Location: Alberta

Jim and Eileen Jones – Working Wonders With Wood

Jim and Eileen Jones – Working Wonders With Wood

Alberta

I still remember back in April of 1985 as a young man from British Columbia traveling to Alberta for a new career and a new life. I had never been east of the Rocky Mountains and as the last glimpse of the rolling foothills disappeared in my rear view mirror I was shocked by the naked landscape opening up before me; these sweeping prairies which at the time seemed devoid of life. Having grown up in the lush greenery of the west coast I didn’t realize at the time that these austere surroundings where I would work for twenty years would reveal their own natural wonders; a wildness mixed with a spacious beauty beckoned by the Alberta wild roses, echoed by the howling coyotes, and pointed out by the prickly cacti. It was also within the western reaches of these vast plains that we would come upon the rural acreage of Jim and Eileen Jones of Jones’ Woodworks who would give us a measure of the prairie oasis they call home, and share the exquisite woodworking that is their passion and livelihood.

Eileen, Jim and Daisy in their Morris chair

Eileen, Jim and Daisy in their Morris chair

Jim and Eileen have a long history of working with wood, having spent the last 35 years taking on roles as students, teachers and practitioners of this fine craft. For Jim, he started out with a friend building and selling furniture after leaving the public school system, realizing that his dream of being a lifelong physical education teacher wasn’t in the cards. He furthered his skills by becoming a journeyman cabinet-maker where he then took his knowledge back to teaching students once again, this time learning how to build something with their hands. At the same time, Eileen took up refinishing antiques as a sideline, also broadening her knowledge by reading extensively on the finer points of repair and finishing. She would experiment with many different finishes and decide on the most appropriate choice to accent a piece. As Jim notes, “I am the creator and Eileen is the ultimate repairer,” and asserts that a mediocre piece of furniture can look great if finished properly, but a nice piece can be diminished by poor finishing. It is this collaboration of their individual skills that lends itself well to achieving the most pristine form, function and visual appeal of each piece they create.

Bubinga Table and Bench

Bubinga Table and Bench

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Mellow Mood

Mellow Mood

Over the years Jim and Eileen have seen a shift in the buying trends for wood craftsmanship. Jim says that in the booming early years there were more affluent clients willing to purchase high-end hand-crafted furniture than the more prudent clients they have today in this uncertain economic climate. By happenstance, their woodworking repertoire took a turn when Jim starting turning wood on a lathe to create another form of art and income. It was actually Eileen that was given an old lathe from a good friend, and once Jim had fixed it up to working condition she gave it a try, only to quickly realize that it was not her cup of tea. Jim on the other hand started playing around with it, took lessons from other teachers and eventually became a professional wood-turner, turning out his own beautifully functional and artistic pieces. Eileen would then finish the piece, first figuring out the most suitable oil, varathane, polyurethane or wax, depending on the function of the piece. For Eileen the most important part of finishing is that it still shows the wood, and enhances the look rather than changes it. She says that it has to be super smooth and feel nice to the touch in addition to retaining its natural look. She will also paint on some of the pieces, creating impressions of figures influenced by the natural world outside their door.

Buffet

Buffet

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Jim and Eileen have learned a lot over the years. In addition to the changing buyers market they have also become aware of important factors such as where their wood is sourced as well as the finishing substances they use. With large companies willing to clear-cut forests to make profits and in the process causing environmental destruction and habitat loss to many animals and indigenous peoples, they have learned of the sustainable sources for their wood. Eileen has also learned to avoid using toxic finishes such as lacquer which requires special spraying booths for application, preferring instead to use more environmentally friendly substances which do not leave particles in the air.

Ocean Floor

Ocean Floor

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For Jim and Eileen their woodworking is more than just a business to earn income, it is an enjoyable lifestyle with many rewards. These include the many satisfied customers, the generous community of wood-turners, hosting retreat workshops, the peacefulness of their environment and to the time they can call their own. Each day manifests itself by how they want to live their life and who they spend time with; mostly each other.

To see more of Jim and Eileen’s work and to learn more about their process please click here.

