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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Rejection

Today I learned that neither of the two pieces which I submitted to the SAQA My Corner of the World - Canada show were selected by the juror. I was struck that my first reaction was relief. I think there are several reasons for that response. First, it is clear from seeing the work that was selected that the juror had a very clear vision for this show and that my small p political and quite negative pieces did not fit that vision. Don't get me wrong - I am truly happy for those whose work was selected and for the fact that the juror did have a grand plan. Second, neither of my pieces has a hanging sleeve yet and I didn't want to take the time to stitch one on. Third, and most important, I feel like I have found my 'thing' with the Inspired by CFT series. I have three done now although the last two haven't been photographed. I am quickly moving to the point where I can imbue what I make with the questions and answers that the series represents. In addition, I am working on another big project - stand-alone vessels - in parallel. If either of my pieces had been selected for the My Corner of the World show I would have been distracted and tempted to go down the roads that they suggest.

Now, I am on my own, able to do what I want. And that's the way I like it.

One of my current responsibilities is to be regional representative for SAQA in Atlantic Canada. Although it is not part of the 'job description' I feel a strong responsibility to encourage members to grow as artists and to take risks to increase their learning, and if they want, their profile. I am delighted that seven of the forty artists selected were from this region. On a per capita basis that is a stellar outcome.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What a good girl am I


Two days in and I am putting away everything I take out. I teach about behaviour change so I know it will take many months before that becomes a habit. But I also know that reinforcement will increase the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated. Since there isn't anyone else to provide that reinforcement, I'll pat myself on my back.

I am also pleased that I have completed (and I do mean completed - facings are sewn down, threads removed, photograph done) the first in a series I will be working on for the next year. I decided to create a blog for that work. Frankly, it will be easier for me to go back there to find out what I have done than it would be to search my own files. I can store photos, technique info and keep a written record of the what and why of my activities.

You can find the blog here. I will post sporadically so if you are interested use the widget in the right sidebar to receive the posts via email.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Decks are cleared


I have spent the last few days getting ready for my new year. It will be a busy time and I wanted to start it with clean spaces and a clear mind. So I have deep cleaned my studio space - sorted the pins and thread and interfacing and restacked all of the fabric -  and have developed a plan to deal with all the other rooms. The plan involves 15 minute blocks of work with specified tasks for each block. It is working so far and I find myself wanting to work beyond the allotted time. But I don't - too much of anything turns out to be a bad idea.

I have also purchased a couple of planners to help me stay on track during the year. The world of planners has changed dramatically since I was in the business world. There are lots of choices and many of them have been created by indie designers. I finally settled on the Simplified Planner for my personal life, medical appointments, SAQA business and Close to Home organization. I liked the Simplified Planner because it gives me many things that I want without distracting extras. I like that there is a two page month-at-a-glance spread at the beginning of each section and that there is a page allocated to each day. The day pages contains a column for appointments and a column which is a checkable to-do list. The Day Designer is similar but it's very difficult to obtain in Canada

I decided on the Get to Work Book for my artwork and my interactions with my mentor. It is designed around the concept that you have projects to complete and there are lots of ways to record progress toward your goals.

All of this planning to plan takes a certain outlook - a belief in new starts and confidence that I have what it takes. As I prepare my annual inspirational indoor cycling class for January 2 I have decided to include this song. It seems to fit my thinking of the last week.

Rich Aucoin is a Nova Scotian artist. Look up his other music - he is really good. And ignore the images in the video - I don't have a clue what they mean.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Film fest

Last year, before I went into the hospital, I signed up for Netflix. I thought it might come in handy if I tried to use my iPad and headphones to block out hospital sights and sounds. I was right. I ended up binge watching House of Cards, at least until I became totally disgusted with the evil behavior of the protagonists. Most nights when the nurses came in for their checks I was awake and would discuss plot points with them.

I have watched my fair share of series since then. Mad Men and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt have been my favourites. But mostly I watch documentaries. I have learned a lot about chefs and bike riders and silly adventurers. In general, I have found the subjects amusing but forgettable. There are exceptions to that pattern, though. I have seen three films that have stuck with me, two in the last week. For some reason they seem like a package - an interesting amalgam of images and themes. If you choose to watch all three I suggest that you view them in this, or the reverse, order.

Gerhard Richter Painting

This article in Border Crossings summarizes the film and why you might want to watch it. I loved the scenes of Richter painting. I knew nothing about his technique and my immediate reaction was to think how much fun it must be. But the film makes it clear that it is very hard work. The director did an excellent job of conveying the universal nature of the struggles inherent in creating art. I was most struck by the way in which Richter considers the question of "When is it done?".

