Wednesday, 31 December 2008


Snowy 'que

Well, it's been a relatively productive year here in the studio: lots of books made it out the door and went on more trips than I did too.

Although I didn't get as much knitting out the door as I have in the past, I did get a lot of spinning done, particularly during the Tour de Fleece (held during the Tour de France in July), and I taught at Olds College over the summer.

The return to teaching was something I had mixed feelings prior to getting up there. I quit some time ago after having a student take my copyrighted handout and distribute it publicly without permission -- an action I wasn't, ah, exactly impressed with.

Encouragement (verging on bullying, but in a good way, y'know?) from several teaching friends to resume sharing my skills led me back, and the wonderful students I had at Olds made me realize how much I had missed it. I'll be glad to go back again for 2009, especially as I will also be the judge for the handspinning fleece auction.

(OK, I know some of you think that plunging one's hands repeatedly into bags of unwashed fleece sounds like a fate worse than death, but trust me, it isn't!)

On the bookbinding front, my entire perspective was radically altered by the two weeks I spent with Don Rash in northeastern Pennsylvania: I learned how to think like a professional, and that has had a profound effect on the art (fibre and book) I've created since.

Those two weeks gave me the confidence to take on work that I would have thought beyond my competence (such as executing commissions and doing repair work), but that weren't, and to envision projects that a year ago I couldn't have ever imagined.

And I've worked on some other interesting projects, including hanging out with the local Flickrmeets group: their encouragement and comments about my photographs may not be turning me into a professional, but I am growing happier with some of the work I've done.

Up top is our poor, lonely barbeque: abandoned since the warm November gave way to December's snow, bone-shattering windchills, more snow, blowing snow, howling winds, and snow. I can't remember seeing so much here in Calgary since I was young. I'm going into BBQ withdrawal....

Time to find the stick of rowan; some holly, mistletoe, hazel, and yew; and trot out a fine wee dram (or more!) of single-malt.

Lang may yer lum reek!

Friday, 19 December 2008

The Season of Level Spirits

Spirit Level 1

spirit level is a book I've been thinking about since I first started binding three-and-a-half years ago: there's a scribbled note in my thought-binder to do something about Sunshine Village, where I took the photograph that forms the inside spread (below).

If that picture looks familiar, it's because it also showed up previously in this blog entry.

Spirit Level 2

Like much of my work, I am struck by a random concept and a rough idea of what I want the finished project to resemble, and move along from there: this book was no exception.

Contributing to its completion, certainly, was the two weeks I spent in the wilds of northeastern Pennsylvania with Don Rash this past spring: I gained the confidence to experiment with more materials (in this case, using leather for the cover), and the competence to get it right (um, well, mostly and eventually!).

Spirit Level 3

Inside the back cover, with marbled endpapers I made at Don's.

As with most of my projects, once I "finish" them, I see their problems (well, they are my problems) and know if I built another one, what I would change and, at least in my opinion, "do better": this one is no exception, although the alterations would be minimal. The biggest change, and one that I might yet implement, is to make it much wider: I barely used half of the panorama photograph in the interior.

That idea will get some serious consideration over the holiday season, but for now, it's time to clean off the cluttered end of the dining room table, and put the tree up tomorrow. For once, it actually feels like Christmas here this year, with all the snow and ccccccccccccold we've had lately.

Friday, 12 December 2008

You can't always get what you want

Book Exchange

One artist book I've been working on -- well, off and on -- for more than a year is about to see the light of day: this morning's project was to do the final gluing-up. All that is left now is to finish off the closure.

Like most projects, it's gone through a number of incarnations, mostly material-related, since I came up with the initial concept. Originally, I had no idea what I wanted to use for a cover, and so the idea simply simmered awhile.

Then in July, while wandering through the (mostly) tacky stuff in the Round-up Centre at the Stampede, I found the Tandy Leather booth, where they were selling all sorts of lovely thin leathers and the light bulb fired.

Several purchases later, I had the right piece of leather, and I started experimenting with it. I used to do a lot of leatherwork when I was young -- my mother had made a number of purses over the years, and I took to lacing leather as quickly as I had taken to knitting -- so in some ways, the work has been equal portions of new and re-discovery.

One big scrap from my experiments I used as a wrap-around cover for the little accordion book I made for the local CBBAG gift exchange (photo above).

The other project I've been working on lately has been much more mundane (recasing a hardcover book) but equally challenging, as this is the first time I've tried doing one.

I repaired some of the book's "issues" by ensuring that the outer pages starting to come loose from the original sewing were secured, taking the back inside cover off the boards and gluing the information handwritten on it onto a empty page at the end of the block. New endpapers to match the bookcloth were tipped in as well.

Even the spine fabric was removed, the spine cleaned up and relined, and the old fabric (with the title) remounted on paper so I could paste it on the new case.

Building the new case was fun, but hard work, so imagine how disappointed I was, when I went to join the block and case, to find out I had mismeasured. sigh Not by much, mind you, but enough. What really ticks me off is that when I mess up a sock, I can pull it out and reknit it -- with paper, cloth, and glue, you can't recycle materials like that.

