Celebrating My Two Loves

Have you seen the latest issue of Rug Hooking Magazine? I’m pretty excited that my article, “Celebrating my Two Loves,” is in it! This one is about that series of seven pieces I did that were inspired by my kids. I’ve had a number of people email me to tell me that they really enjoyed hearing the stories behind each of these pieces. I hope you enjoy the article too. 🙂

Last week I also taught a Beginner Rug Hooking with Yarn class for adults. It was a great group, and the first time that someone has actually completed a piece by the end of class! I really love seeing how everyone interprets a subject differently, and sometimes people want to create their own design in the class and that is great too! That will likely be the last Beginner Adult class for a little while, but I will hold another one probably in the Fall. A lot of people have been requesting a weekend or evening class so I will try to make that happen!

In other news, my Tulips class that I will be teaching at the OHCG Annual here in Ottawa in May filled up really quickly! Thanks so much to everyone who was interested in this class. I can’t wait to meet you all!

I spent some time compiling my mailing list for those who have expressed an interest in a Hooking Portraits with Yarn class. Now that I have seen just how many people are waiting to take such a class, I’ve decided I really need to make planning one a priority. I’m officially adding it to my roster of things to get on and hope to have an announcement on this by the end of the year for sure.

Other than all of that, I’m still enjoying doing small experimental pieces each week. Some work, some don’t, but all are learning experiences. And I have started work on my next major project which actually doesn’t involve any hooking at all!

Karen

New Year; New Planner; New Plans!

Hope everyone had a terrific holiday season! Hard to believe it has come and gone already. Ours was very low key which is exactly what we needed. It was nice to take a step back from all the crazy hecticness of every day life and dial it back a bit for two weeks. By far my top three times of the holiday season are Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. Christmas Eve is so magical- the lights, the stockings, the kids’ excitement for the arrival of Santa. Boxing Day is the best because we don’t leave the house. We lounge by the tree, reading books and doing activities that we got for Christmas and eat leftovers all day. So relaxing. And we really believe that New Year’s Eve requires a little….sparkle….or pizazz. So we always plan a fun little excursion that sets the day apart from all the others. This year we headed downtown where we spent the night. We went to the hotel pool, ate delicious food, and spent time together. My husband and I saw the fireworks reflected in the windows of a nearby office building which was perfect as it was about -38C that night so we were more than happy to stay nice and cozy inside!

There’s just something inspiring about a New Year, isn’t there? This year I am trying very hard to focus on the notion of creativity. I’m trying to do a better job of breaking down my days into categories and sticking to it: ie. book writing days, hooking days, teaching preparation days etc. What I really noticed from the past year was that I have trouble giving myself permission to take a day a week to explore new techniques or ideas. For some reason, particularly if my schedule is really full, this is the first thing that gets eliminated from my timetable. And I really think that that has to change. So this year I am building in a “Creativity” day a week.

Enter my new planner. I am definitely a planner person and always have one to keep track of our family schedule. But this year I wanted to have a separate one for my art/work. One that I can brainstorm in, sketch in, capture fleeting ideas and break down my work days better. This is the one I chose (see above) and I’m super excited to see how filled it will be by the end of the year!

I was also approached by a fibre art friend to join her in committing to making something new each week of this year. We call it “Work Week” and it is a really great way to stay accountable and to also get feedback from someone else about what you are doing. Over the holidays I jotted down a quick list of all of the projects that I want to tackle this year using this concept. All of those things that have been shuffled to the bottom of the pile because I just haven’t made time for them. Doing it this way, I plan to tackle a small, likely 5″ x 7″ piece each week using a material or technique that I have been wanting to explore for some time. The small size keeps it doable to complete in a week or so, and also has the benefit of keeping me focused on the purpose. The purpose is to experiment- not to necessarily end up with a phenomenal, ready to sell piece. Just keeping that in the back of my mind is already freeing as I have a tendency to think of things as a waste of time if they don’t end up “perfect.” Through this process, “imperfection” may actually be more of a learning process than perfection.

This doesn’t mean that I will not be doing larger projects. I am very close to completing my larger project (I feel like I have been saying that a lot lately but it is true!) and have several other large projects coming up. But I will also be making time for these smaller experiments and who knows, they may lead to larger projects as well!

