Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The rewards of blogging.

Now that I am feeling like a veteran blogger (LOL), and especially after my recent flurry of blogs about the Symposium, I have come to realize that it is a gratifying exercise in many more ways than I ever expected.

Sure, the writing is great - especially for someone who has been writing for a living for so long. In this space, I get to write what I want, not what a client is paying for, and my writer's voice gets stronger and more familiar with each post.

Instant Gratification - it doesn't take me long to write a post. For me, it's like a conversation to a friend and if I have a topic, the words just flow. I get to write it, edit it, preview it, post it and view it in as little as 10 minutes. (Not all posts, mind you, but many are this fast for me.) It's not really prose - not something that is going to be published in the real sense, so I don't agonize over every word.

Connections - amazing people visit and leave comments and I get to see where they live in the blog world and leave them notes. Some people I met at the Symposium have left comments on my commentary posts, along with people who only shared the experience on my blog. It's amazing how quickly my links list has grown and I love sharing these new places with everyone who visits here. I am going to have to try to find a regular timeframe for updating new blogs, so that I don't overwhelm my visitors with too many places to go.

A Quick Visit - in my spare time, I return to the blogs linked on mine and see what folks have been up to. Even though I am in touch with Jennifer on a regular basis, her blog is what lets me actually see what she's been up to. Leaving a comment on someone's blog is a fast and easy way to keep in touch.

A Virtual Diary - time passes so quickly these days and my blog helps me remember what I have been up to - what events happened - what projects was I working on. They're all here for me to go back through and reminisce. And if anyone asks me what I have been up to, I can tell them to go and see.

Online Portfolio - this has quickly become the place that I send people to see my work. Since I don't have a website - yet, my blog is the viewing place for all my projects, both in progress and finished. Some folks from Fredericton came to my niece's wedding and were anxious to see some of my rugs. I sent them here, since the physical rugs are up north at the cottage.

Show and Tell - that's the ultimate benefit of any blog, I think. It lets people see what you are working on and the progress that you are making. I have had lots of people follow along on a given project, and at RUG recently, someone asked me to hurry up and post more progress pictures on Totem 40, my family portrait rug. (In fact, that will be my next post.)

For something that started off as a bit of a challenge once Jennifer started her FishEyeRugs blog, this one has become a very important sharing vehicle for me. I enjoy doing it. I enjoy seeing who is visiting.

Thanks for coming along.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another wonderful blog.

As any blogger will tell you, one of the most gratifying parts to blogging is getting comments from visitors. It's fun to see where they are coming from, how they found you and whether or not they have a blog you can visit and share.

A recent visitor here is a hooker, knitter and mom of small boys. Her blog is warm and wonderful and in fact our lives have been criss-crossing for some time - at least our virtual ones.

Her blog is http://seasidefarms.blogspot.com/ Her blogging name is thewoolfairy and I definitely remember seeing her goodies on Etsy - earlier post. Turns out she also is one of the yarn suppliers for Deanne and although I thought I may have seen her handiwork in the lustpile of wool there, it is just on its way to the studio now.

Her life is where mine was when my kids were kids - many moons ago. She is eking out time to hook - or time to herself in general - when she can. But you can see from the pictures on her blog that her boys are adorable, active and filling her days with many adventures.

So many of us ended up finding more time to pursue our passions in the fibre world once the chasing days were over. I know that any dedicated time in my earlier endeavours was stolen while they were sleeping. I remember how great it was when they started sleeping in on Saturday mornings and I could get 2 or 3 hours in if I got up early enough.

Now I still do that, but the person sleeping in is my better half. I treasure those hours of peace and quiet to gather my thoughts and plan or putter.

Jennifer's post yesterday - see link to Fish Eye Rugs - is about exactly that kind time, but for her it was that Sunday we all love to have from time to time. Actually, if you read all her posts about her east coast adventure, they are filled with amazing stories and photos that will make you want to hop on the train and go. (Jen - you need to teach me how to do a text link - haven't figured that out yet.)

