Whether listening to her in a lecture hall, chatting while hanging an exhibition, reading an essay or book she had written, strategizing while crammed together in the back of a cab or over too many drinks in a bar – Sandra Alfoldy always inspired me to take action.
Sadly, Sandra passed away in her Halifax home surrounded by her loved ones on February 24, 2019.
She was a powerhouse for Canadian craft. Sandra’s extensive writing on Canadian craft serves as the required reading in many a university curriculum and is a must for lovers of craft; her curatorial work interpreted the breadth and depth of Canadian craft for regional, national and international audiences; and her critical & witty blog musings have been endlessly quoted. She was the first person we all thought of when wanting to reflect Canadian craft back to the world and the first person to encourage us to widen our perspectives, sharpen our critique and to be open to new possibilities of what craft is and could be.
While her influence will continue to be international, Sandra’s roots were in BC – her parents, artists Elaine and Arthur were founders of the Craft Council of BC. Her last big project out here was when she curated CCBC’s 40th anniversary exhibition – Invested. When asked to do it, she said yes!!!! and touted it as a wonderful opportunity for her to express the love she held for craft in her ‘home’ province and her unbridled pride in her families’ legacy.
Our condolences go out to her family and to the communities she worked with daily – such a big loss. I will sorely miss working with Sandra – her unapologetic, spirited and joyful passion for craft, always infused with laughter, was indeed something to behold.
This post was created in partnership with the #5WomenArtists initiative taking place internationally throughout the month of March.
Pursuing a career in the arts, while having young children is – I regret to say – exactly as hard as everyone thinks it is. I fought the notion for a long time, “no no, nothing will change” I told the galleries when asked if there would be an interruption in-stock availability. And that part was true… there was no interruption, but OH was it hard.
I have three young boys aged six, four and under one year. An extremely supportive husband who does an awful lot around the house. We live in a very small town in the Rocky Mountains where almost everything we need is very near, including all the recreation we could dream of.
We chose for my husband to take parental leave after the birth of all three of our children. If you have this opportunity… take it! Put the mortgage payments on hold – whatever it takes – the rewards are infinite. The empathy gained… immeasurable, I tell you.
Those leaves resulted in intense periods of making artwork – I had solo exhibitions months after all 3 of my children’s births. It is perhaps what I am most proud of, that there are no gaps in my CV through my childbearing years.
But no doubt it has brought on a lot of stress to our household, and there are feelings of selfishness for sure. Things take me twice as long as they should because I am sleep deprived.
Being a mum is to be creating All. The. Time. Creating life, creating special moments. That constant giving can leave little energy left to create artwork as well. It has taken away my own play time. I so rarely let myself take the time to dabble in another medium, or really experiment in glass without knowing where it will lead.
My whole life I’ve been a journal writer, you could say obsessively. But my very last entry? During labour with my first child. I’ve never had so much to say as after becoming a mother, but so little time to say it. In the same way that I cannot make time for getting my stories and ideas down on paper, there is a similar pull away from creating art. There are so many dozens of things that are more urgent, more important, more pressing.
Working with glass shards, chemicals and silica dust is obviously not conducive to having kids playing nearby. So I embraced childcare long ago – albeit in out of the box ways – hiring homeschooled teenagers, reciprocating childcare with other mums. Work time is work time, and mum time is mum time, that separation has made both be higher quality time.
I blow glass out of town, and need to go for 3 days at a time. In addition to everything I need to do to have productive sessions in the hot shop (sort my orders, colour, equipment, tools, assistant), I need to line up childcare, meals, washing the diapers, sports practices, wrapping birthday gifts with one hand, expressing milk with the other as I’m leaving the house. I’m constantly asking myself “is this madness worth it?”
And the work is often intangible. Every few months I might spend 25 hours on an application – a project grant or a public art submission. That application costs several hundred dollars to write, and may result in nothing, but may, just may, result in an amazing opportunity, which is why it’s so crucial to do.
Yet I stubbornly make art. I need to and I’m a better person and a better mum, than I would be if I didn’t have this balance of focused making time and home life.