Join us with woodworkers Jim and Eileen Jones, and feel free to leave comments below and share on social media and email:

Painter Michelle Pickering’s Peacock Panacea

Painter Michelle Pickering’s Peacock Panacea

Sheds

I have heard many people say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Luckily creativity does not come from our skeletal structure, it comes from the heart and the brain. The heart provides the inspirational emotion that drives the brain to start the process, do the problem solving and to give it some life. Creativity seems almost mystical at times because it is not something that can easily be explained through words or quantified in labratory tests as to where it comes from. But it does manifest itself in many forms, art being one of them. Creativity, and in particular expressing oneself through the embodiment of something beautiful can change a person’s life. As life is a journey to be lived each and everyday, we live through a myriad of experiences throughout this journey and these can be both deliriously pleasant and intensely unpleasant with everything in between. Michelle Pickering is an acrylic painter from Airdrie, Alberta who came face to face with a diagnosis of lupus and fibromyalgia on her life’s journey and it was art that played a significant role in helping her heal.

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Click the thumbnails below to see a larger image.

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Michelle took fine art in college and painting happened to be her weakest medium. She therefore moved on to other things and did not give it a second thought. Ironically, many years later it would be painting that changed her life. She kept asking her husband for brushes, paints and canvases for Christmas and being the supportive partner that he is he provided all that she needed. The materials sat in the basement for a long time until one day the painter within her awakened and her healing started to begin. Ever since then Michelle’s journey has had strong emphasis on healing herself and teaching others to do the same. As she explained to us healing doesn’t just refer to eliminating physical pain; it can be something emotional, it can be self discovery, it can be finding peace, it can be finding happiness and on and on. Not only has painting taught her to be the artist she is today, it has also taught her so much she didn’t know about herself including the power she has within her.

Peacock

Peacock

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I can guess that Michelle spends a lot of time with her thoughts just like I do. One night while in bed a thought came to her in the form of a peacock. She saw a tiny little bird with a mass of colourful plummage displayed behind him. This peacock became Michelle’s symbol for every single person in the world and how important each and every one of us is no matter how insignificant we may think of ourselves. The peacock’s feathers represent all the beautiful things we have inside us that needs to be displayed to the world. As it turns out this wasn’t just a fleeting thought for Michelle, the peacock needed to become real. Michelle had to share his beauty and consequently the beauty inside herself to the world. She decided to paint Peacock (as he is now referred to) on the garage door. Interestingly enough the world delivered mixed feelings toward Peacock. For most people he put a smile on their face and maybe even initiated positive change in their own lives, and for some they felt animosity towards him. For those people, it is hard to understand what could possibly drive them to hate him so much that they would go so far as to bully Michelle and her family just to have him removed. In the end Peacock stayed and the neighbours moved. Today, Peacock represents all things good and all things possible and that is how Michelle became known as the Peacock Artist.

Destiny

Destiny

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I don’t know if this was Michelle’s conscious intent but I see Peacock in most of what she creates. The colourful, intentional brush stroke patterns in her paintings remind me that Peacock is there; in the sky, in the butterflys, and in the plants. His plummage reminds us all of our importance in the grander picture of life and that we are not separate from each other or from nature, and that those connections are what make life possible in the first place.

To see more of Michelle’s work visit her website by clicking here.

Join us as Michelle shares more about her journey and how art changed her life. We appreciate your comments and please spread the word about Michelle Pickering on social media and through email.

Bryan Versteeg’s Art Is Out Of This World

Bryan Versteeg’s Art Is Out Of This World

I am undeniably in love with Earth! I love the plants, the animals (humans are animals too), the fish, the insects, the birds, the landscape, the seascape, the biodiversity, the interdependence and on and on. I love how I can breathe the oxygen rich air while walking through the Boreal Rainforest. I love how I can feel the sun, the rain or the snow on my face when I am outside. I find it difficult to describe the feelings that I have for Earth but I am sure some of you understand. My eyes are welling up as I type these words. This emotion comes from my consciousness and from my heart at the joy the earth gives to me every second of my day but it also comes from an awareness that Earth is dying. Whether you believe it to be because of some natural cycle and therefore there is nothing we can do about it, that it is dying at the hands of humans, or that it is not dying at all, that is for you to decide from your heart. By now you are probably wondering what all this has to do with art. Well, what if Earth gave its last gasp in the not so distant future? What would we do? Where would we live? How would we live? It is challenging for me to understand that it could be possible to inhabit another planet, like Mars for instance. But what if it were possible? What would that life look like?