Anyway, go and discover Seaside Farms and thewoolfairy. Then swing by Jen's and catch up there. It's the perfect day - rainy and grey - to go on a little excursion.

Enjoy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My takeaway.

"Stay inspired. Inspire others. Play with Ideas. Dream. Make people happy whenever you can. Let your hook dance across the mat. Keep good notes. Draw pictures. Seek out happy people. Take deep breaths. See beauty. Throw your head back in laughter. Be kind to others. Gather lots of wool and use your hook to show the world who you are." DF

This is a quote that appears on the back of Deanne’s new hoodies that she had in the studio. I hope she doesn’t mind my using it to write this summation.

Not only does it summarize her philosophy about hooking, it captures the essence of the entire experience at the symposium.

I am inspired. I will continue to try to inspire others. Certainly the experience encouraged a sense of play. And we saw the saw the results of the dreams of so many talented presenters, we know the power of dreams.

Make people happy whenever you can. It really isn’t that hard to do, but maybe we all need a reminder once in a while. Having it on a sweatshirt isn’t such a bad idea – then you can share it with the world.

Let your hook dance across the mat. How eloquently said. Next time you are sitting with a group of hookers, just watch the grace in the hook. Each person moves it a little differently – some waltz while others do the two-step, but we all dance.

I think these entries on my blog are my good notes. I will always be able to look back at them and remember this special time.

I am a picture drawer anyway, but now I will do it even more often. Writing notes about good ideas and putting the down on paper in a sketch will help you remember – like a visual journal.

The happy people I spent time with in Amherst are exactly the kind she is talking about. I find hookers to be mostly happy people anyway – which is why I love being among them.

Laughter – so much of it there. I am smiling just thinking about them all. And it takes me back to my first week at hooking school, when I was overcome with the sound of laughter ringing through the air. It is inspiring on its own.

Use your hook to show the world who you are. That was the biggest lesson of all. Sometimes who we are gets lost in trying to be someone else. But seeing all these amazing people – hearing their stories about creativity and realizing how personal each story was is the real pearl in the symposium. We all gather different wool – we all come with a colour palette inside – we all have a different hooking style and a different story to tell. The secret is in finding our own story and telling it to the world.

My rugs have always been a personal story about a person, a time or a place in my life. I will remember to make sure that they continue to reflect me and show the world who I am.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

10 Venues in 5 Days


This picture is from Heidi Wulfraat's studio, London-Wul, which is already in my links. (That's Heidi in the apron in the centre.) It was the first stop on our journey from the Moncton Airport to Amherst. And the first fibre art show - with beautiful knitted, hooked and punch needle pieces on display. Her studio is glorious - a clean and simple wood interior is the perfect backdrop for her sumptuous wools. There's something reminiscent about an old barn - all the warmth and charm, but none of the barn smells, since it is new. Heidi has an amazing studio in the back and you can hear bird sounds from the moment you open the door - her finches (at least I think that's what she said they were). I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of her wools that I couldn't choose. Fortunately, many of my fellow hookers didn't share my problem and Mary Manuell was working on one of her lap throws throughout the symposium, which was made spectacular by the variety of fibres in the kit.

The next stop was at Fog Forest Gallery in Sackville. The gallery is small and intimate and the artists' work was beautifully, and simply, displayed. Just the right amount of pieces and grouped so that you were drawn from one piece to the next. The website for Fog Forest is www.fogforestgallery.ca and you can take a little trip there to see the gallery for yourself. I posted a couple of days ago about Janet Crawford, the gallery owner, sharing her wisdom about partnering with a gallery.