I found it a struggle over the holidays to get started on my first “Work Week” project because the kids were still off school and I wanted to spend time with them. I wasn’t idle though. It seems every couple of years I get the crochet bug and I binge crochet and then set it aside again. This seemed to be the year and so I ended up crocheting myself a large, cozy blanket that I love.

Then I decided to do a project for each of the kids. I just finished up this blanket for my daughter, and have embarked on a “Volcano Bag” for my son. These were no super creative projects as I was following patterns, but the time I have spent on them allowed me to get into the rhythym of the motion of crocheting which freed my mind to contemplate some of my own work. And, the kids were super happy with their crocheted goodies!

I have my next Work Week project ready to start and will keep you updated each week as I embark on these adventures. I hope that you find your own way of tapping into your creativity in 2018!

Karen

P.S. The Volcano Bag pattern can be found at www.yarnutopia.com/2017/02/02/volcano-bag

Marks of Motherhood

For some time now I have been giving a lot of thought as to how I could convey my feelings about motherhood through my art. My motherhood journey has been a fairly all-encompassing one as I made the choice to stay home with first my daughter and then my son. Now that both of my children are in school, my life, and my relationship to the two of them, has of course undergone yet another transformation. I knew that my past ten years of mothering and my entry into the next phase of this journey all have given me plenty to say, but I have struggled with finding my voice.

That all changed when I embarked on my recent series which I call “Marks of Motherhood.” I find that there is a tendency for mothers who are artists to focus only on the positive moments and feelings of motherhood. There is nothing wrong with this of course, and I myself have done just the same with the pieces that I have made that have been inspired by my children. But it seems to me that to ignore the other aspects of motherhood seems to play into the stereotypes that society has set up around it. As every mother knows, not every moment is joyous and wonderful and golden and as an artist I really wanted to push myself to “go there.” Some moments are exhausting, frustrating, overwhelming, marginalizing and just demoralizing. Women are so reluctant to focus on the negative because they feel that to do so makes them look as though they don’t love their children and don’t feel fortunate. I don’t think this is true- I think that to explore the full depth of all of your feelings merely makes you human.

Marks of Motherhood II

The experience of motherhood changes a woman immediately and leaves her with a collection of “marks”: physically, mentally and emotionally. These marks are permanent, but at the same time are transitional and change shape and composition over time. No two women experience motherhood in the same way, and the experience of being a “mother” is very different from that of being a “parent”. While the journey is inevitably filled with joyous and rewarding moments, it is also by its very nature messy, with rough edges, frayed seams and exposed surfaces. It is by no means perfect.

Marks of Motherhood III

This series explores those marks of motherhood using the application of a variety of natural dyeing methods to the hand-hooked surface. These methods include materials found in nature, as well as rust dyeing. The results are always variable and unpredictable and one has to let go of the idealism of perfection- much like the experience of motherhood itself. I am also exploring the use of a number of different backing materials to support the narrative of my work. This follows on the experimentation I did with hooking on tulle in 2015 for my piece “Suspension.”

Marks of Motherhood IV

This is just the first of a number of series that I see coming from my experience of motherhood. I have several other series in mind which will use other methods and materials in order to explore the concepts that have come out of my own journey down this path.

Marks of Motherhood V

Karen

P.S. Just a quick note to let you know that I will be holding a Beginner Rug Hooking with Yarn class at my home studio in Ottawa, Ontario on Thursday, January 18th, 2018. The class will run from 9:30 am-12:30 pm and there are only two spaces left so email me at marzipanroad@bell.net to register.

As well, I currently have five of my small pieces on display and available to purchase at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Ottawa. They will be there until December 14th, 2017. Great for gift-giving this holiday season!

Week in Review

The November/December issue of Rug Hooking Magazine is now out and in it I have an article on how to hook with yarn. I was approached by the magazine some time ago to write such an article as they had been receiving a lot of questions on hooking with yarn. I was happy to share all that I know and the many tips that I have developed over the years through trial and error. I have been receiving a lot of positive feedback from people who are finding the article helpful and useful, which makes me very happy!