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Orbital Space Station

Orbital Space Station

Bryan Versteeg is a conceptual design artist for space exploration who currently lives on Earth in Calgary, Alberta. He is the artist that gives clarity in visual form to what those answers to my previous questions might look like. Although I would not leave our little blue planet for the littler red one, there are many people who would. In fact, there is a space project underway called Mars One and so far two hundred thousand people have signed up for a one-way ticket to a new life. When might this all happen? Surprisingly enough, it could begin as soon as 2025.

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Without Bryan Versteeg’s detailed artwork I assume the idea of living on Mars would seem like another Star Trek episode to most people, and it would be a stretch to think this could become reality. Bryan spends countless hours researching his next image even before he sits down to his computer to start his design. Reading technical space exploration articles and what are called white pages from NASA, as well as consulting space exploration experts from around the world gives Bryan the information he needs to start to design a space habitat, meteor mining equipment or even a football stadium. Bryan’s relationship with his space exploration colleagues is one of mutual benefit. They have a vision of what needs to be built and the knowledge on how to overcome the extreme difficulties of living in such a foreboding environment, but the final piece to the puzzle in order to bring it all together for the average Earth citizen, and perhaps even themselves is Bryan’s ability to make it come to life with his designs and his final art pieces.

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Self-Sustaining Living Space

Self-Sustaining Living Space

Because I lean hard toward the preservation of life on Earth, I had many probing questions for Bryan on and off camera. I was especially curious about why he thought people would leave our planet instead of simply mending and healing the earth. But of course there is nothing simple about that. Bryan sadly stated that although he loves Earth as much as I do, he doesn’t believe that people will change. We have such wealth given to us courtesy of nature but it is strictly a one-way take relationship many of us have with Earth. On Mars there is nothing to take for granted like we do here, and being sustainable is a matter of life or death; on Earth it is still currently seen as optional. Bryan says that everyday is precious to him whether he is walking his dogs in the park on a frosty fall morning or delving into the next space design project. He lives in the present while keeping an eye on the future with an understanding that tomorrow may never come.

Mining Asteroids

Mining Asteroids

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Bryan’s art is a place where creativity coalesces with science. It is a melding of imagination and facts. Although Bryan is an artist his work, like the work of his scientist colleagues, is dictated by the constraints that outer-space places upon them. He is constantly thinking through every step as he designs and as he says the final result may never be the final result. For now it is really only his best guess. Bryan may find his designs in physical form with human inhabitants on Mars one day but for now they hang on the walls of those fascinated and enamoured with outer-space. To see more of Bryan’s work or to purchase an image of your future home on Mars visit his website at Spacehabs.com.

Please join us as Bryan talks more about his art and what drives him to create it. We appreciate your comments and to help spread the word about Bryan Versteeg on social media and through email. Thanks.

Fine Artist Cindy Revell – From Imagination to Creation

Fine Artist Cindy Revell – From Imagination to Creation

Art For All Seasons

It is safe to assume that a young person stating their intention of one day becoming an artist could trigger the stereotypical response from concerned parents about their child not getting a “real job” and of becoming a “starving artist.” While the fears inherent in these cliches could be true for just about any career, it was fine artist and illustrator Cindy Revell’s parents that knew her life would encompass the arts in some way and encouraged her to pursue it. As a young girl she was always doing art, and although detoured after high school Cindy’s innate creativity led her back to her first love. It was while attending Grant MacEwan Community College (now MacEwan University) to take graphic design that she knew she had found her life’s passion.

Cindy Revell with Spike

Cindy Revell with Spike

As children we are constantly looking at the world around us with wonderment and no limits to what our imaginations can conjure up, unconsciously disregarding any physical or societal restrictions. As we grow we learn to curb our free-flowing thoughts for protection (or more accurately for others’ perception), but we can also lose the childlike qualities that give way to unfettered creativity. Our time spent with Cindy revealed an artist who has never lost that curiosity and enthusiasm; always thinking of the possibilities, the what-ifs and the ideas that expand her creativity as a result. It was this imagination that lent itself well to the whimsical style that Cindy has become renowned for within her successful commercial illustration career over the last seventeen years. This includes the numerous children’s books she collaborated on and furniture pieces adorned with her captivating subjects.

