Free-Spirited Art Works of Jan Jenkins

Free-Spirited Art Works of Jan Jenkins

Zendoodle titled Unity in Diversity

When Gary and I first contemplated interviewing artists all across Canada in 2011, we had decided one thing for sure, our travel home was not going to be a tent. Was it to be a truck and trailer, a truck and camper or some kind of van? Marli, our cat, made the decision in the end. A van was the best choice for her needs and really ours as well. But we decided it couldn’t be just any old van. It needed to be unique and attention grabbing. So it came to pass that we all agreed on Arty, our VW Westfalia Vanagon.

A couple of great businesses got their start in a Vanagon; Mountain Equipment Co-op and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Perhaps ArtsQuest will join them one day. In the mean time owning Arty is like having a membership to an exclusive club with benefits, including offers of places to stay by a couple of the artists we intended on interviewing. One of those artists is Jan Jenkins of Dauphin, Manitoba.

Jan Jenkins at the Dauphin Art Group

Jan Jenkins at the Dauphin Art Group

Now, a Westfalia is not the only thing Jan and her husband Brian Erickson and Gary and I have in common. In fact we have a very similar later-in-life story as well. It turns out that Jan and Brian also used to live in Calgary up until eight years ago when suddenly they found themselves buying a house in Dauphin and taking early retirement there. As serendipity would have it, on a visit to see Brian’s family one year, Brian decided he wanted to show Jan the house he grew up in and as they drove past they saw that it was for sale.

Although they were seriously contemplating a move and change of lifestyle, Jan wanted to be sure there was a thriving art community so that she could resume her life long passion of creativity on a full time basis. It turns out Dauphin has the Watson Art Centre which is housed in a beautiful building that was once the old town hall built in 1905. Now it is bursting with artistic life in the visual, literary and performing arts. Dauphin is a town of approximately 8500 people and the Centre is supported and appreciated by the community and visitors alike. Inside the building are restored remnants of the town hall itself; the council chamber’s long wood table and the gorgeous wood banisters and fixtures. There is a stage with heavy, red velvet drapes and a spiral staircase leading to a balcony, and even an old jail cell in the basement (currently being used only for storage). Also in the basement is a large space which is home to the Dauphin Art Group and was the other factor that clinched the decision for Jan and Brian to move. Jan has a home studio but she also loves spending time in her space at the Dauphin Art Group. She gets to be with other artists to share ideas and have that creative connection.

Sgraffito titled Windfall

Sgraffito titled Windfall


Click to enlarge thumbnails.

Upon arriving at the little home on River Avenue West we were welcomed by Jan and her pooch Tramp and his pal from next door, Barley. Tramp and Barley, however, were in a dog run which Jan refers to as Guantrampamo. This segregation was a temporary measure just in case the four legged greeters were a little too happy to see us. Brian was away in Brandon for the day so the three of us had decided we would do Jan’s interview first and then later the four of us could relax and socialize.

Zendoodle titled Sea Urchin

Zendoodle titled Sea Urchin


Lino Cut Print titled Gardener of the Forest

Lino Cut Print titled Gardener of the Forest



As I asked Jan my questions I discovered that she and I had a couple of similar character traits. Jan considers herself a jack-of-all-trades and has many interests (so do I). Focusing on specializing on just one doesn’t seem to be Jan’s thing (me too). This could be one of the reasons why Jan likes to work in several different media. She works with pen and ink to create intricate and fascinating patterns in the Zendoodle style. And often she will incorporate poetry within her pieces or a story to accompany a particular piece which adds a thoughtful dimension to them. She also enjoys print making and working in oil pastels with a technique known as Sgraffito in Italy. Sgraffito is such an interesting art form. In its simplest explanation, Jan pencils out her drawing on paper, fills in the colours she wants for her subjects with stiff pastels and then eventually covers the whole piece in a buttery black pastel. Upon doing that she takes tracing paper with her original image on it, lays it over top and then traces over it with a pencil which then lifts just enough of the black off the paper so she can see where her drawing is located underneath. At this point she starts scraping away with a tool at the black pastel to reveal the colour and her original drawing. Some of Jan’s other creative activities include making jewellery, rock painting, tie dying, writing poetry and volunteering several hours a month at the Watson Art Centre. Whew! And if that’s not enough she made a fabulous beef stew for dinner for some weary travelers.

We invite you to watch and listen to Jan’s interview with us and we thank you in advance for helping to spread the word about Jan and her art on social media and email. And we love comments so please feel free to leave one below. Thanks.

