Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Exciting News

I won! I won, I won, I won !
What did you win? you ask.

I won the Writer's Federation of Nova Scotia Unpublished Manuscript prize. It is officially the Joyce Barkhouse for Children and Young Adults Prize. I didn't realize it when I submitted in November of last year that there is a cash amount as well as the honour. That's a great bonus, but I just so thrilled that my chapter book for young readers was chosen.

The book is called "Beach Meadow Friends". It is about Fox, Crane, Eagle and Crab as they live through a season on Beach Meadows.

Crane is silent most of the time, Crab is a slightly panic stricken crustacean, Eagle is a huge boaster with an enormous sense of self and Fox patiently keeps the community going. Each chapter has its own challenge or joke and different combinations of the characters are featured.

Beach Meadows is an actual place, about a 20 minute drive from our summer camp.

One very cold windy day as we were walking along the beach at low tide, a young fox walked alongside us for about 200 metres. I have a photo of him on the kitchen wall but can't find it in my archive. Maybe Steve took it.

We discussed the nature of the fox and Steve said if you had a totem animal, it would be the fox. It felt so completely right. Over the course of a few summers, seven short chapters evolved and with some editorial help from some very nice friends, the book was written. I get to read from it at the award ceremony on June 10 and immediately afterwards, go to Iceland. What a great day it will be. What shoes will I wear?

Monday, May 15, 2017

What colour is this?

This is the weirdest colour I have ever come across.

I purchased this mohair wool about a year ago thinking to make a snuggly shawl. I thought it was a light mauve. I wanted something in the purple family, but not too dark and not too pink. Six months ago, I was back in the shop and asked if I could swap it for another colour, because it just wasn't singing to me.

I put the two balls back on the shelf, wandered around looking at other things and when my eyes were clear, I went back to choose a new colour. And chose the same two balls. In the pile of different colours, it showed up as a lovely mauve. It went well with all the other colours, reds, blues, yellows, greens and greys. I thought well this is obviously a versatile colour and will work with most of my clothes. I figured I had over thought things and went back to my original decision. Six months later, major month of sickness and it is time to get knitting on something that requires no brains at all.

In fact, I think zombies could knit this shawl pattern. Increase at one edge, purl back a row, repeat until first ball of yarn is finished. Decrease at the same edge, purl back a row, repeat until yarn is finished. Knit on 4 or 5 mm short needles, this is even easy on aching hands. The shawl itself is fine and will be a lovely thing to wear once it is blocked. But what the hell colour is it? It is ghastly. I've held it up against many other colours and while it never clashes, it never sparkles either.

For those of you who visit to see my studio stitching, it has been a barren month. I've been pretty sick for most of it and am up out of bed only two days ago. Still not breathing well, but soon.

I was able to get enough gumption up for one afternoon and managed to make two very small samples. I am rather proud of them, despite their size. See the gauzey mauve paper? That's the colour mauve I thought the knitting was going to be.

 Even the cat, Cleo Belle, who looks elegant in most colours, thinks this colour is a bore.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hmmm, which photos to choose?

Steve and I have been playing "Sick as a Dog Tag" most of this winter and spring. It has been my turn to spend days in bed wheezing. Too fogged up to do anything more than watch black and white movies (Mrs TJ) I started to fret about missing two Mondays in a row. It turns out I have plenty of photos to share, but which thread to follow?

There's the thread of the garden,

There is plenty of time to look at garden photos, so let's move on.

There is the thread of a new course with Karen Ruane (here) called the Artist book

We are stitching paper and lace and fabric together (no surprise really) and of course, embellishing the hell out of it.

I am pretty behind on this given my lack of lungs and brain, so there isn't much to show yet.

The thread of "Me Made May" is something I've been working towards. For the past two years I have been gradually sewing more and more of my clothes. Out in the ether world there is an event called "Me Made May" that encourages sewists to wear at least one item per day in the month of May, that they made themselves. This selfie business is pretty tricky. I couldn't get the entire me photoed in the mirror. On top is a light blue t-shirt in a knit. It is the first knit that I have sewn since I foolishly made a bikini in the '70's and rued the swan dive that left my bathing suit back on the board. This knit item stays on when I move.