Governor General award nomination for children's book literature

Governor General award nomination for children’s book literature

Click on images to enlarge: (An assortment of book covers, furniture commissions, commercial illustrations)

Cindy’s fearless pursuit of new challenges and stimulation has given her the gift of versatility. Having illustrated for so long using acrylic paints, in 2002 she decided to try her hand at oil painting which also reignited the passion she felt for the old masters. Up until then she had been illustrating for magazines, children’s books, different publishers and products always using acrylics and adhering to the clients’ wishes. Cindy shares with us that one of the best things she’s ever done for herself was to become a freelance illustrator and full time fine artist working from home. She loves working away in solitude, free to let her imagination and mood guide her through her day. She introduced her new oil medium to her whimsical style, and although reminiscent of her illustrations she finds her work more unrestrained, loose and full of vigour. Contrasting her lively whimsical studies, Cindy’s still-life paintings impart the special connection she feels to the simple beauty of inanimate objects, their symbolic place in the natural world and the Zen-like calm felt from the peacefulness of the piece and the light bringing its warmth and depth to it.

Autumn Lingers

Autumn Lingers

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The principal character in a lot of her whimsical paintings is Wild Cat, the poster cat for all things possible in a cat’s world as imagined through Cindy’s mind. Cindy loves cats, and having grown up with these feline friends her entire life she admires their sleekness, wildness and independent being. They are unpredictable and one never knows what is going on in their minds; they don’t give a lot away. Cindy brings those what-ifs to Wild Cat’s personality such as imagining an amicable “conversation” between archenemies cat and bird, or some hidden communication that only they can interpret. Paralleling these ruminations; what if humans thought differently towards other species or towards each other, breaking social constructs? Cindy’s imagination is working on it.

Sojourn in the Garden

Sojourn in the Garden

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Portraiture was never a direction that Cindy had envisioned her art heading towards, but when she became involved with Project Heroes she not only found it to be a new and worthwhile challenge, but also one that she has learned so much from; about herself and others. The project was created to honour the character of the Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in the Afghanistan war and to relate to us who they were as every day people outside of the military and within it. The stories and photographs compiled from family are not meant to serve as a political statement in favour of or opposition to the war, but rather as an educational display to show the heart and human aspect of these soldiers. The project also encompasses the big picture of war; the serving soldiers and their families, the physically and mentally wounded and their families, the veterans and serving soldiers, and the men and women who lost their lives to suicide. More information about Project Heroes can be found at this link: click here.

Lieutenant Andrew Nuttall

Lieutenant Andrew Nuttall

Click on images to enlarge: (Shown are only a few soldiers from Project Heroes)

Join us with Cindy Revell and her eclectic styles of fine art. Please feel free to leave a comment below, share on social media and email.

Jonathan Havelock Finds Life in Photography

Jonathan Havelock Finds Life in Photography

Joy

I came across Jonathan Havelock and his art through Facebook. The post was one of those paid-for ads that went streaming by when I just happened to be looking. His photography caught my eye because it was unnaturally colourful which left me intrigued. I contacted him and the next thing I knew we were arranging an interview for the next time we were in Edmonton. We met Jon at the RR Gallery on the corner of 106th street and 102nd avenue where he was showing his new Secret Garden series (For new gallery info click HERE). The standard etiquette when encountering a person for the first time is to shake their hand. Unbeknownst to us Jon Havelock was about to deflect the handshake and go straight for the hug; with permission of course, after all we are Canadians. We have hugged many artists over the course of three years but it has always been after the interview when we were about to leave. So the pre-get-to-know-you hug was a first. I mention this because we already knew prior to our interview with Jon that he was once a cabinet minister for the Alberta provincial government so I amused myself by thinking this could be a reflexive behaviour from his past political days. All kidding aside, Jon’s hug was sincere and genuine and I didn’t feel he was trying to sway public opinion (or at least our opinion) about him and his art. He’s simply a nice guy.

