Learning Log 14-01-20

Having taken a bit of time between the actual work of Exercise 4.2 and posting about it on my website, I’ve had time to reflect on my experience with the exercise. I was very inspired and excited in the beginning of the session. I had researched my artist and learned a lot about his career, his methods and the individual piece I chose to examine. I also had the opportunity to learn about gouache and papers that are most definitely NOT intended for painting, especially not water-activated paints like gouache. 

I experienced frustrations such as the paint pooling in places I didn’t want it, the paper sucking up too much moisture before I’d made the marks I had wanted to, and the scale of the painting really limiting the effects I was trying to achieve but I also experienced adapting to the situation (media) by problem solving with tiny paint brushes, acrylic paint, and experimenting with the saturation/viscosity of the gouache. In the end I was thrilled with the results of my experimentation. 

Before I had started to work on the actual painting, I took the time to “meet” the gouache. I worked with the blue, white, and greet – the colours I’d be using to create the background. It was in these experiments that I came to learn how absorbent the paper was and it was in those moments that I had begun to consider solutions to this challenge. In doing these explorations, I was also able to overcome some of the “Paralysis of Possibility” that can hit when faced with new sketchbook pages. I was prepared to experiment, explore, and make marks using the gouache. 

Because of my extremely busy life, the only time I was able to do this exercise was at our off-grid, remote cabin. That meant that I had to anticipate my needs ahead of time and that if something came up while out there, I’d simply have to adapt. For the most part, I think I managed to do that just fine. When I was working against the super absorbent paper, I was sincerely wishing I had some white acrylic paint that I could use to prime the paper. But in the absence of that, as with every other challenge presented throughout the work, I managed to problem-solve it and achieve an outcome that I was satisfied with. 

I found learning about Twombley’s work and methods to be incredibly interesting and I enjoyed this part of the course tremendously. I think I chose a piece that lent well to this particular exploration and that it led me to make some very exciting discoveries about myself, about gouache, and about trouble shooting when presented with obstacles. This exercise was GREAT fun! 


Learning Log 13-01-20

What I know is that it’s a damned chore to carve out time to work. But having said that, I did get the better part of a day to myself at the cabin last weekend while George set up some new snares (50 of ’em!) in one of our wolf sets. So that gave me a bunch of very quiet hours in the cozy Bear Root Creek cabin. I packed a lot of supplies into my bags and managed to get everything there in one piece despite the -30 ish temperatures. There was sufficient light to do most of the work by the natural light at the window and I only had to use a head lamp for a few little bits. Overall, I was darned happy with the whole thing. 

I’ve just uploaded my concertina sketchbooks from Exercise 4.1 and I have to say that I had a lot of fun with most of that exercise. I didn’t totally love working with pencil crayons despite my familiarity with the media. I think I just really like working in monochromatic palettes but at the behest of my tutor, I’ve been trying to expand my palette to include actual colours. 

In exercise 4.1, I’m encouraged to reflect on how the two (or three, in my case) sketchbooks compare. I liked my first one the best. The one that tells parts of the story of our trip to the Bahamas last Valentines Day. Part music festival, part kayaking trip to a deserted island or five. I loved using the grey-toned markers, especially on the brush end. I love the way the brush tip allows me to vary the thickness of the lines and the range of grey tones allow me to play with depth and shadow in ways that I find colour illustrations to be challenging and easily over-worked.In the sketchbook where I illustrated the landscape of my desk using India ink and an assortment of brushes, this is my second most preferred book. I enjoyed varying the saturation of the black tones for reasons similar to the book I spoke of in the paragraph above. I also liked using brushes of varied thickness. I was able to experiment with tone and shape. This was a lot of fun and full of experimentation for me. I didn’t spend too much time considering my movements and definitely put more effort into spontaneous mark making. 

The third book was my attempt at exploring a varied palette while using coloured pencils. I was personally underwhelmed by the result but was happy that I tried something different which felt a little uncomfortable. It was definitely valuable to go into this sketchbook with a sense of uncertainty as to the potential outcome. I am pleased with the illustrations themselves, just not so much the unrestrained range of colours. But for me, the point was to explore the inclusion of colour. I stretched myself and while I don’t LOVE the outcome, I do love that I did something different and have incorporated tutor feedback into my work. 

 

Learning Log 01-01-20

I’ve spend this week working on researching and experimenting with elements of the first exercises in the unit on Sketchbooks. I’ve created a few concertina type sketchbooks and filled the pages using media such as India ink, monochromatic grey markers and sharpie pen, and pencil and pencil crayons. They were great fun and I’m looking forward to posting the summary of that work on the coursework part of the website. I can see myself using these small books for recording trips and holidays for their handy small size. I also really enjoyed using the grey markers. It’s sort of like viewing old black and white images. Your imagination gets to fill in the colours according to your own perspective and preferences. 