So it's déja vu all over again: new boards, another great whack of bookcloth, more measuring, more gelatine glue to cook. But at least I have a model to work from, and I know what I need to change.

As frustrated as I am with not having this done before company arrives late on Sunday, I'm not discouraged.

Maybe Mick and Keef were right after all....

But if you try sometimes, you just might find
You get what you need....

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Shadow Knows....


what weirdness lurks in the hearts of men.

Recently, it was the birthday of Ex-husband #2: he quit talking directly to me a number of years ago, and decided that he would rather vent his anger and frustration (about, but not limited to, me) to the miasma of the Internet.

The only reason I found this out was because someone I knew saw one of his rants and some of the reaction to it, and suggested that I keep track of some of his, um, lesser considered comments.

Earlier this year, he spewed forth a comment about my personal life that was relevant seven years ago, but hadn't been for some time, and I decided that it was time I stood up and pointed out that he was incorrect.

To the displeasure of many of the people who had disparaged him, he panicked and abandoned Usenet newsgroups. For better or worse, he's now taken his ill-tempered calumniations to Twitter.

What a sad, pitiful creature: there's some serious cognitive disconnect happening when a supposedly intelligent person laments that he will forever be alone, yet in the next breath, starts berating others for what he perceives as their faults....


Monday, 10 November 2008

This post has no title

And there isn't much of a post, either.

The experiences I've had in the last week or so aren't something I'm willing to discuss in a public forum.

But I do have some pretty pictures to look at.

It's hip to be geodesic

It's still fall


Tree textures

Something new

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Books, reviewed

Handbound blank journal

Great success in the past week on the bookbinding front: I finished my first commission (above) and delivered it to the client. It's a blank, handsewn sketching journal with a grey suede cover. The text block is constructed from two sheets of Fabriano Tiziano (colour: Vesuvio), and folded into a sextodecimo (that's a sheet of paper folded in half four times).

The binding is Waterfall, from Keith Smith's 1- 2- & 3-Section Sewings, page 104, and the closure is two pieces of snowflake obsidian epoxied to metallic silver Fimo. All the sewing is with 18/3 commercial Irish linen thread.

Finished size is 12.5 x 16 x 3 cm (5 x 6.25 x 1.25 in), including closure.

The model for a project I've been working on for awhile has now been included in the most recent edition of The Bonefolder, an online, peer-reviewed journal for hand bookbinders and book artists, on page 37.

Le Rêve du Normand/Norman's Dream is a tunnel book I first thought about several years ago, when I was up in the mountains on a French immersion weekend (hence the bilingual name), sitting in front of a roaring open fire, early on Sunday morning, before everyone else was up and about.

It works in its current size, but I'd like to make it larger -- in fact, have the picture of Norman to be the same size as he is.

There will be a few other changes to it as well (such as using the paste paper solely for the binding), more found objects, and likely strengthening the front and back panels with book board. It's one of the projects that I want to get done before the end of the year.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008



We both worked Election Day here two weeks ago -- me as Central Poll Supervisor, Dennis as one of my Deputy Returning Officers -- and decided that with the proceeds of that very long (0615-2230) day, we would treat ourselves to a quiet weekend in Banff.

The weather was fine when we set out Saturday morning, turned nasty as we entered the mountains, and cleared up during the afternoon: the photo above, taken at Lake Minnewanka, was shot just before noon, when we had low clouds, flurries, strong winds, and occasional peeks of sun.

By the time we had driven the loop, stopping to take pictures and do a little wandering around, and checked into our hotel, the day had improved a great deal.

After the storm

A lovely dinner at Ticino with a bottle of our favourite Grey Monk Rotberger (the perfect complement to my chicken with chevre and Dennis's duck), and a stroll back to the hotel capped off a lovely day.

Sunday, we took the Bow River Parkway (below) to Lake Louise, then the TransCanada Highway back to Calgary.


Nice. Peaceful.

The weekend was especially appreciated, as the rest of the week after the election, I worked in Artist Liaison for WordFest again this year, and had a great time. Not all of the writers came into the room on my shift (or were particularly chatty!), but I was pleased to be able to talk at some length with Coral Bracho, Brian Brennan, Cecil Castellucci, Sylvie Desrosiers, Leif Enger, Sheree Fitch, Ken Harvey, C.C. Humphreys, Ikwunga, Martine Latulippe, Randall Maggs, Miles Merrill, William Neil Scott, Paul Quarrington, and Nino Ricci,

And like last year, I ended up spending a great deal of time with one author in particular: this time, it was the wonderful children's author and illustrator Geoffroy de Pennart of Paris. As the only member of the Artist Liaison team who spoke French, I was detailed to accompany him out to Okotoks for a reading at the French immersion school. He was a perfect gentleman, terrific with the kids, and draws the most amazing creatures. I'm thrilled to have a copy of his Igor et les trois petits cochons on my bookshelf.