Jonathan Havelock at the RR Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta

Jonathan Havelock at the RR Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta

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Radiance

Radiance

Although Jon is lighthearted with a good sense of humour, he is a serious fine art photographer. He is passionate about his subjects and sharing them with an audience of appreciators. As with many people, Jon’s creative path began at a young age and then stalled when living began to settle in. He said it wasn’t until six or seven years ago that his wife reintroduced him to his first love (photography that is) and he now breathes life into it as it breathes life into him. Photography has been so much more than art for Jon. He and his wife often spend their days and their journeys exploring and opening their eyes and minds to the neverending wonders of our world. His hope is that through his images he can help people take notice of their natural surroundings and by doing so bring awareness and an appreciation for something so precious and fragile.

Angelrays

Angelrays

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Bling

Bling

Not unlike a painter doing a preliminary sketch prior to the paint touching the canvas, snapping a shot with his camera is only the starting point. The original image is often the skeleton of the finished piece. After hundreds, and more often than not thousands of shots taken, the creative process has just begun. Jon spends hours pouring over his collection of pictures and out of that he may find a dozen or so that will be slated for the next step, digital enhancement. The idea of digital enhancement used to bother me because I thought of it as a way to cover up the photographer’s mistakes or making it look better than it actually is; kind of like cosmetic surgery for pictures. Maybe there are people who do that but in Jon’s case I see a real artist at work. He doesn’t use enhancement to improve his ability as a photographer, but rather to add or remove layers of colour, light and depth. The skeleton becomes somewhat abstract but still recognizable. He forces us to take notice. Out of the corner of our eye we recognize a leaf but there is something different about it that grabs us and we are compelled to look. Jon’s work has the capacity to create a state change in potential viewers by knocking us out of the daily micro focus we find ourselves in. The images are usually big and bold and command us to pay attention whether we meant to or not.

Peacock - Secret Garden Series

Peacock – Secret Garden Series

Click the thumbnails below to see a larger view of the Secret Garden series.

At the end of a long but enjoyable day at his computer, Jon and his wife meet for a glass of wine and together put on their creative thinking caps. It is time to name the newest members of their family. When Jon was describing this to me all I could think about was this happy couple with a metaphorical baby name book in front of them carefully choosing the perfect name for their new born picture. After all, this creation is a culmination of the time Jon and his wife spend together having fun, searching out that next image and all the memories that came along with those experiences. What a wonderful way to be together and be with nature!

To see more of Jon’s work please check out his website; Jonathan Havelock Fine Art Photography or you can visit him at his new gallery at Suite 155, 10403 122 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5N 4C1 (On 121 Street across from the old Molson Brewery in Glenora Gates).

Please join us as Jonathan shares with us his passion for photography. We love comments and appreciate if you could spread the word about Jonathan Havelock on social media and through e-mail. Thanks.

Rachelle LeBlanc – Fine Craft Through Fine Rug Hooking

Rachelle LeBlanc – Fine Craft Through Fine Rug Hooking

The Picnic

Fibre artist Rachelle LeBlanc had no idea that when she took a stress-reliever escape trip to Shelburne, Vermont back in 2003 that she would be returning with more than just a rested mind, but also a new found passion. It was while touring what is now called the Patty Yoder Gallery that she was intrigued by the remarkable hand-hooked rugs displayed there. With the often frenetic pace of work and raising a family she knew that she needed another focus, a hobby that would allow her to unwind and release her energy. Upon her return home she learned that her mother-in-law had a latch hook that she could have for free. Rachelle didn’t need any more encouragement than that, and she started playing around with some scrap pieces of wool and quickly realized that she had found it; she was hooked.

Sweetness In The Shade

Sweetness In The Shade

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Rachelle says that she loves being an artist because it suits her temperament well. She loves doing her own thing and rug hooking is an activity that requires her to slow down, breathe and enjoy the quiet time within her studio; a meditative process that acts to expel the stresses of daily life. The balance to this, and her favourite facet of rug hooking, is the fun she derives from creating challenging patterns and working through the difficult details leading up to the fulfilling completion. This is why she chooses to do fine rug hooking as opposed to the primitive style. A piece can become more difficult by utilizing more colours and detail, and she notes that the longer a rug takes to complete the more spectacular it will become. The Picnic (shown at top) had more colours than any other piece she has done and took 2 1/2 months to complete. Personally, I am astounded that every difference in colour, shading, wrinkle or detail of a subject is a different piece of wool and can be put together with such clarity. Another challenge she took on was to hook a three dimensional piece. She chose a male child as her subject and using a mannequin of a one year old she designed a pattern. Using the problem solving and results from her first sculpted piece, Rachelle is looking forward to creating a series and adding more dimensions such as the next figure having ears and so on.

