I have to pinch myself everyday just to make sure I’m not dreaming!
April 23, 2013, another simply gorgeous day. The air has just the right amount of chill and the azure sky is soothing on my morning eyes. Today we will visit Terry Phillips at her home and studio, Hopespring Studio, on Quadra Island, B.C. Terry is our 81st interview since we began in August of 2011. I sometimes wonder if traveling and interviewing artists will become routine and just another day but it never does. It holds as much intrigue and excitement today as it did right from the start.
Click on the thumbnails to view a larger image.
Terry Phillips is a textile artist and watercolour painter. She started out making traditional block patterned quilts and painting on watercolour paper. A creative mind knows no boundaries though, and so one day Terry found herself combining textiles with paint. Her quilts began to transform from functional bedspreads to free flowing artistic textile art that would add a bounty of life to the loneliest of walls, and her paintings became an integral part of that process. When Gary and I were invited into her studio we were greeted with eye stopping pieces of art. Each piece stood out on it’s own; some for the colours, others for the texture, still others for the three dimensionality, and most with all three.
Terry’s work is representative of all things intriguing to her. She admits that she would like to try to focus on developing her strengths in one or two areas rather than many. Her ideas come from everywhere. Her mind is open to whatever wants to come on in. I love her enthusiasm for her art. She has a child-like sense of awe and excitement combined with years of hard work and loving attention that is evident in her work.
Textile art has opened up a whole new world of creative possibilities for Terry and she says she has only scratched the surface. There are so many different paints, fibres, techniques and materials that she incorporates into her pieces in layers upon layers. Everyday she gets to explore and stretch her imagination. What a wonderful way to live life!
Join us as Terry shares her enthusiasm and passion for textile art.
Warning: After watching this video you may want to start creating your own textile art!
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It was actually over a year ago that I first stumbled across the vivid colours of Elspeth Armstrong’s paintings! I was perusing art sites and although we weren’t planning a trip to Hornby Island at that time, Elspeth’s landscapes and seascapes were indelibly imprinted in my mind. So when we decided to tour the islands around Vancouver Island I remembered her and hoped she would agree to an interview. We emailed her and she kindly accepted!
The magnificent sandy beaches and warm waters of Tribune Bay on Hornby Island are quite familiar to me. I was born into a “beach bum” culture, and the summers spent camping, swimming and laying around in the sun in this area seems like eons ago, yet is still fresh in my memory. Elspeth’s paintings capture the charm of this island, and like the fond memories etched into my thoughts her paintings also leave a lasting impression; a recognition of places once visited and of those now wanting to discover! Admirers of Elspeth’s art have been known to remark how they feel like they are walking into the painting and feeling a part of it.
Click on images for larger view!
Elspeth has only been on Hornby Island for six years but has been painting and drawing for most of her life. The varied landscapes she has painted give evidence to the other locales she has called home throughout Canada; topography as gentle and flowing as a prairie grass plain, or as rugged and unrelenting as the wild west coast! Elspeth notes that it is a very humbling experience when people will part with their hard-earned money to purchase a painting, and so her greatest satisfaction in her work is when someone sees a piece that stirs them, finds a connection or emotion within it, and will mention to her that, “I look at it everyday.” It can’t get more gratifying than that!
See our interview with Elspeth below as Corinne gets to know this prolific painter!
(Don’t forget, social media is your friend!)
Life is full of surprises! For instance, meeting up with my sixth grade elementary school teacher Paul Bailey after 37 years had to be one of them! We both had changed a bit from those days, when we had shoulder length hair, wore ’70′s era clothing, Paul with a moustache and me just dreaming of one! We met up with Paul at his home on Denman Island, a tranquil location just a short ferry ride from Vancouver Island. It is a destination that can prompt one to say, I could live here!, and certainly the 1000 plus residents that do live here might have said the same thing upon their first arrival….and stayed! Our visit here brought back fond memories from my childhood when we explored Denman, Hornby and Tree Islands; camping with my friend or cycling across the islands during a weekend school camp-out.
Paul spent 4 1/2 years at my old school and then ventured out into the world of photo journalism over the next twenty years. From there he went back to teaching; designing, establishing and then heading the career program in professional photography at North Island College, as well as teaching photography in the college’s Fine Arts Department; positions that he still holds today. Paul notes that he thoroughly enjoyed his two decades working for the magazines and book publishers, but says when it comes to creating your own agenda, both from a time and creativity perspective, he is now free to follow his own path of photographic expression.
Paul’s thirty plus years in photography has taken him from the days of film cameras to the present day of digital media. Paul admits that when digital photography first came out he was intimidated by it, but eventually he embraced it and now incorporates both the traditional film experience and the digital realm within his personal projects and his teachings at North Island College. Paul has traveled down various avenues of creativity within his medium and points out that he is quite excited about the world of abstractionism. He enjoys the feeling of freedom from not being bound by representational expectations; every viewer is an equal participant and afforded their own interpretation of what they are looking at.
