Monday, 30 June 2014

Scouting the location for East Coast Living's next coverstory

This is Summer 2014.  Ned and I are working on the upcoming issue.
One of the downfalls of being self-employed is that it is too easy to end up working seven days a week.  For several Saturday's running, I have found myself in meetings and this past Saturday, I was scouting a location with photographer Ned Pratt.  We are profiling a gracious home on Forest Road for East Coast Living magazine.  The sun was shining and everybody was smiling as we visited the rooms of the home, checking off features we will want to capture in the photographs and text.  Ned and I have almost developed a code or short hand.  He can tell what I will write about by watching me in the room.  I'll exclaim look at this!  And then burble something about the reciprocity of male and female architectural moulding.  I get excited and pace.  Ned stands stock still and squints.  Then we'll start talking at the same time and in one voice say:  got it!  And I know, in our collective minds, we have our cover-image for the magazine.
The textile art of Rachel Ryan has been showcased in ECL.

East Coast Living magazine is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Its editorial mandate is reflected in the tag line, "Inspiring home life in Atlantic Canada".  I started writing for them after tormenting the ever-patient editor Janice Hudson about making sure Newfoundland and Labrador was also reflected in their pages.  It was a win-win situation.  The magazine features home decorating solutions, reports on trends in the design world, and an eating in section with foods found in our region.  And it isn't just about the rich and famous like so many decorating magazines. 

The Summer issue for example had down to earth articles about upcycling curbside giveaways, making the most of farmer's market finds, gardening and decorating with children in mind.

One of the satisfactions for me about working with magazines more geared to the mainstream market rather than the academic journals and art magazines (which I more frequently publish in) is their wide appeal.  I like it when we can talk about creativity and the positive impact it has on our lives.  It often comes with the opportunity to showcase some of our home grown talent, introducing them to new audiences.  

The home of Nicola Hawkins and Andy Perlis was the first home I profiled for East Coast Living - nearly five years ago.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Road to Charlottetown is paved with Heirlooms

I've already started collecting examples, memories and secrets!   This is in preparation for a speaking engagement that will take me to Charlottetown for the Canadian Craft Federation annual conference.  They've invited me to be their keynote speaker and the theme is:  heirloom.

Save the date for September 25th - 28th, 2014! 

Heirloom Héritage
Excerpted from the CCF newsletter:  In preparation, our Administrative Director, Maegen Black, travelled to Charlottetown May 12th - 14th, to meet with our conference hosts, the Prince Edward Island Crafts Council. While there, she presented a Beaconsfield Historic Houselecture at the PEICC Annual General Meeting, conducted site visits for conference events, met with potential and confirmed conference partners, and drummed up excitement about the events to come this fall.
Village Pottery in New LondonUnder the theme of 'Heirloom', the annual national conference includes something for everyone. For craft enthusiasts, professional and emerging makers and those interested in the social, artistic and cultural aspects of craft, there's the Heirloom Symposium, with special guest speakers from all across Canada, including keynote speaker Gloria Hickey.
For those working in craft and cultural organizations, there are two days of panels and forums, covering topics from organizational marketing and branding, to international activity, public craft spaces, and much more. Everyone will want to join in on the social events, with visits to local craft shops and studios, the 'Heriloom' exhibition opening, local cuisine, and the unique maritime experience that is Prince Edward Island, but space will be limited, so be sure to watch for registration details - coming soon.
Interested? Get on our mailing list and stay in touch with the CCF/FCMA as we prepare for the big event. We hope to see you in Prince Edward Island, soon!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Are we being haunted by our childhoods?

OK, I am officially in the deep end.  Too many deadlines; but I tell myself I just have to line them up in an orderly row and tackle them one at a time.  This week I sent in a writer's contract to Bloomsbury Press for a book chapter due this summer.  I have also agreed to co-curate two shows, curate one major retrospective, I have a few exhibition reviews to write and my mailbox has produced 6 books that I am supposed to read and give the publishers feedback on.  And yes, Ned Pratt and I continue to work on the tattoo project. 

And then out of the corner of my eye, what do I notice?  Furry culture.  Have you?  In a nutshell, furries are a sub culture.  Take the plush comfort toys of your baby days.  Soft, furry, couldn't hurt anyone plush toys.  Then put them on steroids.  Grow them real big.  And they become an alternative identify for some people.  Like a digital avatar in a computer game.  I find it intriguing.  They offer safety, which I think is the real appeal.  But they have a darker side too.  Like Furry Porn.  Where people get dressed up as animals (or whatever) and have sex.  OK, it's soft porn. 

I am curious about the need that people have to take something out of childhood and repurpose it as adults.  I guess it boils down to the fact that we never grow up.  It is like our fascination with sports and athletic excellence.  We can't all be those things but we want them. We admire them. They create a psychological space that we want to inhabit.

Or maybe it is the otherway around?  Perhaps we are looking over our shoulders and noticing something that we missed.  Are furries about lost innocence?  I noticed furries in at least three places recently:  Memorial University has created a society, Easter Edge had a show that paid them homage, and CSI, the television program, used a furry convention as sceneario.   When something goes prime-time you know it is here to stay.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Adventure in the Ballroom

A decade or more ago, if you asked me what a ballroom was I might have jumped to the mother-friendly association of one of those play pits filled with multicoloured plastic balls.  While I was happy to sip coffee on the sidelines behind the Plexi Glas you know I would have been happier in the pit myself.  But my son got that job description.