Below it is a lovely swishy skirt. Black knit slip with a black and blue floral circle skirt.

The shawl is a silk/linen combo that I knit over the spring is called Wayland (here) by Amor Esperanza. Very simple and quick.

Only the undergarments are store bought. I haven't signed up to properly participate in this event, so I don't have links to patterns or fabric sources. That's too much to ask. My closet is getting pretty full of items I have made. Yeah me.

The thread of "What happened in here?" is still haunting me. As I spring cleaned other parts of the house, tended to the garden and seedlings and became sick, everything was tossed in here. I am still stepping over piles, but at least the chair is clear of books. I put them on top of something else.

The final thread is "What's missing?" What is missing are my bees. The beekeeper Michelle had to take Queen Crocus out to her other hives and blend this hive with a hive that isn't doing too well. Just a few weeks ago, this hive wasn't doing so well and Michelle brought some bees from her other hives here. This hive began to thrive but lo.... A queen at the other hives died and the bees there needed rescuing. I miss the bees like crazy. I found them very calming. I'd look out multiple times a day and see different shadows and light playing on the hive, different amount of bees zooming around and different birds or cats sat around watching the bees. I am hoping that Michelle is able to bring a new hive here again one day. And that's only a drop in the barrel on what's been going on around here for the past two weeks.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Stitch a day sometimes

In 2015 or maybe even 2016, I decided to try this idea of stitching on a dedicated piece every day.

I also had the notion that I would restrict each season to a small colour palette. You can tell by the opening sentence I didn't have a lot of stick-to-it-ness. I was thoroughly bored in weeks. I changed the rule to stitching once a week. I tidied everything up, put it in a nice basket so I could get it out once a week, and forgot about it.

Months later I showed it to my gang of textile artist friends and there was strong suggestions that I finish it. Don't look a successful artist's advice in the mouth. Do as one is told to do. I finished it.

It's not so bad. Some parts are even good. As the eye journeys left to right, the first section of dark reds, golds and green are the palette for winter.

Then the colours overlap a bit for winter and spring.

They overlap once more for summer. I was going to swing up overhead and do fall as a kind of sky, but really, I had had enough. And the piece had too. It looked finished to me. Not just because I wanted it to be over, but because there weren't any more colours that were calling out to me, there didn't seem to be anymore stitch combinations that wanted stitching,

I felt I had explored all there was. Once I decided on how to treat the top edge, by having an uneven hem on the front side, it really did feel complete to me. The hem is the detail that pulled the work together for me and now I like it a whole lot more. I really don't mind an open ended stitching project, but the limited colour palette and the 'do something everyday' parts weren't up my alley. I like a lot of colour and to stitch as much as I want to. I can see exploring this again, but with slightly different rules. In 2018 or 19 or 20.

Monday, April 17, 2017

An Amazing Book

Today in the mail,

I received the most beautiful book sewn by Karen Ruane. Before I show you the book, look at the wonderful detail in the packaging.

String. It has been decades since I received a package tied with string. How lovely.

The book had been placed inside a box covered with butterflies.

Then inside a cotton a broder slip cover.

Finally the book.

Beautiful page,

after beautiful page.

Then some more beautiful pages.

I am so excited to have this book of Karen's. I can't wait to show my friends and to leaf through this over and over again.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Windows are Open!

Studio window is finally open and the cat is happy. See how she has perked her ear back at me to see if I have something of interest to her to say? She can't be bothered to turn her head to cooperate for a cute photo.

I went for a walk this morning, wearing a thick sweater instead of a winter jacket. Hurrah! The sun is lovely, kiddies are running on the paths of the public garden which is now open. At the moment, Michelle, the beekeeper and I have our hearts in our throats.

The bees in the backyard have taken a hard hit in the last two weeks. There have been two blizzards since March 30. Before then, the bees were coming out for short forays. There was also several sweepings out of dead bees. We would see the bodies on the white snow. I get anxious when I see the dead bees, but this is part of the housecleaning the workers do regularly. Did you know there are worker bees that have the specific duties of mortitians? Find the dead bodies, remove them from the hive, repeat. The last several days, the action at the hive has been invisible. Oh no!

But today, there are around 30 bees moving in and out of the entryways.

