Thursday, July 28, 2011

Community Threads Day Three

My drive to the Gibson Centre for Culture, Art and Culture takes me through pastoral farmland. It's always pleasant to get there no matter what time of year. Everyone is eager to contribute to the Community Threads tapestries project and everyone's contribution is welcomed and finds its way into this absorbing endeavour. Much of the project depends on their contribution and their contribution is one of the reasons we are fostering this artistic and creative undertaking. Donations of time, materials, expertise and labour. In the picture above, just some of the yarn we've collected from many. One of the activities we did today, headed by Chris H, was sorting the piles of yarn we received into colour groupings. Chris was helped by Sharon Robinson-Rodrigo and Linda Needles, the President of the Nottawasaga Weavers and Spinners.

The first thing we did today was collect up all the paintings that had been done. I shared with the group how we were going about editing the paintings and abstracting from them the designs that we would be using for the tapestries. It was hard at first for participants to imagine the purpose of this exercise, but as it evolved, they 'got it'! Creativity, for those who were brave enough to venture there, was/is very much about relingquishing control and having somewhat of a blind faith as to where you feel you are being led. In the above picture, Sharon Robinson-Rodrigo with her son, Nicolas.

Linda Needles, president of the Nottawasaga Weavers and Spinners editing the paintings.

I admired many of the participants who, despite having no confidence in their own artistic abilities, put their fear aside and jumped in feet first! Here, Janet Dryden and Valerie Splaine. Yes, I'm sure many of us had to beat back our inner self critical voices and allow ourselves to find some beauty in the marks on that page that are distinctly and uniquely our own.

Gayle Wheeler is herself a talented tapestry weaver. Her husband Norm Wheeler is a well reknowned potter. Gayle will be lead technical assitant for the bulk of the weaving of the tapestries.

Dawna Beatty (I think I spelled your name right this time!) at work editing her painting.

Today saw a few new participants. Corrie Parsons, shown above at the left, sitting beside Elizabeth Bishof.

We also had a visit from Maija Hoggett, a journalist from The Herald, the newspaper for South Simcoe and based in Alliston. She took all kinds of notes and will be writing an article in the near future about the project.

We were very glad to be graced with the every graceful and abundantly enthusiastic and creative Executive Director of the Gibson Centre, Angela Drainville shown here third from left, wearing black. She came up with the name of the project, Community Threads, which of course, is such a perfect metaphor for what is happening at different levels as well as captures the artisinal aspect of the project. She also donated the space and administrative resources to undertake this Ontario Arts Council funded undertaking. She has lined up an exciting list of entertainers that will be coming to the Gibson Centre soon. To know more go to

All the pieces of the edited paintings come together. We are taking the sections of paintings and reorganizing them into strips that work together aesthetically. From left to right, Corrie Parsons, Gayle Wheeler, Elizabeth Bishof and Nicolas Robinson-Rodrigo.

So we designed our tapetries, 12 altogether. We won't let you see the final designs because we like to maintain some surprise and make you curious enough to come to the official launch of the Community Threads project on September 11 2011 between 2-5pm when I will also be having a solo exhibition of my tapestries.

And finally, another task that got done today is creating the warps for the tapestry looms. Above, Janet Fayle and Elizabeth working on the 10 yd warp for the gobelin loom and below, Betty (who I think would like to remain annonymous...if not please let me know)

We all felt really enlivened and invigorated after todays events. Nothing is as exciting to me as sparking the creativity in others. I know how much joy I derive from my artistic and creative endeavours but its even more electifying when its shared with others. I am also in awe and admiration when I look at a group of people who have so much talent and skill and are so humble about it. The participants must be applauded! Thank you all for another great day!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day Two Community Threads tapestries

The excitement emanating from the participants and filling the room generated by the Community Threads project has increased exponentially from last week. It was palpable. It is galvanizing weavers, painters, Gibson Centre staff, in a positive, stimulating and creative way. The joy in the room was abundant and I felt so lucky to be a part of this Community Threads project.

So lucky to see transformed before me the participants faces, as their fear about going outside their comfort levels subsided, their self doubts pushed aside, and they joined in the fun. People who were not comfortable in painting last week, joined in this week, bringing paintings they had tried on their own, and joined the others in continuing to create paintings today. People like Flo Thomson (above) who has been in Alliston since 2003 and has lived in Ontario for a number of decades and originally from Newfoundland. Today Flo decided to paint the Obelisk in Alliston, a monument to the founder of Alliston, William Fletcher, 1791-1871.

Lucia Tavares came out today and without reservation jumped in and created a painting towards the project.

Jean Kazmierczak preparing skeins.

Other activities were occurring at the same time. Elizabeth Bishof, Jean Kazmierczak and Nellie Waterson were helping to prepare wool skeins for the dyeing we’ll be doing with Pat Burns Wedland and Barbara Hilts August 6 & 7. The dyed yarn will be then be used in the weaving of the tapestries. Nellie mentioned that the town of New Tecumseh was named in honour of an Shawnee Chief (1768-1813). On line I learned that he fought against white rule, but ended up joining forces with the British in the war of 1812 when they captured Detroit.

Nellie Waterson winding balls from skeins.

Libby Hoffman painted the Gibson trucks, Janet Fayle created a number of landscapes
A few participants braved doing figures....Linda Needles of Scottish dancers, Sandi Nemenyi of a pianist, Mattie Sullivan of hockey players and Allanah Bishof of a female guitarist. All had never tried figures before so they must be commended on taking the risk. Carol Watson, an artist and felter, contributed a winter scene, and will bring in others to contribute to the Community Threads project. Barbara Hilts also got on the painting bandwagon. Barb said she would reserve the gallery for October 2013, when we will hang all 12 tapestries and present the self guided brochure which she will create.