A couple of weeks ago, if you asked me what a ballroom was my mind would have foxtrotted to the world of dance because for the past three weeks I have spent four hours a week learning one form of dance or another.  I am still getting used to men who lift and whirl me like I was a light as a bag of potato chips.

But ever since last Friday– June 6, 2014– the world ballroom conjures up one particular memorable night at Eastern Edge, namely the launch party of One Night Stand masterminded by artist and curator Coral Short. So for "ball", think epic, pink acrylic fabric balls, sewn in sections like a beach ball–five of them in fact, each large enough to stuff five or so performance ready adults.  And for room, think the central gallery space.  The "balls" didn't exactly roll although they certainly rocked.  They gyrated, stomped and shuffled to the club music, interacting with each other and increasingly with the audience.  They stole baseball caps and kisses.  Gallery viewers got consumed and spat out.  One ball attacked the snack table and wasted the jellybeans, Poki sticks and licorice.

I was simply transfixed by these ball-creation-phenomena. (When ordered to I happily herded a few into the room's centre only to be told to "get my hands off the art".) Neon pink has been gender neutral for me ever since Bret the Hit Man Hart made it official costume wear.  Still, it has preserved its drag queen drama.  Let's just say the colour and spandex-like fabric combination has star power.  At the launch party, the fabric had an undeniable sensual quality stretched over the "balls" ever moving, ever changing display of body parts.  It almost did not matter what the participants inside the ball decided to do: groove or grovel, it had visual impact.

When researching neon sculpture, I learned that distinctive shade of pink was chosen because in a neon gas tube it transmits further optically than either red or yellow.  Hands down neon pink is a grabber.  No wonder those giant pink spandex creations filled with fleshy limbs reminded me of a human version of a hypnotic lava lamp.  I quipped with Erin the sommelier that her Kir and bubbling white wine cocktails had come to life and taken over the dance floor.

There is something very pop culture about those oversized Coral Short creations.  I thought of those fleshy fabric sumo suits…bubble gum and frankly, society's cotton candy definitions of gender.
From the Walter Crane Childhood Library, "What are little boys made of?"
 Check out verses 3 & 4.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Creating Your Personal Mythology

This is the inside view of the art journal that I created as a participant of the workshop.  Blood, violence and happy endings…does that make me a conflicted character?

Each week I try and do something I have never done before.  You could say it is my version of a bucket list but it is more than that too.  I like to leave myself open to opportunity and see where I end up.  Besides, most of the time it is fun and fun is my middle name.  (My second husband actually used to call me "the funster".)

This week that unexpected opportunity was a workshop called "Art Journalling, Creating Your Personal Mythology".  It is a workshop offered by Coastline Consultants, whose mandate is personal wellness, you can reach them at  I had never heard of the workshop or Coastline but I did recognize the name of the facilitator, who was, and still is, Janet Peter.  I am a big Janet Peter fan.
This mermaid lamp base is made by Janet Peter.  Her ladies are so full of character.

Janet works in many media but my favourite is papier maché.  To me there is nothing humbler than papier maché– it is the stuff of childhood projects– but in the right hands it is pure magic.  I particularly like Janet's work with the human body and her messages surrounding positive self image.  I also think she has shown particular flare with narrative.  I look at her sassy women and audacious angels and they start talking to me right away.  I am certain that even her angels wear far too much makeup and stay up late dancing on table tops.  But being angels they never have hangovers.

So, what about the workshop?  The evening I participated there were seven of us from all walks of life; I spoke with a kindergarten school teacher, nurse, tarot card reader, face painter, and homemaker.  Janet showed us her accordion fold book that illustrated her journey with food and friends.  Next she gave us a little tour of the materials on hand: glue, scissors, markets, crayons, fast drying paint, papers of different kinds, etc.  What impressed me is that we were basically set free. 

My life-saving aliens.  Who says all heroes have to be tall dark and handsome?
We were all given our blank accordion books and told to get to work.  There were no real rules about content or how we should do anything.  I am used to working with constraints: what an audience wants to read, word limits, deadlines and editor's mandate just to name a few.  All of a sudden, I did not have any of these things.  And it was liberating!

I took the title of the workshop and combined it with a few other catch phrases like "once upon a time" for my word based content.  "Create your own" went on my cover, inside I wrote "personal mythology" and paired it up with a teary-eyed red head that I snipped from a comic book page from the paper tables.   Yes, I painted the cover and inside cover and I used a stencil.  Inside the book I represented myself with a selection of cut out moths.  (I have been known to say that I would wear leaves for clothing and insects for jewellery given half a chance.) 

Story spoiler: the moths get squashed–but then they get rescued by aliens.  This riveting action is followed by a lyrical interlude represented by sheet music and fish, which I am sure has something to do with my musician son.  My conclusion: Happily ever after (of course).  But instead of "the end"  I put in the word "Now".  When you fold my book and turn it over in your hands it says "Create your own"…"Happily ever after".  And it is tied together with a suede thong for a hint of bondage or durability depending on your interpretation.  (Yes, I am joking.)

 Here's the real message:  Gentle readers, find your opportunity to play today.  Your soul with thank you.