The past few weeks have been busy with teaching, and last week was no exception. I held the second session of my Nature & Landscapes Advanced Rug Hooking Class. It was another great group of students who had a great eye for finding potential subjects to hook on our nature walk. It was interesting how most of the students this time took a more abstract approach to their work. I love when people take my classes and decide to work outside of their comfort zones and try something new. For me, that’s what makes teaching so worthwhile. Can’t wait to see their finished pieces.

I have also been making a lot of time for myself in the studio this past week and weekend. Progress continues to be made on my large piece. I had originally gotten a little tired of working on the grass and had moved on to the water. Now that the water has been finished, I am forcing myself to go back and fill in all those little gaps in the grass before allowing myself to start on the sky.

I have finally also begun to tackle some of my more experimental ideas. Many of these ideas I had started to play around with a year or more ago, but then just didn’t have the time to see them out fully. When I was doing the full-time mama gig with time only in the evenings for work, I didn’t have the time for trying something and having it fail. What having the kids in school has meant is that I don’t feel the same pressure to always get things right the first time. This is leading to a lot of very interesting work that I am looking forward to sharing once I have spent a bit more time on it.

And work continues on the book I am writing! I am still feeling very excited about it which is my way of knowing that I am still on the right track with it!

This week I am teaching a Beginner Rug Hooking with Yarn class. There is some space still left in the class, and it is likely the last Beginner class that I will teach before next Spring. This winter I want to begin to develop a Portraits in Yarn class that I hope to start offering next Fall. If you are interested in the Beginner class this Thursday, you can send me a message for more information. The class will be held in Ottawa, Ontario.

Karen

Nature & Landscapes Class

Yesterday was the first of the Fall sessions of my Nature & Landscapes Advanced Rug Hooking Class. It was so much fun! It was a great group of ladies who were definitely open to getting out of their comfort zones and game to try anything. We started the class with a nature walk to explore different ways of “seeing” the things around us and to gather some inspiration photos for our work. Back at the class we learned about composing our image, colour planning, getting our designs on backing, and then got down to work on hooking the projects that they selected.

This first piece was inspired by a recent walk in the Mer Bleue Bog. The mix of acid greens and bright pinks is outstanding.

This piece was inspired by a lichen covered waste water grate we encountered on our walk. She wanted to combine another photo that she had of flowers so she added a flower in the lower corner. When this one is completed it is going to have quite an abstract feel.

This student was inspired by some fungi and moss that she encountered. Once she gets in her background colours the fungi is really going to stand out!

The mix of reds and greens in this leaf piece are fantastic. This finished image will really fill the frame and makes for a really interesting composition.

The dark greens against the pinks of this leaf are amazing. Nature really does do the colour planning for us in many cases.

The biggest take aways from the class were to give yourself permission to try something new, that making art should be a freeing experience and not one that is bogged down by too many rules, and of course that inspiration is everywhere!

I can’t wait to see what these finished pieces look like!

There are still two spaces left for this class next Wednesday here in Ottawa. If you are interested in more information, send me a message at marzipanroad@bell.net.

Karen

Catching Up

Because I have been so sporadic in my blog posting as of late, there were a number of publications that came out over the summer that I was super fortunate to have some of my work in but didn’t post about here on the blog!

First up, my “Krisuvik” piece was published in Issue 34 of Uppercase Magazine. This was such a thrill because I love this magazine. It is a great source of inspiration for people engaged in any sort of creative work. And it is a Canadian! Love supporting Canadian businesses. Such a great magazine. I highly recommend subscribing and it is ad-free so a subscription is the best way to show your support. I couldn’t be more excited to have my work featured in such a fabulous publication.

My piece, “Remembrance” was featured in Tamara Pavich’s new book “Designed by You: Ideas and Inspiration for Rug Hookers.” This is a great book. Chock-full of beautiful pictures, ideas and information. This is one of those books that you keep in your collection and pull out over and over again. I feel very privileged to have my work in here alongside so many other talented artists. Any fibre artist looking to tap into their creativity should have a copy of this book on their shelf.