The Fibre Arts Festival Welcome Reception on Wednesday night was held at the Tantramar Theatre, an incredible building on Victoria Street. It is a venue for many events in Amherst, and they host "...live theatre, dinner theatres and brown bag lunches, we cater to individuals and businesses as a convention centre as well. As a venue for weddings, meetings and seminars, any event or celebration can be held in our elegant atmosphere." On Saturday at the hook in, the manager of the theatre gave us a very warm welcome and invited us to come back to experience some theatre in the building - oh, if only that were an option....

Halina Bienkowski is a rug hooker who also happens to be a GP in Amherst and runs a clinic with her husband, behind the Pharma Save in town. The reputation of her rugs preceded my seeing them and I can totally understand why. The display in her clinic is absolutely breathtaking. Her pieces are all very large - I think the smallest was probably 4' x 6' and the larger ones were closer to 8' x 8'. They were all themed pieces featuring faces. Each piece had a title and she describes her pieces as being a combination of "satire and whimsy". You can see for yourself at http://www.hookedonrugs.net/ which is her website. Many of the pieces shown on the site are different from the ones in her clinic. After seeing her display, I felt that it was worth the trip all be itself.

The display of rugs at the Symposium itself was also venue. The display was as varied as the attendees. Some pieces were perched on a plate rail along the walls of the hall. Other pieces were held up throughout the two days, so we got to see an incredible amount of variety. I, for one, never tire of Show & Tell.

It seemed that every store and restaurant in town had something on display to promote the Festival. Bella's Cafe featured the work of artist, Lisa Martin, who was doing the needle felting workshop on Saturday. She had a set of tea cozies that were set on the bar the evening of our dinner. They were amazing, and made me regret that I hadn't signed up for the class.

The local Department store, Dayle's, had a quilt square competition. The local drugstore had an amazing display in their window. And even Duncan's Pub had one of Deanne's rug on display (though it might be there all the time). A mother-daughter rug and quilt display at the local Home Furniture made me realize how many opportunities there are out there to show work in a venue that might not be the first thought. I think there is a symbiosis between furniture and fibre art that should be taken advantage of more often.

And then there's Deanne's studio which was the venue of all venues. It exceeded expectation and was an amazing space. Soaring ceilings. Lots of wonderful colours. Old wood floors and counters. Incredible, helpful staff, chairs here and there to sit in and ponder or gaze at the pieces on the wall. And a basement that welcomed us for a cup of tea and a homemade cookie, plus a chance to flip through inspiring coffee table books.

It's easy to see how much these displays contributed to the sense of awe that filled the entire experience. I must confess that I did miss a couple of them. But I certainly felt satisfied by the ones I didn't miss.

Next post - my takeaway from the wonder of it all...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eating my way around Amherst.


These are the chicken pot pies that were served for our Thursday lunch. And the picture of them all lined up was just too perfect to resist. So were the pies!

I was expecting a quick sprint to Tim’s for a sandwich for lunch during the symposium. So you can imagine my delight at being served the above-noted pot pies on Thursday and incredibly delicious quiche on Wednesday. And the hand-made Sushi appetizers on Thursday were just another of the culinary surprises.

The infamous Sanford Oat Cakes (recipe for which is on Deanne’s website - scroll down the recipes page) lived up to the legend and became part of my morning ritual. I have never tasted anything that buttery, crispy and wonderful before.

Home baking abounded, from the Welcome Reception on Wednesday night to the Hook In on Saturday. I know that ‘hookers are bakers too’, but the amount of delicious cookies, squares, muffins and loaves was mind-boggling. And there was always coffee, tea, hot cranberry cider or some other aroma wafting through the air. That combination of chocolate and coffee smells is bound to add to the thighs just by inhaling.

Every morsel of food that went into my mouth while I was there was lovingly prepared by someone. What a change that is from my normal, rushed weekday fare. Delicious, unpretentious food was the order of the trip (once I was off the plane, that is).

My first and last meals were at Duncan’s Pub. The atmosphere there was cozier than most pubs, and the fare was wonderful. I treated myself to the fish and chips on Wednesday night and chowder on Saturday afternoon. Both dishes brought back childhood memories.