While recuperating from all this activity last week, I got more work done on My Past Life: check out my progress here. Now that the dowels are completely dry, I'll be attaching the elbows (one elbow at one end of each dowel) with epoxy: that way I can set up and take down the piece easily, but not have to worry about losing the elbows.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Plus ça change....

Au clair du lune in the afternoon

A Flickrmeet on Saturday out to Kananaskis Country provided the most abundant proof why I love living here: in the space of six hours, we had every season imaginable.

It started out dull, then rained and began to sleet even before we had left the city limits. Forty-five minutes and a blinding blizzard later, we turned off the Trans-Canada Highway, saw a snowplow heading north on the road we were heading south on, and discussed our options (the primary one of which was turning back).

Not a good climbing day

After a stop at the information centre, we discovered that we had lost one vehicle in our caravan, but decided to press on. Within ten minutes of being back on the road, we saw a glimmer of sun and a patch of blue sky -- twenty minutes after that, it was mostly sunny.


But by the time we were at Highwood Pass, the wind was howling again and there was lots of snow on the ground, and we were glad to press on further south.

Guardian of the Larch Forest

Dropping down from the pass, the snow quickly disappeared, and by the time we had turned onto Highway 541 to head to Longview, it was positively warm, the sky was that unmistakable Alberta blue, and the colours of the changing foliage bright and comforting.

Native grasses

Our Canadian election last week didn't solve anything -- the Regressive Conservative party is still in charge, thankfully with a minority, but because of the split of the left (however one defines that!), will rule as if they have a majority. Our elections aren't cheap to run (I certainly did well, working in Special Ballot in the four weeks before, and being a Central Poll Supervisor on election day), and I don't see another one happening for sometime.

Which makes life tough for us artists. As creatively bankrupt as the politicians are, I'm not, and there are some interesting things I'm looking at participating in.

But for the next while, I've got a long list of things to catch-up on (right after the election, I volunteered at Wordfest, about which I will write more in my next entry), a lost ball of yarn to track down, and some applications to finish.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

A light at the end of the tunnel

A light at the end of the tunnel

It's officially Indian Summer here -- can one still say that without being labelled Politically Incorrect? -- we set a new record temperature yesterday by making it up to 27.2° Celsius. That broke the old one, from 1913 no less, by half a degree Celsius (almost a full degree Fahrenheit).

Lots of things happening here on the bookbinding front: the two Canadian Bookbinder and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG) shows I'm in out in Central Canada -- one in Toronto, the other in Montreal -- opened last weekend. Details are in the right-hand column as to locations and dates.

What I Felt will appear at the CBBAG Book Fair, to be held in conjunction with the Guild of Bookworkers (GBW) Standards Conference in Toronto on Saturday, October 18, and, with luck, How to Make a Peacock Fly will travel down from Montréal to join it.

So for the first time in my artistic career, I've got three books out on display and that's a tribute to how I've managed to increase my output of finished works lately -- only The Zebra Book was around at this time last year. With luck, I'll have Spirit Level, My Past Life, and my entry for the GBW Marking Time exhibition done by the end of the year -- the latter two have March deadlines and I've got gelatine soaking away so I can glue up the former today.

(Plus I've got an entry to finish that will be going into Knitter's magazine's Think Outside The Sox and they are due January 1: it's a busy creative time here.)

The last thing I needed last Sunday was to go to see Martha Cole talk about her experiments with making paste cloth because I can now think of all sorts of projects I could do with that knowledge. While watching her talk about her process and see some of the wonderful work she's created, part of me kept wanting to clap my hands over my ears, go lalalalalalala and run out of the room.

Having signed up to Spoonflower, where they will print up fabric from your computer-generated files, and seeing Martha's work, I can see lots of ideas to work on in the future.

But for the next day or so, I'm going to enjoy the sun, the colours, and the smell of burgers on our barbeque.....

Blue + Yellow = Green

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Those who can, do

Calgary Colour 2

When I was in New York City last April, one item on my (far too crammed) schedule for Saturday night was to go see glass: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts, which was just starting a two-week run. Because things got messed up -- never try to keep to a schedule when the Pope is in the same town as you are! -- I ended up sitting in my hotel room with a six-pack of Sierra Nevada beer and a take-away dinner from Zabar's instead.

Thankfully, the documentary appeared here in Calgary this past weekend, and I made the first showing on Saturday. I've been a Philip Glass fan ever since I first saw Koyaanisqatsi when I was living in New York in 1982.

(I've lost track how many times I've seen it since, but my favourite was in April 2006, when he and the ensemble played the soundtrack live to the movie at my local concert hall. We had tickets dead in the middle, six rows from the front, and at times, I hummed along, much to the amusement of my seatmates. We were close enough that we could hear him singing at the end: magical!)

I've always been a fan of documentaries, whether making them myself on radio or watching them on the screen, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one as well. One aspect I particularly liked was watching Mr. Glass's process of work, and his attitude towards letting the work take itself where it wants to go.