A look through Paul’s website at Paul Bailey Photography will take you on a journey through cultural, historical and political imagery, abstract macrophotography, life and scenes abroad, as well as expression of cultural dances through his Shapeshifting series. My first glimpse at one of Paul’s Shapeshifting subjects in his studio gave me pause; my mind eventually sifting through the twirling and swirling motion to discern what it was, or rather who it was, that I was looking at. One of those moments of intrigue…then AHA!
Enjoy our interview below with Paul Bailey and please feel free to leave a comment! (And don’t forget the social media buttons!)
Our introduction to painter Marlene Wildeman was certainly intentional when we looked for a place to hang our hats for the night in Kamloops, B.C. through the international Couchsurfing organization, but was purely coincidental as an artist that we could interview for our travel blog. It was a great package deal! Not only did Marlene welcome us into her home as a gracious and hospitable host, but she also happened to be an accomplished painter who had some of her paintings on display at Thomas Cook Travel agency in preparation for this year’s Artwalk.
After a bite to eat at Marlene’s favourite pub downtown and while walking back to her condo we were starting to get a feel for Marlene’s adventurous spirit (she traveled for a month through Tennessee while Couchsurfing at ten different homes!). That joie de vivre also coincides with what she regards as a rebellious side when it comes to abiding by the mainstream ideas about painting protocol within the workshops she attended and having to go along with her teacher’s curriculum. I’m sure as a former highschool French and English teacher interacting with “rebellious” but yet creative students, Marlene can relate to the search (fight?) for true individual creative expression.
This incursion for Marlene in her artwork seems to be a balance between adhering to the tried and true skills imparted by her art teachers, and the courage to strike out on her own path of discovery, fuelled by a creative energy, and to “see what happens.” We can see and feel that energy within Marlene and is evident in one of her series of paintings titled, “Upsetting The Order”; four paintings of birch trees painted in the four seasons with the age lines of the trees defined by written prose poems. Very original! Very courageous! I have never seen a fusion of the visual and literary arts such as Marlene has created with these pieces shown below:
Click on the thumbnails below for a grander view of Marlene’s work:
Stick around as we hear more from Marlene in her interview with us below:
Please feel free to leave a comment as well!
So many art forms are created with a cornicopia of materials Mother Nature willingly provides. These materials, along with an artist’s idea envisioned in their minds eye, turns nature’s raw materials into the artist’s creative glory.
Cheryl Massey shared with us that her desire to create came as a result of marrying into a prolifically creative family. Although her artistic talents were seeded in the performing arts as an actor and a model, she wanted to try her hand at something with her hands. One day while relaxing on a beach on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia she found herself pondering the artistic possibilities of the ancient art of basket weaving as the raw material gently swayed in the soft Pacific ocean breeze all around her.
Cheryl harvests plant material such as Tule rush, Bull kelp, Cedar bark from fallen trees, and even Daylilies from her own garden in Whistler, B.C. Some of her days are spent collecting and gathering using various types of water craft or just walking along the beaches of the Pacific Northwest. As part of her practise, she has created a little mantra that reminds her and teaches others the basic process of basket weaving; gather, dry, soak, weave. The gathered material remains unaltered except for the appropriate preparation, and Cheryl then skillfully weaves gorgeous functional items such as baskets, purses, backpacks and hats. The Tule rush provides a soft, supple, sweet organic smelling basket for a freshly baked loaf of bread, or perhaps an elegant purse for an evening out. Bull kelp is a strange sea plant that bobs around on the ocean’s surface. It’s characteristic buoyancy and unique long, whip-like shape are prime for making baskets and decorative pieces which are identifiably distinct. Cedar bark is durable, strong and comes in a deep red or yellow colour and can be prepared to make the tiniest of baskets. Those are the three main base materials used for the baskets Cheryl weaves but she continues to explore and experiment with the rich abundance of plants such as Daylily to use as accents for her various projects and to incorporate her own personal touch.
Click on each picture below to view a larger aspect.
Please join us with Cheryl as she walks us through the ancient practise of basket weaving; gather, dry, soak, weave. Also, we welcome you to leave a comment for Cheryl as well.
If we weren’t here to talk about Vincent Massey and his remarkable pottery creations, it would still be easy to fill the pages with not only his prominent and famous family history, but also his own personal achievements outside the art spectrum. But these can be left to your own curious research, as pottery is indeed what we came to talk to Vincent about, and his work undeniably stands on it’s own as an enduring legacy of beauty and function to all those that have welcomed his pottery into their homes.
