Monday, 25 February 2008

When you look like your passport photo...


it's time to go on a vacation.

Because of my upcoming adventure back to my old stomping grounds in the Mid-Atlantic States, I need a new passport, and the rules have been changed a bit since my last one. No glasses allowed, no smiling, no frowning: I hope I look suitably blank in the pictures taken this morning. After getting my guarantor to sign, I'm off to the passport office to queue up.

And then I'll get everything booked: I've pretty much got a plan of where and when I'm going to be, as that's controlled, for the most part, by the dates of the classes I'm taking with Don Rash and the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, but there are a zillion details.

With limited time for "recreational" activities outside of my class, I'm having to come up with detailed itineraries for my pre-course weekend in New York City, and the drive between Wilkes-Barre, PA, the Howard County Fairgrounds (for MS&WF), and to finally decide if I indeed want to visit my old neighbourhood in suburban Virginia, where I spent 4.5 years before moving back to Calgary 10.5 years ago.

In some ways, that part of my life has essentially disappeared, and not just because I divorced the husband I had when I lived there. I kept in touch with our former next-door neighbour for awhile, but haven't heard from her in years, and areas can change as much as, if not more than, the people who once lived there.

At least I know, thanks to Google, if I go, there is still a great Chinese take-out, a wonderful Irish pub, and a handy Metro stop for me to revisit.

But the jury is still out, at least until the end of the week, as to what I'm going to end up doing, and even then, it won't be written in stone.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Looking for inspiration in all the right places....

Sunset under the Louise Bridge

I'd like to say that we don't watch a lot of television in our home, but it is on a fair bit. Mostly, it's on BBCWorld (the international all-news channel), sports (hockey, curling, tennis, golf, soccer), food, or arts programs though: neither of us watch the current popular things at all, and I don't think we're missing much.

There is one show, however, I go out of my way to watch, and that's Landscape as Muse, a wonderful series (Season 4 starts on March 13, at 7:30 p.m. ET on Canada's BRAVO channel: hurrah!) that takes artists out to familiar (and sometimes unfamiliar) places to them and follows them around as they create art influenced by that location.

Currently, BRAVO is rerunning Season 2, and yesterday (at the ungracious hour of 6:30 a.m. MT) was one of my favourite episodes, featuring Diana Lynn Thompson, an installation artist from Saltspring Island, working in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia.

She is very conscious of the transient nature of her art, and I've found it has got me thinking about what (and how) I produce what I do. One can choose, in fact, to make one's work not last: excessive endurance is virtually impossible with fibre, for example, since it breaks down easily.

Books are a little different though. There have been long discussions on the BOOK-ARTS list populated by folks who insist that all bookbinders use archival glues and papers.

I used to be in the I want it to last forever camp, but going to grad school changed my mind. One of the senior group projects (unfortunately, not mine) was working on a historical site, and they were somewhat surprised when they were told at one crit session that "doing nothing" should have also been presented an option, not just varying degrees of preservation. That devolution is equally valid as restoration was a concept I hadn't given much though to before then either.

While it's not obvious in most of my work, experiencing the landscape has a big influence on how I look at what I do, and getting out into it almost always changes my approach to projects-in-process. I've got five big ones on my list that I'd like to finish this year, along with pursuing professional development (as a fibre artist and a bookbinder): it's going to be a challenge.

P.S. For those of you not in Canada, you can get Season 1 of Landscape as Muse on DVD through 291 Film Company: I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Can't You Feel It?

Twenty years ago...
The XV Olympic Games opened twenty years ago here in Calgary, and for those of us who were volunteers, it was a magical time.

I worked in biathlon at the Canmore Nordic Centre, taking results from other volunteers and using the radio to send results to the scoring office: in my case, it was half of (i.e., eight) lanes of the standing shooting range. The job was to give the bib number, the lane number, and the number of misses (of the five targets in biathlon).

The number would either be translated into penalty loops (skiied by the competitor just down from the range during individual races) or penalty minutes (during the relay), and co-ordinated with the former when necessary.

It was a fun job, kept me outside (wonderful when it was warm, and a serious pain when it was cold), and let me do the one thing every volunteer really wanted: interact with the athletes.

Although it took me three years to qualify -- and I'm not sure if they'd give me any credit if I wanted to work the Vancouver Olympics in two years -- and was a lot of prep work (memorize the rule book, and work enough qualifying races beforehand), it was a blast.

We got great clothes, although my coat was probably 18 sizes too big (and I'm not exactly small!). Lucky for me, one of the support squad for the Great Britain biathlon team not only hated his coat, but it was equally small for him.

A deal was struck for after our events. He got my very warm and far too big coat, and I got his exceptionally stylish wool felt one.

Yes, I still have mine -- that's the right arm patch I photographed this morning -- although I don't wear it often. But it still fits great, and feels so good on.

There's an aphorism printed at the end of the videotape that was shot featuring the volunteers that was handed out after it was all over, that reads something to the effect of

For those who were not there, no explanation is enough.
For those who were, none is necessary.

And as David Foster's theme song goes....

Can't you feel it?
The feeling surrounds you.
Won't you feel it?
And now that it's found you.
Don't you feel it?
The feeling's in the air.
Can't you feel it?

Monday, 4 February 2008

Winter in Calgary

Frosty 2

Cross my frigid fingers -- the January cold snap is supposed to be over tomorrow, and all things being equal, the BBQ will be fired up on Wednesday. It's been a couple of weeks, and I'm going through withdrawal.

In the meantime (and with windchills in the -40C range, it has been a mean time), there have been redeeming features, like this frosty arrangement on our deck door last week.

The box for How to Make a Peacock Fly looks great -- I've got to line the two parts of the lid, but that's it: the fishing fly part of the project, however, doesn't. Part of the problem is I don't tie a lot, and it takes me awhile to get back into it when I finally sit down, while I think most of the rest has to do with simply not being able to execute what I can visualize.

It's frustrating, to put it mildly. Without the fly, I can't finish the ox-plow book part either.

But I'm slugging on: it's not like there's any pressure to finish it, except that I want to include a picture of it in my grant application that's due next week, and it has to be at the gallery in ten days.

Yeah, right: no pressure at all.

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