Don’t put your career on hold to have kids. I’ve talked to too many women who take a break to have kids and for whatever reason, never get back into it. Find a way to keep going. Sneak in work during nap times, swap care with other mums, do whatever it takes. Make, make, make. It may or may not be your best work, but it is keeping the momentum, your skills and your profile going.
Retain your identity, your training, your passions.
Ask other mums about their lives outside of raising children. This is an opportunity to be a role model for your kids – and they need to know life isn’t all about them. That’s something I’ve instilled in my kids really early: sometimes (okay, most of the time) it’s about you, but sometimes it’s about me, we all have needs and they are all important. So, persevere!
Katherine’s exhibit, Memories are Malleable, will be on view at the CCBC Shop & Gallery March 21 – May 2, 2019. For more information, please visit Eventbrite.
Today technology is becoming more and more prevalent in our everyday lives, including the way we practice and share art. It can be challenging, confusing and intimidating to try and navigate all the new technology that is available! Here are a few tips on some of the many tech tools you can bring into your practice!
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Digital Ladders Learn-to-Do Lab workshop hosted by the Alliance for Arts and Culture. It was a rewarding and enriching experience to learn from and work with a diverse group of creatives. Throughout the three days, we learned about different digital tools we could easily access and experiment within our own workplaces and art practices. We also spent time in teams working through a design challenge and pitching a hypothetical project idea to the rest of the group. Below I have described FIVE of the digital tools we discussed and included some links to see how they work or learn more about how you could use them yourself.
Digital Ladders is hosting one last Learn-to-Do Lab and four lecture style salons. All of these are free or low-cost to attend! You can find out more information or sign up here.
1. Augmented Reality (AR)
AR is a real experience changed and added to to provide additional information or a more interactive experience. For example when you are watching tennis on TV and there is an instant replay with a computer animation showing the trajectory if the ball and where it landed. Alternatively, you have an app that scans an image of a piece of art and on your screen, a video of the process starts to play on top of the image.
Free Programs to make AR: Unity(using the plugin Vuforia)
Video is still a very effective digital tool to share your work! Especially with the prevalence of smartphones, videos are very easy to make and view. You can share them on your website and social media (including through Instagram and Facebook stories). Recently, videos of art processes have become quite popular. Many people will record their full process and then speed the video up so you can watch the whole thing in a few seconds or minutes. Process videos can help your audience understand the work that goes into making a piece.
3. GPS Art
Recently runners and cyclists have been using GPS (Global Positioning System) to create images on maps marking their paths. Routes are planned out in advance to make an image, then as you walk/run/cycle the app tracks your path and draws the image.
Apps to make GPS Art:
Strava: tracks running routes and gives you an image of your route
Trace: turns digital sketches into a walking route that your friends get to decipher by following it
4. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
RFID works with a card and a reader. If you have ever used a Compass card in Vancouver’s transit system or a key card in a hotel or office, you have used RFID. Recently, more people have been building RFID into their art practices to make for a more engaging experience. Cards can be embedded into props that, when passed by a reader, cause something to happen – a video starts playing, the lights change, or data is recorded. A museum in Amsterdam has been using RFID to have visitors vote for their preferences in a fashion exhibition (read more about it below). RFID is also very inexpensive to use with a small budget for exhibitions if you want to play around with it yourself.
Programs to build your own: Arduino(you can buy kits that come with the materials and instructions)
Podcasts are another form of media that has become quite popular over the last few years. Something different about podcasts, as opposed to regular talk radio, is that listeners can download episodes and listen to them whenever and wherever they want.
Craft Related Podcasts – take a listen and let us know what you think!
I really enjoyed being able to learn from so many incredible people in the arts and culture sector and definitely recommend any of Digital Ladders future programming. What digital tools are you using in your practice? How do they further support your art, or engaging your audience?
It started with a seemingly simple question: Can you name five women artists?
Throughout March, we will be highlighting some of the amazing women artists that make the BC contemporary craft community so strong. Each individual highlighted will write a blog post and take over our Instagram for a day to share their experiences!
