Location: Yukon

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.

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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!

Painter Phyllis Bergeron Finds Her Colourful Calling

Painter Phyllis Bergeron Finds Her Colourful Calling

Home of the Sign Post Forest, our arrival in Watson Lake coincided with acrylic painter Phyllis Bergeron and her husband’s plans to take off in their motor-home to Saskatchewan for a wedding. Along the way they would be dropping off seven puppies in Edmonton as part of the animal rescue program. Busy with her preparations, she initially thought we were there as art dealers and buyers, and was surprised when we asked if she was ready to start the interview. Her Smart car was already stored inside her studio/gallery, filling most of the floor space and her paintings occupying the walls all around. Unfazed, and with a quick wit and sense of humour, Phyllis easily went with the flow and we carried on as if the car had always been part of the decor.

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Phyllis has been painting for the last seven of the thirty-eight years she has lived in the Yukon and has done so without any formal training. Originally picking up a paint brush while in Mexico, she initially used Mexican cement paint to get a feel for it and to see if painting was for her. With a Mexican influence, her painting style is colourful and lively, much like her own personality as you will discover watching her video interview. Phyllis quips, “I paint in acrylics mainly because since the change of life I don’t have as much patience to wait for that paint to dry.” Originally painting flowers, she has deviated from this subject matter to focus more on animals and people and the stories that they tell.

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Phyllis not only gains inspiration from her Mexican subjects but also from the denizens of her home territory in the Yukon. With an abundance of wildlife to photograph, she loves to capture the essence of them in vivid colour depicting their social behaviours or just a pose in time. With the mosquitoes and black flies most likely larger and more abundant in the Yukon than around the Saskatchewan farm where she grew up, Phyllis prefers to paint from a picture as opposed to en plein air; not wishing to share her paintings, or her flesh, with the bloodthirsty beasties. An obvious lover of animals, Phyllis brought out one of the fuzzy puppies for a quick visit and snuggle before they were tucked away in the motor-home for their trip; a fitting end to our interview.

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Please join us for Phyllis’s video interview and feel free to Comment below and Share on social media:

Brian Boyle Shows Us Art is in the Eye of the Beholder

Brian Boyle Shows Us Art is in the Eye of the Beholder

When I was twelve years old my dad used to show me how to develop black and white photographs in our home darkroom. I was always fascinated by the magic of the image appearing before my eyes and to this day I am still in awe of the whole idea of photography and how it all works. The age of twelve was a long time ago and many things have changed since then, especially in the world of photography. I grew up using trays and chemicals in the dark, watching with excitement as my picture materialized, to working in the family photolab where the process became more automated and machines slowly started to take over. Today there are only remnants of the those magical days. Purists (as they like to be called) who still use film cameras and maybe even developer, stopper and fixer trays in their home darkrooms are themselves remnants.

Brian Boyle

Brian Boyle

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Although technology has changed how we get the physical image there is one thing that remains the same; the art form still requires the artist. This interview is all about Brian Boyle from Whitehorse, Yukon. Like me, Brian was introduced to photography at a young age but unlike me he has made it his life long passion and has been expressing this form of creativity since he was sixteen. I feel that Brian had a serendipidous moment back then. He was in Banff, Alberta and someone offered to sell him their camera. You almost can’t ask for a better place to have one fall in your lap. And so it began…the young man, the camera and nature.

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No matter where you see Brian today he always has his camera along. Some people say a dog is man’s best friend but Brian might say, that for him, it is his camera. We met Brian along the riverfront in downtown Whitehorse for his interview and sure enough his trusty sidekick was along with him. He shared with us an old saying that reminds him to have it by his side; “What is the best camera? The very best camera is the one you have with you.” I certainly can attest to that as regret has followed me around on a few occasions. Because Brian doesn’t often break his adopted rule, nature rewards him with so many wonderful treasures. The Yukon is this photographer’s playground. During the summer months the light presents itself in so many different ways; dancing and playing in the trees or shimmering like a billion sequins floating on the water. The summer light is long and keeps Brian busy and although there are more winter months in the north and it can be cold and dark, the snow is pristine and what light there is gives ample opportunity for that special shot.

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Brian’s photography is as varied and vast as the Yukon landscape. He enjoys wandering about in nature but also derives great pleasure in searching through an empty parking lot and exploring the angles, textures and how the available light can create an intimacy with the most mundane and often unnoticed thing. He creates art with his eyes. The physical world and Brian are partners, sharing a moment in time never to be seen again by anyone; the only evidence that it existed comes from Brian’s collection of memories and photographs.

If you would like to see more of Brian’s work please click here, click here and click here.

Please join us as Brian shares with us his love for photography in the Yukon. We enjoy receiving comments and would appreciate it if you helped us spread the word about Brian Boyle on social media. Thanks!