Finally, my large multi-panelled piece “My Two Loves” was a finalist in Rug Hooking Magazine’s “Celebration of Hand-Hooked Rugs”. This is the fourth time that I have been in this publication, and each time is equally exciting. So great to have your work recognized by others in your medium! Make sure to vote for your favourites on the Rug Hooking Magazine website!

Karen

Embracing Fall

Every year I think I say that we had the best summer ever. But this year, I really think it was the best summer ever (I think I say that every year too. I guess that’s a good thing as it means that we live summers to the fullest!). We did so many things. Someone on Instagram (by far my favourite social media site by the way. If you don’t follow me come and check it out!) said that it seemed that we are always travelling. In some ways we are- my husband’s work hours are often less than ideal so we really enjoy little weekend getaways as well as longer trips just to get away from it all. As well, we are big believers that travel is great for kids and great for family together time. So whether it is a weekend away or a two week adventure, we love to be on the go.

The summer started out with a trip to Toronto to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. And of course we also stopped by the Ripley’s Aquarium which is always a family favourite.

For the Canada Day Long Weekend we headed to Mont Tremblant. We had so much fun there and are already plotting when we will make a return. The kids especially had a lot of fun and are always asking when we can go back.

It wouldn’t be summer without camping! Every year we do two weekends of camping. This year we lucked out and managed to get both weekends at our hands-down favourite campsite in Algonquin Park, Ontario.

Although the weather the second time we went was less than ideal, we still managed to have a good time. Our camping weekends were filled with canoeing, hiking, watercolour painting, beach time and campfires. We all feel so much like seasoned campers now after doing this for five years. So many memories have been made with a simple tent and some toasted marshmallows.

Our bigger trip this year was in Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec. Our fourth time there and it never lets us down. The weather was perfect, the cottage we rented was right on the beach. We did lots of hiking, art making, eating local foods, kayaking and shell collecting on the beach. We all came back feeling reconnected, relaxed and invigorated.

This summer also saw me completing a number of plein air hooked pieces, teaching my advanced Nature and Landscapes class, and I went on a fantastic girl’s weekend with four friends that was so much fun and so memorable.

Now Fall is here and the fun hasn’t ended. The other weekend we rented a canoe and paddled down the Rideau Canal here in Ottawa. It’s been on our to-do list for awhile now and Canada’s 150th year seemed like the time to do it. The kids even really enjoyed it and luckily we did it before this heatwave hit the city!

We have a few more weekend getaways up our sleeve before winter hits. Can’t wait! In the meantime, it’s back to work for me. My son has started Senior Kindergarten part-time this year. It’s his first time going to school and he loves it! So, I’m able to take on a lot more projects of my own. First of all, I am teaching two classes of my Nature and Landscapes class in October. The first class is full but there is one spot left in the second class. Email me if you would like more information! I am also teaching an Adult Beginner Hooking with Yarn class in early November. There are a couple of spaces left in that also which you can ask me about if you are interested. All classes will be held in Ottawa, Ontario Canada.

I’m hooking away on the piece that I have been working on all summer. It’s a big one so it is taking a lot more time than I anticipated. It also didn’t help that I had to rip out a big chunk of what I had gotten done. These things happen, and fortunately I have just about finished redoing that section.

And the last big project that I have on the go is that I am writing a book! I signed a contract with a publisher the other week and have already made steady progress on it. I’m really happy with how it is coming together! More details on this when possible. 🙂

Hoping that you are embracing Fall wherever you may be. Next time I’ll post about a few publications that came out over the summer that I have work in.

Karen

Fall Classes!

I’m excited to announce two classes that I will be holding in Fall, 2017.  Details are below.  For more information or to register, you can email me at marzipanroad@bell.net.  All classes will be held in Ottawa, Ontario.

 

Beginner Rug-Hooking With Yarn for Adults

This is a class for anyone who has never rug-hooked before, or who has hooked before and would like to try hooking with yarn.   The class will be held on Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 from 9:30am-12:30.  The cost of the class is $50.00 which includes all materials and the use of a hook and hoop for the duration of the class.  The emphasis of this class is to cover the basics of this art form, while letting you explore your own creativity.

There are only 3 spots left for this class so register early as they fill fast!

