Wednesday, March 25, 2009

summer camp...

The power to make things beautiful lies in each
of us already. It is a core so simple and so
deep, that we are born with it.


I use this quote at the beginning of every class. Photographic arts,
doll making, assemblage and bricolage, l'm like a traveling magic
show. It takes me a day to load my truck, old canvas, fabric, some
stained, some smelly, dirty rusty tin, banged up wood, blocks of
beeswax, needles and thread, and sometimes my sewing machine.

If it were the middle ages, l'd be tortured and hung up for my alchemist ways.
I taught a couple of two day workshops at the Denman Island Arts Center,
doll making and assemblage. l'm always scared when l go to denman island,
it's lawless you know. The people on denman don't just grow potatoes and corn
There are lots of artists there and they care. So l have to be prepared, l have to satisfy
them. If l don't, who knows, l'd probably wind up on the shore of the mainland, my
limbs sewn together, covered in beeswax, looking like a kewpie doll.

(to all of my students, sorry for the lack of names, if you have
a name or website, let me know and l'll post it.)

Wells, BC. - I've taught a few times at the Island Mountain Arts Center
I've also stayed a winter or two there, out in Stromville. In a cabin, woodstove
and lights powered by car batteries, sometimes l felt like a hairless dog curling
up tight to keep warm. Wells is a magical place and l like teaching there. Last time
l taught for five days, the first two days are the honeymoon, the third day,
it's over, people are sick of working eight hours stitching and sticking and listening
to my banter about the importance "of caring". Some even wished they had taken
the calligraphy class down the hall. I bribe them with cookies, fortune cookies
and chocolate cookies and if they make it to thursday, were okay.
The last day is the best, were all comfortable with each other,
things are just beginning to
develop, in fact that's
when the five days should really start.

Doesn't matter what class you take with me, l get you to make a fabric doll.

"If a child died, Ojibwa Indian women made a "doll of Misfortune"
creating it from feathers and placing it in a cradle, the mother cared for
the doll just as if it were a real baby. She would take it on journeys,
talk to it and give it presents for one year, until she considered the
baby old enough to reach paradise on its own."

Before making a doll, l ask the students to write for ten minutes non-stop
starting with words "I remember". This zen practice of writing is
borrowed/inspired from Natalie Goldberg
The students are brave, most read what they have written,
some tearfully, some with laughter, all with courage.

Metchosin, BC - I taught a five day class last summer at the
Metchosin International summer school of the arts.
This place is beautiful, it's like summer camp without the bully's. You sleep
there, you eat there, and you create. I start this class by making pinhole
cameras out of old record covers. Self portraits, transfers, rusty tin figures,
fabric dolls, encaustic, and collage. The pinhole images are beautiful,

it takes awhile to make the camera light proof. lots of black tape, lots of
frustration, but once done, it's like you just made friends with
Joseph Niepce. The act of building this little crooked box. The act of
building, so important, working with your hands, feeling and fumbling.
Like peeing in a ditch, you can't miss. It's almost primitive, and very
real, you just want to dance naked around a big fire.

And there's one thing you can't lose
And it's that feel
It's that feel

Red Deer, AB - I am teaching another five day class this summer at
Red Deer College. Last summer l had a wonderful group...
even a couple who had returned second year in a row, l guess l didn't explain
myself clearly enough the first time. (Thank you Paul and Glynis, and

of course thank you Erika and Gillian who always support me
and try to come to nearly all workshops.)

And me and Molley Hoey drank Pruno and Koolaid and she had a
Tattoo gun made out of a cassette Motor and a guitar string and
She soaked a hanky in 3 Roses And rubbed it on the spot
And drew a rickety heart and A bent arrow and it hurt like hell

A “bricoleur” is a kind of handyman who enjoys adroitly drawing upon all
sorts of everyday things - whatever is at hand
- to attend to those things that make the good life.

What has changed is my way of seeing,
l am learning how to look at pictures,
what has changed is my capacity of feeling.
Art opens the heart.

Winter has passed...

still a little cold...

but were warm...

I listen to him almost every day, and
because Renee at Circling My Head needs
some wailin and moanin, here is Jacque Brel

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

wandering and wondering...

In life, change and forgetfulness may give the impression that relationships
are temporary and conditional by the events of time, but to the soul,
remembrance and eternal connectedness are more important.

continuing from my last post...

I took a trip - third year of college l won a 1000.dollar grant and l was
going to travel across Canada. I bought a 30 day via rail pass, could
get on and off when and where l wanted. I bought fourty rolls of black
and white film 400asa. My instructors told me that l was very
fortunate, the landscapes across canada they said. Little did they know.

My first stop was Swift Current, Saskatchewan. I stayed at the Imperial $9.45,
a room, bath and washroom down the hall. Met Charlie Butcher- lived there all
his life, 74years old and had farmed grain for 36 yrs. Lives in town now,
his parents homesteaded in Swift Current.


I met the mayor who instead of the key to the city gave me a swift current pin
and keychain. I gave my cheese buns and five dollars to Luis and Mercy who
were from New York, lost in swift current. Bob, Bunk, Erwin, Mrs Peters
then l met Floyd. He told me that he had been in "mental wards" three times
and his brother was in the kingston pen, "he was framed", says Floyd.
Floyd talked to me about "jerking off" and god. "People don't believe that they
can get back in their mother's womb you know." "My father choked to death,
my mother had a miscarriage." "Animals believe in god you know, everday down
at the zoo people are talking about god and the animals hear, you know."

