Subtitle: Ever So Slightly More Confident Than Last Year

My Mom is a great gardener.  Back when I was a teacher and owned a little house she would encourage me to just “pull a few weeds every time you walk past the garden”.  Somehow that never happened.  Neither did cutting the lawn.  Or planting anything.  I know that my neighbours felt sorry for me because they would comment on how dedicated I was to my job while glancing at my overgrown yard.  (Or maybe they were judging me?  I bet they were judging me.  And secretly wishing I would fix up the yard so that their property values would stop falling.)

That was a long time ago and I’m clearly a different person now because few things are bringing me as much joy these days as the ecstasy of ripping out dandelions.  Don’t get me wrong: the weeds are most definitely winning, but I’m going to fight the good fight.  Or get a blow torch.  I might do that.

garden wide shot

I spent some time adjusting the shape of the front garden because it seemed a little pointy to me and a perfect semi-circle is just nicer.  The husband refused to offer his opinion of the merits of semi-circular gardens or help with moving the rocks.  The word “crazy” may have escaped his lips.

garden day lilies

These Day Lilies came all the way from Parry Sound last fall and were the only thing I felt sure would reappear after the winter.  In front is a little bit of Bee Balm – have you ever smelled it?! – from our friend Collin down the road, also known as He Of The Most Beautiful Garden In All The Land.  Have I also mentioned that almost everything in here was free?  I bought a couple of Delphiniums but am fairly certain I’ll be able to kill them before the end of the summer.

garden violets

Our yard is full of Violets.  They are the only thing really duking it out with the dandelions.  For realsies, there is barely any grass in our yard.  It gave up a long time ago.  Some folks might find Violets annoying because they are so pervasive/invasive, but I really like them.  Their foliage is gorgeous.  And they’re pretty hard to kill.  Also hard to kill are the Forget Me Nots I planted from seeds given to me by the K-W Alzheimer’s Society.  Funny thing, though, none of them sprouted where I planted them.  The majority of them came up in the back yard.  Thank you, squirrels, for letting me know where your toilet is.  Several have now been transplanted back out front where I put them in the first place.  Violets + Forget Me Nots = no room for dandelions.  Voracious blue flowers are where it’s at, baby.

hostas

And most exciting of all – wow, am I ever a dork! – the Hostas all survived!   I’m hoping they get ginormous.  Like, really, really, monstrously big.  (The husband was more willing to help out with these since all I asked him to do was pee in the general area to discourage the deer from nibbling at them)

So, what do you think, Mom?  Getting there, hey?!  Oh, and is this an Iris or something from a horror movie I should be afraid of:

IMG_0283

The little cottage has been buried under mounds of fabric for the past few weeks – I’ve been working on a custom duvet cover and pillow shams for Russell Red Guest House.  Just down the road from us, the whole place is a real head-turner.  The landscaping is outstanding and the guest house is completely adorable.

Owners Collin and Dan have undertaken some updates this Spring including the addition of a kitchenette fashioned from a vintage bakery counter.  I was thrilled that they asked me to sew them some new bedding to help bring together the “new look”.  I can’t take credit for the creative vision behind the design – that was all Collin.

custom duvet cover and pillow shams

Ready for the Victoria Day long weekend!

The fabric is hand stamped with black bears – one of my new designs that will be appearing on many pillow covers asap.  Can’t wait to hear what their guests think of it!

Every year as spring slowly approaches T.S. Elliot’s “The Wasteland” rings in my head.

“April is the cruelest month…”

Crueler still if you live in Haliburton, apparently.  Earlier in the month I was full of confidence that I’d make the submission deadlines I was aiming for (I didn’t) and that winter would recede reasonably soon (it didn’t).  The intense longing for more sunshine and warmer temps made their absence that much more heart wrenching.  If there was ever a month that I seriously considered walking naked into the forest to let it just take me, this April is it.

