Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Memorial Day to some, Canada Day to us all.



The sense of history in Newfoundland is very fresh.  Within living memory this little island was its own dominion in the British Empire, and not yet a part of Canada.  At the beginning of World War I in 1914, the population was around 250,000.  That's less than today's population of cities like Victoria, BC, Halifax, NS, or Windsor, ON, but when called upon to serve, Newfoundlanders stepped forward in remarkable numbers.  By the time the war ended in 1918 35% of the eligible men had served overseas.



 As 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI, The Rooms has undertaken an extensive program of exhibitions to honour the Newfoundlanders who served.  This programming will culminate in 2016 as we mark the 100th anniversary of the tragic Battle of the Somme at Beaumont Hamel.  On July 1, 1916 780 men from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment went "over the top", and within half an hour the battle was over.  Only 68 men were in attendance at roll call the next morning.  So on July 1st, while the rest of Canada revels in a holiday that celebrates this great nation, here in Newfoundland the day is also allocated the respect it deserves as a day of remembrance for those who gave so much to protect the freedoms we all share.

The poppy as a symbol of remembrance was adopted by servicemen and women from America, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, and Australia.  But in Newfoundland the forget-me-not was chosen as the flower of remembrance, and today many still wear it on July 1 as a tribute.

I am honoured to have been asked by The Rooms to create a line of jewellery based on the forget-me-not flower that memorialized the sacrifice of so many Newfoundlanders.  The design I have used was found on a set of cuff-links that belonged to a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.  This line of jewellery is available exclusively at The Rooms Gift Shop

Further reading about the events planned to memorialize this anniversary:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Settling into the homestretch; reflections.


There is one week left until we'll be taking down Elemental Nexus in the Craft Council Gallery.  What a ride it's been!  I've learned a heck of a lot in a very short time.  Knowing the exhibit would be on for over a month seemed like a long time but it has flown!  Some things I'd do differently next time, while others worked out pretty much as I expected.  Most surprising have been the things that, although I'd wish for them to have been different, seem to be left up to the fates, and there's just no real altering that that I can see.

Alas, a Forest of Glass
 The installation went very much as I'd expected, which got things off to a good start.  I had really put a lot of thought into how I'd display my work, and there really weren't any major glitches putting it all in place. 
The opening was a lovely, and other than becoming a touch emotional in my remarks that day, I wouldn't change a thing.  It was wonderful to have my family come, and then spend some time in St. John's. 
Throughout the month the work has been on display I've been pleasantly surprised by the queries about how the show is going when I run   into folks around town.


Chance
Of the things I'd change, well, I must confess one glitch in the very-well-planned-out installation of my jewellery.  I had been conscious of the need for a secure way to display my work, and I'd certainly thought of how I wanted to display it without using typical jewellery busts and ring holders and the like.  However, I neglected to consider how a potential customer would try on a piece of my jewellery if they expressed an interest in doing so.  I had everything suspended "just so" with invisible thread, but the only way to try it on was to cut the thread and I would then have to tediously re-install it.  Oooops!

Another genuine surprise was scale.  I knew of course how small jewellery can look in the gallery space, and had consciously made some larger (for me) sculptural items to help bring some visual weight to my pieces as they sat amongst the larger glass work.  And still they looked so small!  Next time, I will challenge myself further in this regard. 
The last surprise was colour.  With this being a group show, we had of course been in touch regarding our themes and, in some respects, the construction of our various pieces, but it wasn't until all the work arrived in the gallery that I realized we had been working in very different colour scales.  Not that I would want all the work to match per say, but Heather Mills and I worked with subtle earthier colours in contrast to the vibrant and boisterous colours of Colette Samson and Urve Manuel's work.  It did pose some challenges to the installation, but in the end I think the arrangement served to create a variety of moods which kept visitors on their toes as they moved through the space.

"Greedy" Seal
"Problem" Bear

Oasis

Two things that really seem to be in the fate's control, are the weather and the media.  While we did have an adequate turnout for the opening, it was also one of our first lovely spring Saturdays this year, after quite(!) a winter.  If it hadn't been my own opening, I might well have seized the day to awaken my garden too!  The upside of the gallery not being jam-packed though, is that the folks who did come had the opportunity to actually see the work, not just the heads and shoulders of the people around them, in what can be a very stuffy space on a warm day.  