If you can't access the film through iTunes or Netflix here's a short video of Richter at work.





Salt of the Earth

This film documents the career of Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado. I had never heard of him and found his monochrome images breathtaking. For me they were a master class in the use of value. I intend to buy at least one of his books so that I can revisit his talent. The film itself tells the story of the impact of his work on Salgado and the ways in which he is forced to accommodate to those effects. It is ultimately a hopeful story.




This TED talk tells his story and lets you see some more of his images.





Tyke Elephant Outlaw

Warning: this is a disturbing film but that's why you should see it. The filmmakers set out to understand the life of Tyke, an African elephant who killed her trainer and then escaped into the streets of Honolulu in 1994. She was ultimately killed by the police. When that footage is shown near the beginning of the movie I couldn't watch and had to fast forward. By the end, I could see that her murder ended her pain and could watch all the way through.

Here is the trailer. It contains a few seconds of graphic footage.


I don't think this trailer gives you a good sense of the filmmakers' point of view so don't use it to determine whether you want to watch the documentary.


If you don't have Netflix, check iTunes or your library or, in Canada, the CBC to see whether they offer these films.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Some things never change

Christmas Day is much like most others around here. With no local family we don't make a fuss and don't exchange gifts. A wonderful friend takes us in for dinner and games and make us feel like family. So I have a little work to do to prepare appetizers and a dessert.

 

The only real sign that it is Christmas is this baking sheet (one of two) of sour cream twists. My mother made them once a year on Christmas Eve and we had them for breakfast on Christmas morning. Since my surgery I can't eat yeast-raised breads so I seriously considered not making them this year. But mid-afternoon yesterday I was drawn to the kitchen to prepare the dough which has to rest in the fridge for several hours. Last night I rolled them out and baked them. The flood of memories and the sense of carrying on a tradition was worth the effort even though I won't eat a bite.

 

Recipe available if you leave a comment.

 

 

 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Fun in cycling classes

On Monday night the person who was working the front desk at the facility where I teach called to check with me. Someone had called to reserve six bikes for my second class the next morning. None of them had attended my classes before although apparently some had experience in other spin classes. I indicated that she should go ahead and book the bikes but I groaned inwardly and perhaps out loud as well. There were many reasons to think bad thoughts about this turn of events. It takes a long time to set up that many new people and even if the new riders came early, as I always request, the regulars were going to have to wait a while for the class to begin. I also knew that my workout and music plan for the next day would not be good for beginners, no matter their level of fitness. I would have to shift to another plan and some of the regulars had done that same class with me very recently.

When I arrived for my 6:15 am class I was met by a room in disarray - it had been used as a dressing room for a dance performance the previous night. I had ten minutes to move a lot of furniture and get bikes back where they belonged. It was not a good way to start a day that I was already dreading. The first class went really well but when I showed up for the second class I learned that it was almost full. That's rare for that time of day but a lot of people are off work for the holidays. That meant even more pressure on me to get things going on time.

I will confess. I winced when I saw the group of six new riders approaching. They were clearly a tight unit - three women and three men. If something went badly with even one of them the whole group would be affected. I tried to figure out who the leader was, on the theory that if I kept her/him happy the rest of the group would also be satisfied. None of the questions which usually help me discern the opinion maker in a group helped. So I was at loose ends as I started their bike fit.

To make an already long story very short, I needn't have worried. The new riders were attentive, compliant, and fun. They were easy to coach and seemed very tolerant of the fact that their experience was likely quite different from what they had expected. They were incredibly polite - said please and thank you throughout the time when I was doing their bike fit. And they stayed pretty quiet during the class when the temptation would have been to chatter with their friends. At the end of the hour I asked the regulars, who I had placed in the back, to give a public review of the new group's performance. They gave a bunch of thumbs up and 'awesome's. One of the new riders stopped me on his way out and revealed that he is an alpine ski coach in Ontario. He was very impressed by my focus on the fundamentals - all the things I thought might make it a less satisfying experience for them.

One of my regulars would have really loved the class I didn't teach at 8:45 so I gave him the opportunity to come back in the evening at no charge. He did and enoyed the workout. It was a nice way to thank him for his support - he has recruited both his wife and daughter to my classes.

This morning we had one more class before the holidays. The Centre was opened just for us and the 6:15 am regulars were joined by people from other classes to create a full room and lots of energy and goodwill. We ended the session with muffins and coffeecake baked my me and juice provided by the Centre.

a portion of the December 24 group

I have a friend who regularly asks me if I am still having fun teaching my indoor cycling classes. It always sounds like she doesn't believe me when I confirm that I am having a blast. I wish she had been here this week to see the smiles and hear the laughter from both me and my students, including this one who dressed just for this morning's class.

