Lee Oldford Churchill, Canada

Residency Period: Sept 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017


Born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, Lee began her formal training at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, NL. In 1998 she transferred to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, majoring first in sculpture, then switching to painting and printmaking. At U of A she earned her BFA with Distinction in 2000 and then went on to earn a M.A. (Art Conservation) and M.A. (Art History) from Queen’s University, Kingston, ON in 2000 and 2006 respectively. She currently resides in Calgary, AB, Canada, where she works as the Paper Conservator at the Glenbow Museum and as an instructor at Wildflower Art Centre, City of Calgary. Her current work utilizes watercolour, pastel, acrylic, pen, and other media.


On-hiatus Proposal Summary

Working full time and parenting, Lee has struggled to maintain her “professional artist” status as designated by Canada Council for the Arts and other public institutions, which also qualifies her to apply for funding to sustain an artist career. She feels trapped in the circle of “not enough work=not enough sales and exposure=not enough money=having to be employed=not enough time=not enough work”.

While making art has been part of who she is, the pressure and stress of “being engaged” with her practice has driven her to the point where she feels her whole life may be happier if she just stopped, if she gave up defining herself as an artist-who-does-other-work-to-support-themselves and embraced being solely an arts-industry-employee.

Through her participation in RFAOH, she wants to give herself permission not to produce art, to ultimately examine if letting go of “being an artist” will make her feel less pressure and stress, and return some joy to this aspect of her life. Her requested residency period overlaps with her son’s school year during which time she may participate in some activities without the guilt of her inner voice screaming ‘if I have any time I should be making art’.

Although she is hesitant to set out too detailed a plan for fear of creating a high pressure situation similar to the one that she is in now as an artist, one of her on-hiatus activities may be taking a class in clay. It is an area that has no association to her past art practice, and she wants to see if she can engage meaningfully with the process of creating, or whether it has become so entwined with stress/anxiety that any attempt to create is a trigger for feelings of failure, anxiety and inadequacy about her self-identification as an artist.

She hopes this hiatus would give her time and clarity to make a decision whether defining herself as an artist is worth it, or if not being an artist is better for her mental health, family life, and relationships. If she decides to return to art, she hopes it would bring fresh inspiration and perspective.

Final Report

My experience as an RFAOH resident has been amazing. It is a cause for ongoing and future reflection that having an external, and thereby legitimizing, force say it was 'ok' not to make art, I let go of an immense amount of stress and gut-wrenching anxiety. I am not entirely comfortable with the idea that I need an outside agency validate my thoughts and actions.

I did the clay class I set out in my proposal and as I hoped it showed me that I am still in love with artmaking and am so very happy when I give myself over to the process. I had thought I would review Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" as well but I decided (after a few months of seriously avoiding getting it off the shelf) that my reluctance was something I should listen to. If I was dragging my heels, forcing myself to re-read it was against the spirit of my hiatus.

With my mother-in-law passing away and then my father being incredibly ill, my hiatus ended up looking very different than anyone could have thought. I spent a full two months of it away from everything focusing on the people who truly matter rather than immersed in the 'daily grind'. Both the hiatus and these events have drastically altered my perceptions and goals.

I still feel battered and broken. But there's been a release - like when you have a bad tooth and once the dentist fills it you realize how miserable it was and now you're a bit boneless.

I'm on the mend.

I'm human and I have bad habits.

I feel like my hiatus had changed me and that I won't try to shoehorn myself and my work into a mold we don't fit. But I know it is going to take constant vigilence to not fall into anxiety and let it push me into areas I'm not happy with. Whether my hiatus will change the look of my work, I don't know yet. But it will certainly change the spirt behind it.




recent comments

On Jun 21 2017, Lee Churchill commented on June 20: If I knew where I wasn't supposed to be, I wouldn't go!! :-P If you've got some idea of how I can be[...]

On Jun 21 2017, co-director (s) commented on June 20: Happy (fairly) big Birthday Lee! (: Twack on, all year! I think it's the matter of what is "everyt[...]