In response to a question from director Scott Hicks, Philip Glass talked about his creative process as flowing like an underground river -- you feel it below and sense its presence. For those of us who create, it's a familiar feeling.

He also talked about not caring about whether the music he began to create when he returned to the U.S. in the late 1960s (from studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris) had a predisposed audience, because he almost felt that he had no control over what was emerging. I can relate to that too.

As you can tell from the pictures above and below, it's now fall here: the days are getting shorter, the nights are cooler, and deadlines for commitments are approaching. Between the latter and working for Elections Canada, the days are busy.

Natural grasses

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Doing the right thing, for once


The City of Calgary gives a lot of lip service to preserving our history, but until very recently, it had a well earned reputation for encouraging the tearing-down of old buildings to put up an awful lot of schlock.

Not surprisingly, when it was announced a few years ago that many of the big, older trees in our neighbourhood would need to be removed because they were becoming dangerous, there was a rather large hue and cry.

A compromise, of sorts, was reached: the trees would be removed, but rather than being simply hauled off, they would be used to create natural parks and gently return to the earth.

One of these parks, which we call Loghenge, is near our home, and it's become one of my favourite places to go when I need a break from my projects. It's not big, but it exhibits very distinct personalities throughout the seasons.

Here's more of what I saw on yesterday's adventure, including another regular visitor....


Two by two


Raspberry (dis)patch(ed)

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Up against the wall, eventually


The speed at which I'm working away at projects is a little deceptive sometimes: there are days I don't think I get much done, but actually do, and then there are days I feel I've accomplished a lot when I really haven't.

That being said, overall I'm really moving right along through the projects I want to get done in the short-term, and I'm having to schedule "down time" to keep my health up.

Part of that "down time" requirement has meant having to excise some people and things that were quickly becoming black holes of personal energy: it's not something I particularly enjoy doing, but I've found it necessary for self-preservation of both body and soul.

In essence, over the years, I've become a great believer in the Kenny Rogers School of Philosophy....

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold them,
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.

Another part of that energy reclamation entailed heading over the the local Highland Games last Saturday, which turned into a lovely day, despite a cool breeze and a depressing forecast. (Said forecast proved to be accurate, as there was quite the nice snowfall in Canmore the next day!)

Apart from a bridie (no haggis again this year -- boo hiss) and several fine drams of single-malt while enjoying excellent music in the beverage tent, I spent most of my time checking out the heavy events and the afternoon footy match (Scotland 3, England 1), and browsing the many tents of stuph.

There's mostly bits from instruction books with DVDs, to practice chanters for bagpipers, and any number of memorial items for the Scottish (and Celtic in general) diaspora, though I tend to spend my time looking more longingly at things I actually use, primarily t-shirts and calendars.

In the latter category, the pickings were pretty slim, except for three from Michael MacGregor at one stall, and I ended up choosing one of Highland Cattle. After milling about for a few minutes, I eventually found the queue to pay.

An' wha' do ye hae? asked the woman behind the table.

Just a calendar, thanks. said I.

Whi' one, love? Islands? Puffins?

No. Coo.

And now we are the happy owners of a 2009 Coo Calendar.

Monday, 25 August 2008

It's My Move

Chessboard complete

Great success in my Olympic knitting: I finished off my chessboard last Thursday (needs washing and blocking though) and, squeaking in just under the wire early yesterday, the last of my dozen dishcloths.

Up next, I'm going to start knitting a model of one of the kings, using larger yarn and needles than what I actually plan to use for the finished sculpture. While the vast overwhelming majority of the models I make are smaller than what the finished item is, I think I'm better off building big to ensure I get this right the first time.

For starters, it's infinitely easier to pick up stitches when I rip something out, as I can almost guarantee I will do on this phase.

Repeatedly, I'm sure. (Although I would love to be proven wrong!)

As always, excessive details can be found on the My Past Life blog.

At least now, I'm working to my own schedule, not someone else's. That being said, tying myself to the sports extravaganza certainly provided me with motivation, much as spinning in the Tour de Fleece provided sufficient impetus to get the spinning done.

I've been debating whether or not I want to talk about the politics of the Olympics: perhaps even just typing that line will get me banned in China, depending on how sophisticated their parsing programme is. Personally, I couldn't not watch our athletes, as one of my first Olympic memories as a kid was watching our equestrian show-jumping team take Canada's only gold medal in Mexico City in 1968.

But I know several people who chose not to watch simply because the games were in China, as if watching somehow condoned the human rights abuses, censorship, and almost frightening spectre of organization to the point of compulsiveness on threat of death.

I prefer to look at it from the same perspective many of us have about being in Afghanistan: support our personnel (be they troops or athletes) without necessarily supporting the reason they are where they are.

A quintessentially Canadian solution, I fear....