And yet, some wonderful things are happening.  I’ve been working with a friend on writing an exhibition proposal  that is full of exciting ideas – and probably has more promise than the individual submissions I was working towards.  As the snow recedes we have daily visitors,

deer12

and in the last week we’ve heard loon calls every night and morning.  The day lilies I planted in the fall are emerging and we had our first campfire of the year.  The cottage makeover continues as well:

kickplate during

Not to mention that the curse of folks being thwarted in their attempts to visit us has been lifted since my wonderful and intrepid friend Alex survived the trek up from K-W this past weekend.

April has served to really articulate the horrible and fantastic things that go along with living in cottage country.  There have been moments when we were ready to give up and head back to “the city” but there have been just as many that encouraged us to stay.  We survived the winter.  We are looking forward to the summer.  April is almost over.

"I didn't want to mention it, but black fly season is just around the corner..."

“I didn’t want to mention it, but black fly season starts in May…”

Just a few quick process shots while we wait for the temp to rise a little bit more before heading out for our morning walk:

Tone on tone stitching

Tone on tone stitching – the threads aren’t pink, they’re just photographing that way…

French knots and chain stitch

French knots and chain stitch

The urge to change or update my living space is always with me.  It’s a constant in my life, like gravity.  Spending the vast majority of my time inside this little cottage has only made the urges more intense.  Add to that the unrelenting winter that we have all suffered through and you have a serious case of cabin decor fever.

So I awoke one morning with the genius idea to dip dye the living room curtains.  They are almost fifteen years old – originally purchased from Pier 1 Imports back when I was a single girl.  They’ve held up remarkably well, but abuse from pets and a decade’s worth of sun exposure have taken their toll.  A little ombre dye job was just the thing needed to extend their life a little longer, and frankly a little injection of colour would help take the edge off the vista of lingering snow banks on the other side of the window.

Pre-calamity curtains

Pre-calamity curtains

“This will make a great blog post,” I thought to myself as I happily photographed the “before” shot and set to marking out where I wanted the variations in the ombre to be, lining up the transitions with the horizontal lines formed by the window panes.  I used a measuring tape and everything, for god’s sake.

curtains taped

“It’s just good, thoughtful design,” I thought to my smug self.

The department store in town didn’t have a huge selection of fabric dye to choose from so in order to create the “Light Teal” transitioning to “Gorgeously Deep Lime Green” ombre I’d have to mix blue and yellow dye together.  No biggee, I work with fabrics all the time and have years and years of summer camp tie dye experience.  Arrogant fool.

I suspect that the dye had been sitting on the shelf for a while.  The blue was suspiciously purple-brown when I tested it.  Anyone who knows colour theory knows that when you add yellow to purple you get “a neutral”, in other words, greyish browny goop colour.  Not light teal or gorgeously deep lime green.  I ended up with what looked like a half decent sage green and decided it wasn’t terrible and that I’d dye the curtains anyway.

Not that bad...OK, pretty bad...Basically not good at all

Not that bad…OK, pretty bad…Basically not good at all

There was no way to mix a more intense version of this colour since the further I got towards the bottom of the “blue” dye the murkier it got.  Don’t get me wrong – I tried to keep going.  At one point I almost convinced myself that “Goose Dropping Grey Green” would be fine.  I even went so far as to rehang the curtains, just to see how they’d look.

At which point, the husband came home.

You have to imagine his face, staring in through the bay window as he came up the steps, with an expression that I could only interpret as “what the hell did she do” mixed with “be supportive”.  He was in the door for less than a minute before we were laughing at how unbelievably ugly the curtains were and how I took something totally fine and just wrecked it.  Like, really wrecked it.  I couldn’t bring myself to photograph them while still hanging, I’m that embarrassed.

So, now there are no curtains on the bay window, which means that I have an excellent view of the melting snow and everyone outside has an excellent view of me writing this blog.

curtains bagged

Several calls for submission landed in my inbox last week – exciting except for the deadlines that are all sooner than I’d like!  I decided to get started on my next piece so that I could submit some process shots for the calls that allow for proposed work vs completed work.