On Jun 12 2017, Lee Churchill commented on June 8: :-) It definitely sounds like a fascinating talk. With the idea of going for an MFA, S's situation[...]

On Jun 9 2017, co-director (m) commented on June 8: I wish we had a recording of Tehching's panel discussion in Venice last month where the convergence [...]

On May 25 2017, co-directors (s) commented on May 8: Family emergency sucks... Hope things are alright with yours![...]

Mar 27

Mar 27

I showed up to drop my son off at his Spring Break day camp and one of the staff had called in sick, so I got to be the before camp care. Fifty-odd kids in a gym, aka: absolute mayhem. It’s so fascinating to see how kids interact and process the craziness. Some hang back and sit on the side watching to find a ‘safe’ time to enter the action, others plow right in and are explosive in their response, seeming to find any means possible to endanger their own lives! 😛 (Who knew skipping ropes could be garrots?!) And one who seems to be a true introvert, content to sit and watch the activities of the others.



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Mar 6

Mar 6

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday. The boys were very keen to make Daddy’s day great – he got to sleep in and have breakfast in bed (cornflakes and coffee), homemade cards (Thank you whoever invented mess-less glitter!!), supper that he (mostly) didn’t make, and of course cake! 

Arthur insisted on sewing a fabric ball as a gift, and with a (very) little help it worked out great. Though mostly he and Edward played with it. But at 8 and 4 it’s the initial thought that counts, right??  

I ordered some patterns for making my own clothes. I have been hoarding fabric for ages and now it’s time to start making things with it. Truly. It’s going to happen.

I started participating in a March Drawing-a-day group. Art practice? I don’t know. I don’t intend any of the drawings to ‘turn into’ anything. They aren’t prep or prelim work. They are isolated scribblings, mostly in an attempt to have a brief window of discipline. Externally imposed by the fact that I signed up and committed to it.

I’m two days behind.

Last week I met with a realtor to ask about the types of renos and improvements that would be needed to sell our house – we rented and then bought it, so it most things haven’t been updated since it was built in 1993.  It’s added a whole new level of ‘should do’s’ to our already crippling list.

Edward’s being bullied at his dayhome. As a parent it is such a sucky situation, and so hard to know what to do. We don’t want to be helicopter parents – but he is tiny. And the other kid is known to be sneaky, violent, and mean. He waits until the teacher’s back is turned, destroys whatever Ned’s working on, and is basically gone by the time she can turn around. Last week, Ned finally snapped and bit him. I feel awful, he shouldn’t bite…but I can’t blame him.  If it were me, I’m pretty sure I’d retaliate too. So how do I consequence that??

Mar 10

So I’ve been doing the drawing a day for ten days, I caught up! I’m surprisingly pleased with a few of them. When I did the challenge last year I didn’t take it too seriously, and I got a nasty virus right in the middle, so I really wasn’t too happy with my work. This year I decided to put more effort into it. Having a few already that I feel good about is encouraging. Like I said before I really didn’t expect these sketches to produce anything so I’m going to say ‘yeah me!’

I’m feeling like my posts are very banal – seeing George conquer mountains, Maria corral a homestead, Joyce’s experiments brewing, it’s bring home my feelings of dissatisfaction and stagnation.  I love my day job, but working halftime is brutal. I love teaching but there aren’t that many classes. I look at the things needed to “set myself up” as an artist and feel totally overwhelmed. I don’t have (minimum) $2000 to get a designer to set up a website. I don’t have time (or desire) to learn to create one myself – templates, hosting, domains are just not my thing. I feel Ramla, Wayne, Rob and I are in much the same boat – sad, discouraged, drifting.

Mar 14 (aka: 3.14)

Pi Day!

Not sure I’ll actually get to eat pie today but it tickles my funny bone every year.

We made noodles with the boys on Sunday. They were super stoked to be getting all goopy in the kitchen. It pushes my control freak buttons but ended up being super fun. We’ll have to do that again soon. 