Libby Hoffman

Assembling the Gobelin Loom

Carol Watson, Gayle Wheeler and Dawna Beattie

with chief engineer Mattie Sullivan

The gobelin loom set up.

Judy Pirone from the Alliston Independent who wants to feature the Community Threads project in the paper and weave the tapestries. Beside her Mattie and Flo.

I applaud all of the participants in going outside their comfort level. It is so endearing to see how very humble everyone is about their own artistic and creative talents. How courageous of them to attempt to paint and to create these paintings which will later be translated into tapestries. Their lack of confidence in their artistic abilities only made for more vibrant, vital paintings. I think these feelings are a very important part of the creative process requiring a vulnerability, uncertainty, receptivity, taking the process of making and creating moment by moment, and being present to the flow of your creative forces.

I am learning so much too about the history and community life of New Tecumseh, the important facts about the community and area that I was entirely unaware of. I am getting to know the people participating in the Community Threads endeavour. Making new connections and new friendships.

To those still in the wings, succumb to your curiosity and come see what is going on. We welcome any contribution you can make to the Community Threads project. Warps to be prepared, skeins to be wound, looms to be dressed. We need someone who would be good at making calls to companies and charitable organizations for their donation, no matter how small. There are still a few things that have to be paid for that are not covered by the grant. Next week we’ll also be collecting all the paintings, and organizing them into the final designs for the tapestries. Come and contribute in some way to creating a lasting legacy for the community of New Tecumseh.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Community Threads tapestries Day One

I was totally impressed with the paintings that were produced by the guild members and guests of the Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners, most of whom do not consider themselves artists. I agree wholeheartedly with Picasso who said that everyone is an artist. So many of us have heard so many negative messages about art, about making art, and were well trained to focus our energies and talents into other domains. But if you take a minute to recall your childhood, remember how easily we engaged in the activity of making pictures and how freely we did it. This session was about disconnecting from our critical voices and freeing ourselves to freely make marks on the paper connected to our theme - images that represented community.

People selected mostly photographs they had taken from the the municipality that are representative of the community. Some people also sought out other sources such as magazines and the internet as other themes that represented community were lacking. We've decided to have another painting day next Thursday July 21 10am to 1pm. Eventually these paintings will be translated into designs for 12 tapestries that we hope will hang in different venues in the municipality with an accompanying self guided tour brochures. This suggestion was from Angela Drainville, the Executive Director of the Gibson Centre. She also gave us the title of the project which we felt was very appropriate.

After a brief lesson on design and application of the paints, we got started, hesitantly at first, but before we knew it people were creating amanzing results. Janet Fayle said " I didn't believe I could do it!" When Donna Beatty was done, she said it was ''uplifting" and Allanah Bishof said that painting made her feel good. Mattie Sullivan enjoyed painting with a group and that this was stimulating for her and generated a lot of ideas. She made reference to really being able to get into the 'flow' that happens in painting and being creative. Libby Hoffman was interested in how the painting could apply to her weaving and Gail Sheldon agreed. Painting has many applications for the weaver as a source of colour inspiration for fabric, spinning and dyeing. It will give you ideas about combining colours that you may never have thought of combining before. Valerie wasn't too sure about how she felt about painting but she said she would do it again which is a great sign. In addition, what she was able to produce was remarkable and showed no sign of her uncertainty. Linda Needles felt she'd rather be knitting which, since she was painting madly away, showed what a good sport she is and a team player! Thanks Linda! We had a few experienced painters in the group that joined us as well: Barbara Huson, Carol and Joan (sorry....didn't get last names). Carol and Joan helped some of the novices with the application of paint. We appreciated their input and contribution.

This project is made possible by the generous contribution of the Ontario Arts Council and many volunteer hours and donations.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


It's been a very exciting year thus far, starting with having my tapestry "Joy" accepted into the American Tapestry Bienniale which took the tapestry to the American Textile Museum in Lowell Massachusetts and the Elder Gallery in Lincoln Nebraska. I taught a Creativity and Designing for Fabric weaving workshop to the Niagara Guild of Spinners and Weavers and had a wonderful time with them. I taught a weekend course on tapestry through the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners at Georgian College, and it was wonderful for me as a teacher to be able to focus only on teaching tapestry, when usually, I'm teaching a variety of weaving structures besides tapestry weaving. All this while I celebrate my 15th year teaching weaving, and 25th being an artist, fibre artist and weaver.

Presently I am working on preparing for a solo exhibition of my tapestries and fibre related work, entitled WHOLENESS and it will take place at the Gibson Centre for Community, Arts & Culture in Alliston which will open September 1 and close September 26 2011. The opening reception will be Sunday September 11 between 2 -5 pm.

This exhibition will be in conjunction with the official commencement of an Artist in the Community Project for which I received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to collaborate with the Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners Guild in creating 12 community tapestries.

Why the title, WHOLENESS. Over a lifetime, many of us seek it and this journey makes for an interesting, more engaged life. We all come from many different backgrounds, each of us facing the challenges that our family of origins may have presented to us, and this foundation sets us on our path, and motivates our choices in life. Most of us, myself included, seek to be the most and best of who we are, and we can only be as good as the circumstances, opportunities and environment will permit. We all must contend with the limitations and constraints that life and others may place upon us, and somehow find a way to be whole and to be fulfilled. Through our passages, we feel a range of emotions and my tapestries and fibre work is mainly about giving visual imagery to these very same emotions. To find Wholeness, we need to be in touch with ourselves, with who we are, and certainly with others.