Pulling up to Vincent and his wife Cheryl’s home in Whistler, we are greeted by a timber-frame home built by Vincent 27 years ago. It is an evolution of the original structure with years of personal touches incorporating shapely driftwood and other eye-catching appurtenances. Vincent also has his studio, kiln and gallery on his property, three separate spaces representing the various stages of his creations. The studio developing the infant clay in it’s formative state, the gas kiln firing the piece up to adolescence, and the gallery showing the matured, finished work on display, showing it’s stuff for potential owners.
One of the first things that we noticed about Vincent’s pottery are the large vessels that he has masterfully created. That, combined with his unique glazes in vibrant blues, fuchsias and pewter colours to name a few, gives his work the individuality that creates a signature style of pottery all his own. We also enjoyed the tour of his studio, gallery, and just listening to Vincent talk about the process of his work in this idyllic mountain setting.
Join us with Vincent in his studio as he gives us a taste of turning clay on the wheel, and please feel free to leave a comment!
The heartbeat of the human spirit is creativity. Many of us tend to think we aren’t creative but it is an element that is woven into the very matrix that makes us human in the first place. Sometimes it takes several attempts when exploring our own creativity before we find what “does it” for us.
Andrea Symons is the first artist that we interviewed as we resumed our trek across Canada and she found her creative addiction in lamp work. Simply put, lamp work is a technique used to manipulate molten glass with a torch into beads and vessels. Every chance she gets, Andrea has been working on her art for the last eight years and there is no doubt she loves what she does. She lives in Pemberton, B.C., where even the most passive creative person would succumb to the beauty that is beholden here.
Andrea exudes a vibrancy that is expressed in her beads and she is quite willing to go down any road to explore new and exciting challenges. The day we met Andrea she was wearing a bead around her neck in the shape of the female torso. I never knew glass could look so sexy! Later when we were in her studio she shared with us the story of her friend who looked at her female torso beads and said “she’s not doing anything”. So after some discussion and some laughter, Andrea set out to put her female torsos to work and now you can find some of them wrapped around a pole. These are very popular with women who use poles as part of their exercise regime. Imagine that!
On a more serious bead note, Andrea has wandered into the world of the Coastal First Nation peoples motifs and has given her own interpretation and style to a glorious series of beads. Her relationship with the people she knows and nature sets her inspiration on fire and it burns right into her beads.
Be sure to watch our interview with Andrea and a little demonstration on lamp work. As well, we welcome you to leave a comment for Andrea.
Above: Recently completed stunning Wolf and Hummingbird urn box.
James Michels is a Cree/Metis artist that pulls himself between his longstanding passion and experience as an accomplished musician, and his newer passion for creating and perfecting his Bent Cedar Box works of art. It was through his six years of journeying on the road playing music with his band within the pacific northwest that he came across the expert carvers and bentwood box makers that he would observe for hours on end and learn the skills and art form.
I had never heard of a bentwood box before until I stumbled upon James’ website. After looking at the magnificent boxes and panels, the uniqueness and beauty were evident, but there were many unanswered questions such as “where did they originate?”, “what are they used for?”, “are they still used today?”.
What exactly is a bentwood box? The best explanation is an excerpt from James’ site:
“Bentwood boxes are one of the most outstanding items manufactured by Native people of the Pacific Northwest Coast, including parts of southern Alaska, western British Columbia and southern Washington. Made by kerfing and steam bending a single plank to form four sides, the containers with a height greater than their width are called boxes, while those with a length greater than their height are referred to as chests. Historically, boxes came in various sizes from small (measured in inches) to massive (large enough to provide seating). Some undecorated, others carved or painted or both. The highly decorated ones were symbols of wealth. Fishermen used boxes shaped to fit into their canoes to carry tackle and supplies. Some were used for cooking (filled with water and hot stones) while others were used for storage of food, clothing, tools, or supplies.”
As an addition to the uses for bentwood boxes, James said that he has been getting requests for urn boxes, one of which he was just finishing up when we visited with him. One of the urns that James was asked to create was from a family that lost their little boy. The song below that James wrote and performed is a dedication to that young boy.
Click on the player below to hear “I Will Be The Moon” by James Michels.
I Will Be The Moon
Join us below with James in his workshop as he demonstrates the fine wood craftmanship of making bentwood boxes:
After realizing that our power inverter was fried and there was nothing we could do about it at that time, we set off from North Vancouver towards Newfoundland, via our first stop in Squamish, B.C. There, we were fortunate enough to be hosted by Lina through the Couchsurfing community. We also met her partner Mike, her kids Taylor and Jacob, and their adorable little dog Oreo. The evening was spent indulging in great conversation and a nice cup of tea.