When I booked the dinner at Bella’s Café in Toronto and saw the $20 price, I wondered what you could possibly feed a crowd for that amount. Well, they didn’t just feed, they stuffed. We were treated to delicious appetizers when we first arrived. The main course was absolutely delicious, coated chicken - huge portions - that none of us could finish. Cobbler ended the meal and we practically rolled out of the restaurant clutching our bellies.

Friday night’s supper was pizza at Joey’s in Sackville. I think it was the best pizza I’ve had in a very long time. And definitely worth the drive.

Which means I actually ate my way around Amherst and more….

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Amazing People.


People knitting, people hooking, people talking, people cooking.

People from near. People from far. Val from California was the person I met from farthest “away” (a term I heard a lot while there).

From the welcoming reception for the Fibre Arts Festival to the dinners, the exhibits, the hook in and the days at the symposium, everything was geared to meeting people.

People presenting. Although they all felt more like “sharers” than presenters. They made us laugh. They made us cry. They made us play. They challenged us to find the creativity in each and every one of us.

Ginny Stimmell - she is one of the most approachable publishers I have ever met (not that I know a lot of publishers) She left us knowing that it is up to each and every one of us to keep ensuring that Rug Hooking magazine is a format by hookers for hookers about hookers
Janet Crawford - her knowledge and advice as a small gallery owner about finding a gallery and exhibiting your work was invaluable, and gave us perspective from both sides - the artist and the gallery owner
Danielle Ouellet - her first homemade doll at 4 launched a lifelong journey into naïve art that is filled with beauty and emotion which sometimes makes you laugh and sometimes makes you cry.
Robert Lyon - his story was inspiring, having moved from Toronto seeking work-life balance and creating a wonderful life for his family with illustration, children’s’ book writing and self-publishing, t-shirt design and production - he was a wonderful reflection of how the art community there welcomes artists
Beth Powning - her success as a powerful writer and her dedication to journals impressed upon us the importance of a place to write to yourself about yourself. They have been her idea keepers to which she often returns in the writing of her novels
Valerie Hearder - her geographic and emotional journeys were shared in an inspirational slide presentation that showed us all that “Home is wherever you are.” Valerie also presented us with an opportunity to connect with fibre artists from South Africa by purchasing their needlework and donating part of the proceeds to support Aids survivors in her native land
Joy Laking - a lifelong, second generation artist whose sense of play inspired all of us to be open to trying something out of our comfort zone and seeing one another’s playfulness
Deanne - what is there to say - she embodies all things wonderful in our craft and the creativity in each and every one of us. She ended up being just the person I wanted her to be. Kind, caring, connected, and as emotional and excited as any of the flock in attendance.

Deanne’s special friends and relatives - our wonderful masseuse who roamed around for 2 days fixing tired hands and granite shoulders - our Sushi artist who came to share her delicious creativity - Deanne’s sisters and niece who are just as warm and welcoming as she is.

And the people to whom I personally owe a big thank you. Gwen who started our excursion on email and journeyed with me all the way from York Mills Station. Anne and Helen who picked us up in Moncton and shared their experiences at Heidi’s London Wool Farm and the Fog Forest Gallery display in Sackville. Jennifer and Mary who toted me along with them nearly everywhere they went.

Lynne who not only helped me find my way back to the Moncton Airport with Sharon, but who vowed to drive me there herself if necessary. Ruth who sat next to me during the symposium, and left me her phone number in Moncton in case anything went awry with my travel plans. She vowed to come and get me and take me home with her.

To a person, everyone we met made me feel welcome during my stay. I always knew that hookers are special people. Maritime hookers and their friends may have taken this to an entirely new level.

Food tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2008

More than one post required.


I had extremely high expecations of my trip to Deanne Fitzpatrick's Creativity Symposium. I am thrilled to say that it exceeded every one of them. It is wonderful when you can say that, since often the dream can surpass the reality.