Donald Watt Creates Frozen and Fired Sculptures

Donald Watt Creates Frozen and Fired Sculptures

Team Yukon Canada wins first place at the International Carnaval de Quebec 2014 including Public Choice and Volunteer Choice Awards

What does it mean to follow your dreams? For Whitehorse, Yukon snow carver and sculptor Donald Watt it started at age ten, wishing someday to carve snow at the famous Quebec Winter Carnival. He recalls as a young boy watching the promo film for the Carnival on television with his father and proclaiming his aspirations. His father’s reply was that he was capable of doing anything he wanted. That stuck with him, and when Quebec invited Yukon to form a team for its national sculpture competition, he jumped at the chance. Donald not only lived his dream of carving in Quebec but has also seen victory as captain of Team Yukon, winning numerous times at the National and International Championships. Sadly, his father never got to see him carve in Quebec but Donald always pays homage to him by building an inukshuk from the initial chunks of snow removed as the carving begins to take shape. His father’s presence is now with him at every event watching him carve. Now, with over 30 years of carving, numerous awards from around the world and doing 6-8 carvings per year, that adds up to a lot of carvings, a lot of experience, and a testament to the power of his passion.

Donald Watt

Donald Watt

Team Yukon Canadian Championship Sculpture - Quebec 2013

Team Yukon Canadian Championship Sculpture – Quebec 2013

Snow carving is unlike any other art form; its closest relatives being ice and sand carving. It is a medium that requires a great deal of planning because it is not only dependent upon ones carving skills, but the carver must adhere to the laws of physics and nature. With a starting block of snow typically weighing 20-40 tons, it is not uncommon for a suspended portion of snow to weigh a ton or more. So if the structural design pushes load-bearing limits, combined with challenging weather conditions such as rain, the sculpture could collapse and end up in a pile before it is even judged. Other considerations are working against the clock as well as observing the criteria that the judges are looking for. These include creativity and artistic merit, technical difficulties as well as adherence to the original design. The appreciation and awe of a completed snow sculpture is fleeting; a live in the moment type of art work that not long after leaves its legacy in the photographs, memories and a marred footprint of where it once stood.

1st Place - San Vigilio, Italy 2013

1st Place – San Vigilio, Italy 2013

2nd Place - San Candido, Italy 2013

2nd Place – San Candido, Italy 2013

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The process for completing a sculpture is always a team effort, and each team mate will lend their strengths to complement the whole. The 2014 World Tour team for Yukon is comprised of Donald, Michael Lane and Ken Anderson. Donald is the three dimensional specialist and will guide the team in the initial stages to taking away the major chunks and getting the sculpture to an impressionistic stage. Michael is the idea guy and detailed carver who will advise on the fine particulars, and Ken is a skilled first nations carver that will also lend the knowledge and detail required for the traditional northern and west coast first nations themes.

Breckenridge, USA 2013

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When he isn’t carving snow Donald is still active in the arts. Formally trained in sculpture and printmaking, he enjoys helping out with three dimensional design; building and designing sets for the local theater groups as well as hiring himself out to the art department to design sets for movies that are filmed in the area. He also creates clay sculptures that he refers to as “fairies with attitude.” These aren’t your cutesy, pixie-like Tinkerbell fairies mind you; these have a personality all their own. Donald says that the idea for these fairies came from his Irish grandmother. She would always say, “Donald, you don’t go in the back of the garden because that’s where the fairies live, and they’re not always nice!” So he decided to create these not-so-friendly looking fairies and give them some chutzpah. Why do people connect with Donald’s fairies? Maybe they represent nonconformity; a rebellious free-spirit that doesn’t care what people think of them or how they look. Maybe they depict the balance between the dark and the light; good and bad. Or, maybe they’re just a whole lot of fun!

The Lady's Not For Sale

The Lady’s Not For Sale

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For many artists there is the piéce de résistance that lingers in the back of their mind; the ultimate work or challenge that pushes them to their outer limit. Having traveled the world carving snow sculptures Donald’s ultimate vision now is to go to Antarctica to carve the Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen expeditions. He wants to do a carving at Scott’s Antarctica landing spot, showing him leaving for the South Pole heavily laden with all of his supplies. Then he will fly to the South Pole and do another carving showing Amundsen’s arrival there with his sled dogs and planting the Norwegian flag, the first expedition to do so and beating Scott by thirty-four days. It is an enormous undertaking; requiring a lot of planning, permissions, safety logistics and funding, but having seen the journey and accomplishments of a wide-eyed young boy to where he is today, we don’t doubt that Donald Watt can make it happen. Keep following the magnificent snow sculptures of Donald and his Team Yukon through his linked website Snowcarver.ca… and maybe leave a little room on your nightstand for a fairy to watch over you.

