Location: Dawson City

Mixed Media Artist Shelley Hakonson Mixes Up Lemon Pound Cake

Mixed Media Artist Shelley Hakonson Mixes Up Lemon Pound Cake

I never gave pound cake the respect it deserves until the day we met with artist Shelley Hakonson from Dawson City, Yukon. Perhaps it was the word “pound” that I had a problem with. It doesn’t really sound like something I should be eating. Of all the people, Shelley would be the one to make me see pound cake in a whole new light. Shelley is an artist who thrives on words, phrases and stories. Her visual art is created from this fascination. I am sure she could have extolled all the virtues of the word pound in the context of cake and I wouldn’t even have had to eat a piece to become a fan. Nevertheless I wasn’t about to pass up the whole tasty experience.

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Here are some of Shelley’s latest pieces.

RavenWife

RavenWife

RavenWife is based on an Irish creation myth about ancient Fomorians, a semi-divine race coming from beneath the sea to settle Ireland. One of the Chieftains, Tethra, married a Shape-changer, a raven woman. Shelley created this piece using her own face as the template for the sculpture. She says that ravens fascinate her with their intelligence and the comic relief they add to her life in Dawson City. The beak was created with paper-clay over mesh with plaster wrap, and acrylics. The face was made with paper-clay over rigid wrap, and acrylics.

Only A Bird

Only A Bird

Only A Bird is a comment on the hidden women of patriarchal misogynist religions and age-old traditions that hold women in contempt. The following six words and the corresponding points are part of the title and are Shelley’s view about the male dominated religions of the world that deny women freedoms within their cultures.

1. Modesty. A reflection of restrictions on freedom for women. No right to choose.
2. Honour. Women’s bodies are possessions and women are seen as weak, unable to reason and are morally inferior. Men make their decisions for them.
3. Chastity. Effaces personality and physical suggestion, women need to be hidden to prove their “worth”.
Depersonalized and segregated from the rest of the world.
4. Purity. Women are a source of temptation, leading to bad deeds.
5. Duty. The Qu’ran does not call for women to wear the Niqab, or remain secluded from public life, but generations of cultural tradition in some areas of the world do.
6. Faith. Patriarchal Sanctioned Authoritative Supremacy.

Only A Bird was created with fabric, paper-clay, acrylics, embroidery, and bead work.

To see more of Shelley’s work and her story please go to her full ArtsQuest interview by clicking HERE.

arts-quest-shelley-hakonson-luscious-lemon-pound-cake

Luscious Lemon Pound Cake

Cake
2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
3 cups of sugar
5 eggs
3 cups of flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup of milk
3 tbsp lemon extract

Glaze
1 cup of icing sugar
4 tbsp of lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
1. Cream the butter and sugar well, until fluffy then add eggs one by one, beating each time.
2. Combine milk and lemon extract in a separate bowl.
3. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixture to the butter mixture ending with the flour.
4. Pour into a buttered and floured 10 inch Bundt pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
5. Let sit for 10 minutes and then remove from Bundt pan onto a rack that is sitting over a cookie sheet.
6. Combine glaze ingredients (double the recipe for a real lemony taste).
7. Pour it over the still warm cake.
8. Squeeze 1/2 lemon or more over the cake for even more tartness. Yummy!

Enjoy!

John Steins Shares the Art and Science of Printmaking

John Steins Shares the Art and Science of Printmaking

Flute Player - Linocut

Usually the pulse of a small community can be intrinsically linked to how people make a living. In the case of Dawson City, Yukon this pulse mainly comes from mining and tourism, both being seasonal industries. Dawson City is the northernmost community in the Yukon accessible by road. What one might surmise is that the geographical location presents some economic limitations to its 1300 permanent residents. However, necessity is the mother of invention, or in this case inspiration. Back in 1998 two visionary people, John Steins and Greg Hakonson, decided to start the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. There was, after all, an abundance of creative people living in Dawson City so it seemed like the logical thing to do. This impetus eventually initiated the opening of the Yukon School of Visual Arts, Canada’s northernmost accredited art college which attracts students from all over the world. Now, Dawson City can add thriving art community to its pulse.

John Steins operating his Chandler & Price Letterpress

John Steins operating his Chandler & Price Letterpress

Eaglet - Wood Engraving

Eaglet – Wood Engraving

Please click on thumbnails to view a larger image.

We had the pleasure of catching up with printmaker John Steins for our third and final interview in Dawson City. He is a former Mayor of the Yukon community and the only person in town who owns a Jaguar. I mention the car because part of the tourism appeal for Dawson City is the preservation of its Goldrush heritage which includes wooden boardwalks and clay roads and is an unlikely place to find an exotic automobile. As well as those two fun facts about John, he also has a diversified artistic background, everything from sculpture and music to his 35 year love affair with printmaking. I enjoyed chatting with John as he gave me a new perspective on the art. I wondered why a person would go to all the trouble of carving or engraving a piece of lino or wood, roll ink onto its surface and then transfer it onto paper. Why not just cut out the middleman and go straight to the paper with your ink or paint? Sure, the print is what you and I get to enjoy as it hangs on our walls but to the printmaker the art is actually the block that is carved. In his time spent with printmaking, John has engraved countless images, everything from animals, landscapes, portraits and even political figures which satisfies his activism side. He chuckled as he pointed out that there is no lack of subject matter when it comes to politics.