The next morning we were off to Pemberton and Whistler for our first three interviews on the road. Stay tuned for gorgeous lamp work from Andrea, Cheryl showing us the ancient art of precision basket weaving with Tulle Rush and Bull Kelp, and magnificent functional pottery from Vincent.
Pemberton is a great little town surrounded by 360 degrees of the majestic Coast Mountains. We had planned on staying the night at a provincial campground that we thought would be open and free, but unfortunately we were wrong. At this point we had aquired an uneasy feeling not knowing where we were going to bed down for the night. We drove all over the place and resigned ourselves to the MacDonald’s parking lot (if allowed), when I decided to e-mail Andrea (one of the artists we interviewed) and ask her if she knew of a place. She got back to us within minutes and said we could stay on her brother’s farm 20 km outside of Pemberton. Randy was waiting for us when we arrived and took us to a heavily forested, private riverside camp spot on his 65 acres. We had the river, the incredible view of the mountains to the east of us, the dreamy silence, except for the frogs singing their welcoming acapella, and all the vitamin N we could take in. We moved slowly through the morning as we languished in our idyllic setting; a hummingbird greeting us outside our window and delicious pancakes for breakfast. We then tested out our DIY portable shower stall, just for the purposes of sharing with you pictures of us using it and we even showed a bit of skin (Oops!).
We set out on May 2nd towards Lillooet via the Duffey Lake Road, a 101 km stretch that took Arty (our van) about two hours to complete. With grades of up to 13% (up and down), the windiness and sheer shoulders make for some deep breaths and sweaty palms. On top of that Arty handles like a bowl full of water!
Arriving in Lillooet we were excited at the prospect of our second chosen open and free campground located on BC Hydro land. Sadly our hopes and dreams were dashed as we discovered it was free but not open. We were fortunate to ask a fellow who gave us directions to another campground that was not open for the season but we could park overnight without cost and without bathrooms. Unbeknownst to the campground attendents we plugged in Arty and had heat on a chilly May night. We were grateful for the power discovery not only for the warmth but also because Arty decided to blow his fuse for the fridge and the water pump and since the fridge also runs on 120 volt we could still keep our food cold. In the morning we purchased some fuses but he blew again. Arty has a short fuse, we know that much; I guess we will see.
We traveled down East Hastings to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in search of Raven’s Eye Studio and to meet with Haisla Collins. Haisla (pronounced H-eyes-la) is an accomplished mixed media artist in the mediums of painting, screen printing and drawing, and she is also a blues musician and bead worker. She wanted to share with us a mural which is painted on the side of the building where the Raven’s Eye Studio is located. She and several other artists were commissioned to do “Through the Eye of the Raven” in 2010. The mural is epic and left Gary and I awestruck in its presence. For the people of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside it represents a beautifully orchestrated community effort. Although Haisla and her painting peers collaborated on the subject of the urban aboriginal experience, they also drew ideas from the people living in the community and their personal interpretation of it. The cement canvas consists of all the different parts that make up the whole First Nations community; the people, the neighbourhood, the buildings, nature, animals, traditions, culture and history. It represents pride, hope and unity. If you ever find yourself in the 400 block on the south side of East Hastings be sure to look up, way up as you won’t want to miss it; nor can you.
After leaving Raven’s Eye Studio, we walked down a couple of blocks to the Carnegie Community Center which is located on the corner of Main and Hastings in Downtown’s Eastside. The community center was built in the 1800′s and is an incredible piece of historical architecture. It was likely occupied by various other organizations and perhaps businesses in its past but I wonder if it was ever bustling with as much life and activity as it is now. Haisla recently started a job there doing what she loves; art. She teaches people in the community how to paint while researching and strengthening her own skills and giving strength to others at the same time.
Click the thumbnails below to see a larger image of Haisla’s work.
Haisla describes her work as indigenous expressionism. She is facinated by the connections between people and the interconnectedness of their internal and external environments. Her influences include Picasso, Renoir, and Van Gogh as well as more traditional artists like Bill Reid and Lyle Wilson. Her paintings are such that your eyes are drawn to them even if your gaze was elsewhere. When I asked her where her ideas came from she simply stated that she focuses on themes and what attracts her interest at the time. As well, she has a system in place for managing her creativity; when she is feeling creative, she sketches her images one by one and when she is not feeling particularly creative she finishes them. For Haisla, visual art and music have been her outlets for expressing herself in regards to her own experiences as well as her interpretation of other peoples experiences. Having said that, she is also very pragmatic about it and realizes that hard work and hours put in are what you do to become a strong artist. I have no doubt she instills this philosophy in her students as well.
Check out our interview with Haisla Collins as she talks more about her art and the “Through the Eye of the Raven” mural. We invite you to leave comments as well.