Rudolph's nose flashed green and red



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Another solstice card





I have a hard time picking favourites. One year I created an image of a broken down old tree and then three of us took a road trip to Maine and spent hours hand-tying little bits of paper to the branches of the tree (to represent poems). We had a great time and I remember lots of laughter, and maybe a little vomiting. One year I created 75 cards out of fabric. They were multi-layered with quilting and piping and felting. It was a big project but I loved the thought that every one was just a little different.

I think, on the whole, that this is my favourite. I created the background by printing on paper using a Gelli plate, then scanning and manipulating the image. The bowl is from a photo I took of a piece in my mother's collection. I then coloured it and added a little shadow. The flowers are the serendipitous part. I was inspired to put them there near the end of the design process. At that point I was working with what I thought was a final version of the poem. It turned out that in the interim my mother had revised the last line to make a reference to anemones - the same flower type I chose to use. Insert Twilight Zone sounds here. I added little dots of gold paint to the centre of each flower before they were mailed.


The card:





And the poem by Nancy Nielsen:


December's Bowl


I beg December to fill my bowl
beg, like a monk
in a village of closed doors.

Crumbs.
Nothing but crumbs
not the richness of May
the complexity of July.
No door opens to me.

No compassion:
icy path
up and down
up and down
shaking my bowl
a few crumbs of light rattling.

I remember June ‑
my bowl filled with light
sun swelling over the horizon
succulent words
rolling in the mouth
simple anemone,
rhodora, golden celandine
surprise of sky blue hyacinth ‑

In the open-handed generosity
of summer
I forget

December.

Gray, the bowl of December.
Gray and cold and empty.

Empty
still it says patience

Patience for the light will open 
its door, the light, the sun
filling my bowl
see how it fills to the brim
with anticipation of anemones.


Straight Bay
December 2011


Her website - Salt and Stone Poetry

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The light returns

Every year for some time (maybe twenty years or more?) my mother writes a poem and sends it to her friends as a card on the occasion of the winter solstice. For the last few years I have been involved in the design and production of the card. This year I didn't have much time between getting the poem and the end of a sale at the company that prints the cards. After playing with an initial idea about light coming through cracks in ice, I put together this image. It turned out that Moo.com no longer allows enough lines of text on the inside of their cards so I had to have the cards printed as blanks and my mother tipped in the poem which was printed separately.

The card:


And here's the poem, by Nancy Nielsen

Looking/Seeing

If I tell you
that today I look at
   grey sky
   bare clattering branches
   a scribble of crows
that is true

And if I tell you
that today I see
   crows, two by two
   buds shining with promise
   an edge of light
that too is true

And if I tell you
that I believe the edge of light

that is truest of all


Straight Bay
December 2015



To read more poems by Nancy Nielsen check out her blog.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Playing with colour in black and white

Christmas sewing is done so I could play a little - experimenting with colour of the next layer. Looking at it in black and white shows I am on the right track.

Wonky picture but it showed me what I needed to know.   I forgot that I wanted to use light color thread to stitch the lower left corner - that's fixable. Next layer will add the dark.



Saturday, December 19, 2015

Recurring

Some stitching (and the related decisions) reminded me of this artwork and now I can't get it out of my mind. It is called Pasture and is by Gerald Beaulieu. It is in the permanent collection of the Confederation Centre for the Arts gallery in Charlottetown PEI.





Friday, December 18, 2015

Busiest year


On my drive home from work at 9:00 pm last night I was reflecting on the changes since December last year. At that time I was still very much in the recovery phase from surgery for bladder cancer. But I was preparing for a large open house to celebrate the season and thank all of the people who had supported me and George through the previous months. At the time I thought I was pretty strong but I would never have imagined where I would be a year later.

Now my life looks like this:

  • teaching ten indoor cycling classes per week, to the largest groups ever
  • looking forward to a two hour cycling class on Sundays in the New Year, which filled earlier this year than in the past 
  • chairing the Steering Committee and acting as only staff person for a new cycling event which has already created a lot of buzz
  • as of yesterday, I have learned that I was elected to the SAQA Board for three years
  • continuing to serve as a regional rep for SAQA until I can identify a replacement and bring her up to speed
  • working with a mentor on my own artwork, based on a written plan which feels 'just right' to me
  • looking forward to a ten day trip to southern Spain for some mid-winter cycling in the sun and dry air 
  • continuing to attend four yoga classes, one Pilates and one body rolling class per week  
  • continuing to provide support to friends and family members as they face their own challenges


Somewhere in there I will fit in trips to Maine for family business, Philadelphia for the SAQA conference and Toronto for the opening of a SAQA show.