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Harvest

Harvest

Rachelle always creates her own designs with good reason. Inspired by her family and what’s going on in her life at the time, Rachelle’s subject matter for her rugs are a reflection of her own story and the emotions she felt surrounding a particular moment. In her studio she can take that emotional thread and release it into a hooked rug where it will forever be memorialized. Through time and hard work I can see that she is creating a “storybook” or “photo album” chronicling parts of her family’s life that can be handed down to the next generation. I also feel that she is leaving a legacy of her passion and of who she was. I especially like the subject matter reflecting the simple pleasures of life and things that matter the most; family, nature and events surrounding both.

Bed of Violets

Bed of Violets

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The process of hooking a rug will start with an initial sketch from a photograph of a particular scene or subject. Rachelle will then do mini watercolour paintings to figure out the colour variations, even down to the proper skin tone, and will lay out her piles of coloured wool to determine her palette and what she has available. If she is lacking the proper colour she will dye the amount of wool needed to accommodate a specific section. It’s much like a painter determining their colour palette to use and mixing paints to arrive at the vision they imagine.

Orchard

Orchard

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Unlike painting, rug hooking has historically not enjoyed the same recognition as a fine visual art. Admittedly Rachelle has not experienced this stigma herself but has rather received great support and feedback from the arts and crafts community. Will we someday see hooked rugs hanging in fine art museums around the world? Maybe it is already happening, for back in 1990 Rachelle saw some Jacquard weaved pieces hanging in a fine art museum and this ignited in Rachelle a goal to someday see her own work hanging in one. I think Rachelle’s drive to always challenge herself and push the boundaries of rug hooking, along with finding joy while doing so, are all the ingredients she needs to achieve her dream.

Enjoy our video interview with Rachelle and please feel free to comment below and share on social media and email.

Kristin Anderson’s Flowers are Blooming Beautiful

Kristin Anderson’s Flowers are Blooming Beautiful

It’s finally here! After the lengthy endurance of winter’s icy grip and with the arrival of the first day of spring, we move forward with great relief toward warmer temperatures. The palette of nature transforms itself from stark white to a rainbow of colours as the blossoms and flowers pop their heads up to greet the warmer sun and begin the celebration of a renewed cycle of life. For many people the arrival of flowers brings great joy. In droves we head to the garden centre to stuff our trunks with annuals and perennials to build little flower communities in our gardens. For the remainder of the warm months we find our senses become drenched in the colour and fragrance of the happy blooms. What if you were the kind of person who, in the company of flowers felt like your head was about to explode? Many people solve the problem by using antihistamines. We know of one unfortunate sufferer of flower allergies who found an innovative and fun way to enjoy their beauty without the irritating consequences. Meet Kristin Anderson, a polymer clay artist from St. Albert, Alberta.

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Kristin loves flowers but unfortunately they don’t love her. Ironically, her mom Flora is a florist and she would give Kristin beautiful arrangements for her birthday but sadly she couldn’t have them in her house. Then one day Kristin decided that a big old tree in their front yard had to go. It was blocking all the natural light into their home so Kristin’s intent was to replace it with a Japanese Cherry Blossom tree. To her disappointment, she discovered that Alberta doesn’t have the climate to support this type of tree. Determined to have a Japanese Cherry Blossom in her life she decided to sculpt one, and so began her journey into creating three dimensional wall art with flowers being the main focus.

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The need to have this particular tree in her life led Kristin into a creative endeavour that she never imagined would bring her to where she is today. She found that she had an affinity for the polymer clay, and within six months her hobby found it’s way onto the walls of friends, then onto the walls of admirers, and then a solo exhibition at the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton. She hasn’t looked back and at times finds it hard to keep up. She sold ten of her twelve pieces at the exhibition and acquired fifteen commissions from that show. I find this truly encouraging from the perspective of people who would like to step into a creative realm as well as the enthusiasm shown by people buying art from artists.