Our first blog post is written by Louise Perrone. Louise is a Canadian jewellery artist who works with materials from domestic and industrial waste, employing techniques that combine the traditions of goldsmithing and hand sewing to explore the values attributed to traditional women’s work. Take it away, Louise!
campaign this year is about action, so I decided to share some practical advice
for women artists like me who are also mothers. My career as an artist was put
into stasis for seven years when I had children (I hadn’t intended to take this
much time away from my work, but I was diagnosed with post partum depression
and anxiety when my second child was six months old). It’s never easy getting
back to work after having children, but the illness made it a lot harder. It
wasn’t until I had got the illness under control with medication, counselling,
sleep, exercise and diet that I felt well enough to even attempt to make art,
let alone undertake all the other work that goes with exhibiting and selling
Here are some of the things that helped me get back on track:
I changed the way I work Silversmithing and anodizing aluminum is not safe or practical around small children so I devised a way of working with fabric and hand sewing that I could bring with me to the park, the dentists office, the play gym… I had to work when I could and expect interruptions.
I joined social media In 2011 Facebook was fairly new and Instagram didn’t exist. I started making friends from the jewellery world online and posted images of my work. My Facebook became 80% career 20% personal. It was a way for people to discover my work and for me to keep up to date with what was going on in the craft world. I still find out about a lot of opportunities through facebook, but instagram is taking over.
I made my own website When I graduated in 2002, a fellow ACAD student made me a website, but in 2011 Squarespace allowed me to create and update my own. There are many other platforms you can use including Wix and Weebly.
I networked I decided to go to the SNAG conference in Seattle 2011. I printed business cards with an image of my work on them. I made lots of contacts with local and international jewellers and gallerists, which resulted in my next point:
I got involved in the local and international craft community After a couple of years, I joined the board of the Vancouver Metal Arts Association. I also did voluntary work for the Craft Council of BC and the Society of North American Goldsmiths. My circle of friends became less focused on the parents of my kids’ friends, and more on other artists and crafts people. I found my peer group.
I got a part time job Teaching one or two jewellery classes at Lasalle College not only helps me financially, but is part of my practice as an artist. I learn from the students and they learn from me. It is very rewarding. You would think it would take time away from my own work, but it inspires my research and broadens the scope of my work.
What would I have done differently? When I look back over what I just wrote, that list seems rather daunting, no wonder it took me seven years to get started again! Fortunately, there are lots of groups working to support artists who are parents that have sprung up in the last few years. I have not personally been involved in any of them, but if I was a new mum now I would be all over this!
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Mother Maker Blog A network for exchange and dialogue for mothers trying to find their way back into their art/design practice after having children
Mother Voices A non-profit organisation exploring maternal thinking, theory and research within the arts, culture, philosophy and the society at large
Mother Maker An online magazine featuring conversations with artists who are mothers
If you are
feeling sad, overwhelmed, anxious during pregnancy or at anytime after the
birth or adoption of a child please talk to someone about it, go and see your
family doctor, a walk in clinic or go to these websites where you can find
I’m a jeweller and artist. I think I was first drawn to jewellery through a love of sculpture and architecture. Jewellery making allowed me to play with creating three dimensional forms, without needing, say a two ton block of marble.
My creative process generally involves obsessively thinking about an idea and researching extensively, ruminating on this material for days or weeks, experimenting and getting incredibly frustrated, until I’m finally forced to step away from it – and only then, hopefully, do I get some perspective and a clear image forms of what I’m trying to do. That’s the point at which I can get the work done. It’s not always the most pleasant experience initially, but it generally works. I wish I had a more romantic story of being struck by inspiration in the form of a fully realized idea! Deadlines also seem to speed up the creative process, haha.
What are some of your inspirations?
I don’t think I ever specifically wanted to be an artist; I’m just a curious person with diverse interests, and making art is a way to engage and experiment with a variety of ideas and mediums.
How would you want the audience to respond to your work?
A lot of the pieces I make are on the larger side. They purposely have a significant weight and heft to them, through which I hope the audience or wearer experiences a sense of awareness and strength. I like the idea of jewellery as armour, as power, or even just as a reminder of our physicality. I enjoy extremes – I personally don’t wear a lot of jewellery in everyday life, but when I am wearing jewellery, I want it to be seen and felt.
Are there other work you’re involved in?