One of the other things I’ve been trying to do is to make one painting/drawing/illustration in my new Moleskine journal every day. I am prepared for it to be a real challenge on the weekends when we’re at the cabin but I’m going to bring along my supplies with the hopes that I’ll be able to still make it happen. 

The two illustrations I’m sharing in this post are ones I made on new year’s day and yesterday, Jan 2. 

I was so excited to make this page. I had brand new watercolour pens by Staedtler that I couldn’t wait to try. This was the perfect opportunity to see what they could do. Granted, I was a little hurried in making this page and didn’t give myself a chance to really explore the potential for the pens in terms of blending but just these tests using single pen colours told me a lot. My trusty water brush was put to the task and I’d say it did just fine. Having a paper towel handy is always wise whether using a water brush or brush with water jar/glass. Always important to be able to control how much water is going onto the page. 

This painting was created after we’d had a salmon and asparagus dinner. I’d never tried drawing asparagus before and since they had already been eaten, I took to the interwebs for visual inspiration. That was super handy as it gave me a chance to look at colours used in rendering but also in the technical elements of the rendering in terms of the sketching of the shapes to how to place the reddish purple bits for the leaves on the asparagus. It’s definitely imperfect but I think you can identify the image as being that of a bunch of asparagus. Also, having my hair dryer handy is pretty key to working with watercolours. 

What I’ve already found with using this sketchbook practice is that it forces me to try new things and do experiment. I don’t have a lot of confidence with pairing colours and so I use mostly greys in my work. I feel like it’s really easy for a piece of work to feel overworked when I incorporate colour and am looking forward to cultivating a better understanding of and greater confidence in using colour. Lots of materials around me these days to foster that learning. 

In the meantime, my work is getting done and I’m making progress toward my goal.

My next challenge is tonight’s sketch. We head out to the cabin aroudn 4:30 and will arrive in the darkest dark. My sketch will be done by headlamp so here’s hoping it’s at least another opportunity to learn something new. This could be a great time for a little blind drawing, maybe. 

Learning Log 01-01-20

sample pages ready for photographing and submission.

I’m actually writing this on New Year’s Eve day in preparation for starting the new year with momentum and a keen sense of gettin’ things done. I’ve assembled each of the twelve cards with my samples mounted and labeled for submitting to my tutor. 

There are a few things I do wish I’d done differently but am hopeful that they aren’t problematic when my tutor looks everything over. I slightly underestimated the number of pages I’d need so ended up mounting samples to the back side of two cards. It makes for a bulky page that is going to be a challenge to photograph because of its inability to lie flat. Also, when I printed the labels, I forgot to turn off the border function which led to most borders not quite aligning with the edges of the labels. I feel like the disrupted borders definitely takes away from the clean presentation that I was going for but am unsure as to whether I’m being too fussy. I’m sure my tutor will tell me.

**the following is written on New Year’s Day

So now that the festivities are behind us and regular life is resuming, I’m back in the studio to photograph the work and upload the assignment for Part 3. I’m frustrated that I have struggled with getting this completed in a timely manner. It would appear that I’ve perhaps taken on too much. 

However, that said, I have the work uploaded in Exercise 3.3 and am ready to write the assignment post. Part 3 done and after submission, I await feedback. In the meantime, I’ll start on Part 4 – Sketchbooks. I’m eager to explore this part and have a respectable collection of art supplies which will live in a zipper pouch that I’m going to attempt to have on hand as often as possible. My goal is to make one entry into the sketchbook every day. Nothing major and probably often quick and dirty sketches but let’s hope I can at least fill one of the two little books I bought. Yesterday’s sketch was a breeze – an illustration of my dress for the Scottish Hogmanay party we went to. A little gouache, some acrylic paint, and some Sharpie to bring it all together. I get it, I think. The point to sketchbooks. Sketchbooks are to visual artists like free writing is to authors. Just do a little bit every day. No matter what it is, just commit to it. Of course, it’s easy to say after just one day but let’s see where this takes us. 

 

 

Learning Log 12-31-19

Twenty years ago, as Y2K approached and the world waited with baited breath to see if our computers would stop working and banks would collapse, Pantone released it’s first colour of the year. According to a CNN article, that colour was Cerulean. Probably not a coincidence that it was a blue hue then, too. Wrapping up a decade, preparing for a new start, this twilight tone defintely depicts the winding down of a day, or time.