Instead of finding the schedule daunting I am looking forward to it and do not have any doubts about my ability to cope. I'll never know for sure but it feels as though my available energy has increased over its pre-surgery levels. I don't know if that is actually the case or whether I have renewed focus which helps me power through.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

In lieu of sun

It might not be art but it is clever and it is fun to see how much imagination and teamwork it took to create a few seconds of an effect. 










As the days get shorter and the nights darker, I find myself looking for cheerful things. I am not normally a matchy matchy person but today I was drawn to putting this together. Next up is quilting and the addition of some texture. Then it will get a top layer that will reduce the treacle factor.







Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mesmerizing

I wish I could travel to see the Wonder exhibition at the Smithsonian.

I think my favourites are the Maya Lin piece and the one by Tara Donovan. I had never heard of Donovan but did some research. Here is a link to a wonderful piece made entirely styrofoam cups and you can read an interview with her here. Google her name to see many more images. 


Untitled by Tara Donovan (2014)


detail of Untitled by Tara Donovan (2014)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Things that brightened a damp cold Monday



I will return to this video over and over again when I need to smile uncontrollably.


e>


To see how it was done:




Note the plea to share the first video with your friends and family. It is a good cause. Some of my closest friends work in shelters - it is a tough place to be for both animals and the people who look after them. This is a simple way for you to make their lives easier.

I put together a Christmas themed indoor cycling class for tomorrow - two twenty minute climbs. I thought it would be fun to play seasonal music that most people would never have heard before. There's some Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Moody Blues, Pink Martini, Brian Setzer, and Kelly Clarkson among others. I decided to kick off the class with a brand new release from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. This song is from their new holiday album (almost all original music) and is free right now at eMusic.com (I don't know if you need a membership to download it).

I can't seem to embed the song in this blog post but you can goto  this NPR story and listen to 'Just Another Christmas Song'. Check out some of the other songs as well.

On a less silly note but something that brings me just as much pleasure, watch this video of Chihary Shiota's installation at the Venice Bienale 2015. I have been doing a lot of thinking about repeated elements and this inspires me to continue to pursue some crazy ideas.








Sunday, December 13, 2015

Brassica recipes

We belong to a year-round CSA. During the spring, summer and fall we get lots of fresh out of the field veggies and fruit. But when winter rolls around we get lots of things that can handle colder weather and/or store well. That means lots of winter squash and apples and even more members of the cabbage family (Brassicas): Brussels sprouts, cabbage (three or four kinds), kohlrabi, and kale. This year I am determined to use all of the cabbage relatives in new ways. So far this week we have had three dishes. First was an Indian version of coleslaw with red cabbage, jalapeños and mustard seeds. It was pretty good but not as tasty as the other two things I tried.

Next up was kohlrabi apple slaw. This was terrific. Later I learned that the kohlrabi might be sweeter this year because it stayed in the fields until the weather was very chilly.

Tonight we had smoky creamed kale. I didn't have any smoked paprika so I used part chipotle chile powder and part paprika. The smoky flavour along with the mustard was a nice change from my usual approach to kale.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The little things

Some days are made better by the little things. Today was one of those. The morning and afternoon were devoted to errands. First up was a trip to see what was wrong with the sewing machine that locked up a couple of weeks ago. I had to drive an hour to the repair shop so I made an appointment that would let me stay if it was something easy to fix. I wasn't optimistic, though. It turned out that a bearing needed oil and the service, including cleaning and lubrication, was done in an hour and offered to me at no charge. While I waited I talked with the owner of the shop and serendipitously I learned that Janome now makes a free motion foot for couching. Why didn't I know about that a month ago? So I left the shop with three new feet, feeling good that I had spent some money given their generousity over the service.

On the way home I decided to stop for lunch so I wouldn't be grumpy during my other errands. I was in a part of town I don't know so I took a chance on a sushi place. Not only was the food good and plentiful but as I was paying I was offered a 10% discount for using cash.

Then it was off to the hospital where I have my CT scans done. I had to pick up the contrast fluid for a scan next month. Better to get it today while the roads are good then have to head out for it in a few weeks. The women in the diagnostic imaging unit was so organized that she just handed me the bag and my stay was so short that I didn't have to pay for parking.

Then I headed to the fabric store to pick up some cord for a Christmas gift I am making. I strolled through the discount drapery and upholstery fabric section and found some even better fabric for the project - for $10.

My trip ended at the pharmacy where they had a new (male) pharmacy assistant. He was much more efficient than any of the previous people in his position.