Fibre Artist Ann Harmer Puts Another Feather in the Mushroom Cap

Fibre Artist Ann Harmer Puts Another Feather in the Mushroom Cap

Lobster Mushroom

The more I learn about mushrooms the more I love them! Fortunately for Gary and I our trip to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia would lead us to the doorstep of fibre artist and mushroomist Ann Harmer and her world of the magnificent mushroom. Ann lives with her husband Rick and their two friendly pooches on a parcel of land near Katherine Lake where we had camped the night before. They moved from Burnaby about a decade ago after falling in love with the area. Rick says it was Katherine Lake that pulled them there. Outside their door is a rainforest which harbours all the right conditions for mushroom life. Before moving to this area, Ann had decided she wanted to learn all about mushrooms not realizing this endeavour would lead her into a creative realm using the humble fungi.

Ann Harmer Wearing One of Her Crocheted Scarves Coloured with Various Mushroom Dyes

Ann Harmer Wearing One of Her Crocheted Scarves Coloured with Various Mushroom Dyes

I was curious to find out if using the mushroom to make dyes was some sort of ancient art form. As Ann explained it only began when a woman in California was creating a dyepot out of flowers, and merely out of curiosity happened to throw in some little yellow mushrooms. It turns out she got a beautiful yellow dye and the rest is history. Now people all over the world forage for pigment mushrooms. They even get together once every two years for a pigment mushroom symposium to discuss all things fungi.

Range of Colours From Pigment Mushrooms

Range of Colours From Pigment Mushrooms

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Typical mushroom hunting season on the coast begins in July and goes into November. During that time Ann can be found out in the forest with her two dogs on the hunt for pigment mushrooms. Only a fraction of all mushroom species contain a pigment that is suitable for dyeing. I must say I was astounded at the colour palette; everything from earthy browns and greens to pinks, blues, and orange hues. Most of the mushrooms Ann hunts for are not edible but there is the lobster mushroom that she and Rick share. The lobster is a deep orange colour on the outside with a white fleshy inside. Ann peels the outside for her colour palette and Rick uses the tasty inside for his palate.

Beautiful Earthy Tones on Handspun Wool Art Yarn

Beautiful Earthy Tones on Handspun Wool Art Yarn

Mushroom Paper Bowls

Mushroom Paper Bowls

Some of Ann’s mushroom hunting involves locating a species that contains chitin. Chitin is the substance that helps to create the hard shell for arthropods such as insects, lobsters, and spiders. In the case of the mushroom, Ann can make a strong paper-like fibre which she turns into bowls, beads for jewellery and sculpture pieces such as hats and shoes (future project).

Turkey Tail Pendant and Mushroom Paper Beads

Turkey Tail Pendant and Mushroom Paper Beads

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The humble mushroom is an incredibly versatile species. It has been used in bioremediation as well as making a material that could replace plastic one day and not to mention they are wonderful to eat. And now as we have learned, it earns a noble place in the world of the visual arts. Before we left Ann and Rick that day we spent some time chatting over a cup of Earl Grey tea and some Candy Cap shortbread cookies that Ann had made. Candy Caps are a mushroom that taste and smell a bit like maple syrup. Even Gary couldn’t resist them!

To find out more about Ann Harmer please click here to get to her website.

Join us as Ann talks about the process of using mushrooms as dyes. We always love your comments and please help us spread the word about Ann on social media and through email. Thanks!

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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arts-quest-candice-ball-keepsake-box

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!

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.

Arlene Ness Explores Art Through Culture

Arlene Ness Explores Art Through Culture

Our destination for today was the Gitanmaax Reserve in Hazelton, B.C. where we were meeting with Gitxsan First Nations multi-medium artist Arlene Ness. Driving into this scenic area we were struck by the imposing mountains and lush forests with their breathtaking, resplendent autumn colours! It was easy to avert my eyes occasionally to glance up at them, if only for a second. Suddenly, flashing lights in our rear view mirror suggested we were now getting a police escort by the friendly RCMP of this quaint village; we didn’t even know they were aware of our arrival! As I snapped out of it I realized that I had missed a school sign during one of those brief sight-seeing moments, and the police officer’s intention was not one of fanfare. Luckily he gave me a warning and sent us on our way. Without further delay, but well within the posted speed limit, we were once again on our way to Arlene’s place to get to know this diversified and prolific fine artist.

