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!

Debra Blades Mixes Fine Art With Fine Music

Debra Blades Mixes Fine Art With Fine Music

Arty took us to Abbotsford, B.C. this time on an arts quest to meet with Debra Blades. Debra calls herself a mixed media collage painter with a splash of inventiveness. She has a passion for texture, colour and twisty things. She incorporates gold, silver and copper leaf as well as different papers and textural components within her paintings. When we showed up on Debra’s door step she opened the door with such fervor that I had a feeling we were in for something good.

arts-quest-debra-blades-portrait

Photo Credit to Kristie Blades

Bio-Luminescence

Bio-Luminescence

Art has been in Debra’s life in one form or another for a long time. She spent 21 years hand-making Victorian lampshades and in that time created and sold over 1000. But with trends coming and going, in this case going, she recognized it was time for a creative change, and that is when she began exploring the world of abstract art. I was surprised to hear that she has only been working at it for 6 years. Her work seems so much more mature than that like it has been a part of her for a long time, walking hand in hand with her spirit.

Yesterday

Yesterday

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Debra admits that creativity can have its calamities at times but it’s nothing that an enthusiastic and gracious attitude mixed with a little Beatles music can’t cure. When she first contemplated giving titles to her paintings she was stuck and wondered, “How do you name something abstract?” At the time she was working on a piece that was colourful and attention grabbing and contained twisty pieces of paper. The Beatles’ Twist and Shout just happened to be filling her ears at that moment and delivered to her the title of her new painting. One thing lead to another and since then she has created a series of paintings inspired and titled from The Beatles’ songs. According to Wikipedia there are 304 songs that have been recorded by The Beatles so Debra’s series could turn into a long and loving commitment. I have a feeling this won’t be a challenge for her!

Train Case

Train Case

Versatility and adaptability are two words that I would use to describe Debra. She faces challenges and obstacles head on and, along with a positive attitude, looks for a solution. Her abstract painted train cases are an example of this. At one time she found herself lacking in canvases to paint, had some left over train cases from her Victorian era days, and so decided that they would make an excellent three dimensional canvas. She calls them functional art and each one comes with its own title. As well, not in the too far distant past Debra stopped going to art shows and fairs because she dreaded the fuss and muss of packing her work in sheets, bubble wrap and packing tape. In her mind not only was this a time consuming and unpleasant process it was also no way to treat a piece of fine art nor did it present well to the fine art appreciators looking on when she arrived at the show. Her solution was an ingenious invention aptly named Masterpiece To Go Portfolios. I am not one to pitch products but I find this to be a slick and useful piece of equipment that every painter will want to have. It looks professional and your art work can be packed up and ready to go in under 3 minutes. Be sure to watch the demo video below where Debra shows us how it works, and check out her Masterpiece To Go Portfolios website for more information on how to order your own.

Zentangle art titled A Silent Call

Zentangle art titled A Silent Call

Please join us as Debra talks more about her life as an artist in her interview below. We love comments and by all means share and like with social media!

Masterpiece To Go Demo Video

Caroline Clarke’s Printmaking Magic

Caroline Clarke’s Printmaking Magic

One of the things I have noticed on our journey to the smaller and the smallest communities of Canada is that people have a devoted connection to the place where they grew up. This is probably why many of these places still exist today. Newfoundland and Labrador is a great example of one province, one community. Although the island is a giant rock, people’s roots grow deep and stretch far.

St. John’s Waltz

This feeling of commitment to community was one of the things I really noticed I had missed growing up in the west and even still today. When we met Caroline Clarke, this was one of the first points she brought up and why 12 years earlier, her and her husband decided to dig up their shallow roots in BC to become permanent residents of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Caroline is in love with the arts. She has had a lifelong bond to music and the visual arts since she was a girl. Her father played the accordion and her mother was a painter, and although the arts were important in their life, it wasn’t something they considered to be a good career choice for Caroline. As it turns out, she found she could have the best of both worlds. Caroline is a graphic designer by day and works on her visual art and music the rest of the time. This is her lifestyle.

Come I Will Sing You

Recently, Caroline married her two loves in a collaborative effort with her friends. She asked the people she shares music with what their favorite Newfoundland song is and she integrated those songs into a glorious print representing her community circle on their Tuesday night jam sessions. Her prints are about relationships and the people who helped her find her home and set deep roots. These folks are the inspiration that tunes in her creative channel.

Caroline practises the oldest form of printmaking. Pretty much any surface that you can carve an image or design into can be used to create a print. Even an orange could be used, although it wouldn’t go through the press very well! In this case, linoleum is her substrate and she is grateful to have an endless supply of lino from the local flooring store. The skill in printmaking comes from thinking backwards. The image you want to capture on paper is the part that is carved away. The negative space will actually become the positive space for the finished print. Preparing the surface for printing is in itself an art. I wondered why she wouldn’t just paint her images instead of going through what seems like a lot of trouble. Caroline said she used to paint but found that it never quenched her creativity like printmaking did. She loves to work with her hands and she was always attracted to posters, so printmaking was the better match.

LIno cut printmaking

I love Caroline’s style. She draws you a story of people and the simple joys in life that we never seem to get enough of. When I look at her printed artwork it makes me feel good. It is something you can hang on the wall and smile each time you look at it. The characters are boldly outlined which makes the story even more vivid, and their personalities come to life with the hand tinted colouring she does; personal to each one. I think the care and attention Caroline puts into her artwork and her music is a testament to her friendship and the community she holds close to her heart.

Click on the thumbnails below and be even more amazed!

Eliza Fry Mixing It Up in Kaslo

Eliza Fry Mixing It Up in Kaslo

If you ever find yourself traveling north on B.C.’s hwy 31, rather than pass through Kaslo, stop and spend some time, it will be well worth it. You will likely find yourself on Front Street along the water where you can park your car for as long as you like and keep your change for coffee and a sweet treat.

The morning after our stay in the Kaslo Municipal campground we headed to Front Street looking for The Live Art Shop where we would meet co-founder and mixed media artist Eliza Fry. Just after 9am we spotted Eliza heading into The Live Art Shop with a Dachshund named Wobbles in tow. The Live Art Shop was fashioned from a building that once served as someone’s home and is now home to an eclectic array of art works from local artists. Eliza gave us a tour and short intro to some of the local art that is displayed there.

MIxed media picture

Eliza is a mixed media artist who is compelled to create her work based on some of today’s social issues. She enjoys using images from old magazines and materials that she has found lying about when ever and where ever she comes across them. Geographic maps tend to be a staple with many of her creative endeavours and she continues to discover new angles and ways to incorporate them into her art pieces. Her latest project is a paper sculpture of a life size raven clutching a shiny ball in its beak. Eliza even granted her bird life, in a manner of speaking, and gave it the mechanics to flap its wings. The raven is made out of black postcards that were left behind by another artist who had an art showing in Kaslo and there were a little too many. Rather than throw them out or recycle them, Eliza found them to be the perfect material for her bird. The bird fosters flight through existential people power and will happily flap its wings fast or slow depending on how energetic one might feel. It currently lives in a room full of other haphazard “stuff” silently waiting to be pieced together from the imagination and creative spectacles of one Eliza Fry.

Kinetic sculpture of a raven

Check out Eliza’s interview and the demo of her rad raven below.