I am having lunch with a friend on Sunday and want to bring her a small gift. Thank goodness for silk/rayon devore scarves and the dyes which allow me to dye the silk one colour and the rayon another. While I was washing dishes I created a scarf in my friend's preferred colours. It will be beautiful but it will have cost me almost no time or expense.





All little things but they added up to a good day.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Getting ready

My brain is buzzing. In a few weeks I get to start work with a mentor. I have been thinking about taking this step for some time. Frankly, I serve as a mentor to many people and see and admire their growth as a result of our interactions. It occurred to me that I owed myself the same experience. So I wrote to someone whose work and attitudes I admire and asked if she would work with me. I chose her because she doesn't seem to recognize any rules other than those of compositon and design and seems to have eclectic interests. I haven't met her except through her blog but we have a lot of basics in common - childhood spent in upstate New York and long-time residence a few towns away from one another in Massachusetts. It feels like that will help us in the inevitable event that communication gets a little difficult.


We were supposed to start work last summer but life got in the way for both of us. It is just as well. I am more ready now. I will spend the next week or so clearly defining what I hope to achieve with her help. Most of it became clear to me last night and I am thrilled. I see a productive year of growth ahead.


 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Fascia or rete construction


My idea includes linking several layers using a network of interlaced threads. I did some experiments with cheesecloth and that approach might have a use but it wasn't what I had in mind. So I tried another approach - stitching on tulle using a soluble stabilizer. It will work both intact and with all of the tulle cut away.


stitch 5 on tulle, intact

stitch 5 on tulle, two sections cut

It is now time to see if I can connect two fairly stiff layers with a web of threads.

On the practical front, I have sourced 18" diameter bike tubes and measuring tapes. They are necessary to provide shape and stability to what will eventually be a five foot tall hollow vessel. They can be removed or deflated for shipping. 


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gaspworthy


Every fourth day in indoor cycling we do a class I label as Fun. I get to choose something out of the ordinary which lets people put the learning of the preceding classes into practice. I like doing simulated race days because they are a reinforcer for those who want to go hard - a reward for putting up with the education I impose on them at other times. I also like the simulations because I can use my story, music and visuals (maps and photographs) to create an atmosphere which inspires some people to work harder than they ever dreamed they could.

Today's classes were a re-creation of the last two climbs from Stage 18 of the 2015 Tour de France. Each time I put this image on the screen people gasped.





This is the Lacets de Montvernier, 3.2 km of climbing including 17 switchbacks and 18 'laces'. The average grade is 8.7% which is very steep on a bike. The grade increases briefly to 10-12 % on each turn.

It occurred to me that their very strong reaction is because it looks like real life - some hard work, you turn the corner and there is another struggle ahead. Or maybe I am just extrapolating that explanation from how my last few months have felt.

Monday, December 7, 2015

More experiments



Two more experiments today. Not much to show but this is one of my busiest days of the week so I'm just glad I fit something in. I am looking for ways to create texture. It's hard to see in the photos, especially on the first but I have made a significant difference on the surface, especially with the cording. 


outer circle:  twin needle 3.0, tension 6
inner circle: cording underneath with beading foot

fabric magic

I am getting somewhere. And the vague idea is becoming clearer. This will be about scars and fascia: necessary layers.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

When is a failure not a failure?



When it is the result of an experiment. The fact of the experiment and the answers it delivers are in themselves a success.

Two experiments today: 

1. An attempt to discharge a sample collaged piece. Some of the fabrics were completely resistant to the bleach product. 

2. I had an idea about distortion and there was some along the way but it resolved itself the more stitching I did. On the good news front, I am getting the rigidity I want so that I can create a large free-standing form. 




Next I will try several holes in the same piece which is my eventual goal. Maybe there will be more distortion because the sides won't be available to release it.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Cure for what ails you

I was in a funk yesterday and couldn't come to terms with writing my indoor cycling classes for today. After struggling to find a hook I gave up and planned to use a class I wrote earlier this month. I figured out that, at most, two people would have done it before and they likely wouldn't remember.

During dinner I became disgusted with myself for taking the easy way out. So I went back upstairs and thought about what would make me happy at that moment. The answer: the same thing that always makes me happy - surf guitar, specifically the music of a group called Los Straitjackets. At that moment I remembered that they had done a couple of Christmas albums and also that the best-selling album on eMusic is a Holiday Revue with Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets. I immediately created a new playlist, stuck in the seasonal Los Straitjackets songs I already owned and then clicked over to listen to the Nick Lowe album. It seemed like it would work so I bought the whole album.