I went from being caught up on my drawings to 3 days behind. I’m struggling with how I want to interpret some of the themes: Taxi, Gone with the Wind and Lawrence of Arabia (the coordinator declared it movie week). Maybe I’ll ditch those and just doodle something random.

In one of my adult classes the students wanted to know what I’m teaching next semester, so they could sign up. That’s a pretty huge compliment, in my mind.    

It went from -19 to +10 between Sunday and today (Tuesday). My head is killing me. Chinook headaches are no joke.

My poor boys are really struggling with the time change, losing an hour of sleep has left them deeply unhappy about waking to go to school and daycare in the mornings. Even Peanut who is normally a cheerful morning person and not very cuddly came in and tucked himself into bed with us this morning.

I’m starting to think some of the difficulty with understanding him is because his nose is always stuffy. But… how do you get a 4-year-old to cooperate with nasal irrigation? Something to ponder.

I got home from teaching last night and started poking around on Pinterest before going to bed. I looked up my Myers-Briggs personality profile (INTJ). Very funny and spot on quotes and infographics.

Mar 15

My clothes patterns came! Now to find time to work on them…

Mar 20

Happy vernal equinox!

I used my studio night Friday to pin and cut pattern pieces for one shirt. I’m hoping to find time this week to actually sew it. It’s a summer shirt in hopes of speeding along the weather. J It’s still cold here -8 and everyone is done with it. The weekend was so very busy, kids’ classes and teaching, playdates and birthday parties. It pulls time away from things like housecleaning but I’m cool with that. It’s so fun to see the boys excited and interacting with others.  It amazes me to see the difference in their personalities – at home they are whirlwinds, talking and moving constantly, so outgoing and LOUD but when they get out in the world they seem very quiet and reserved and with waaaaay better manners!

It’s getting to the end of my hiatus and I haven’t made myself sit down and do too much serious thinking about what comes next. I pulled my copy of the Artist’s Way and it’s sitting on my table watching me, waiting… I’m definitely feeling so much better without the pressure I was heaping on myself and without the pressure the art I’ve been doing is so satisfying and makes me feel more like ‘me’. So, obviously, I can’t not create. But do I have it in me to be creating and not want to/feel obliged to be writing grants and exhibition proposals? Three and a half years later I’m finally getting over my volunteer burnout and thinking of starting to be back out in the community doing things but with the wisdom NOT to take on a massive project.

For now sketches.

I’m seven days behind.



Leave a Comment (3)

Lee Churchill wrote on Mar 27:

Thanks Matt!
It seems like a tie between Rob and Wayne to me. <:'( :-7
To add my own doom and gloom. :-P Their experiences have reminded me that as tempting an idea as it is - just packing up my family and and leaving for parts undecided won't really undo the stress and indecision inside me.
All that just travels with me, in one form or another! :-P

co-director (m) wrote on Mar 23:

We like your posts Lee!

co-director (s) wrote on Mar 22:

We have a pretty good hunch that Rob is actually having the best time though (:


Jan 31-Feb 26

Jan 31

It’s been a contemplative few days.

The Facebook comment RFAOH made about my last post, was this:

Lee’s latest report also prompts similar questions to the ones posed in our meeting with Rob at his screening: Are you an “art teacher” or an artist teaching art? Is teaching art to someone, or helping someone to make art, not an art practice? The Tug-o-War on rhetoric continues.

Oddly, it floored me. I’ve never seen my teaching as part of my art practice. Thinking about it, I have no idea why, it just never occurred to me that teaching art would draw from the same well as making art. Which is strange, since in class I talk extensively about creative process, methodology, etc. Teaching certainly helps keep up my technical proficiency with materials I don’t use as regularly in my own work (like oil pastel). And it helps me remember that I am both knowledgeable and competent, which I struggle with sometimes. I’m told I dismiss my knowledge as general knowledge, when in fact it’s not.