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Inspiration Point

Mount Rundle from Bankhead

Well, the decision between coffee table and board shear became an easy one when I played around with the measuring tape and quickly realized that while the shear would physically fit, I wouldn't be able to do much with it once it was installed.

shrug So I thought about what it was I really did need and boiled it down to three things.

The first was a trip up to the mountains -- that's Mount Rundle in Banff National Park: I do some of my best thinking up in the thinner air, and there was a local Flickrmeet trip up to Bankhead (an abandoned town and colliery complex) on Saturday.

It was a beautiful, hot, sunny day with a reasonably steady breeze, and a good group of people, most of whom take much better pictures than me. Here's a look at the group's Flickr pool, where you can see everyone else's take on le grand aventure.

I always find it interesting to see how all of us experience the same place so differently -- yes, I think we all took at least one mountain shot, but the diversity of perspectives of the ruins, nature, and the other participants are the ones I like the best.


The second of my three things to think about was to find something and take a lot of pictures of it: I wasn't sure of what exactly it was that I wanted to find until I found the first example of it.

And then I couldn't stop: the picture above this paragraph is the last of four pictures I posted up to my Flickrstream, and I must have taken at least a dozen more.

Orange. Brown. Grey.

Rock. Lichens. Brick.

Colour. Texture. Aroma.

Which led me to the third thing I wanted to think about: pushing more artist books out the door. My old printer was in its final throes: the light cyan and magenta inks weren't printing properly, and I have a book I need to finish by September 1.

Either I started sending files over to our neighbourhood copy shop (not cheap, and not on the paper stock I want to use) or shell out for a new printer. So after some 'net research, I came home with an Epson Stylus Photo 1400. It's not the most expensive printer on the block, but it suits my purposes, and, most importantly, will get me back up and printing again.

And about time, too.

Plus in other news, the Olympic knitting challenge goes well, and I look forward to having the next blog entry show my results. Back to the needles....

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Eyes down -- now knit!

Dishcloth #4

It's not even been a week since the Olympics started, and I've been having great success with my projects.

That's my fourth dishcloth above -- my goal is an even dozen by the end -- and I've been making fabulous progress on my mindful knitting adventure as well. Details and pictures of My Past Life are here.

One of the few downsides of all this knitting is that I really have to be aware about doing more than my wrists can stand. It's not that I've had major problems in the past, but I don't want to do anything stupid that I will result in "issues" for the future: I've learned that lesson the hard way with other parts of my anatomy (hello, right Achilles heel!) that I've essentially ignored when they were minor impediments and now come back to haunt me.

And it's not just my wrists I need to worry about: knitting the tiny swatch for My Past Life on 1.25 mm needles with handspun yarn the size of heavy carpet thread really drove my eyes to distraction. After what I went through knitting the silk tapestry (done on 1.75 mm needles) in Virginia Woolf Knits (below), I swore I'd be more patient and take more breaks to give my eyes a break.

No, sitting and doing work on the computer doesn't count: after the swatch, I went back to the dishcloths and knit half of today's contribution before running a few errands.

While running about, I started to figure out what I want to do about my pending book projects: I suspect my printer is toast (two of the colours aren't printing properly) and I need to decide soon whether I will just go out and buy a new one, or send out files to a copy shop downtown. The latter is cheaper in the short-term, but the former would make my life much easier.

And since I returned from my adventure in Pennsylvania, high on my list of stuph to get has been something with which to do a better job of cutting board and paper. Spreading out a 4' x 4' hunk of Masonite in the middle of my kitchen, dragging out my big self-healing cutting surface, and crawling around on the floor just ain't cutting it (pun intended!).

Well, it looks like I've found a board shear: it's not the biggest one on the face of the earth, but it does have a floor pedal to hold the material, I can get it at an exceptionally reasonable price, and if we get rid of the ginormous coffee table that sits at my end of the couch, it would fit perfectly, I think.

Hmmm coffee table or board shear -- like, this is a difficult choice?

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

But it's only August!

There's a reason....

Yes, that is snow up on Storm Mountain.

We took advantage of some better weather and our New-To-Us truck to have a few short adventures over the long weekend here: I've been spending an awful lot of time hunched over my work table, sitting in front of the computer, and knitting, and was in dire need of some fresh air and exercise.

Blow this pop stand

Saturday afternoon, we went down to the weir across the Bow River to check out this year's crop of juvenile male white pelicans: they love to hang out there, catching fish thrown up by the violent undertow in the water. It's a lot of fun to walk around the constructed wetland by the fish hatchery, seeing the flowers bloom and the few avian babies still about (mallard ducks and Canada geese, mostly) with their parents, learning all the things they need to know.

Sunday, we went off to a nearby driving range and split a small bucket of range balls. It was hardly busy there at all, and my skills were, ah, rather rusty: either I dribbled worm-burners straight or blasted great shots far right. Hardly auspicious for someone who had dreams of joining the senior womens' golf tour!

(Moreover, I ache today. A lot. Shoulders. Arms. Wrists. Working on the computer has not been high on my list of fun things to do.)

