic Carob-ish Treats.
Here’s why I think I have fallen in love with a computer game:
- Intellectually stimulating down-time.
- Community & Eco-ness.
- No pixels wasted on cleavage or muscles.
Intellectually stimulating down-time
Glitch offers interactive escape. Unlike TV, which is passive, Glitch requires that you interact with its virtual world (at your own pace and schedule). Every time I play, I do something new. I’ve gone on a vision quest, hunted down eight ghosts, attended a farmers’ market and crashed a party for miners. (I’ve also re-learned a whole lotta polysyllabic words that I haven’t heard since UVic. Glitch is a logophile’s dream.)
As you explore the world of Ur, learn more skills, finish more quests, and interact with its various inhabitants, you earn “experience points.” So true to life. So true.
Because of little touches like that, I often get the feeling that there’s some intellectual in the backroom, giggling. Why else do I have to stomp grapes to redeem myself when I “die” in the game? What’s up with that? Glitch’s founder, Stewart Butterfield, has a Master in Philosophy from Cambridge. I can smell his brain when I walk the desert streets of Xalanga and am almost overwhelmed with Ancestral Nostalgia.
One last point under this bold heading … I have yet to find a typo in Glitch.
Community & Eco-ness
Yes, I said it: there’s a farmers’ market in Glitch. It’s organized by an everyday glitching, not Tiny Speck’s programmers. There’s also a grassroots-founded community kitchen and a welcome wagon. Community gardens and communal Machine Rooms are part of the landscape.
Another cool community-building strategy: the quests in Glitch encourage and reward cooperation. You can give gifts and “bestow random kindness” on your fellow players. And if you’re a newcomer to the game, watch out: you will be inundated with presents from the veterans.
The Glitch “community” extends to its flora and fauna: trees must be “pet” and watered to stay alive. A “save the wood trees” (this is not redundant in Glitch) movement began because some plank-greedy players were clear-cutting.
There is a bizarre, logical-if-you-don’t-think-too-much interconnectedness in this virtual world. For example: to make cheese you first massage a butterfly, then milk it, then shake the milk and compress the resulting butter. Note that you have to massage a butterfly first: you must give before you can receive. You can also get meat from pigs without having to kill them, as long as you pet them nicely first.
Most computer and video games I’ve seen feature practically bare-breasted women with DD-cups, and men whom I doubt read novels. Why would I want to play a game like that, where I get points for killing people? As you’ll note from my portrait above, glitchlings look more like kids playing dress-up. And there are some very cool clothes to dress up in.
Come to think of it, Glitch is a lot like the golden days of kindergarten. You can dress up, explore amazing new worlds, make friends, and do pretty much anything you can imagine, from teleporting to making potions to starting a business. You can also bootleg hootch and mix martinis … it’s no wonder I’m hooked.
I write a column for The Winnipeg Review, an online literary magazine. My first column was published January 18, 2012 and is online here.
In the spring of 2007 we decided that our city life would not be enough, no matter how many karaoke parties we hosted.
Brock and I were renting the penthouse of a twenty-second storey building on the West Coast: if there was a perfect place to be, this was it. Our balcony was the size of most city dweller’s condos, with an uninterrupted view of the Georgia Strait and Beacon Hill Park. We were in our late twenties, had university degrees and good government jobs, and had found each other: we’d done everything we’d been told to do, and were living the dream. Or at least, the dream we thought we were supposed to have.Continue Reading »