Then I sorted the songs, added a little Brian Setzer as filler and began to create the cues for the class. It was meant to be an overload class where students add resistance that brings them to failure while maintaining a specific cadence (measured in rpm). The songs presented a perfect sequence from high to low cadence and were the right length to permit the prescribed amount of work and recovery in each song.

This morning I introduced the class using language along the lines of "What do you think of when I put Christmas and overload in the same sentence? I think of the annoying music at the grocery store. It seems like it starts earlier every year. So I have a selection of seasonal music for you but I'll bet it is unlike anything you have heard before. My guess is that today you will loathe the music while you are working and come to appreciate it while you are recovering."

The class was a big hit and several people asked for the names of the artists.

Here's a taste. I can't find videos of my favourite Los Straitjackets seasonal songs but here is one I used today.



And, in case you are curious, here's Nick Lowe with the band.





I'll bet your toe is tapping.

For good measure, here's my favourite seasonal song of all time. It's the Brian Setzer orchestra doing the Nutcracker Suite. I'm smiling now and I know I brought a little joy to a few others today.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A reminder


Too often I have to remind myself who I am. 

This is not me.



This is me.



I can't wait until those reminders are no longer necessary.






Thursday, December 3, 2015

Moving on

I am supposed to be cleaning but the silks kept calling to me. I like the contrast between the sheen of the silk and the rougher surface of the ripple fabric (scraps from one of my recent projects). I have an idea which will be another in my series about how much I dislike living in Nova Scotia. Maybe it will become my SAQA auction contribution.



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Another creative endeavor


Three times a week I have to sit down to create a new indoor cycling class. Technically I don't HAVE to - I have folders full of playlists and workout plans. But I made a commitment  to all new classes this year and also to only using music I have never played before. That's a good way to keep things fresh and interesting for me and that ensures that I do the best for my students. I write four types of classes - Form, Endurance, Strength and Fun (my choice - could be video, could be race simulations, could just be great music and an all-round workout). I have a goal for where I want to take the first three categories over the nine months of classes.

So when I sit down to put together a class I usually have some idea what it will be like. I then decide on the blocks of work and recoveries I'd like and then start looking for music that fits. I evaluate music on lots of things - its beat (how fast or slow it is), its genre, its lyrics, its 'feel', and how well it fits with the music that precedes and follows it. I have a history of looking for music whose lyrics create a mantra for the work we are doing. For example, yesterday we did drills where we rode with one leg at a time. All of the songs in that section had the refrain 'only one' in the lyrics.

I have been doing this long enough that I don't find the process tedious and it usually doesn't take too long. But today I was at a loss when I started. My plan wasn't entirely clear, I guess, so nothing was working. And then I found a couple of pieces of music I liked so I stuck them in the playlist to look at later. When I went back I immediately saw that the music had decided the structure of the class for me. Using that idea I quickly found twelve more songs that fit the same pattern. The class is done and I only have to enter the cues in the iPad app I use to project my plan on a video screen.

It's weird to say but the music chose the plan this time with very little help from me. I'll remember that the next time I am struggling - just relax and it will come.

This song isn't in my playlist for tomorrow but I used it this week and lots of people loved it. I am using their interpretation of the 1812 Overture tomorrow - might as well capitalize on something people liked to offset the heavy metal and ambient choices I have also included in the class.


Bond playing Bond Goes Gaga - live performance in Nicaragua.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November birthdays


It wasn't just me celebrating a birthday last month. Two of the four dogs were also born in November.

Tock turned two on the 17th. Here he is as a baby.






And Nina turned 12 on the 29th. This is my favourite picture of her, taken by Joan Carey a month before her first birthday. We were on a great hike with her brother Archie (owned by Joan).



Monday, November 30, 2015

Finding Flow


Now that the art quilts have been submitted for My Corner of the World - Canada and I have embarked on a cleanup of the aftermath (Why do I just throw stuff on the floor near the end instead of putting it back in its place? I know it's not good for me but I can't stop doing it.), I want to try to describe how the last few weeks have felt.

I had every intention of completing this work with weeks to spare. I had the time, I had the ideas, I had the materials. But life got in the way and there were other things that needed my full attention. When I could get back to work in earnest there wasn't much time left before the deadline. Under ordinary circumstances I could have just skipped the opportunity. But for complicated reasons that that wasn't an option this time. It was important that I submit something for this show. It isn't important that I be juried in but I always want to do my best.

Last year, if I had been faced with those pressures, I would have had a miserable time. I would have done the work but there would have been a lot of agony and angst and indecision and terrible thoughts streaming through my brain day and night. That is not what happened over the last month or so.