This colour is described as a “contemplation of where sky and sea meet;” the taste as “flowering vines;” the touch as a “soft velvety texture;” the sound as “vivid nostalgia.” (CNN)

As an artist who seldom works in colour, I’m excited to see how I can incorporate small, tasteful doses of this colour in various ways into my work throughout 2020. I am looking forward to literally weaving this classic blue into my work. Many exciting new projects on the horizon and I’m eager to bid adieu to 2019 and to greet 2020 with enthusiasm. 


Learning Log 12-30-19

So Daunting!

School is hard. The end. 

But seriously, getting the hang of how THIS school does their courses and how work is to be submitted is breaking my brain. I have these arbitrary rules and limitations in my head that are causing serious interference with my ability to actually do the work. I have been granted an extension but I’m worried that I’m not producing enough of the right kind of work for assessment. I am hoping I’ve not totally mucked up the learning log requirement, too. 

There is one day left after today in 2019. I am trying not to freak out about what my course might be missing but my tutor feedback indicates that I’m on the right track and his suggestions for what to work on are not only legit but also doable. I have to put together my samples for presentation and mount them, photograph them, and upload them to the website and send the links to my tutor. Assignment 3 will be done and once I get my feedback, I can move ahead with Assignment 4. There are only five in the unit and I have until March to wrap it all up. I can do this!! I keep thinking about quitting but that’s not what I actually want to do. I want to complete what I started and I want to do it well. Other people can earn their degrees and  can too. I’m certainly smart enough, I just need to stop being stubborn and I definitely need to stop self sabotaging. 

It’s the damndest thing, looking back on my exercises and re-reading the observations and recalling my insights from each step. I’m definitely learning but man, am I ever hard on myself. I’d love to find a way to silence the voice in my head that’s constantly whispering about my failures because when I look at the actual work, I think I’m doing ok. Not just ok, but I’m learning and expanding. I must persist. I deserve to earn my degree. 

I feel like I need to make a note in here or somewhere that working six days a week, opening a second store, trapping and dealing with the furs we harvest, as well as school is an enormous work load. I’ve got to try and keep all these balls in the air. Juggling with more hands might help? 

In other news, I saw the most amazing textures on the side of my car the other day. Dirt, salt, road grime and the pattern that emerged reminded me of the Atlantic Wolf Fish leather that I use. Who knew that road grime could be beautiful!?

6am be like…

I have a great weaving friend Anastasia Hobson-George, who told me that if I wanted to get my weaving completed in time for the coastal Tlingit celebration in Juneau, Alaska in early summer of 2020 that I’d have to get up early and weave for an hour before starting my day just like the late master weaver, Jennie Thlanaut. I was told that Jennie would wake up early and make tea and weave. I decided that finishing this robe is important enough to sacrifice a little sleep so since July, I’ve been waking up at 6am and weaving for two hours almost every morning (Tues-Sat). I make coffee, I often listen to a podcast with my headphones on while George, the lucky recipient of this robe sleeps nearby. 

In these bleary-eyed early morning hours, I have felt so fortunate to welcome each day with this deeply spiritual weaving practice. I feel every weaver who came before me, guiding my hands – often before I’m awake enough to do so for myself. The only lights on in the house are those illuminating my loom, flooding my workspace with light so that I can ensure the tidiest, most compact stitches. Yes, I’ve made plenty of weaving mistakes but I’m ok with that. I’m not aiming for perfection. I’m aiming for beautiful. 

This robe came into being in the summer of 2018. I spun the warp yarns by hand on my Ashford Kiwi II wheel using merino wool until that ran out and I substituted the remainder with corriedale. I included cedar bark in the warp for the strength and bug repellency (as is the tradition with Chilkat weaving) and am so grateful for the time I put into creating every one of those one thousand yards of yarn! When I dressed this loom on Canada Day, 2017, I had NO IDEA how tedious but precious each stitch would become. I estimated that when this robe is completed, I will have created somewhere in the neighbourhood of 250,000 stitches. I love the time I spend at the loom, weaving threads in and out, over and under. 

I take great care to ensure that my state of mind is a peaceful, pleasant one. If I am angry, I redirect my thoughts to a more positive state. If I’m hungry, I stop and eat. If I’m sad, I step away from the work. Whenever I’m in a state of unhappiness or any kind of negativity, I stop working and regroup. I know I must take great care to monitor my thoughts because they are being woven into the fabric of this robe which will be worn and danced by hopefully many generations of Tlingit dancers. 