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Art and flowers should be something that all people can enjoy including those that are physically impaired in some way. Kristin knows this all too well. Her allergies prevented her from enjoying flowers but at the same time that affliction was also the catalyst to a new art passion. In turn, this enabled her to share both her art and flowers with a lady who is visually impaired. When we were visiting Kristin she was in the process of finishing up a piece for her. Kristin’s goal was to make a durable orchid so that it could be admired and appreciated through her touch. What a wonderful way to bring visual art to a tactile world!

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Through an odd twist of fate, Kristin followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a polymer clay florist. Her flower creations are arranged on canvas and placed in the appropriate frame. The frame is the vase where each bouquet remains everlasting. Long stem roses are deserving of a crystal vase or an ornate frame while poppies are better suited in something more demure; either way Kristin seems to have a talent for cultivating beautiful blooms in her oven.

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I have to admit, I am not a cut flower person. It is not that I don’t enjoy their beauty but I am pragmatic about it. It makes no sense to me to spend money on something that comes up short lived on the enjoyment meter. I would rather they stay in the ground where I can enjoy them for a much longer time. Having said that I don’t judge people who do like a vase on the table. However, the next time you want to buy your sweetie some cut flowers consider this; Kristin’s blooms will last a lifetime and maybe even for generations; they are always beautiful; their petals never fall off or fade; they brighten up a space even in the middle of winter and they can always remind that significant someone of a moment in time when they received that special bouquet.

Please join us as Kristin talks more about her creative passion. Also, we love comments and appreciate it if you share Kristin’s story on social media and through e-mail. Thank you.

Corinne Cowan Paints the Gardens of Space

Corinne Cowan Paints the Gardens of Space

As a little girl it was a gift of crayons and a colouring book from her grandmother that started artist Corinne Cowan on her path to acrylic and watercolour painting. The thrill of opening that gift is still with her today, and as she pans the room with her arm showing all of her supplies she jokingly points out, “Some people like shoes; I like paint.” Corinne says that she has always connected with painting and finds it to be gratifying and therapeutic, with her two favourite subjects being flowers and outer space. Spending virtually all day in her garden during the summer, she becomes intimately acquainted with the intricacies of the flowers, be it the petal or the pistil, the stamen or the stigma. She is fascinated by the beauty and mystery of their shapes, colour and function, and aims to paint their images based on the emotion she felt and perception of how they looked to her when first glimpsed.

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Corinne’s gardens of inspiration. Click on images to enlarge:

Corinne’s introduction to painting the cosmos was ignited when she first saw an image of a nebula. It was the Rosette Nebula which looked very much like a flower, and likewise instilled in her those feelings of wonder and curiosity. She was drawn to the similar patterns between the mysteries of her garden and that of exploring images of the nebulae, galaxies, meteors and moons. That fascination of the universe and its endless wonders led Corinne to becoming one of four members from Canada belonging to the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA). It is an organization that brings together artists from twenty countries to participate, encourage and collaborate within the space art community.

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Click on images to enlarge:

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It takes no more than a walk through her nurtured garden to inspire Corinne for her next floral painting. On the other hand, accessing the final frontier to paint a birthing planet or morphing star could be a little more challenging. Corinne’s enthusiastic niece suggested that since she heard they were taking reservations for a one-way trip to Mars that her auntie should go. Smiling, Corinne opted instead for a more down-to-earth method to gather inspiration for her space paintings. Leaving it to accomplished space pioneer and astronaut Chris Hadfield to uncover and report on the space action, it was a constant attraction for Corinne and her niece to listen to and watch him on the computer. Closer to home Corinne reads extensively about space, receives guidance from the hundreds of images brought back to earth from the Hubble Telescope, and draws on her own curiosity and imagination to fuel the fire for her stellar subjects.

Click on images to enlarge:

Corinne’s love of art is in the mystery that keeps her curious, searching and expressing her emotions on canvas; it is witnessing the change of a flower through one season, or the change of a star forming over a twelve year period; it is the community of artists that she appreciates being a part of with the honest critique and praise that helps her grow; it is sharing this passion with an eager participant such as a weekend spent painting with her niece; it is the appreciation from people that purchase her paintings that know they have a little piece of Corinne in every one; and perhaps the most important of all for Corinne, simply stated is, “It’s an enjoyable thing to do.”