I enjoyed every minute of the process. I enjoyed the tedious work of stitching hundreds of long straight lines, I loved the construction process, I savored the opportunities to change my mind. What was most striking to me was that I could look at something on the design wall, see something little that could be changed and instead of obsessing over it and letting it stop me in my tracks I reacted with a shrug and the thought "that's the way it is." On my second piece I came to a point where it was clear that some of my earliest decisions about the design were all wrong. In the past I would have held onto those decisions for far too long, perhaps forever. This time, though, I saw what needed to be done, got out my rotary cutter or scissors and made the cuts that were needed. I didn't second guess then or later.

As I write this it sounds like I didn't care about the outcome but that couldn't be farther from the truth. But this time around I let that care assert itself as acceptance rather than control. I think the work is stronger as a result.

I have spent a lot of time over the years thinking about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's theory of flow. As described by Wikipedia flow is:

 "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost." 
To achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high.
I have experienced flow at times in my life so know the feeling and know that it something that I want to experience again. I felt it when I was doing bead weaving in a serious way but have never felt it while engaged in the creative endeavor of art quilts - until this last month

Czikszentmihalyi posits that there are nine pre-requisites for flow to occur: challenge-skill balance, merging of action and awareness, clarity of goals, immediate and unambiguous feedback, concentration on the task at hand, paradox of control, transformation of time, loss of self-consciousness, and autoelic experience.

I have recognized for some time that I have an autoelic personality. From Wikipedia again:

The autotelic personality is one in which a person performs acts because they are intrinsically rewarding, rather than to achieve external goals.  
Csikszentmihalyi describes the autotelic personality as a trait possessed by individuals who can learn to enjoy situations that most other people would find miserable. Research has shown that aspects associated with the autotelic personality include curiosity, persistence, and humility.

The big question for me is Why? What precipitated the change which allowed me to find flow while working on art quilts and, dare I ask, will it last? I have some ideas about might have made a difference. First, I have to consider that my experience with cancer and a major surgery has changed my outlook. I am not generally aware that it has but once in a while I find myself making a decision and realize that I have factored mortality into the equation. And I have accepted that I won't always be in control.

Another recent change is my commitment to yoga. I started attending classes about ten months ago and now fit four or five into my week. It has made an extraordinary difference in my sleep patterns. But I think it is also having an effect on how I view life generally. I am able to enter situations with the understanding that "it will be what it is", however imperfect that seems to me at the time. Interestingly, I talk that talk with my own students but it was yoga that brought it home to me in a real way.

I'll probably never know what caused the change so I'm probably better off letting the question go and getting on with life, with my fingers crossed that flow returns.

Confession - In looking at the photos which I took for my entry there is one very strange thing going on at the edge of one piece. It might be an artifact of the light or photo set up but I will take a look and fix that if it needs fixing.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Next


The two art quilts are done. I will clean off all the loose threads and do the photography tomorrow. Then it will be time to clean the studio. I have lots of ideas for more in a series related to one of them. I think I might make a twelve inch square piece for a donation to the SAQA auction next year. I will need to dye some old plaid shirts I got at Frenchy's but I will be able to do that in plastic bags because I won't need big pieces of fabric.

I need to move most of my energy to another project. I had the original idea and now it is up to me to execute it, with the help of a great Steering Committee and a lot of volunteers. Here is how it is described in the one page I wrote to give to people who want more information before we get the website done.


Close to Home
The Tour of Hammonds Plains

Close To Home: The Tour of Hammonds Plains is a community based event which will highlight the opportunities for road cycling in the area of the Hammonds Plains Rd. and surrounding subdivisions.  25, 50 and 100 km routes will start at the St. Margaret’s Centre and wind through secondary roads. The shortest route will use the roads closest to the Centre while the others will also utilize the new bike lanes on Hammonds Plains Rd. The longest route was designed with serious cyclists in mind and includes almost 1100 metres of climbing.

The event has been developed with the goal of:
  • showcasing the road cycling opportunities within the community 
  • increasing the confidence of local riders which may result in more use of  bicycles for active transportation
  • engaging families and children
  • promoting safe and responsible cycling
  • creating a more positive relationship between motorists and cyclists on local roads
To meet these goals, the Steering Committee is committed to producing an exceptionally well-organized and safe event which engages many people in the community.

The event will be complemented throughout the preceding summer by educational material distributed to residents through social media and by using the networks of established neighborhood associations. In addition, CAN-BIKE and Making Tracks courses will be offered through the Centre. As an adjunct, informal neighborhood rides dubbed ‘Ride Local’ will be led by volunteers on summer evenings and weekends. These will provide additional opportunities for education and will help residents to gain confidence in their cycling skills.