Learn more about the art and science of snow sculpture during our interview with Donald Watt, and we always welcome Comments and Sharing on social media:

Candice Ball Follows Her Dream

Candice Ball Follows Her Dream

Paisley Brooch with Amber Beads

Recently, Gary and I watched a fascinating program about art created during the Middle Ages. One group that caught my attention was the Anglo Saxons and their method of casting jewellery using cuttlefish bone. I had seen this before but not on television. Our trip to the Yukon put us on the doorstep of Whitehorse artist Candice Ball who, among other things, uses this ancient casting method in her own jewellery craft.

Candice Demonstrating Cuttlefish Casting

Candice Demonstrating Cuttlefish Casting

Cuttlefish Cast

Cuttlefish Cast

One characteristic that I appreciate in artists is that they deeply love what they do. There is something about the act of being creative that seems to give them a heightened state of bliss. Candice is a jewellery designer and metal artist with a penchant for the unusual. She is joyously unrestrained and it showed in her fervour to share with us what she does and how she does it. Candice came close to landing a career that, for her, was just meant to pay the bills, but luckily her gut was telling her not to go there and she listened. After a long talk with herself she came to the conclusion that a creative life was what she wanted. I admire her for her fortitude in taking the road less traveled.

Piéce de Résistance Ring

Piéce de Résistance Ring

Surprise Garnet Cabachon Inside Piéce de Résistance

Surprise Garnet Cabachon Inside Piéce de Résistance

Candice loves working with all kinds of different metals as well as complimentary, or perhaps uncomplimentary materials. She says she is not afraid to try anything and confidently works toward being the trend setter, not the trend follower. Her intuition is her guide which she shows unfettered devotion towards. The ideas show up anytime and anywhere like an unexpected visit from a best friend. She says she doesn’t know how it happens, it just does. My guess is that Candice is completely tuned in to her surroundings which abundantly supply her with all she needs to feed her creative process.

Out of Woodwork Bracelet

Out of Woodwork Bracelet

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Candice is constantly researching techniques and materials to bring a uniqueness to her work that stands above the crowd. Lately she has been investigating ancient casting techniques using cuttlefish (see demo video below) as well as more modern methods known as Delft casting which uses sand to create the mold. She also explores the use of metals such as titanium in her work. Candice definitely has a hunger for knowledge and putting what she learns into practice, and because of this her work is quite varied. After we left Candice we went to Arts Underground Gallery to collect some footage of her art that was being shown there. We talked all about Candice’s jewellery but had no idea she also does mixed media wall pieces until we arrived at the gallery; each one having a personality all its own.

MIxed Media Wall Hanging

MIxed Media Wall Hanging

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As crazy as you may or may not think this sounds, I believe that art handmade by people like Candice holds within it a certain kind of raw spiritual energy that comes from the earth and the person who made it. When we buy art, in this case wearable art, we get to coalesce with a part of that energy. It gives us strength and a connection that you will never get from something manufactured by a machine. Just talking to Candice strengthened my resolve on this point. To see more of Candice’s work please go to her website at Dilcet Designs.

Please join us as Candice shares more about her passion for art and then watch the ancient technique of cuttlefish casting in the demo below. We love comments and ask that you share this post on social media and spread the word about Candice. Thank you!

Painter Heather Wanamaker Celebrates Colour and Contrast

Painter Heather Wanamaker Celebrates Colour and Contrast

Haines Pass II

Traveling back to Whitehorse from Dawson City in the sinking sun we couldn’t help but be struck by the hues of light mixed with shadows as they played on the golden leaves and white trunks of the birch forest that blanketed the surrounding hills. Only here, extending as far as the eye can see, have we ever seen such an abundance of “The Watchful Tree,” so called because of the eye-like impressions on the bark. This is just one pristine moment in the endless beauty of this grand wilderness, and one example of why acrylic painter Heather Wanamaker chose to live in the Yukon, a magical place aptly dubbed “larger than life.”

Heather Wanamaker beside "Cape Clear" - acrylic on canvas

Heather Wanamaker beside Cape Clear

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Talus Lake

Talus Lake

Heather always knew that she wanted to be an artist, and so right out of high school immersed herself in a program at Langara College and later continued her studies at the University of Victoria. During her hiatus between schools she surrounded herself in the arts community by working at an arts supply and framing store. She had a thirst for creativity; taking in ideas and learning from other artists, but yet to discover her own style. That all changed when she moved to the Yukon. Experiencing the seasons and the lighting of the northern sun, she soon found a new focus and drive bolstered by the enigmatic beauty of her surroundings. Heather now finds that the excitement of the next painting is always in her mind, and her environment never leaves her wanting for inspiration.