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Frances Vettergreen – Poised to Paint

Frances Vettergreen – Poised to Paint

October 1, 2012, we dropped off Arty for his post X-Canada check-up, strapped on the camera bag, laced up our walking shoes and started heading for downtown Calgary to do our last interview of the year in our former hometown. We went to meet Frances Vettergreen in her studio located in Calgary’s beltline district.

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Frances is a painter working mainly in oils and cold wax. She refers to herself as a visual artist but there is much more to what meets the eye. Calgary is in the top five most sun drenched places in Canada and this affords an artist such as Frances plenty of clear days for exploring her surrounding prairie and mountain landscapes and storing away ideas for her next painting. She is always tuned in to her surroundings and although she may not recognize her experience as the catalyst for a painting at that moment, it lies dormant and when the time is right it bubbles to the surface. My first “visual” impression of her work was a stimulating experience as the brightly coloured shapes on the canvas left me wondering where she could have been and what she might have seen. Her work leaves me wanting more. More questions, more answers, more sensory stimulation.

Early Bartlett

Early Bartlett

Four Seckels

Four Seckels

I must admit my preference for visual art had a propensity to lean toward the more realistic representations of the world, but like all things we don’t understand art in the abstract is sometimes hard to appreciate. Humans are highly visual creatures and I, like many, stay in my comfort zone when it comes to some things, like art for instance. Gladly and as I had hoped, Frances opened my eyes to see beyond the obvious. Her paintings stood before me and gave me a taste and a feel for how abstract visual art encompasses solid creativity. It was joyful to be able to grasp that even in a small way. Now that I understand the abstract world of art a little bit more it has been like opening my eyes for the very first time. It is new, bright, big and exciting!

Please join us in our conversation with Frances Vettergreen. Comments are always appreciated!

Demonstration Forest

Demonstration Forest

Darren Petersen – Artisan Glassblower

Darren Petersen – Artisan Glassblower

Riddle: What work can be done in shorts and a t-shirt and preferably during a frigid Alberta winter?
Answer: Glassblowing of course; standing in front of a 2300 deg Fahrenheit gas furnace!

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Darren Petersen of Sparrow Glassworks has been working with glass for 23 years and independently making a living doing it for the past 15 years along with his wife Deborah who is also an artisan. While most Red Deer residents may be filling their garages with quads, snowmobiles and snow blowers, Darren and Deborah have filled theirs with a home based glass making studio replete with all the tools of the trade including two gas furnaces, one containing the initial crucible of molten glass, and the other for reheating to maintain malleability while working with the glass.

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Darren gave us a demonstration of the glass blowing technique while I tried not to sweat on the camera in the penetrating heat of the furnaces. It was a marvel to watch him work with what is such a delicate and fragile substance in it’s hardened form, but while molten he could manipulate and shape it to his will. He made it look so easy; no doubt a result of his many years of practice, trial and error.

Feel the heat with Darren’s glassblowing demo below!

Darren notes that along with the conventional techniques learned for glassblowing that he has also figured out some of his own tricks to create desired effects. I’m sure thousands of years ago this practice would have appeared mystical, and my lack of understanding of the process from beginning to end certainly left me bewildered, especially once we entered the gallery. The contrast walking from his shop of steel, heat and sweat into the bright, quiet gallery with the finished, handblown creations of coloured and clear glass staring back at us was palpable! All around us were glass objects in the form of drinking vessels, vases, pitchers and ornamental pieces that left my mind struggling to comprehend how they ‘came to be.’

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Darren says that there are virtually no limitations to what can be done with glass, and he actively seeks out new and interesting ideas to shape into glass. Not willing to be bound by the safe and well traveled routes through his glass creations, he says that his ‘multiple glassblowing personalities’ allows him to try various undertakings without the constraints of convention. Armed with the knowledge that glass has absolute properties in it’s heated and cooled states, it is quickly evident to him whether a particular experiment will work or not, and so he is not averse to improvising on the fly and an object of one intention may become another as the process unfolds. Regardless of what Darren’s next creation may be, he is always inspired by nature’s beauty as well as a purpose or interconnection of the piece for the appreciator.

From the furnace blast now to the finished glass!

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Please click on the image for a larger view:

We hope you enjoyed our interview with Darren as much as we did and please feel free to leave a comment below!