Heather Mills & I - not anxious at all before our artist talk.
Our gallery coordinator, Sharon LeRiche, did her utmost to secure us some media buzz.  I am unsure of the protocols of these things, and so did not want to appear overly pushy in a process I'm unfamiliar with and I left it all in her capable hands.  I undertook the task of extensively postering around town twice during the exhibit - once for the opening, and again for our artist's talk.  Nervous as I was about it, I had hoped we might secure a little interview spot on the Weekend Arts Magazine, (or as they are more often calling it now, Weekend AM).  This city has come alive with artistic endeavors in recent years.  There is barely any time at all left in the year that has not been seized by one festival or another, not to mention all the other gallery openings, concerts, films, and dance events that happen in between times.  I'm thrilled of course to be living in such an artistically vibrant community, but it does mean we can't all get a piece of the media pie sometimes.  Just when I was giving up hope that there would be any media coverage at all of our exhibit, along came Tara Bradbury, the arts reporter from The Telegram.  Hallelujah!  I was not even aware that the article had been written until the day after it was published.  I am thrilled, probably even more so than if we'd had a radio interview since paper has permanence!  You can read her article here.

Mounting an exhibition is no small feat, and I didn't expect it to be.  The challenges were well worth the learning experience, and I truly am looking forward to the next opportunity to tackle such a large body of work.  I am so grateful to everyone who visited the gallery (or will do so in the next week!).  Thank you!  And thank you to the entire staff at the Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador for making it seem easy in ways I can't even begin fathom.  Sincere thanks also to the Arts Council for their support of this project.  Now, please be in touch with your feedback once you've visited the exhibit.  Don't dilly-dally, there's only a week left!

Some time with loved ones, not spent in the gallery - rejuvenating.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Elemental Nexus! The whys and wherefores.


One week from today, Elemental Nexus opens in the main gallery on the second floor of the Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador, with grateful appreciation to the Arts Council for their support of this project.  I am rather excited!  I have put a lot of thought into the body of work I've made for this exhibition, and am really looking forward to seeing it alongside the work of Urve Manuel, Colette Samson, and Heather Mills.  The nuances of how different people interpret the same theme has always interested me and, in sharing this show, the four of us have had time to really delve into the variety of ways we've wanted to explore the idea of human interaction and the elemental natural world. 

I'd like to briefly address the somewhat taboo subject of the pricing of gallery work.  Some folks can make art purely for art's sake, and I applaud them for it; however I am not one of those people at this juncture.  My work is my bread and butter, and with this in mind my work in this show is priced on a broad spectrum in an effort to be accessible to people of varying means.  I hope everyone that wishes to, can find something they desire that they can also afford and treasure.  

If you prefer to see the work and formulate your own interpretation of it, well, here is where you'll want to stop reading this post.  I am sharing the information below for those of you who wish to know the back-story of some of the work I've made.  (These are still just teaser images though, until the exhibit actually opens I don't want to spill all the beans!)  Personally, I enjoy knowing the why and wherefore of artwork as I take it in, so if you're like me, then the following descriptions are for your enlightenment, and of course will make more sense when you see the work in its entirety.  (They will be posted alongside the relevant pieces in the gallery.)  The thought process behind the topographical line of pieces I've made for the exhibit is explained simply by the titles of each piece and I did not elaborate on them further than that. 

Alas, a Forest of Glass -Sculpture with Dead Bird Pendant, detail.
 Alas, a Forest of Glass
Every year millions of birds die as they attempt to navigate our cities.  Our architectural propensity for using glass as a reflective surface, to reflect the sky or the trees - often to give the illusion that the structure isn’t substantially there at all - works all too well, unfortunately, in fooling bird populations.  The highest number of casualties occurs during the seasons of migration, but deaths still happen year-round, regardless.  Our desire for bigger, better, more illusory-type structures must be balanced with the impact these trompe l’oeil have on our feathered friends.

 
Adrift - Pendants awaiting necklaces to hang in a flock.
Adrift
A drift is a group of birds in flight.  To be adrift is to feel cut-off, separated, alone.  Each of the birds in this flock is one of an endangered population.  In the optimistic spirit of adaptation and community, I chose to create them as a cohesive whole, flying together for survival, for a sense of belonging.  In their odd community we may better appreciate the peril of their individuality. 



 

"Greedy" Seal - Sculpture, detail.
"Problem" Bear - Sculpture with Bear brooch
Problem” Bear & “Greedy” Seal
Language is a powerful tool.  Words we use carelessly to label others can affect our own attitudes and the interpretation of fault or blame. Our suburbs sprawl ever further into the wilderness; our fisheries expand in efficiency.  Yet we blame a bear for rummaging in our dumpsters, or a seal for eating “our” fish.  These are only two of many examples that highlight our careless use of language to reinforce our own sense of superiority.  These phrases become ingrained in our discourse about the world and affect our perception of our role within it. 


