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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.’
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!
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!
Gary and I couldn’t have picked a better group of people to seek out across Canada than artists. We continually find amazingly talented people and also the kind of people we just want to be around. We were introduced to Annette ten Cate during our impromptu visit to Medalta. It was such a wonderfully unexpected encounter. Annette is a figurative ceramicist who is doing a one year residency at the Shaw International Centre for Contemporary Ceramics. She carefully sculpts people and sometimes pets which she puts into print context for three dimensional illustrations. They will become the characters in books, album covers and family portraits.
Although the figures are simple in detail they depict very human characterstics. They have habits, behaviours and attitudes toward various everyday happenings in peoples lives. There is life in Annette’s clay people. When she was introducing us to the families, couples and children, I could recognize people I know and even myself in some of them. In the “Class Photo”, the little boy in the front row on the end I recognized for sure from school days gone by. Everyone has known someone like him before. His body language has defiance written all over it. The couple on the couch with all the dogs is my friend Tammy and her pack and my aunt is showing the poodle at the dog show (seen in the video).
Annette reminds me of a female Norman Rockwell working in clay. I used to love looking at Norman Rockwell’s paintings. They made me smile because they represented everyday life back in a time when life was simple. I felt that same way looking at Annette’s clay people. I can see why she says she hasn’t stopped smiling since she began working figuratively.
Click on the images below to enjoy a larger aspect.
Check out our video interview with Annette ten Cate as she introduces us to her clay people. Comments are happily accepted.
A secondary reason for making the journey across Canada was to explore and find out what Canada is all about. Neither Gary or I have ever really been east of Saskatchewan during our time alive and thought now would be as good as any. I have been told that you can never be 100% prepared for something and so here we are.
When we left Lethbridge, eyes wide with excitement, we had no idea what we would find along the way in addition to the people we would meet. So when we pulled into Medicine Hat with no plans to meet any artists it was a nice coincidence that we discovered the Medalta Potteries Museum. Not only did we feel like we were on a field trip but it also kept in line with the art theme of our journey.
We arrived at the front reception area where we met Chelsea. We had told her what we were up to and that we would love to cover a little video and do a blog about our findings and experience there. She kindly called her executive director and we quickly had the permission we needed. At the same time, Aaron Nelson showed up. He is the artistic director for the Shaw International Centre for Contemporary Ceramics which is adjacent to the Medalta Potteries site. Thankfully Chelsea took it upon herself to introduce us to Aaron and he graciously offered to show us the center and introduce us to some of the resident artists once we were finished in the museum. This was a wonderful addition to the museum and we did an impromptu interview with one of the resident artists, Annette ten Cate. Interview and blog coming soon!
I had heard so much about the clay deposits in and around Medicine Hat. Many of the potters we have interviewed so far get their clay base from this area. Also, I have seen many of the Medalta crocks in my meanderings but hadn’t put two and two together to realize where they actually came from. For everyone who owns one of these, now you will get a glimpse of where it was made and likely have a greater appreciation for it as the person who made it likely suffered under appalling working conditions.
Take a look at the video as Gary and Brittany narrate the journey through the Medalta Pottery factory which first opened in 1912.
Above: Anne’s loveable cat Piglet
Wow! It was an angry wind last night. Arty was getting pounded so hard that I wasn’t sure if we were going to find ourselves lying on our side in the morning. As it turned out I woke up sometime in the middle of the night. I think it was the silence that woke me as the menacing wind tired itself out and gave us all a reprieve. 5:30Am. Gary peaked out the curtain and was beholden to an incredible fuchsia coloured sky. Although I was tired and tempted to stay lying still in bed, I decided the moment needed to be captured on camera and got dressed to greet the glorious sunrise. When I stepped outside the van, my attention was drawn to the mountains in the west. I had never seen intense pink mountains before and there they were right in front of me.