And then yesterday, we headed off to the mountains for a short hike up to Elbow Pass and Lake from Highway 40. Packed up some sandwiches and a thermos of tea, and got away from vehicle noise -- unfortunately, there were a number of busloads of unquiet children who spoiled what might otherwise be a peaceful retreat. I'm glad the pictures capture the best part of what was up there....

Even the snow! grin

At least I don't feel guilty today for having gone off to recharge my creative batteries, even if I'm now back at the grindstone. Deadlines I've committed myself to that will be met, things to bring to life, and ideas to implement, and words that need an outlet.

The only pressure I have to do these things is from within, of course, but I can be a merciless taskmistress....

Monday, 28 July 2008

Aux Champs-Élysées

Tour de Fleece total production

Aux Champs-Élysées, aux Champs-Élysées
Au soleil, sous la pluie, à midi ou à minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Élysées.
(words and music by Pierre Delanoé)

On the Champs-Élysées, on the Champs-Élysées
In the sun, in the rain, at noon or at midnight
There's everything that you could want on the Champs-Élysées.

The last French immersion weekend I went on a few years ago was a real mixed bag: I came back with a lot of great photographs and book ideas (one of which I'm working on for a deadline next month), as well as some really, ah, not pleasant moments that have kept me from going back again.

One of the best experiences was learning to sing this song on the bus on the way out to the Kananaskis Field Station (part of the Biogeoscience Institute of the University of Calgary), and it was running through my brain about as fast as the riders on the last stage of the Tour de France made their way on the Champs-Élysées.

(Check out this great music video of Paris to the song!)

And as they crossed the finish line, I, too, finished my Tour de Fleece by spinning another great length (20 meters) of fine, two-ply linen bookbinding thread: everything, with the exception of one bobbin of black Merino I spun for another project, is in the picture above. It wasn't easy, and on one day, it just wasn't fun, but I did spin every day the Tour was on the road, and finished spinning for My Past Life. In fact, not spinning this morning felt strange.

I'm hoping all the thread will enable me to do my first sewn binding from Volume II of Kevin A. Smith's Non-Adhesive Bindings collection. I've almost settled on which binding I'm going to use, and am adapting it for seven sections (from three).

So now I'm trying to finish a couple of long-standing WIPs (Works-In-Progress) in order to retrieve the circular needles they are mounted on to prepare for my knitting projects during the Olympics.

Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Élysées.

Monday, 21 July 2008


Linen Thread

Today's a rest day in the Tour de France as well as in the Tour de Fleece I signed up for on Ravelry. A chance to get caught up on a lot of things.

Yesterday was the first big stage in the Alps, and I had set myself the challenge of spinning a quantity of fine linen bookbinding thread. Imagine my surprise when I finished plying to discover that I had spun slightly over 10 yards (10 m) of really consistent two-ply thread (pictured above)!

Even more impressive (well, to me!) is that it only took me an hour to spin the single, create a wrap on my hand to let me ply the two ends together (Andean plying, for you technical spinning folks), untangle the mess it turned into when I made the mistake of trying to work on it when the day's Tour stage got exciting, and then finish it up.

If you're thinking gee Linda, it's been awhile since you've blogged, you haven't had a lot of pictures up on Flickr, you don't answer emails lately and this is all you have been doing?, well, you're wrong.

I've also finished spinning all the yarn for the chessboard portion of My Past Life (now updated with more details and pictures), which has been a major accomplishment, getting my proposals ready to send off to teach at Olds College next year (lots of samples and models created), and swatching the yarn I ended up buying for a contest I'm planning to enter.

Last, but not least, I am trying to do more "real" writing -- not just here on the blog. I know I said I was going to do this in May 2007, and I do keep a list of things I think have potential (not dissimilar to my book project tally).

Soon, very soon, one is going to be delivered kicking and screaming into the light of day.

Stay tuned, sports fans....

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Smell-o-vision needed here

Level 2 Wool Judging

Or maybe not, if you don't like the scent of greasy fleece.... (grin)

This is how I spent a good part of my Level 2 Fleece Judging Course up at Olds College on Monday, June 30. Late in the morning, we were presented with 20 green garbage bags full of fleece: before lunch, we had to take them all out, sort them as to breed. We decided one was probably a Perendale, three were from down sheep (Dorsets/Hampshires/etc.: i.e., meat sheep) and the rest were Rambouillet, a fine, crimpy fleece breed.

After lunch, we had to separate out the finer Rambouillets (fibre size under 24 microns) from the strong (over 24 microns) and several lamb fleeces. (Lamb fleeces, for the curious, have never been previously clipped, so the tip end isn't blunt, like it is on older sheep. Confused yet?)

(The lamb fleece table is the near one on the right, with the table to the rear holding the down and Perendale fleeces, while the fine Rambouillet fleeces are the near table on the left, and the strong fleeces on the table behind them.)

Once we had them all separated into groups, we paired up (five attendees, two instructors) and judged them. That took awhile, as you, dear readers, might suspect, and we were urged by our head instructor, Morris Beauvais, who is the chief wool classer in Alberta for the Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers, "not to dawdle."