Chance - Sculptural pinwheel with individual silver leaf brooches, detail.
Chance
Spin the wheel (gently!), and see what little bit of nature this game of chance selects for you.  Now consider, in making your choice, how will that affect the community left behind?
I created this micro-ecosystem here in the gallery to highlight how the minute effects we have on eco-systems every day have a reciprocal impact that we may not even think about.  So you squished that bee; it was a nuisance that it got into your kitchen, right?.. Except that now there’s one less bee cross-pollinating the savory you love so much with your fries, dressing, and gravy. 
Chance - An array of pins that will be installed around the pinwheel.
I chose each plant or animal in this game of chance to symbolize an essential component in our eco-system.  Mushrooms feed us, and as well they play an important role in breaking down dead plant matter; ravens do the same in the animal world with their instinct to scavenge.  Daffodils are just one of the many millions of plant-based life forms that clean our air, and they rely on cross-pollinators to continue their life cycle. Bees exemplify these cross-pollinators that are critical to the continuity and diversity of so many plant species.  Whales serve as an example of the extent to which we are depleting integral components of the food chain even before we’ve had the opportunity to learn much about them and the role they play in bio-diversity. 
The inter-connectedness of species is what makes this planet rich.  We must acknowledge the value each organism contributes to the whole.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The "elemental nexus" in my mind.

Brooch/Pendant working title: "Tick Tectonics"
One month and three days until the opening of the exhibit, Elemental Nexus, May 10th which will feature my work, along with the work of three other artists, at the Craft Council Gallery.  Tick-tock, tick-tock!  I trust you will understand if this is a short post.  I am channeling my excited energy into creating, creating, creating!

I've learned a lot about the rewards and pitfalls of pacing my production as I've prepared this body of work.  This article I read recently, enforced a hunch I've known, but have never fully understood regarding that "high" one feels when one's day has been particularly fruitful.  I know I feel my mood lift when I've had a productive day, even if it's been a non-stop-busy day.  While obviously it feels good to have something done, as opposed to nothing done at the end of the day, I've struggled to understand how, in contrast, a day spent in utter relaxation often leaves me feeling hollow, or unfulfilled.  And yet, as I suspect is the case with many folks, the inertia of stillness can be hard to shake sometimes.  I encourage you to take the time to read it, it is enlightening.

The second penny dropped regarding the satisfaction of production as I've been learning a tiny bit more about meditation and yoga.  Understanding the link between focusing on the rhythm of one's breath, and getting more from daily life has become clearer.  My sister helped me see this connection, along with my own exploration as I re-acquaint myself with yoga.  The key it seems to me, is not so much in taking the time to fit meditation into one's day, and thus finding that sense of calm spilling into the rest of one's life, as it is about adapting the increased ability to focus that is gained through meditation and applying that to the activities of daily life.  My sister and her husband have two young children, and are freelance musicians in Toronto.  Making the most of their time is of the essence.  She recently expressed to me how much more efficient she has become when a nugget of time for practicing arises, and how her focus and efficiency in those spare moments has increased.  I have found in preparing my work for this exhibition a greater sense of productivity and drive than I've previously had.  I didn't connect it to my yoga practice though, until chatting with my sister about her meditation practice and her increased efficiency in seizing the spare moments.  It really is a training of the brain that one is then able to apply to different scenarios without as much mental strain to remain focused on the task at hand.  The spin-off benefit is that things get accomplished, and that is immensely rewarding!

Now, I must redirect my attention back to my jewellery bench as I tackle the last few items that will be in the exhibition.  Today I picked up 7 shiny new custom plexi-glass cubes that will sit over my work in the gallery.  I am overly excited about them.  I think they are making the inevitability that this exhibition will actually happen more real to me!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Earrings for you; soup for someone else! Make it a Happy Valentine's Day!

The beginning of February is upon us, and with it the approach of Valentine’s Day.  There is a belief (true or not) that this most lovey-dovey of holidays was created entirely by-and-for the profit of the greeting card industry.  Along with most other holidays, Valentine’s Day in recent years has blossomed into a mega-marketing event, projecting the image of an ideal day of gifts and romantic adventures to top anything that happens throughout the rest of the year between you and your significant other.  That’s a lot of pressure! 

Also on my mind at this time of year as we snuggle up in our houses and retreat from the overload of social engagement that often describes the Christmas season, are the folks that are left out in the cold.  Those, that when we stop participating in the socially-conscious giving that is especially highlighted over the holiday season, still experience daily challenge to put a meal on the table.  As a producer of such an (often perceived-as) frivolous item like jewellery, this weighs on my mind. 