Arlene in front of her Grizzly stained glass

Arlene in front of her Grizzly stained glass

Arlene says that she has been creating art in various mediums ever since she was a child. From following her mother’s and sisters’ examples, to loving high school art classes, to seeking expertise and education from renowned teachers, to undeniably her own drive and initiative, Arlene has never shied away from pursuing art forms that intrigued her. Life inspires Arlene, and depending on what peaks her interest be it her mood, the seasons, her family or nature, she may indulge her creativity in carving masks, stained glass, jewellery, paintings and drawings. She has even undertaken the enormous task of carving totem poles under the tutelage of master carver Earl Muldon. How does one person manage to spread her creative energy around to all of these disciplines and excel at them, on top of raising four children and teaching First Nations fine art at the community college? From what I observed of Arlene she has this zen-like calm about her and knows how to set boundaries and balance her life so all aspects work in harmony. With her art, she doesn’t try to force her creativity in any one direction, but rather she takes guidance from her environment, embraces how she feels and lets it come to her. She is the proverbial water flowing around the rocks.

Hummingbird Dreams

Hummingbird Dreams

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The beauty of Arlene’s fine art transcends all cultural boundaries. Her style reflects the traditional Northwest Coast Native Art form lines which she maintains strict adherence to when working on art forms of the crests and symbols of other clans. When working on her own family’s crest and symbols she allows herself more freedom to include her own contemporary designs and interpretations. She is of the Giskaast clan; the traditions, stories and ancestral knowledge being very important to her, and it is her desire to pass down that knowledge to future generations. Her art work is an expression of herself, her culture and of the love she has for her natural surroundings and all its inhabitants. Seeing one of Arlene’s beautifully carved masks, for instance, invokes curiosity about the meaning behind it, and one does not have to be of Gitxsan ancestry to appreciate the story it tells or marvel at the craftsmanship. Though the oral history of each clan (adaawx) that is shared with succeeding generations is of primary cultural importance to the clan itself, the art that Arlene creates is the physical heirloom of her ancestry but is there for all of us to appreciate and enjoy.

Learn more about Arlene and her art as Corinne chats with her. Feel free to comment below and share on social media.

The story of Copperhaired Woman in "The Return" above can be found on Arlene's website

“The Return”


The story of Copperhaired Woman in “The Return” can be found on Arlene’s website

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Ruthie & Doug Shewan – Jewellery and Gemstones

Ruthie & Doug Shewan – Jewellery and Gemstones

As children we are always fascinated with the wonder of our surroundings. Any eye-catching object that we can get at is not safe from our exploring appendages. I know for myself that in addition to the buckets of snakes I would catch and release (sometimes in the house!) when I was a little kid, I would also walk the beaches and river banks finding rocks and even pieces of wood that had unique shapes and colours. Why not? As kids our responsibilities and obligations are relatively few, so we had the time to let our imaginations soar. It is our preeminent time of discovery and creativity. So what happens after that? Education, work, family; as beneficial as they can be, can temporarily dry up the creative juices we enjoyed as children. It seems that the only phase in our life that could afford us the same freedom to explore those options once again is in retirement, where we get to go back to being a kid again with no rigid commitments of school, working or raising a family.

Doug and Ruthie Shewan’s retirement plans have enabled them to do just that. Discovering stones and beads with beauty and historical fascination is a passion of theirs that takes them to Quartzsite, Arizona for four months out of the year to not only savour the southern climes, but also to seek out new finds for their collections of beads and precious stones. These acquisitions will lead to the design and making of magnificent necklaces, bracelets and pendants that we have given a glimpse of in our interview and photographs with them.

Click on the images below to enlarge them for a closer look:

Doug and Ruthie tell of the compelling history of beads that were once touched by people in the 14th century and beyond to pre-Buddhist times over 2500 years ago. The brief clip below shows two such rare beads that Ruthie and Doug had acquired.

The first one is a Venetian Millefiori bead with a very unique, hexagonal shape to it. Not knowing much about it at first, they had it authenticated by a lady that lives high up in the Sierras in a gold mining camp with her husband; both of them very knowledgeable. They knew beads like this were made but had never seen one before. Upon further research it was discovered that this particular bead had only been made in the one colour. The Venetians were leaders in Lampwork, which is the process under which this bead was produced. This extraordinary bead was framed by two smaller rectangular Millefiori’s, Russian blue faceted beads and 16th century cobalt Dutch Dogan beads, which are gorgeous when the light hits them!

The second bead is an ancient Tibetan dZi bead that pre-dates buddhism and is carved from Agate stone, then etched through a chemical process with heat. This bead has “eyes” on it in a three and two pattern around it. The older ones are becoming quite prized and expensive to collect. This bead is featured with red coral and copper to accent it, a nice way to display a collectible item such as this.