There is, of course, a form to fill out, numbers to assign -- which is why we paired up: we took turns being judge and scribe -- calculations to make, and a whole lot of addition to perform.

But it was a lot of fun, and the discussion after -- we went through the fine fleece table one by one, talking about how we ranked them and why -- was pretty interesting. I'm pleased that I agreed with Morris's assessment more often than not, and for the same reasons.

And I'm here to tell you: my hands were so soft when we were finished, thanks to the magic healing power of lanolin.

Tuesday and Wednesday, I taught some terrific students the mysteries of entrelac and double knitting. Keeners all, the entire entrelac class finished their flat sample in very good order, and went on to complete a circular one, while two students finished off their flat double-knitting sample, and one even finished a small circular one.

Good work, all of you!

The trip was a (mostly) great time, with the exception of the overwhelming number of mosquitos and the heat in the upstairs bedroom of my townhouse, I'm glad I went. Got to meet some terrific people, catch up with some old friends, and play with fibre.

That they liked me enough to ask me back to teach again next year was a bonus, and I'm now working hard to put together classes for next year.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Looking back, moving forward

My First Book

The last week or so has been swamped here: I was rushing around, getting things finished before I head for Olds College tomorrow, and somehow managed to sprain my right thumb.

Normally, that wouldn't be insurmountable, but when I tried to transfer over my lovely, edited and ready-to-print handouts for my classes from my ancient PC laptop to my new(er) Mac desktop, the floppy drive on the laptop died. Totally.

sigh So rather than just take me a morning to transfer everything over and format it, I spent too many days having to retype everything in, taking frequent pauses to rest my hand.

And then I discovered I needed to reknit one of my samples: more stress on that hand wasn't what I really wanted or needed.

But it's all done: the handouts have been printed and stapled, ready for my students, and the washed sample is drying.

While searching for something to take with me for show-and-tell, I came across the first book I ever made myself: the archival album pictured above. Although I brought it home with a paper "bead" I had made from the scraps of my cover paper, there was something about it that didn't really get me excited.

So I dug through my stash for some roving I knew I had in matching colours, and felted up my own "bead." Wasn't thrilled to have to take apart the binding and resew it -- sewing anything isn't my strength, although I get less frustrated with books than I do with anything else -- but it worked nevertheless.

It's got some "issues": there are some glue spots on the cloth, and if you look inside, my linings could have been better, but all of that is in hindsight now....

Portfolio finished, with contents

The other major project I did finish was the portfolio I had started at the end of my two weeks with Don Rash, and I'm rather pleased with how both the book and the portfolio turned out. The best part was when I took the portfolio out of my makeshift press after drying, placed the book inside, and then folded it up.

Mirabile dictu, it fit! And here's an overhead shot of it open: it's pretty fiddly work (nine pieces of meticulously trimmed bookboard and huge pieces of bookcloth), but it sure looks nice when it's finished.

Portfolio finished, and open wide

I get back from Olds late on Wednesday, after taking my Level 2 Fleece Judging course and teaching two knitting classes. Stampede starts Friday, and I'm doing my usual shifts in Ag-tivity in the City, spinning on my drop spindle or knitting away.

And next Saturday is the start of the Tour de France: despite the drug scandals, it's still a grand spectacle. This year, I have extra incentive to watch: I've joined the Tour de Fleece on Ravelry (sort of Facebook for fibreheads). As the guidelines say: they spin, we spin.

By the time the boys roll down the Champs-Élysées, I hope to have all the yarn ready for My Past Life and Family Ties, and enough linen bookbinding thread (my big challenge for July 23, when the Tour finishes at the summit of L'Alpe d'Huez) to last me until the end of the year.




Thursday, 19 June 2008

Floating in the void

The Currach Between Light and Dark - Front
I really haven't done much book work since I returned from my two weeks in Pennsylvania: between readjusting from the brain overload of being there, dealing with a part-time job that had grown tedious (and that I've since walked away from), coping with the horror of a fellow alumnus going postal and killing his family, and receiving a visit from my in-laws, there just hasn't been the mental space to focus.

But last week, I finished The Currach Between Light and Dark (pictured above) as my second entry to CyberFyber, Susan Lenz's show at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady Street, Columbia, SC, USA from January 8 through 20, 2009. She's as pleased with the pieces I've produced for the show as I am: they've given me a chance to play around with fibre, try things I'd never done before, and look at what I do as an artist in a different light.

Both pieces I submitted combine knitting -- something I've done for more years than I like to remember -- and felting, which is a relatively new craft I'm starting to mess around with more, and it's been an enjoyable process that I find I'm carrying over into my bigger, and more complex, works.

Working on Currach has also given me the impetus to finish off a project I brought back with me from Pennsylvania: a folding portfolio for one of my case-bound books. I had cut all the bookboard I needed there on Don's board shear, and brought back enough matching bookcloth, but hadn't managed to create enough time in one block to do all the gluing-up.