I’m not an expert. To the contrary – I’m quite a beginner but an enthusiastic, committed one. I’ve documented much of this process on my Instagram feed but I think I ought to keep some of those images here as well. 

The image immediately above shows bundles of warp yarns hanging in preparation for dressing the loom in the summer of 2018. I was excited, apprehensive, and totally full of inspiration and hope. Once the loom was dressed at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on Canada Day, I was on my way. I had no idea how my enthusiasm would ebb and flow but as of today, September 9, 2019, I am committed to an almost daily (save for Sundays) weaving practice that starts at 6am. I only complete 3-4 rows at best with each row taking 30 minutes to complete but I am making progress. Daily. 

It is absolutely a challenge to wake up earlier than I’d like and immediately work but I do it. This means that every day, I get to see a little bit of progress which brings me closer to my goal of completion. 

I was so lucky to spend several months at home working on the weaving. I saw diamonds emerging in the Haida Spider Web pattern which was exciting! There were still many moments when I felt as though I’d never be done. I still have those moments all the time. But they pale in comparison to the moments when my heart is racing as I watch a new pattern emerge. This robe is steeped in life experience, love, and joy. It is telling its own story through the design and stitches used but also, it tells my story as the weaver. We, the robe and I are intertwined. We are one. 

The photo of me at the loom above is from early July , 2019. I was beginning my morning weaving practice and was excited to see the fruits of my labour. I also was beginning to see how starting my day with this work was setting the rest of my day and my life to be so rich and fulfilling. 

I foresee needing to record my progress in this storytelling fashion more regularly as this piece comes to life. I have so many thoughts and ideas that emerge during this time at the loom. I gain clarity on my life’s path, my biggest dreams. I have so much to be grateful for and it all starts with my time in this chair, in this place, in front of this work. 

Thank you for being with me as I share my experience. 

V

New Class Offerings

Always doing something new...

I love teaching. I’ve been teaching creative classes and workshops for over 15 years and love it every single time. One of my favourite parts of teaching creative skills is watching the learners, regardless of their age, grasp the concept being taught. There’s a magical exchange that occurs when a learner begins a class not knowing how something is done and the the skill or technique is taught and the information lands inside their brains in a way that ignites a fireworks display of “getting it”. Sure, every class is different. Sometimes, the information exchange is an easy one and sometimes it’s a really tough one. But even those classes or moments are extremely valuable for me as they afford me the opportunity to consider what could be done better or differently next time. 

I think if you were to ask me what age group is my favourite, I’d really be hard-pressed to do so. I’ve instructed kindergarteners all the way through to the most senior of Elders. Little ones are fearless and eager to learn. Teens often are concerned with how others perceive them and Elders, like the little ones aren’t bothered by looking silly or making mistakes. There are so many things that I learn from my classes and from the people in them. 

Since moving the shop from the tiny space into a larger one (still in Horwoods, beside Baked), we now have a bit of room to host classes. I held one embroidery class and it was a tremendous success. There have been several inquiries as to when the next one will be. There will be another ‘Not your Grandma’s Embroidery’ class held in the shop from 6-8 on Wednesday May 29. Class fee is $75 and includes instruction, fabric, hoop, embroidery floss, needle and design templates. Classes can be paid for via e-transfer (email hello@aegirsdottir.com) or in person in the shop. 

Embroidery Class

Breaking up is hard to do

Dear Facebook, It's over.

It seems that Facebook and I are officially at an impasse. I want to use their “Shop” feature on my business page to allow sales on Instagram but their terms of use prohibits the sale of animals which, according to their review process, also includes fur. So, given that I have limited hours each day to promote and market my business, I’m choosing to redirect my time and attention to my website instead of Facebook. 


I intend to maintain regular a posting practice on Instagram until such time that their ownership by Facebook interferes with my using that platform as I’ve attempted to do with the Facebook Pages. As always, however you can still purchase any listed product on my website so I’m happy that is not changing. 


So, things for me have been somewhat quiet on Social Media over the past year. I’ve been weaning myself off of Facebook so I have time for things like reading, working, researching, and generally living my life. I’ve certainly enjoyed the results of this surprisingly large behaviour change and am now poised for another shift with the general elimination of Facebook from my business as well. 


My partner, George and I have been receiving tremendous support and attention from Canadian media and the coverage has been instrumental in helping us spread our message of reconciliation. The first story was published by Yukon News at the end of January and the number of folks who have come looking for the boutique as a result has been so heartwarming. Check the story out HERE.