 

Nature & Landscapes Advance Rug-Hooking Class (with yarn)

This class is for those who have hooked before and are wanting to take their hooking to the next level.   The class will be held on Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 from 9am-3pm.  This class will begin with a short nature walk in order to collect photos of subject matter for your project while learning to look at nature in different ways.   Back in the studio, topics will include:  composition, colour planning, basic rules of art, choosing yarns, and finishing your piece.  The cost of this class is $100.00 ($75 for the class and $25 for materials).

There are only 4 spots left in this class and previous sessions have filled up quickly, so book early!

 

Karen

 

Spring!

I think it is safe to say that Spring has finally arrived here in Ottawa!  Yesterday I started working on the fibre art privacy screen for our backyard.  Last Fall I took apart the hooked hosta inspired piece that I made last summer, washed and dried all the strips, and packed them away.  This year I’m going with a new design, with the addition of some new colours, and I’m weaving instead of hooking!  It is going slightly faster than hooking it did so I am excited to get it finished and up filling the gap in our hedge.  Will post photos when it is completed!

This has been a busy year so far, with most of it going on behind the scenes.  It’s so very interesting when you start your own business, to see the momentum that begins to take off on its own within a couple of years.  I have been fielding a lot of requests for various exciting things.  Some may work out, some may not.  But it is definitely an exciting and busy time and I look forward to sharing more of it with you once things get firmed up.  Stay tuned for announcements on teaching, exhibits, publications and more!

I’m also working away on my first Advanced Nature and Landscape class.  This class will be held in June (sorry, this class is full!) and will be held again in September.  If you are interested in being put on the waiting list for future advanced adult classes, just send me an email at marzipanroad@bell.net and I will add you to the list.  All classes will be held in Ottawa, Ontario.   I plan to start offering an intensive portraits class in 2018 so stay tuned for details on that.

I have been managing to get some hooking done as well.  This is my current piece and what I have completed so far.  As you can see, I continue to procrastinate on the faces and hands.  🙂   I don’t have the exact measurements off-hand, but this is definitely one of my bigger pieces.  This photo only shows a small portion of it.  It will likely take me some time to complete but I think it will be worth it in the end!  I also have sketched a small carnation inspired piece that I haven’t yet started on, but plan to plug away at on the hooking nights that some friends and I regularly have.

I have no major exhibits in the works for this year, but in the next couple of weeks I will be announcing a group exhibit that I have a piece in.  I’m also starting to think about exhibits for next year.  2018 is looking to be a pretty fun year already!

Hope you are enjoying nice weather wherever you are!  Here are some of the things that I am loving these days:

  • The beautiful Spring weather, of course!  So good for everyone’s spirits!
  • I did a major reorganization of my studio and put all of my yarns into separate plastic sealable tubs, organized by colour.  It was a lot of work but the result is amazing.  No more yarn spilling out of open baskets.  No more searching through “mixed” bins looking for tidbits of a certain colour.  I feel organized and rejuvenated.
  • Doing A LOT of Spring cleaning and de-cluttering.  Someone even noticed when they came to my house how much I had cleared out.  Our philosophy is very much if we don’t love or need something, it goes to someone who will love or need it.  I’m not a believer in rotating things through so there are no bins of unhung pictures or undisplayed knickknacks at our house.  If it isn’t good enough to be out on display right now, then it is gone.  I want to be surrounded only by the things we love, find beautiful, and hold special meaning to us.  I am excited to do a big Fall cleanout of toys and books that have been outgrown too!   Getting rid of unnecessary clutter always makes me feel so good.
  • Regular hooking nights with friends.  Having a nice night with a glass of wine and a good laugh is terrific for the soul.
  • Watching my son on his new bike.  Yesterday he asked me to put the shiny pink tassels from his sister’s old bike on his new bike.  I love that.  Gender stereotyping drives me crazy, and it was only when I had a son that I realized how much stereotyping exists for boys too.  I love that he feels free enough to play with whatever he wants and not what the world thinks he should.  Long may that continue. 
  • Watching birds at our feeders and listening to their songs.  A sure sign of Spring
  • Planning summer adventures.  Just like every year, we have so much in the works and I can’t wait to do all sorts of fun things with my three favourite people.