And there was a certain trepidation as well: I had been using hide glue to attach my bookcloth when I was in class, and really enjoyed using it. To finish the portfolio, I decided I wanted to use the nearest equivalent that I could manage working in a small space here at home, where I try to use only ingredients that are non-toxic (it's a challenge, believe me!).

That meant learning how to make glue from gelatine, a food-safe and refined version of hide, which is how I ended up spending my afternoon yesterday. While a little nerve-wracking and pretty time-consuming, it turned out rather well, I think: of the twelve corners I had to cut and turn-in, only three were not up to my standards, and I repaired them with tiny patches (and a wee bit of PVA) this morning.

Next step: glue in the last two lining paper pieces (the rest of it is lined with bookcloth), using the miraculous cornstarch paste recipe I learned from Don: once they dry, I'll take pictures.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

If you go out in the woods today....

you might run into this guy heading off to his picnic.

A Sunday drive down Smith-Dorrien Road south of Canmore was remarkably not rainy (we've been trying to decide between various sizes of arks here lately) and silly me forgot to grab my camera.

Thankfully, I was able to borrow one, and snapped this picture of a very healthy male grizzly bear not far from the junction with Highway 40 (I've tagged this picture on Flickr, if you're curious as to where he's hanging out: just click on the picture and look at my map).

He looks to be seven or eight years old, as he's full-grown, but not excessively grizzled: a very handsome fellow having his Sunday perambulation.

While the weather has been mostly cold, dull, dreary, and wet, I've been much less so in disposition, even with having to clean up our home for visitors. What I Felt (pictures below) has been accepted at fibreEssence Gallery for their show in conjunction with the Vancouver Memory Festival.

What I Felt, The Enclosure
What I Felt, The Book

I've also need to decide what I want to submit to an upcoming Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild show in Montreal, and figure out if I want to apply to another show in Denver and/or a residency opportunity near Calgary soon (the latter two have a June 20 deadline). Not surprising, I've quite pleased that my work is starting to get out there more than just to local shows.

My handouts are almost finished for my two classes for Olds College Fibre Week 2008 and I'm well on my way to creating at least one new course to propose for next year's event (hint: it will be sock-related!). It would be an understatement to say that I'm looking forward to going at the end of the month.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Gymnosperms on my mind


Plants that reproduce by cones, for you non-biological types

Two years ago, I took a wonderful course in making my own paste papers from Susan Kristoferson, and she encouraged us to bring found items to use in decorating our papers -- one of the things I took was a collection of cones collected from some fir trees in my neighbourhood.

While I liked the resulting paper, there really wasn't much of it, so it has sat in my paper stash (as opposed to the spinnable fibre stash, or the hand-knitting yarn stash, or the machine-knitting yarn stash) waiting for the right project to come along.

I've found inspiration in the recent rebroadcast episode of Landscape as Muse that featured the work of Jeane Fabb, who worked with performance artist Tedi Tafel to create Seedkeepers, a scuptural work in snow that Jeane eventually filled with pine cones.

One thing she said in particular fired up my idea lightbulb: Cones are the past, the present, and the future, and I've been exploring that thought while collecting cones, taking pictures, and hiking among conifers. It's rapidly rising up my list of projects to work on soon.

Looks like I found a home for that nice piece of paste paper.

And I found a vital element today for another book I've titled spirit level: it's important to work on it now, before the immediacy of a recent murder/suicide here in Calgary (committed by a student who was about to graduate from the faculty where I am an alumna) dissipates.

My spirit needs levelling....

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Pressed for time

A really useful tool

It's been two weeks since I posted an entry, and I'm not exactly sure where the time has gone.

Finally finished sorting through the 1+ GB of pictures I took on my trip, and posted them up to Flickr in this collection, which has everything broken down by day. Some of the pictures have been added to other groups and sets already, but I know I have a lot more work to do in sorting them.

One thing I have been doing is cooking a lot: it's not that I didn't have a kitchen to putter in when I was in Pennsylvania, but I had neither the time nor the energy to do more than the scullery basics there.

And I've been thinking a lot about what I did, how I did it, and perhaps most importantly, why I was creating the work I was doing.

A project I've been doing a bit more than simply thinking about is one that I had done a preliminary sketch (in this case, I wrote a title and a list of constituent parts down on my growing list of planned projects). Found the picture I want to use, priced out one of the components, and am trying to figure out the best way to put them together. How would you attach a picture to a metal rail?

Last weekend's nice weather meant I was able to get out and put a couple of coats of polyurethane on my new bookpress (that's Don's in the picture above): I really got a lot of use out of his when I was there, and he presented me with two pieces of baseboard cut and drilled before I left. Four dollars' worth of carriage bolts, washers, and wing nuts at Home Depot later, and mine is now ready for use.

Speaking of Don, he finally got around to blogging about my adventure there -- check out his perspective of my time in the wilds of northeastern PA....

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