I am so grateful to Anne McClelland for inviting us to stay the night on her property 4 km outside the village of Mountain View, Alberta, just a short drive to Waterton Lakes National Park. Without Anne’s invitation, we would have missed the pink mountains, the new born fawn and its mama, the delicious homemade pizza Anne made for us to share with her and the conversation infused with fabulously funny stories. Anne is a painter who owns The Curious Bird Studio and Gallery in Mountain View. You can find her gallery on highway 5 just on the south side as you are entering Mountain View.
Anne’s story is similar in tone to ours. She worked as an Agricultural Scientist at the Ag Canada Research Station in Lethbridge for many years and then one day she decided that it no longer fit into the life she wanted. With that she left and went to work for The Native Women’s Transition Centre in Lethbridge and decided to move to 72 acres just outside of Mountain View. She moved in 1996. Sometimes the worst things can happen to us but they can actually turn out to be the best things. Not long after Anne bought her new property she was commuting to Lethbridge for her job and on the way home she found herself entangled (literally) with another vehicle in a terrible accident. The paramedics expected to find her dead from the report they received from the other driver and certainly not sitting on the tailgate of her pick-up when they arrived. Anne’s life was about to take another sharp synchronous turn. She could no longer work at the Transition Centre as her right arm and hand was in a state of paralysis and she was in for a long haul of recovery. So began The Curious Bird chapter in her life.
Anne has been a painter all her life. She had an aunt and a friend of the family who were painters and when Anne took an interest in it they gladly gave her all the instruction she could absorb. Painting is her life’s passion. Unfortunately, Anne is right handed so the accident presented some real challenges since her right side was now paralyzed. I admire Anne and people like her. She looks at challenges as opportunities to better her life in some way. She knows what she wants and goes after it regardless of the uphill battles. Anne used the accident as an opportunity to spend more time painting but she had to learn to paint with her left hand. It did occur to her that painting was going to allow her to use her right hand again and she credits a lot of her recovery to it.
Anne takes a genuine interest in her subjects. She gets to know them before she dips her brush into the paint and sets it free on the canvas. Her painting is two dimensional but the subject is painted with character and personality. Anne gets to know the tree, the individual bloom, the face of the animal or the person she is capturing and the moment she interacted with them. The relationships are special to Anne and she doesn’t take them lightly when she paints. I believe it is the way she honours her relationship with them. The inquisitive side of Anne has led her to experiment with textured formats on her canvases. She showed us paintings where she used egg shell, cheese cloth and panty hose to help bring a three dimensional life to her subjects.
Be sure to catch our interview with Anne McClelland as she introduces us to her subjects. Comments are appreciated! Thanks you.
Above: Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda
Garth Irvine’s artistic calling has certainly come to light as a noteworthy wildlife photographer, which is not to say that he wasn’t accomplished in the arts of stained glass or glass blowing (I say, you should see his Tiffany style lamps!). But considering that he has spent most of his working life as a Zookeeper and very experienced in the behaviour of animals, it only makes sense that those skills and knowledge would lend themself well to wildlife photography where anticipating an animals behaviour can muster up some pretty fine pictures!
In addition to his Zookeeper career, Garth has also been leading ecotours through Nature Encounters Tours and Travel Ltd., which has been a vehicle to the venues for the breathtaking photos that you see throughout this post and his linked site. So hurry up everyone, book a tour with Garth so he can get out there and bring us more of those remarkable photographs from all over the globe!
Armed with an arsenal of knowledge and his camera, Garth’s vivid photographs of these iconic gifts of nature invokes a feeling of “closeness” to them, and I can only wonder at the exhilaration, mixed with a certain amount of that instinctual fear of the unknown, that Garth must feel being so up close and personal with these magnificent animals on their home territory.
Click on the thumbnails below for the big picture:
Be sure to join us for an engaging few minutes with Garth as he brings us closer to the animal world! And don’t forget, Comments are Cool!