Barack Obama - Linocut

Barack Obama – Linocut

Please click on the thumbnails below to view a larger image.

Part of John’s love for printmaking is the craft that is involved and the problem solving that goes along with it. He explained that artists are great problem solvers as the very act of creating lends itself to figuring out how something is going to be done in order to get to the desired result. Not long before we arrived, John was one of several printmakers in the region who participated in the Extreme Steamroller Printmaking event held in Whitehorse, Yukon. The woodcuts and the final prints were 48″ X 40″. Having to create a woodcut of this stature requires rigorous thought especially taking into consideration the weight of the pressing machine, in this case the steamroller. John’s problem solving didn’t end there as he set out to recreate the smallest wood engraving he has ever done (2.5 inches square) and make it into his biggest woodcut creation. Whether it be size or the subject matter he wants to represent in print form the challenges always present themselves and the fun of rising to overcome them makes it a great day for the printmaker.

John's Mona Lisa Smile - Photo taken by Guin

John’s Mona Lisa Smile – Photo taken by Guin

Mona Lisa Smile woodcut in progress

Mona Lisa Smile woodcut in progress

You can see more of John’s work by clicking here.

Please join us as we introduce you to John Steins and his world of printmaking. Also, we really enjoy comments and appreciate you taking the time to share them as well as spreading the news about John on social media.

For Leslie Chapman All That Glitters is Gold

For Leslie Chapman All That Glitters is Gold

Scarab Pendant

Welcome to the Town of the City of Dawson. For those thinking that I am confused, at one time Dawson City was home to 40,000 people and was indeed a city. Then, after a three year period the population plummeted to town status and is now home to about 1300 residents. Why the sudden rise and fall of people in such a short period of time? In one word…GOLD! Dawson City has long been synonymous with The Klondike Gold Rush, attracting many gold seekers between 1896 and 1899 with a small percentage who found riches. There are still active mines operating to this day, and one of those present day owner/operators is gold miner, goldsmith and jewellery artist Leslie Chapman of Fortymile Gold Workshop/Studio and art gallery.

Leslie at her Fortymile Gold Workshop and Gallery

Leslie at her Fortymile Gold Workshop and Gallery

Click on images to enlarge:

Forged Ring - Diamond

Forged Ring – Diamond

Leslie and her husband Bill have been operating Fortymile Gold Placers for over 30 years now and living on the Fortymile River for about 40 where they also raised their children. Initially they focused strictly on the gold mining, but with the prices dropping in the 1990s and the operation being seasonal due to the need for water, it made sense to supplement their income using the fruits of their labours by giving a value-added component to their mined gold. Leslie has always been involved creatively in one way or another, and so she set out to teach herself goldsmithing; reading books and putting to practical use what she learned. She found that she had an affinity for making jewellery, and has now been at it for 15 years, creating exquisite, all hand-made wearable art. Leslie’s style is evocative of ancient Egyptian and Mayan civilizations, with Northern themes such as the caribou and northern lights also inherent in her work. Leslie notes that her work is also inspired by the requests for commissioned pieces, giving her new ideas and challenges that she enjoys working through with her clients.

Palm Leaf Earrings

Palm Leaf Earrings

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Aurora Bangle

Aurora Bangle

It is worthwhile to note that their mining operation returns to them what they call green gold; a reference to the fact that no chemicals are used during the extraction process and the gravel bars are fully restored to their natural state. Fortymile Gold has won several environmental awards and an example of their placer mining technique can be viewed at this linked video. Leslie has complete chain of custody of the gold used for her jewellery, and can therefore guarantee the content and quality of the gold as well as the ethical practices for workers and the environmental safeguards that they adhere to. There is extensive information on Leslie’s website (click here) about the mining process and quality of the gold.

Shamans caribou amulet necklace

Shamans caribou amulet necklace

Sapphire Wave Earrings

Sapphire Wave Earrings

Leslie loves that the process she undertakes to produce her jewellery is reminiscent of ancient goldsmith practices; no mass produced manufacturing or “perfect” identical pieces. Each of her pieces is hand-made and therefore one of a kind, with its own nuances and unique attributes. The gold recovered from her mine is essentially ready to use, with no further refining required. It is a high purity gold alloy made up of 87% gold, 12.9% silver and 0.1% other minerals which makes for the perfect formula; easy to work with and yielding brilliant 20K yellow gold. With the gold in this form she just has to melt down the gold particles into a bar and then start working with it whether in wire, sheet or nugget form.