Part of the proposal I submitted to the OAC involved “inserting” boteh (paisley) shapes into tartan fabric.  Without grant funding I can’t tackle a large-scale project like the one I proposed but there’s nothing stopping me from experimenting with the techniques on a smaller scale.

This time I’ll be using silk threads on wool fabric, another play on the intersection of two cultures.  My goal is to be more spontaneous with the stitching in order to create the appearance of natural “growth”.  ie: the shapes won’t be completely filled in and will have a “patchy” appearance, and the stitching will be imperfect.

Here’s a little step by step of the process… I like to call it “Tartan Surgery”

Wrong side - non-fusible interfacing on both pieces helped the fabric keep its shape during surgery

Wrong side – non-fusible interfacing on both pieces helped the fabric keep its shape during surgery

After a whole whack of basting around the edges the pieces are pinned together.  The section for the boteh was cut at 90 degrees so that the tartan could be inserted "at odds with itself"

After a whole whack of basting around the edges the pieces were pinned together. The section for the boteh was cut at 90 degrees so that the tartan could be inserted “at odds with itself”

Step One: A ladder stitch on the right side of the fabric.  Step Two: Released the basting and then worked a running stitch, as small as I could make it, around the entire edge.

Step One: A ladder stitch was sewn on the right side of the fabric. Step Two: Released the basting and then worked a running stitch, as small as I could make it, around the entire edge.

Right side after lots of ironing.  The boteh shapes were basted by tracing the stitches around the pattern drawn on the interfacing.  Time to embroider!

Right side after lots of ironing. The boteh shapes were basted by tracing the stitches around the pattern drawn on the interfacing. Time to embroider!

 

Small town economies are funny things.  Take pizza, for example.  If you want to get take out pizza in the H’burt you can go to 241 Pizza on the main drag or you can try your luck at some of the restaurants within a 50 km radius.  I’m not kidding.  The husband brought home a pizza last night from the next little town up the highway, at least a 30 minute drive away, for which he paid $24.  There just aren’t enough people here to warrant more pizza options and the cost of bringing ingredients up from the larger city-based distributors means the prices are pretty steep.  I’ll save the discussion of quality for another time.

So you can imagine what the job market looks like here.  The majority of jobs fit into one of three categories: tourism/hospitality, nursing/healthcare, and construction/contracting.  Oh, and then there are the folks who retired up here to their cottages.  If, like me, you aren’t employable in these fields and weren’t financially savy enough to be able to retire at 35 then you’re left to fend for yourself.

This brings us to self-employment.  But, we must remember the pizza lesson.  There just isn’t a large enough population here to support a lot of businesses.  Many shops and restaurants cater heavily to cottagers during the summer in an effort to make enough money to sustain their business over twelve months on the revenue generated in four.  Come Labour Day, most businesses switch to “winter hours”, ie: reducing operations to just a few days a week.  Any entrepreneurial effort that relies primarily on the local population to survive will be bound to this same rhythm of summer frenzy and winter hibernation.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I’ve been thinking very carefully about launching an e-commerce based business.  I’ve been experimenting with throw pillow cover designs made from hand stamped fabrics, trying to suss out whether selling them online could become a viable business.  There are several plusses to working online rather than via a brick and mortar shop.  The first, of course, is rent.  Right now I can work totally out of the little cottage which keeps overhead costs really low.  Second is the somewhat transient nature of the husband’s employment.  To this point in our marriage we’ve averaged four years in every place we’ve lived.  I can’t imagine putting in all the work required to open a retail space to then leave a year later when the next great hotel opportunity comes up.

So that’s where things are at!  It’s time to decide if I’ll use an online marketplace like Etsy or if I’ll launch my own website.  And the search for wholesale fabric sources has begun but will require a few trips into the city.  (The REAL city: Toronto.  Not the fakey-fakey city: Lindsay)

In the meantime, here’s a little peek at how some of the designs are shaping up.  I’d love your feedback!  This counts as market research, after all!