In addition to my jewellery training, I have a degree in Art History, which had led to a career working with a variety of visual arts, theatre, and literary organizations. In my free time, I like to be outdoors as much as possible. I hike with my dog, and dig in my garden. Spending time in nature definitely helps the creative process.
Be sure to stop by the CCBC Shop & Gallery to see Sharon’s jewellery pieces as part of the current emerging artists exhibition, on now till March 14.
You can also see more of Sharon’s work on Instagram at @blackfieldmetal and on her website blackfieldmetal.com
My journey as an artist has included explorations into many art forms… too many to list! Motivated by a desire to go more deeply into one of these disciplines, I found my way to jewellery art and design. Surrounded and supported by an amazing community of teachers and colleagues in the Jewellery Art and Design Program at Vancouver Community College, my volunteer involvement with the Vancouver Metal Arts Association, and employment at Juvelisto Design, I have been kept afloat in a time where my creative practice has not been as active as I would like it to be. During a time when my artistic journey has felt on pause, I’m eager to find my way back into the rhythms of creative expression that nourish my spirit.
What are some of the inspirations behind your work?
I have had artistic inclinations ever since I can remember. As a little girl, my favourite place to be was in my mom’s flower beds. I remember crouching over the marigolds, forget-me-nots, and blazing red poppies, enraptured by the patterns, colours, and shapes of these wondrous organisms.
When I was introduced to black and white photography in my Grade 11 Graphics Arts class, I found a way to apply myself artistically, and this began my explorations into multiple different art forms.
How would you want audiences to respond to your work?
To answer this question, I’ll quote a favourite teacher and mentor, Ashley Miller, who provided some valuable feedback on my work when I was in her class “Your work is very contemplative, personal, and intimate. From what I have seen you love all the little bits and pieces – and love the way they kind of bleed into the space around them, but also feel a compulsion to organize them, to compose, and order them…”
What are some other work that you’re involved in?
In all truth, I have recently allowed “everyday life” to squish out the things that feed my creative practice… To name but a few, these things include walking with no destination, free writing, singing, and “moodling”, a term described in the following quote by author Brenda Ueland “…imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” ~ Brenda Ueland
You can Jessica Atkinson’s wonderful jewellery pieces on display as part of the Being Seen, Being Heard, Having a Voice exhibit on now at the CCBC until March 14.
You can also see more of Jessica’s work on her Instagram at @jessaveronica
Katherine Russell is a glass artist featured in our upcoming exhibition, Memories Are Malleable. Russell talks about her inspiration and process behind her exploration of the human memory. The exhibition will run from March 21 to May 2, 2019
I’ve taken this Fall off from running art projects at the school and glass workshops in my studio, as I’ve got a few big commissions on, a couple of exhibitions I’m working towards and an exciting major project called “Memories Are Malleable.”
The premise of the new body of work is to visually represent how our memories are constructed and reconstructed. Subconsciously or not, our memories are unreliable.
My fascination with memory, or rather the inaccuracy of memory, its incompleteness… its malleability, has lead me to read Christopher Chabris’ book who explores how “we falsely believe that vivid memories are seared into our mind with perfect fidelity.” We are so focused on one perspective of a situation that we miss an enormous quantity of information happening right in front of us, that memories can be even implanted, that “false memories” can be created by mere suggestion, as explored in Julia Shaw’s book: “The Memory Illusion.” I am translating these findings into glass in the form of an in-depth texture study. The first stage of the process is to make ‘stock sheets’ of pattern, using some recognisable objects, and some abstract pattern. Here I have added Bullseye glass powder to glass sheet and drawn in a pattern that will be fused on .
After fusing, I’m cutting up the ‘stock sheets’ for the second stage of the project: I’m essentially using a collage technique to gather the motivations a person would, consciously or subconsciously, to construct a memory. Each finished work will use a metaphoric recipe; for example, pulling two parts Sentiment and adding one part Imagination and one part Truth.
Here is the final panel (using the above ‘stock sheet’) ready to go in the kiln.
The panel above is still hot in the kiln at the time of writing this, but here’s the next one ready to follow:
Big thank you to the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance for funding this major project!
For more information on Katherine Russell, be sure check out her website.