Echo Lake

Echo Lake

I imagine as an artist, sharing one’s personal expression and putting it out there for the world to see, hopefully in a meaningful and affecting way, takes a lot of courage. Having a community of like-minded individuals who will support, encourage and inspire that artist can help to nurture that creative spirit and alleviate those fears. Heather found this to be the case when she moved to Whitehorse. Having taken a couple of years off away from the paint brushes she had some trepidation upon arriving in the Yukon. How would she be received as a newcomer trying to get her name and art work out there and noticed? Those feelings quickly lifted as she found Whitehorse to have a welcoming community of artists where she could network and participate collectively.

Stony Creek

Stony Creek

Heather breathes inspiration for her paintings from the same mountain air she indulges her passions for hiking, canoeing and winter activities. It is a synergistic relationship; the obvious rewards of an active outdoor lifestyle complementing the visual stimuli of breathtaking scenery, colours and contrasting light. The bold beauty and sweeping landscapes influence her brush strokes; the ever increasing insistence towards vivid colours, sharp lines and larger than life imagery. Heather’s painting style is crystal clear now, and it manifests from her connections to the Yukon. Heather’s greatest satisfaction as a painter is being able to express on canvas a scene, with its colours, lighting and contrasts just as she glimpsed it while on a hike or other excursion, and hoping that others will see the same. She has captured the heart of the north on canvas, and the north has captured hers.

Bullion Creek Crossing

Bullion Creek Crossing

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Enjoy our interview with Heather she tells us more about her art. Please share on social media and comments are always welcome:

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Click thumbnail to see the larger image.

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!

Painter Blair Thorson – “The Map Guy”

Painter Blair Thorson – “The Map Guy”

If you were to look at a painting from watercolour painter Blair Thorson, the first thing that you would notice is that he is all over the map…literally! Blair’s unique paintings utilize a “canvas” made from original, mostly topographical maps upon which he paints relevant images indigenous to the location of the map being used. His art is a collaboration between the left and right brain; the technically and mathematically defined lines of the maps conceding to allow the free-flowing randomness of an arbitrary image or scene. Allow me to introduce Blair Thorson, the artist known as “the map guy.”

"The Map Guy" Blair Thorson

“The Map Guy” Blair Thorson

Blair’s love of maps was no accident, and the irony of how his painting niche with maps came to be was relayed to us as Blair describes with humour his early life debates regarding profession and passion:
“In grades 7,8, and 9 we had to choose an elective via a parent permission slip from either music, art or French, and I wanted to choose art so I checked it off. My father worked for Water Survey of Canada and wanted me to join the civil service like him so he scribbled out art and checked off French instead. Consequently, two years in a row he picked French and two years in a row I purposely failed it! The third year in grade 9 he conceded and let me choose art, although pointedly saying that if I wanted art so bad that I had better be darned good at it. He didn’t want me to suffer the fate of the cliche starving artist.”
Blair went on to win the high school art awards for grade 9 and 12 and has been doing art in one form or another ever since. He also went on to work for Water Survey of Canada as a hydrometric surveyor for 35 years, and through his work he developed a love and fascination for maps. Blair’s passion for art combined with his father’s influence gave him the creative niche he has today, giving both of them the happy ending they desired.

Betalamea Lake moose with tracks

Betalamea Lake moose with tracks

Click on images to enlarge:

The first time that Blair’s idea for his map painting initiative occurred was after a halibut fishing excursion with friends in Skagway, Alaska. As a gesture of thanks he decided to paint them a picture in watercolour of their boat. He also found a map of the area they were in which would be framed alongside the boat. Once he set the two on the light table and saw them overlayed, then the light bulb in his head went on as the idea to paint the boat on the map itself was born. His friend was thrilled, and to this day says that when he looks at it he either sees the map, or his boat, but never both at the same time.

Igloolik igloo builders

Igloolik igloo builders

Click on images to enlarge:

Blair notes that “every map has a story and the images that go with it.” The subject matter for his art work is one of memories, whether from places and situations he has personally seen, or commissioned works from other people. The map provides a familiar visual reference of the area and the painted images bring that memory to life. Many of those memories occurred during his previous career where he was able to photograph his wild surroundings and the rural way of life. Ironically, many years later those images became the subjects for his map paintings. For some of his animal depictions Blair will embed the life size paw or hoof prints of his subject in the painting. It has a an exhilarating effect, making the presence of that animal more vivid. With his human subjects, Blair now strives to incorporate action; depicting people doing daily activities be it paddling a kayak, building an igloo or native dancing and singing.

Art can be a very solitary activity but at the same welcomes the public eye. As personable as we found Blair to be, he confesses that he is introverted by nature and would rather just be doing his art work but not the promotion side. Our time spent with Blair and his wife Linda revealed her to be his secret weapon; an enthusiastic supporter and promoter of him and his art. They make a wonderful team!

Canol Road - Yellow Truck

Canol Road – Yellow Truck

Enjoy our interview with Blair as you get to know the man behind the maps! We welcome Comments below and sharing on social media.