The second story was a little different and deeper. We were surprised to be contacted by the UC Observer but after very thoughtful questions and lots of dialog with the journalist, we couldn’t have been happier with the outcome. Read the story HERE


For us, the winter months are typically extremely busy as this is our trapping season. This year, our fur harvest began mid-December and really kicked off when George’s nephew flew up from Dawson Creek to join him on the trap line for a week. They ran traps and even put out a few in new places. The following week, the trap site now named “Dustin” produced a beautiful lynx. We wrapped up our season with many lynx and marten, one wolverine and a beaver. No wolves this time. 

Every single weekend had us returning to Whitehorse with furs to process in the following week. It was a busy time – many late, late nights. We processed all of the furs together and really found that time of working together to have huge impacts on our relationship – all positive! We really learned how to anticipate and communicate so that our processing time was as short as possible but also so that the fur was handled as respectfully as possible. 


One of the most incredible things that happened on the trap line this winter was our good fortune of harvesting a Blue Lynx. According to George’s mom, Doris (who has seen this genetic anomaly only once in her 84 years!) this variation is extremely rare and very special. When the Blue Lynx collection comes out, there’ll be MUCH fanfare!! Special indeed! 


After 8-9 weeks of non-stop work between our day-jobs and trapping, we took a much-needed vacation in the Bahamas. We enjoyed two weeks of sun (a little rain, too) and isolation on an actual deserted island. We’re now home and have hit the ground running. 


The next two weeks are full of hustling and preparation for the Vancouver Gift Expo which takes place on March 10-12. We’ll be showing the fur jewelry to over 2000 retailers looking to add new products to their shops. We’re so excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to meet everyone. 


We’re especially looking forward to educating so many consumers about the ethics of our fur harvest and how it is rooted in tradition. That it is, in fact, a healing practice. Now, I’m not going to lie, I am very aware that there may be serious fur-haters in the city and we’re prepared for them. We are hopeful that even those folks will respectfully hear our approach to fur harvesting and maybe just open their minds a little. 


So now that I’ve gotten you all caught up, I suppose I’ll go do some of that trade show prep I mentioned. Thanks for following me over here from Facebook. I hope you’ll subscribe to receive updates and comments are always welcomed. I’m grateful for every single one of you. 


See you soon! 

Vanessa

Kinda like Beyoncé, but different.

Oh friends, what a crazy few months it’s been. I have all these ambitions. Goals. Dreams. (delusions?)

I set out to do so many amazing things and then this weird thing happens. It turns out that I’m not actually Beyoncé and no, I don’t actually have the same hours in a day as her. Or maybe I just don’t have a massive staff like her to get shit done. Anyway, while I may not be Beyoncé, I am pretty amazing at being me and that does include having more things on my to-do list than is possible to get done in the allotted time.

The last few months have been wilder than wild. I opened a store. An actual store. Then my website died. Like, it disappeared and was gone for a whole month. That was painful… but through the amazing folks at Vault Press (the most badass website backup service on the planet!), it’s back and better than ever. Store is getting slowly updated (bear with me – that’s a brutal process) and I’m reminded of my commitment to obtaining my degree. I’m still working through the first Foundations course (so very slowly) but every time there’s just a little space in my life to work on this education that I’ve busted my ass to pay for, I’m grateful and working on being gentle with myself for not being as far along as I’d like.

The holiday season is fast approaching and I’m hustling with all of my heart in my wee store – have I mentioned it’s the smallest in Whitehorse (and maybe in the whole Yukon?!). It’s a 65 square foot little piece of heaven. Almost everything on the shelves was made by my hands and let me tell you how humbling, rewarding, gratitude-inspiring that is. The impending gifting season is indicative of my distinct lack of time for things like school but I must persevere!

 

I arrive to my boutique in the morning and can’t actually believe that I’ve created this space, this opportunity for myself. I’ve had some incredible support in getting here but I built this thing. I’ve forged a path that supports my dreams and goals and sure, my delusions. I’m not pursuing opulent, wasteful wealth. Nope, I’m pursuing a sustainable career path that supports my values, my ethics, and my deep abiding love for textiles and creating beautiful things for beautiful people.

So while I may fall behind on my studies (falling behind according to an abstract assumption about linear progression and expectation – things I’m learning to adjust and adapt to), I come to them eventually and in the meantime, I’m doing meaningful work and adding beauty to the lives of many. And an unexpected element of my work is the educational component of sharing with my customers about my partner, George’s fur harvesting practices. I have learned so much throughout these past months and am so fulfilled, I’m surprised I could put as much of it into words as I’ve done here. Thank you for being part of this incredible journey. You are the reason I’ve come this far.

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