And so, all of this preamble leads to this: I’d like to propose to you a chance to give back to the community as you celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.  One of my most popular pairs of earrings are pictured here.  I designed them with no specific image in mind, but a lot of customers have commented on their resemblance to soup ladles.  As jewellery is an oft-given item on Valentine’s Day, I have decided to donate 50% of the sale of each of my “soup ladle” earrings to Street Reach, which operates many services to the public, among which is a soup kitchen.  This offer will be valid for earrings purchased in person, (while supplies last) at my booth this weekend during Some Good Market Goes to Town.  As usual this event will be held at Canon Wood Hall on the corner of King’s Bridge Road and Military Road, on Feb. 8th from 10am - 4pm.  Here’s a chance for us all to feel good about giving at this time of year!


On Sunday, Feb. 9th, please drop by Alexis Templeton Studio where I will be participating in her annual Chocolate & Handmade Hearts event which runs from Feb.7th - 14th.  Try your hand at forging your own copper heart charm to take home!  I will be there on Sunday from 12 - 4pm, but be sure to drop by throughout the weekend to see what other visiting artists are demonstrating.  There’s also chocolate and pots as always, to tickle your fancy.  

One week later on Feb. 15th, the Quidi Vidi Plantation will have a Snow Day Open House, at which I will have a booth.  There will be live music, sweet treats, and of course the artists in residence will be there to showcase what they’ve been creating in their studios!  A great day out for the whole family.

Happy Winter, my friends!  Enjoy the wealth of opportunities this season has to offer us!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Countdown to May 10th!



A brand new year is stumbling out of the gate.  As the hubbub of Christmas and New Year's ends, and we shovel ourselves out of yet another snowfall, all the while anticipating the next power outage, I'm trying to bring my focus around to the next big deadline I am facing. 

I have had a proposal accepted by the Gallery at the Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador for an exhibit in their main gallery, along with three other artists.  Opening on May 10th and running until June 24th, "Elemental Nexus" will feature the work of Urve Manuel, Heather Mills, Colette Samson, and myself.  Urve and Colette work in glass, Heather works in glass and metal, and I will be featuring my metalwork.  In different ways we are each exploring the themes of interaction in the natural world.  I am tackling this exploration from the perspective of the human impact on animal and bird populations, as well as on the topography of our environment.  I am excited to be making some sculptural work as well as jewellery pieces for this show. 

The ideas in my head are bursting to find tactile expression on my workbench, and yet, as with every piece I make, there is a certain trepidation that the perfection I see in my mind's eye will fail to be executed satisfactorily by my (only too human) hands.  I have begun work on this collection of pieces, but now I must ramp up production so that I don't feel rushed as the exhibition date nears.  I would also like to gratefully acknowledge the support of the Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council as I prepare this body of work.  Their contribution will allow me a greater freedom in my choice of materials than I would otherwise have been able to incorporate.  Without revealing too much before the opening of the exhibition, I hope to provide you with sneak peaks of the work as it comes together.  As always, please visit my Facebook Page to stay up to date with my activities between these (approximately) monthly blog posts.

I will wrap this up with just a few images from my Christmas holidays in Ontario.  Thank goodness for digital photography, as I certainly found lots of beauty that simply required photo-documentation!
Hope you all had a safe and festive holiday, and all the best to everyone in 2014!



Monday, December 9, 2013

Balancing the Christmas Distractions, I mean Inspirations!


I have mentioned the balancing act that I struggle with when it comes to allowing myself to work on projects other than jewellery.  (The previous post on that topic is here.)  Well, Christmas-time magnifies this dilemma for me.  There is a desire to present new exciting jewellery pieces at the myriad of craft fairs throughout the holiday season, but I also used to, (long, long ago,) make Christmas gifts for people, as well as tackle crafty projects in general.  This has fallen by the wayside in recent years, since I've gone 'entrepreneurial'.  The regret of projects not tackled, in lieu of jewellery, gets tiresome to be quite honest.  So as this festive season ramps up, I've just chosen to seize upon my success with being most productive in the mornings and into the afternoons (and so I make jewellery then), and I leave the afternoons or evenings open to different creative whims.  It's working!  I have found a balance of sorts. 

Above are some heat-coloured, folded copper bird ornaments that I thought had a whimsical appeal.  The inspiration came from a bird on my advent calendar, and I went with it.  These will be available along with my jewellery, at the Anna Templeton Christmas Tea & Sale this coming weekend Dec. 13,14, & 15th.  This is the last event for Susan Lee Studios this year!  Below are some new pieces you can find at my booth located at the back of the second floor.
7 brand new photo-etched Porthole necklaces

Roller-printed reversible necklace and earrings in sterling.

Photo-etched brooch and necklace in sterling silver.


May this festive season bring joy to your household that spills on and on into the new year.