What a year. 2013 has been a marathon of travel, teaching, readings, residencies, working on a new book, sewing strange new structures from paper and plastic, printing,fundraising, sourcing equipment, sorting type, planting trees and this year's garlic, writing handfuls of proposals and applications, piled on top of all the 'normal' responsibilites of life. But rather than running this marathon on any kind of trail, I feel more like I've spent the last eleven months rolling down a steep hill, bouncing over roots and being scratched by rocks.

Now, at last, I've arrived at the base, a little addled, and definitely with more grey hair, but more or less intact. As I write this, I do wonder if the hiatus has already occurred, or if it is what I am now considering: a break from the way I've been doing things, a breather, a chance to play and think quietly while the winter is here. I'll just make a little pile of leaves at the bottom of this ravine and let the snow drift overhead.


Creeping along

Maybe if I had more legs I'd make more progress?



Outside, flowers are opening, oyster mushrooms fringing old tree trunks, wind gesturing dramatically among the branches, and clumps of coprinus burst from the soft earth. It's been snowing fluffy seeds for two days.

Inside, paper organisms proliferate in my studio, strange constellations precipitating out of a dreamy silence.



I've been playing with clay and papier mache, marvelling at anvil-shaped snowbanks with frowsy wigs of dry grass, watching gophers ripple across fields suddenly as yellow as they are, peering to examine winter snowshoe hare hair cobwebbing the grass in front yards around the city. Everything feels unreal for a variety of reasons. When the seasons change, there is always a dreamlike period of adjustment. Part of me keeps thinking that as soon as the summer comes, I'll wake up at home. Somehow my body has decided winter = Manitoba, summer = Nova Scotia, as though time and place have somehow blended.



I decided last year that I would try to write a blog entry every month. I can't imagine doing this every day, and even once a month seems too often; if I look the other way, focus on something, or forget to check the calendar, the month is gone.

But, it's still March, so this entry can squeak in. I'm just home after a short self-directed residency at the Banff Centre. I spent nearly two weeks thinking (with my hands) about worm-shaped books. I also did some of the preliminary printing towards an editioned artist's book about an encounter with a worm.

I was in a group of 16 artists from across Canada and Europe. It was amazing. Just being at the Banff Centre is like inhabiting an alternate reality where anything can happen to your work. A conversation, an insight from the mountains, access to new tools--transformation is always hovering in the wings.

As I folded paper and made worms, people asked: does your practice consist of a lot of paper folding? The answer is no. They asked, is this like origami? No. But are my answers the same, now that I'm at home? No.

Residencies (I'm beginning to understand) are less about producing work, although that happens too, and more about creating a special environment in which to ask questions about practice, aspirations, expectations. Sometimes these questions are asked with the hands, or are asked of the materials. Sometimes they are answered on a mountain top, or over lunch, or during sleep.

Sometimes they are not answered, but carried back to normal life...lighter-than-air, making it seem like your stuff, your self, is not the same as when you left home.

Am I the same artist I was before I left? No.


Diving In

For the last two weeks, I had a wonderful opportunity to work at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, in Minneapolis, as an artist in residence. The Center is huge and vibrant, full of school kids doing workshops every day, and artists and adult learners working away in the various studios at night. Every day, presses were humming, silkscreens were washed, fibres were beaten, fresh sheets were pulled, paper was printed, folded, marbled, lino was carved, books were bound. It was amazing to be surrounded by so much book-related activity, and to meet so many people passionate about 'the book'.

I used my time at the Center to work on a project about rivers, sort of a set of poetic tools for navigating a particular river and its surroundings. I used one of the larger Vandercook presses to print two 18" x 24" maps, both of which included pressure printed images, something I had never tried. It was scary to be simultaneously experimenting AND trying to complete a fairly ambitious project in such a short time. However, if I was a little less neurotic, I might just say it was exciting.