As l left to board the train, Floyd gave me a stubbly bearded kiss on the cheek.
There was a thunderstorm going on that night, maybe one in Floyd as well.
Arrived in Brandon, Manitoba early the next morning. Stayed at the Crystal

motel for $18.00. Wandered Brandon, weary from the train. Took pics of Vern
in room #9 of my hotel. He's been there six years, 17 years in Brandon.
Moved from Winnipeg where he had a dry cleaning business which folded
when his wife left with the kids - "she got everything." Vern gave me a
polaroid of himself which a friend had taken and he was going to tear up.


I lit a wooden match; I let it all burn down
I've broken every rule; I've wrecked it all down
There are no words in the wind, the trees are all bare
Life's mean as a needle; but why should I care?
-tom waits
Took pics of Jane who had on a "Smile - Pass it on" patch on her jacket.
Brandon was strange to me, hard, dry, but l recognized warmth there...


On my way to Toronto where the train stops for a night. The actual train ride
was okay, slept in my seat, wandered to the bar car every now and then chatting
to people in my still and quiet way. I bought bagels or buns whenever
l stopped, and munched on them, scrunched in my seat like a raccoon
with a secret. Stayed at the youth hostel in Toronto for $14.00 and like the
other cities, wandered, shuffling along unsure of what l was really doing, peeking
here and there, down alleys, in churches, cafe's where l could get toast and
coffee. I had to be careful as l didn't have much money. Took pics at a church, built
in 1849. There was a strawberry luncheon going on in the back and in the front
l met Joe, Mike, and Frank. None of them had whip cream on their faces so
l guess they hadn't been invited.


Frank was hungry and was checking out the donation box inside the church.
My journal from this trip is so embarrassing, l rant and rave about churches,
l whine and fight with myself over what l'm doing.

All your cryin don't do no good
Come on up to the house
Come down off the cross
We can use the wood
Come on up to the house
-tom waits
I met Private Smith, use to be in the army, seven years he told me
He'll be 60 in a week. He got to go to Copenhagen

"where the girls and the booze where for the taking". He was such a nice man to
meet. I hung around union station like a lost traveler, i sat on benches, switching
every now and then so it didn't look like l was thinking. I met a wonderful man
name Bill which l wrote about early on in this blog...Here
You know, one of the first things l learned, not long before this trip while l
ventured the alleys of Calgary, well it was that l could approach anyone. It
didn't matter if they looked hardcore, disturbingly cold, or disenchanted,
gruff or gross. There's this human inside of us all, no matter the ventures
we've taken, it's there and wants to be touched.
I traveled to Halifax after Toronto. Headed straight to Dartmouth when l
arrived. Met Douglas Mysers in a hallway of a rooming house, dark, a single
uncovered bulb hung over his head like a noose.

It was unsettling, he was unsettling.
I stayed at the ymca for $16.50. The next day, traveled up to Sydney, stayed
at the Cliefden house hotel for $24.00. Wandered, wandered, wandered,
and wondered. Went into the Irish club, not many people, very dark, very quiet,
met Jimmy. Jimmy use to be on skid row in Montreal. "The french are great people."

"I,m an alcoholic, use to fish out of Nanaimo, had my steam ticket, fuckin liquor,
lost it, but l knew my ships." Jimmy had a fantastic face, he should be in the mafia l thought.
Traveled to Digby, met Stacy Rogers on the train. 16 next week she tells me. Lives
with her mom who loves harley davidson's and Bob Dylan. Stacy ran away once to

Halifax for three days. She wants to be a lawyer or a singer, she's been smoking
since she was 10. Arrived in Digby at 10pm, not much money so l stayed in a
all night pizza joint until the ferry to Saint John was to leave at 5am
Saint John , like a dusty old chest of drawers, clothes flung in, some dirty, some
stained, some even clean.

I passed through Toronto again, it's unavoidable. I decided l wanted to go to
Niagra Falls. I met the most wonderful couple having lunch there. They were
from a small town of 800 people just outside of London, ont. They came to the falls

39 years ago on their honeymoon and have come back every year since.
Back in Toronto, "Have l begged from you before," he asked me. Pics of Lynda,
i was attracted by the gold glitter on her chest. She wore alot of crosses,
goes to three churches. "Have to pleae everyone," she tells me. When she
got out of the hospital as she had a bio chem breakdown, she started writing.

She has certain powers and when they got too great
she had a breakdown but now can control them.
Back on the train heading to Edmonton. Bits of conversation float down
the aisle, breaking like bubbles over my head. "Stop it or l'll pull your dink,"
says a little girl to her brother. "Maybe l'm not fit to be a security
guard." says George to Marg.

I drift, sleep, waking myself shouting my own dreamlike words "That's Nice"
Edmonton, Jasper, Prince Rupert where l sleep in the front seat of Chet's van.
My trip peters out in Princeton.
How do l end this- l guess l don't, it goes on, a walk through this fog,
grasping at what is human, trying to be human.

Because of all these tears,
these eyes can't hope to see,
the beauty that surround them,
isn't it a pity.

-nina simon

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