Rather than trying to cram everything into one long rambling post, I have decided to post several times this week, by topic. Today's post is a bit about the joy of the overall experience. But so many areas need their own space. The people. The places. The activities. Even the food has to have its own post. I think it's the only way to do justice to the impact of it all.

Every minute of the day was filled with new experiences, new situations, new relationships and a new and expanded appreciation of how wonderful creativity can be. No matter where people came from, no matter what their point of reference, we all shared a journey that was, in fact, as spiritual as it was creative.

Underlying it all was a feeling of familiarity and comfort that I can't explain easily. I'm sure it was partly the warmth of the hooking and fibre arts community. And I think it was a bit about returning to my Maritime roots. But it was bigger than the sum of the parts.

It truly was inspirational.

The picture in my post today is Deanne's rug that hung in the church basement where the symposium took place. It was always in view from where I was sitting. And it was amazing how many times it was a point of reference during the two days.

Tomorrow, I will talk more about the individual people who made this so special, but for today I need to say that everyone from the Toronto people who included me in their travel plans to the near-stranger who drove me back from Amherst to the Moncton airport, made my experience so much richer.

More to come.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Used-to-be-Sweater Bag


My Thanksgiving weekend was a busy one. Besides preparing the turkey feast for the immediate family and a couple of guests, I managed to get lots of craft time in. This bag is one of the projects that I finished. A few others got started and will be featured later.

This bag was once a cardigan that I bought in a kit from Koigu a million years ago. I remember the name was Tutti Fruitti and I loved the colourful pattern. The Fair Isle type design wasn't too difficult to knit, since at no time were you carrying more than two colours. The front and back were knit in one piece - the button bands were to be added once it was all assembled - and it wasn't until I sewed the shoulder seams that I realized it was not going to fit. Despite me saying it wasn't difficult, it was very time consuming, so it was put away in that far corner where projects that disappoint go. But I always believed I would get back to it one day and it would live on. (I have since used a lot of the remaining wool for whipping and a trim for a few other projects, so it was already being put to good use.)

I received a book for my birthday on making purses, and a bag made from a sweater inspired me to try to "felt" this sweater and see if I could cut it up to make a bag. The felting went well and after two rounds, it had a nice denseness that I knew I could cut into without worry of ravelling. So I made a paper pattern, following the biggest areas of the back and fronts and figured out how to make a rectangular bag that would be a good size. The finished dimensions are about 15 wide by 9 high, which is plenty large.

The pieces are blanket stitched together and the top edge of the front and back are rolled under to give a bit of a "lip" to the edge. I had some leftover batik cotton that had all the same colours, from which I made a duplicate bag for a lining, so it looks as cheery on the inside as it does on the outside.

Two more of the beautiful Graydon leather handles were put to extremely good use and I have a bag that will travel with me to Amherst, since it will hold all my necessities plus a book and perhaps my sock knitting on the plane (once I figure out whether or not bamboo needles are allowed in carry on).

I am happy that I have been able to salvage this sweater, since it cost a fair penny way back when. I will continue to look for a better button for the closing tab, but otherwise, I think this bag will be a good addition to my recycled projects collection.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Another great blog.

Today when I checked my blog, I had a couple of comments from new visitors.

Every time someone leaves a comment on a post, I click on their names and make another connection to a person who shares my passion for this wonderful craft. The first person was from here in Ontario, and in fact comes from my husband's home town of Peterborough.

The second comment led me to "A Day in the Life", a wonderfully chatty blog written by a woman named Alice who has a great love for hooking and folk art. I think I will become a regular visitor to her blog.

Like many of us, she is still working, so doesn't get to hook as much as she would like, either. But take a quick trip to her blog (see new link in favourites) and you will meet an adorable cat named Mr. Kitty, see lots of projects in progress plus stories about her latest Day in the Life adventures. Some hooking. Some "other".