My mom and her husband Keith moved in next door to Karen and her family about five years ago. Until Gary and I did her interview for our blog, I had never met her or her family. She was singing in her backyard one summer and my ears caught the sound of this beautiful voice softly floating over the fence my family and her family share. I caught myself lingering on the front step as the melodic sound and the words of her song captured my attention; that was my first introduction to Karen although she never knew it.
When we met face to face and we talked awhile, I could tell Karen was a sweet and kind person. When she talked about her music and the experiences that were cultivated from it, she had this look in her eyes; it was a glint and a sparkle, the kind we often only see in children’s eyes.
Gary and I had the opportunity to see Karen and her band, which includes her husband Darwin on drums, at the Word on the Street festival in Lethbridge, Alberta. She’s a performer through and through; there is no doubt that how she makes people feel when she sings to them is very important to her. It was a pleasure to get to know the person behind the voice.
We welcome you to watch her interview and listen to the audio file of her song entitled Dance from her CD of the same title.
Listen to Karen’s song Dance with the player below:
Daryll Duus got his first electric guitar from his grandmother when he was 13 years old. It was red. Mostly self-taught, after only a couple of lessons Daryll “took it from there” and never looked back.
Now, after 20 years of playing professionally, Daryll and his Duus Blues Band entertain the appreciative audiences with a mix of his own bluesy songs and those of other artists.
Shy at first on stage, as Daryll’s skill level in his playing increased so did the confidence in his voice, soon belting out the lyrics and becoming the consummate entertainer, sometimes playing slide guitar with a beer bottle while standing on a patron’s table. Great fun!
Daryll’s music is also finding its way into film. The up and coming comedy web series Rust has credited Daryll’s song Skullectro to the opening and closing soundtrack to the barefoot running comedy series.
Enjoy our interview with Daryll and his performance of one of his “lovey dovey” songs If I Had A Dream
Gary and I went to visit King in his recording studio in downtown Lethbridge. When we arrived outside the building King gave us directions on where to find it. “Go through the metal door and dead bolt it behind you, go across the carpet, up the stairs, through another metal door and enter the first door on your left.” This maze of doors, hallways and stairs left me wondering what we were getting ourselves into. Although my imagination can be quite active at times, we found King in this wonderful oasis he calls home to Papa King Productions.
King gave us a tour of his studio “where it all happens;” with his music anyway. King has been helping musicians over the years record their music in a setting that was made with the purity of thought for musical and non musical types to feel comfortable the minute they set their first foot through the door. I was so comfortable I felt like I was ready to record something and I can’t even sing.
Gary and I talked with King for about an hour. He talked about his family and it was obvious to me that they have been a strong driving force to keep King so passionate for so long. At 63, he explained to us that he wants to “retire into the Blues.” Although most people would denote Blues music to be down and sorrowful, with his unique voice and musical style he prefers to sing the “happy, uplifting type of Blues.” King is 5 songs away from finishing his first CD. After all the years helping others do the same he says “it’s time.” Most people would start to wind down and “retire”and for King that just inspires him to play more and sing more. He’s happy to keep the music going.
Take a look at our video interview with King and listen to the music file of one of his songs titled ‘Sugar Tree’
Listen to King’s track ‘Sugar Tree’ with the player below:
Ellen McArthur is a southern Alberta photographer from Lethbridge. She first picked up a camera in 1970 and has never looked back. She considers herself a photo purist and has enjoyed the challenge of maintaining excellent photography without the addition of technological enhancements. “Not that there is anything wrong with that,” she says, “it’s just not for me.”
Her love for photography comes from her childlike appreciation for seeing something in the viewfinder for the first time. She describes it like entering her own private space and finding little treasures to capture in her photographs. Ellen’s subject preference is any opportunity to embrace mother nature in all her splendour. She has been known to sneak a photo on occasion of people and capture the human element with unsuspecting innocence. She loves what she does and it comes through in her photographs.