The number of recent dead bees is very high. Michelle is coming to see if the hive will recover or not. She might blend this hive with a healthier hive. Fingers crossed that I get to keep a hive in the backyard for another summer.

On the sewing side, yes, I have been doing that, but the excitement around spring is just too good to pass up.

Mid-March, for the first time in 20 years, I had my act together and managed to plant seeds for several flowers,


lettuce, white turnips, cipolini onions,

3 pots of fingerlings and 3 pots of potatoes from PEI to be transferred to larger pots in May

6 pots of potatoes and a couple of herbs. Mid-April and some have germinated and need better light and more warmth.

Steve pulled together a growing station for me in the storm porch and the seedlings are looking reasonably happy.

Stash busting -

I knit two scarves for friends of Phoebe's. I don't know why. I needed to get rid of some smaller balls of yarn and decided on scarves and as I knit, I decided Phoebe's friends are too polite to say no thanks to my face.

And sewing - not studio sewing but clothes.

Isn't this a lovely fabric? I meant to get it done by Christmas for chasing away winter gloom. Nope.

It needs the buttons and the hem. I can do that on the inevitable rainy day that ought to happen any time now.

Yes, there has been a bunch of studio work. I have been working on a painting class with Carla Sonheim (link on the sidebar) and damp stretching finished work.

It is a large piece, so I will show it next week with better photos. I hope you are getting a sense of Spring where ever you are and remember to buy both bug spray and sun screen.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Book Review - Contrarian view

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (here) is getting a lot of positive review right now. As a rule, I don't seek out book reviews, you will have to do that on your own. But be warned, Harper Collins has a big lust on right now for this book and reviewers are eager to please.

This reader just doesn't love this book. By a lot. Angie Thomas brings the issue of the shooting of black men into the spotlight. Khalil is killed by a policeman. Khalil has not provoked the policeman, nor has been detained for anything other than a broken brake light. He leans into the door to see if his companion, Starr, is alright, when he is shot three times in the back. He dies in seconds.

Starr is the main protagonist. She is a successful high school basketball player, going to a private white school outside of Garden Heights, Starr's neighbourhood. She travels two worlds, that of the very rich white teens and that of her deeply troubled inner city section of the city. At Khalil's death she is faced with the challenges of being the only witness to a race-related killing. She must tell her story to the police, to the DA, a grand jury and eventually, her friends. She has hidden her connection to the killing to her white classmates and white boyfriend.

Starr's journey to voicing in a public way is the main plot line. There is a large cast of supporting characters. Starr's father, Mav (Maveric) is the only well drawn character and that is only in relation to the others. I don't have any problem with the story line or the points of view. My problem with this book is that I don't think it is well written. I don't believe in the characters. The settings have a thin veneer. The characters are for the most part stereotypes that we expect to find in an inner city area, the tough gang kids, the bossy older ladies, the innocent younger kids, the gang lord, a few good guys hidden behind their tough exteriors and lots of references to popular culture to make sure you know where you are. In this book, emotions are the driving engine to action. I never really was convinced by Starr's grief, her anger and eventually her 'fuck you' attitude when she finally decides to really be Khalil's voice.

We are told everything. We don't see the dirt in the streets, the colours or smells of the two neighbourhoods, the wealth in the private school. We don't taste the barbeques or hear the music. If we don't know who Tupac is, we have to google it later. We are told Starr cries and gets a snooty nose. She doesn't wipe the snot on the back of her sleeve. I could not get into Starr or anyone else except her Dad.

And so, I couldn't get into the story Angie Thomas is trying to tell. It is a hugely important story but a decent journalist's article could do a better job. There is no reason for any person of any colour to be shot in the back by any trained professional. That's why they are trained, to know what to do before a gun needs to be drawn. The fact that this is happening to black youth, men in particular, is abhorrent. 

I return to my opening statement, this book is about telling us something is very wrong. It does do that, but it is not well written. To be a book that deserves all the hype it is getting, it has to have merit that goes beyond being timely.  It needs to capture our hearts, to feel the pain, to want to tell it's story to others to that they might read the book too. I'll donate my copy to the library so it can be read by others, but I won't recommend it. What this book has done has motivated me to get the the book (here) The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. I'll talk about it when I'm finished, to let you know if it does a better job of engaging me.