I could go on and on but I’ll leave it at that.  Take a moment to think about what is making you feel happy at this time of seasonal change!

Until next time,

Karen

 

Saying Goodbye

I recently wrapped up the piece that I have been working on for quite some time now.  It was one of those ones that I found hard to get into in the beginning, and then kept putting down for other things.  In the end, though, I am really glad that I stuck with it as it turned out just how I had hoped that it would.

This was a pretty emotional piece for me.  It is one that I have had in the back of my mind for a long time, but I just wasn’t ready to tackle it.   It is based on a photo that my husband took of myself and my cat, Mowgli, about six years ago.  A lot of people think that this image is one of contentment and happiness, a shared moment between a person and their pet.  But in reality, this was a sad image because it was taken when I had recently found out that he was dying.

Flash back with me to 1997.  I had moved away from a home a few months before and was living in a bachelor apartment in downtown Ottawa just off of Bronson Avenue (yes, the area was pretty seedy), near Carleton University where I had started my Master’s Degree.  I had just said goodbye to my latest hamster, one in a string of hamsters over the years that I had loved but of course their life span is pretty short and fleeting.   My then boyfriend (now husband) was visiting for the weekend and he suggested that we go and look at cats at the Humane Society.  I had never had a cat before and wasn’t sure that they were for me.  So I said that I would rather go to the university library and do some work.  The library ended up being closed that day and so we headed to the Humane Society.  Seems like fate to me.

I ended up falling in love with a large bundle of orange and white fur.  I brought him home and named him Mowgli.  We sure had some interesting times in that one room apartment.  He used to climb on top of my fridge and sit watching me as I worked.  He loved to curl up in the bathroom sink and sleep.  And he used to attack my feet at night, which was a little creepy.  Several times he ripped through the plastic bag and ate the loaf of bread I had on the counter.  I started putting my bread away after that.

He was with me through the rest of that Master’s Degree, through Law School and the Bar Ad Exams. When, I got married he joined first one other cat and then in a moment of madness, we adopted two more cats.  And then eventually we had a baby.  Through it all, though, I began to notice that he retained a particular affinity to me.  He was definitely “my cat.”  He would follow me from room to room, and sit with me watching tv.  At night he would jump up beside me in bed.  He was loyal to me the same way that a dog would be.  And I loved him best of all of course.

Later in his life he was diagnosed with diabetes.  This brought about twice daily insulin shots and monitoring his blood sugar levels.  Through it all he remained my best bud, despite the frustrations that came along with his disease such as his desire to pee on my daughter’s toys or down the heating vent. 

And then one day we noticed that his blood sugar levels were bouncing all over the place and were no longer easy to manage.  I took him to the vet and after some bloodwork received the devastating news that he probably had lymphoma.  At this point he was about 15 years old so we knew there wasn’t much that we could do.  We were told that as long as he was doing ok we didn’t have to make any hard decisions.  So we decided to let him live as good a life as we could for as long as we could.

This photo was taken that first weekend.  We didn’t know how long we had left with him or if we would suddenly have to take him in to have him put to sleep.  It was all a little overwhelming and sad.  We spent most of that weekend outside in the backyard with him.  He wasn’t an outdoor cat, but he liked fresh air and at that point we knew he wasn’t well enough to run away so there wasn’t much risk involved.  So during the day we let him sleep under the shade of a bush while we sat nearby to make sure that no other animals came and bothered him.  At night we would set up a little bed in our room and I would sleep on the floor beside him.  About a month later he died at home.

When I finished hooking this piece, my son looked at the photo and said “You look sad in the photo, but not in the rug.”  He was right, the facial expression I had captured, whether intentionally or not, looked much more happy and contented.  I told him that maybe I should fix it and he said “No I like it better happy.”  And so do I.  While I know that this is a piece that came from a place of sadness, I like that the image itself is more of a happy celebration of life.  It reflects the happiness that we both felt whenever we were in each other’s company.

This piece is entitled “Saying Goodbye” and it measures 20″ x 17.5″ and was hooked using a variety of yarns on linen.

Karen