Rune ring

Rune ring

Click on images to enlarge:

People have always been fascinated with gold, and aside from its physical properties such as being highly malleable, not rusting or corroding, and of course displaying the lustrous glitter that is so visually appealing, it also seems to hold a power and mystique to it. Leslie can attest that there is some property of gold that resonates with human beings and is part of the reason why it is valued and considered precious in so many societies. As you can see from Leslie’s jewellery, the beauty and appeal is enriched when the raw gold is shaped to reflect something that creates a personal connection; it could be a wedding ring, a symbol of spirit or power, or a facsimile of a cherished memory or pastime. Leslie says part of the satisfaction of being a goldsmith is making something that will last, a keepsake that will be cherished and passed down through generations.

We now join Leslie at her Fortymile Gold Workshop studio and gallery. We welcome Comments below and please Share on social media.

Shelley Hakonson Turns Art On Its Ear

Shelley Hakonson Turns Art On Its Ear

“Lucille's chameleon-like behaviour mystified her friends, she was never the same way twice.”

When we first arrived in Dawson City, Yukon on September 19 it was cold and snowing. Unfortunately we had just fried our electric heater the night before and had no choice but to find a store to purchase a new one. I was expecting to have to rob the nearest bank in order to pay for it but surprisingly the price was reasonable. We settled in for a cozy evening in Arty with anticipation of meeting visual mixed media artist Shelley Hakonson the next day. As I prefer to do with all the artists we interview, I went looking for some information about Shelley so I could come up with my own unique never-been-asked-before questions. I perused through her website, www.shelleyhakonson.com and found it to be most intriguing. Interestingly enough, after looking at Shelley’s work and reading about her, I thought I was headed into a deep philosophical journey and pictured myself way over my head in Shelley’s art arena. As I would come to find out my assumptions were unfounded.

Shelley in front of one of her hand-stitched pieces

Shelley in front of one of her hand-stitched pieces

Part of the Heart Series - "The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts....``

Part of the Heart Series – “The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts….“

More from the Heart Series. Click the thumbnail for a larger image and caption.

Dawson City is saturated with the past; clay roads, wooden board walks, surrounding gold mines and signs of the once bustling gold rush town lingering all around. It is basically open in the summer and closed in the winter. The mines shut down, tourists have retreated home, most merchants close up and the locals gather at Bombay Peggy’s (a former brothel) for one last pint or two before the great migration, usually to some place warm. Shelley and her husband Greg participate in this exodus every year, traveling to places such as Russia and Italy. She packs along a sketchpad and notebook and as they travel gathers her inspiration for the following year’s upcoming pieces.

Part of the Zoomorphic Series - “Since Chuck got the big promotion, he's been the Cock of the Walk", said Bob enviously... "but just wait until he finds out about that wife of his...”

Part of the Zoomorphic Series – “Since Chuck got the big promotion, he’s been the Cock of the Walk”, said Bob enviously… “but just wait until he finds out about that wife of his…”

From the Zoomorphic Series. Click the thumbnail for a larger image and caption.

What do Gary Larson of The Far Side fame and Indiana Jones have in common? Shelley Hakonson, of course! Shelley’s interests are far reaching and a bit on the far side one might say. She is an avid reader and many of her ideas come from the English language. Her love of words, phrases and idioms are the subject of most of her work. For example, phrases become images and images become her art. In her Zoomorphics series she has taken a phrase like “fish out of water” and painted the body of a human with the head of the animal in reference. In this case her waggish imagination conjured up a woman’s body with a fish head posing awkwardly in her dress and high heels. Although the painting might leave you scratching your head, Shelley provides us with a little more insight into where this oddity might have come from by giving us clues with an accompanying one liner caption. The rest of the story, she says, is for us to figure out however we like. It is her hope that the viewer will have fun and share in some of her lightheartedness.

Titled - Raven Wife

Titled – Raven Wife

From the Artefact Series. Click thumbnail for a larger image.

Shelley is also an ardent lover of different cultures and the mystery and intrigue that surrounds them. Before she became an acrylic painter much of what she did was mixed media textile art. When you walk into her home there are remnants of these pieces all around such as the Mongol Shaman Bag and the alien spacesuit pulled from a burning rubbish bin near Roswell and they all have a story associated with them. What is incredible is that her work is all hand stitched and is so intricate and detailed that some of the Artefacts, as she calls them, have fooled people into thinking that she and Greg had engaged in some archaeological discovery during their travels and brought back real artifacts. Remarkably, it is all Shelley; she finds something that interests her, does some research on the subject and then sets out to create her interpretation of it. Although based on facts, Shelley says she allows herself a liberal amount of creative freedom.

Titled - Drowning

Titled – Drowning

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Demeter from the Sacred and Profane Series

Demeter from the Sacred and Profane Series

The imagination and creativity of Shelley’s work is endless. On the one hand she enjoys making people smile and laugh at her witty high jinks with preposterous portraits of common phrases and idioms we can all relate to, and on the other hand some of her work is passionately serious. There are many things in life that need to be brought to our attention and make us think. We are all inquisitive by nature and I believe Shelley really knows how to access that curiosity. She certainly did that for me.

Be sure to get to know Shelley as she shares with us her fun loving spirit expressed through her art. We love comments and please help us spread the word about Shelley by sharing/liking on social media. Thank you!