We hope to obtain support from local businesses as well as larger corporate entities for a project which will celebrate both the individual participants and the community and its infrastructure. The emphasis on active living, and cycling specifically, it is a good fit for many who offer services to local families.

The 2016 Close To Home ride will take place on Sunday, September 18. It is anticipated that this will become an annual event. 


Friday, November 27, 2015

Almost done

Just some facings to pound (too many layers but I knew that going in) and it will be time for photography. Here's a teaser (note: no threads have been trimmed yet).



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Best tool ever


A couple of months ago I watched a good video by Pat Pauly about designing abstract art quilts. Although the title only described the design process I got more out of her practical tips on construction. Among other things she showed how she uses a 48 inch drywall square. 

I purchased a square today and put it to use almost immediately. It shaved (pun intended) an hour and all the angst out of squaring up the big piece I am finishing. The final step was then to cut some really long strips (using pattern pieces) out of the stitched and shrunk upholstery fabric and felt sandwich that I made last week.  It worked fantastically as a straight edge for that as well. 

It's a little thing but I am certain I will now stick to big (and bigger) work now that I can handle the last stages so easily.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A day in the life

It was a day for food, cycling instruction, galloping and art.

6:15 - 7:00 am - make dinner (leek and potato soup, faux quiche with onions and Swiss chard, glazed carrots with buckwheat honey and lemon)

7:00 am - feed dogs and entertain them

7:45 - 8:45 am - write Tuesday indoor cycling classes

8:45 - 9:00 am - prepare report and agenda for Tuesday Close To Home meeting

9:00 - 11:30 am - continue work on art quilts

11:30 - 11:45 am - shower, dress

11:45 - 12:15 - grocery shopping

12:15 - 12:40 pm - body rolling class which was eventually cancelled

12:40 - 1:00 pm - lunch

1:00 - 1:30 pm - transfer indoor cycling class to iPad

1:30 - 4:00 pm - continue work on art quilts

4:15 - 4:30 pm - dinner

5:00 - depart for city

6:00 - 7:30 pm - CAN-BIKE meeting at Bicycle Nova Scotia (knitting)

8:15 - 8:30 pm - home, wash dishes

8:45 - 9:15 pm - TV and knitting

9:15 pm - bed

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Silk sun


On a grey rainy day it was nice to work with this color in silk dupioni with sheer polyester piping. It is the last piece of the puzzle and I can now start to construct You Can't Get There From Here.




I have been giving lots of thought to how I feel during the push to finish this piece. The short answer is - good to great. But I can't leave that alone so have come up with a much longer answer which involves flow, in the sense in which it was defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and yoga. I will write up my ideas when I have time.

  



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Another art quilt


Full day. Several classes, lots of hand sewing and dinner and a show later. So here's another old art quilt. This is one I made in 2013 for a local show called Art Hits the Wall. The theme was Kaleidoscope. The artist statement explains my intent.


A kaleidoscope designed and built by William Leigh was engraved with the phrases:
Who could from thy outward case, Half thy hidden beauties trace? and Who from such
exterior show, Guess the gems within that glow! This is my attempt to recreate that
meaning in fiber and beads. The drab and distressed outer layer shrouds an ordered

and compelling interior.


Hidden Beauties

Hidden Beauties detail

Friday, November 20, 2015

Yikes

I was finishing up the straight line stitching this morning and my sewing machine locked up completely. I was able to extract the needle to release the fabric but nothing I tried would would make the machine go again. Luckily I had a spare machine so I finished up the sewing and the fabric is now shrinking in my miraculous new washing machine with steam.

I have moved on to the last finishing details on my other piece for the My Corner of the World Show. There's not much to see there. 

So here's another art quilt. I think I finished this in 2013 but it wasn't seen anywhere until this past September when it was part of an adjunct show to Structures at the Inverness County Centre for the Arts. It is part of a series based on poems by my mother, Nancy Nielsen.



Gritty Wind Blues

Thereʼs no crayon in the box for this,
nothing as dirty as old ice,
nothing as cold as the jagged bay,
nothing as tired as the matted grasses
and the ubiquitous plastic bags
impaled in the roadside branches.
Weʼre all ground down to a nameless shade
of worn.

So itʼs not surprising that I saw the woman
with the shopping cart as defiant.
Way to go, lady, with your ribbons,
with your improbable rainbow garden
of plastic flowers. Red, pink, orange,
purple, green, a whole fistful of colors.
Just what we needed, spunky graffiti
scrawled on the grit of the day.


Gritty Wind Blues

Gritty Wind Blues detail