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Another New Year
Here we are again at the start of the new year. It's always such a promising time, wondering what the year will bring (and hoping most of it will be good!). Here in southern Ontario we've been very lucky with the weather, just cold enough and snowy enough to be enjoyable. Our bird feeders bring lots of bird varieties but my favorite has to be the cardinal. We have two pairs who visit regularly along with lots of little American Goldfinches. In summer the males are brilliant yellow with black wings, and look like flocks of canaries. Here is one in his winter plumage, with a male cardinal
Our little "bay", where Salt Creek joins the Trent River, has frozen over enough to be walkable and should stay that way for the next couple of months. It allows us to take long walks on the ice with our dogs, along Salt Creek and out onto the Trent. Here's our friend Maggie with her dogs.
Year in review
Last year was one of our best ever, which was a bit surprising considering the economy. However I did notice that at the shows it was the less expensive items that sold rather than the big ticket items. That was a common theme with other artists that I've spoken to. Our fibre and prefelt continue to be big sellers and get rave reviews.
I must sincerely apologise to all you felters who have been waiting for me to come up with dates for workshops. I have a long list of names, so rather than email individually I am giving my reasons for the delay in this newsletter.
I really enjoy conducting workshops. I find I gain inspiration and friendships from the wonderful people who attend. But workshops are a lot of work and very intensive, taking up a lot of energy. So I've decided not to do any more workshops, but focus on my felting.
Over the past year I've been developing new felting ideas and techniques, and will be increasing the number of retail outlets for my felted creations. Also, Rod has taken over all the business operations, so I now have more time to spend on creative endeavors.
The cost of wool and silk has gone up again. We have managed to absorb these extra costs through 2012 and have a fairly large inventory on hand. But unfortunately we will have to begin increasing our prices as our inventory is sold and we buy in new stuff at the higher prices.
Over the years we have actually been able to reduce our prices while maintaining a high quality. So our increased prices will still be very competitive.
We will continue to offer free shipping within North America on all orders of $100 or more.
Is spring here?
It's still pretty cold and although the snow has gone, and the birds are returning, the temperatures are still below normal. There was an ice storm last week which took out the power for 24 hours because of the build up of ice on the lines, which also damaged a lot of our trees. Oh well, we'll have lots of firewood for next winter.
We did have a couple of really nice warm days - teasers I call them. But we took advantage of them to take Rod's mom outside on the deck for a cuppa. She's 101 and lives with us. So on went her wooly hat and winter coat - she really enjoyed it. She doesn't go out much at all these days, she's very frail. But still, 101, amazing.
Rod has changed the layout of the gallery. He's included some shibori dyed silks and some nuno felted/shibori-dyed large wraps, in addition to my usual nuno and other felted scarves.
Musings on colour and inspiration
Lately I've been focussing on creating complex colour effects in my felted scarves and wraps. Not having formal training in colour theory, and not having the sort of brain that easily accepts logical methods, I flounder and bumble about and gradually and often quite to my surprise, come up with something that really pleases my eye.
For a long time I have been drawn to rich browns, golds and deep greens. What is it about colour that satisfies the eye, as food satisfies the stomach. Left to myself I would just make brown and gold things, but there has been a shift, and I am becoming drawn to blues and sea greens, violets and purples. If I am “stuck”, needing to make something but having no inspiration, often a particular colour of dyed silk fabric will jolt me out of it, and sometimes a particularly pretty handspun yarn that the whole piece will be built around. If not, then I have to go away and think about something else.
So, lately, I've been "building up colour" on the laid out silk fabric for my nuno wraps. I start with a similar colour to the background fabric, and gradually add colours to fill the gaps and to partially cover the initial colour. So that in the end there can be nine or ten colours altogether with some of them just being hints here and there. Then, it's time for silk fibres, plus various yarns and/or pieces of silk fabrics to add texture and sparks of even more colour. It's fascinating and I can see will keep me absorbed for some time.
Time to relax
It may be a cliche, but true nevertheless, that a change is as good as a rest. Last spring I decided to have a year off from shows and conducting workshops. I did very little felting the past six months or so, instead I focused on the garden, taking trips with Rod, spending time with my daughters in Toronto, and just generally doing what I felt like doing without deadlines and time contraints. And whaddya know, my urge to felt came back. Lots of ideas simmering away, and I can't wait to get at them.
I've been invited to some local shows, so my year off was actually 8 months:
- August 18: Festival of Textiles, Lang Pioneer Village, near Peterborough Ont
- Oct 5 & 6: Trent Hills Gallery and Studio Hop, Hastings Ont
- November 9: Make It Indie, Christmas Show & Sale, Cobourg Ont
Trip to Quebec
A friend of mine does some volunteer work for an animal rescue group. The animals are in a shelter 250km north of Quebec City, and face being euthanised if they are not adopted. They are brought to the Toronto area where they are adopted out to pre-approved families.
I recently went along with Maggie to help bring some dogs from the shelter to the Toronto area, where families were waiting who had adopted them. It is 1000 km from Toronto to the shelter, and we had three days to complete the trip. I was thrilled because I have been studying French since Christmas, when I got a RosettaStone programme for a present. I've also wanted to visit Quebec City for a long time. Here was my chance to practice French, see Quebec and help out an animal rescue organisation, all at the same time.
What a great trip! Along the St Lawrence river, through Montreal and Trois Rivieres to Quebec City, where we stopped for a day. We strolled through the narrow streets with fabulous views of the Old Town, the Chateau Frontenac, and the St. Lawrence river. The weather was perfect. We ate supper at an outdoor restaurant and, with the old stone buildings and the French heard all around us, it was just like being in Europe. Next we took the highway north - 250 km of spectacular scenery through the Laurentian Mountains.
After a nights rest our truck was loaded with crates, and we went to the shelter to pick up the dogs. That was a difficult thing, to take some and leave others. We loaded 18 dogs into our truck, and were quite apprehensive because we thought we'd be in for 12 hours of barking and howling. But they were marvellous. They just settled down in their crates and went to sleep. It must have felt like heaven after the crowded and noisy pound they had just left.
Off to a better life!
We had two goals for the garden this year: to grow melons and cucumbers on a trellis, and to do everything possible to avoid tomato blight. The last two years our tomatoes were devastated by both early and late blight and we got very little fruit.
The trellis is a success - we'll do this again. Growing melons and cucumbers on a trellis takes up way less space. The knee-high panty hose supports the melons on the trellis. Next year we'll grow squash that way too. This years squash plants have been wiped out by vine borers. Maybe the trellis will work better.
So far, no blight. We trained the tomatoes up a post and cut out all the suckers as they formed. Doing this improves air circulation around the plant. Watering was done with a soaker hose so that leaves didn't get wet, and every week we sprayed with an organic copper spray. So, fingers crossed, we will get lots of fruit this year.
June, lotsa garlic!
A mother Mourning Dove and her babies in their nest above the garage light. This is her third clutch this year. We have to remember not to turn on the light.