Bear pattern being stamped onto cotton twill

Bear pattern being stamped onto cotton twill

Loons

Loons

 

Fawns - for my friend, Alex!

Fawns – for my friend, Alex!

Throw pillow cover prototype in the bear pattern

Throw pillow cover prototype in the bear pattern

 

The work is done!  Everything has been photographed, described in articulate detail and itemized in an image list.  The only thing left to do is send her in.

I don’t know if other people experience a kind of let down when a piece is completed but I had a strange experience once I finished stretching this piece and getting it into the frame:

Michelea Tartan Sett in Confetti

Michelea Tartan Sett in Confetti

I like how it looks in the frame but I don’t love it.  A part of me thinks it would be better for the circles to be in petri dishes, but then you’d lose the amazing stripes of the silk background.  Maybe a float frame wasn’t the right choice?  Maybe I just need to stop looking at it for a while!!

I invested in a new camera and an inexpensive tripod in order to improve the quality of my documentation images.  Totally worth it!  I still have a lot to learn but I’m already feeling way, way better about how my work will be represented when I submit it to juries.  This shot was particularly fun to create:

detail of Paisley Damask

detail of Paisley Damask

Now that I have a few pieces documented I think it’s time to put together some exhibition proposals.  Have to bulk up that resume for the next OAC grant application!

Rose Pearson, Rabbit, Cat, Monarchs, acrylic and paper on canvas

Rose Pearson, Rabbit, Cat, Monarchs, acrylic and paper on canvas

The sun was shining on the weekend which made the drive down to Lindsay to see Rose’s show quite delightful.  The Lindsay Gallery is located on the top floor of the public library.  Many municipalities combine art galleries and public libraries and it tends to be a happy union as people who might not otherwise venture into an art gallery can “accidentally” find themselves doing just that.  Locating the public gallery within the library also creates myriad opportunities for cross programming and helps drive foot traffic.  And while the Lindsay Gallery might be showing its age a little bit, the space was nonetheless an inviting backdrop for Rose’s work, not to mention being totally hoppin’ on the first Saturday afternoon of March Break!

pauses - crowd shot

Pauses is an exhibition of paintings and mixed media work from the past five years.  Rose confessed that once the show was hung she thought it felt a little disjointed, but I disagree.  What we see is a non-linear transition from work that relied heavily on daily image journalling to paintings that seem to have been captured more spontaneously.  Personal mythologies tie them together, that and, as Rose commented, “light and space”.  She has moved from actively building an inventory of source imagery to happening upon it.

Rose Pearson addresses the audience at the opening reception of "Pauses"

Rose Pearson addresses the audience at the opening reception of “Pauses”

In her own words:

The paintings in this show are each based on moments that were pauses for me.  These often feel like moments of profound consciousness.  Sometimes these moments of pause were searched out and sometimes they just appeared; each pause was recorded with a single photograph that was then subsequently used as a reference for the paintings.

Rose’s work is influenced by Jack Chambers, Alex Colville, and dare I say, Mary Pratt.  In painting every day objects and familiar domestic scenes she isn’t trying to elevate the mundane – I think she is saying that there is no mundanity.  The surface of a toy teapot can be gloriously reflective and captivating and that is reason enough to paint it.

I did a terrible job of photographing much of the show on account of how packed the gallery was!  You’ll have to make the trek to Lindsay to see it in person – Pauses runs to March 29, 2014.

 

Just a tiny bit left to finish on the third piece for my Fibreworks submission but it feels like progress is glacial in its pace.

One day it looked like this:

two circles 1

 

And the next day it looked like this:

 

two circles 2

Don’t get me wrong, it’s in the hoop all day long and I am sincerely working on it.  The issue seems to be the number of knots inadvertently being created on the back that have to be picked out … and the cramps in my back from hunching over the thing.

I need to alter my state of mind and release a bit of the pressure I’m feeling about the March 31 deadline.  Maybe today should be a stitch-free day.  Maybe today should be a bake cookies day!  (and the pleasant offshoot: eat cookies day!!)