Visiting there today reminded me of what I was thinking last night as I read my Green Mountain Guild newsletter. I have an uncanny sense of familiarity about many of these woman I have never met. Certainly because the Green Mountain gals are always present in Rug Hooking Magazine and since their boundless energy is a constant source of inspiration, I am drawn to them, but I feel like I truly know them all. It's a little strange, I'm sure. I think Alice is another one with whom, if our paths ever cross, I would happily share a coffee or glass of wine and stories - as if we had known each other all our lives.

Is it possible that there are this many kindred spirits in the rug hooking world? I think it is. Indeed I do. I guess this is, in fact, what these communities are all about.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Heavens to Etsy.com


When you have a good chunk of time to spend, pour yourself a coffee or a glass of wine and go to www.etsy.com It is an e-commerce web portal for handmade treasures. And there are so many, I can't begin to tell you about them all. It's kind of like e-bay for people who loved handmade delights.

Since rug hooking is not one of the main categories, I missed it when I was there. But if you enter "rug hooking" into the search window, you will find many results that include patterns, wool, finished items, hooks, etc. On Saturday, one of the vendors at RUG reminded me about the site, since her daughter sells her rug designs there.

Coincidentally, last week I was doing research for a client when I came across an article titled "Cool, Determined, Under 30" which was a feature on the brains behind America's smartest new companies. For the most part, their successes are in the technology and online world.

One of the people featured in the article was Rob Kalin, the young fellow who started Etsy - when we was 17! Like many of his peers, he dropped out of high school. But, at 15, he got fake ID and started auditing classes at MIT. Apparently, a couple of he professors noticed him and helped him get into NYU, when he learned about web design. Etsy was his first venture. He raised $27 Million in capital and is now thinking about an IPO.

Cudos to him for creating a world where crafters and artisans can share their wares with those who love them. It's quite a community on this site, with lots of interactivity and ways to connect with your favourite artisans.

Once you have visited, I'm sure you will bookmark the site for many returns.
Just don't curse me if you start spending way too much time there.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Timely Inspiration.


On Saturday, I went to RUG, a semi-annual hook-in in Barrie, Ontario. It is always a great event, well attended by folks from all over the province. The main programme is always provided one of the local branches, there are always lots of home-made goodies to eat, and a bevvy of vendors who are more than happy to help you empty your wallet.

This year's programme was presented by the Orillia Sunshine Hookers, who are a dynamic, creative group who meet every Tuesday morning in Orillia. They are always working at something interesting and their presentation Saturday was all about Inspiration and Creativity. And it was based on the influence of Deanne Fitzpatrick, whose Creativity Symposium I am attending in Amherst, Nova Scotia next Thursday and Friday - October 16th and 17th.

Many branch members have already had the pleasure of attending Deanne's workshops on Primitive Faces and Creativity, so they all had insights to share on how Deanne's approach had influenced them. And the proof was in their rugs. Even the most stalwart 3-cut, fine-shading hookers had been challenged to go outside their comfort zone by exploring their inner artist. Although they will never hook with the freedom that is evident in Deanne's work, they now look at their approach in a whole new light.

I know that the two-day symposium that lies ahead of me will be filled with inspiring stories and insights and I am counting down the days - practically the hours - until I am on the plane bound for Moncton.

There is quite a contingent from Ontario making the pilgrimage, and I am lucky enough to be joining a group right from the airport in Moncton on Wednesday. I think I am the only "Deanne virgin" among us. Everyone else has already trekked to her studio, and already know where to go and what to do. So I will join them on their itinerary. First stop is a wool farm on the way to Amherst, followed by a gallery prowl. Luckily for all of us, the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival is taking place while we are there, so there will be lots to do with our free time. The hard part will be choosing what events to attend.

As you can probably tell, I am already a near-zealot for this art form, so I can't wait to see what inspiration I will acquire on this journey of discovery. I promise to share when I get home again.