This is something I’m going to have to keep thinking about.

Feb 6

It’s Monday again.

I dug our car out from under the weekend’s worth of snow, driving was mad – there was hardly any difference between the roads, sidewalks, or lawns.

Found my laptop! It was in Peter’s rarely used briefcase, neither of us can remember why….

Feb 7

I taught Adult Arts combo last night – we did relief printing. I thought they did great. I’m not sure what they expect, it’s a class where you play with a new media every night. Sometimes I think they want me to walk in with an image and “say we are doing this and this is exactly how.” Which in my mind defeats the point – how would you experiment if you’re doing exactly what I tell you? How are you going to know if you like the process if you only do it the way that I told you too?? I see so many students who want a formula – how is that art?

How could copying my work express who you are??  

It’s currently -28. That’s in Celsius. It’s getting down to -35 tonight. 

Feb 21

This weekend was Family Day. It’s a totally random stat holiday, I think mainly to keep people from going mad in February. But we took it wholeheartedly and spent the weekend just hanging out with our boys. They kill me. They are so sweet and funny, and sometimes it is so hard to set aside all the day to day ‘stuff’ and enjoy them.

The house was ignored and is a disaster.

Feb 26

All day today, Edward has been a tyrant, angry, yelling, crying. Then this evening I sat with him, trying to distract him by reading a story, and he fell asleep in my arms. So tired and still not able to articulate it at all. I sat for ages, just cuddling him. It was the best.

The new class catalog is out for my work. There’s a ‘clay studio’ course being offered. I want to see if I can audit it, but I’m switching my schedule to drop off and pick up Arthur from school. I have a feeling they end at the same time.

We’re still decluttering – I feel like things are messier than ever, even though I know that it’s because I’ve pulled out things that haven’t seen the light of day in over a decade. Two more bags of clothes for donation and a truly bizarre amount of old paperwork. I found two boxes of papers from my masters’ programs. I have no idea why I’ve kept them this long. The recycling is overflowing. There’s a tube of partly finished paintings from my undergrad?! There’s no way they’ll be finished. I haven’t been interested in those themes since the turn of the millennium!

…though I also discovered a forgotten stash of printing paper (BFK Rives) from when my studio was in the basement prior to 2005…so that was kind of cool.

This month has been banal and yet turbulent. No big breakthroughs in any area of art or life. But some small breakthroughs, nonetheless. Some things look like they aren’t going to happen. Some things are open-ended, some hope, some despair.

Mostly, just treading water.

Gratuitous cute cat photo. 🙂
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Jan 25

Jan 25

This month has been eaten up by family ‘stuff’, stuff that’s not for online sharing but time and energy consuming. Now, in the potential homestretch, we are looking at a best possible outcome. And I’m feeling a huge sense of release and relief. This is going to be ok.

Provided an application gets accepted. BUT I am not going to dwell on that.

My other job has also started back up – two years ago I began to teach art classes at a city art centre evenings and weekends. It’s funny, I think it’s my favorite job I’ve had. When I finished my BFA in 2000 several of my friends went on to do teaching degrees, but knowing myself, I swore I’d never teach. At the time I was right I lacked any number of personality traits that make a good teacher; at the forefront were: being patient, non-judgmental, and having empathy. Sixteen years of life experience and having two boys have reformed me.  😀 And since its “Bell Let’s Talk” Day in Canada (#BellLetsTalk) I’ll mention that anxiolytics and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are awesome for increasing patience!

This term I’m teaching adults and kids – Arts Combo (a mash up class where you play with a different media each week), Oil painting, and Sculpture. I’m already having fun.

A quick pastel sketch of a pinecone I did as a demo.

I also finished a project that’s been sitting in my studio for over four years!  The idea was to make a crib quilt for a friend’s baby but once I designed and started embroidering the blocks it grew into something very different! So now it’s single bed size which worked out well since the baby is now a preschooler. I just have to mail it. Every one of these ‘late’ projects I finish and move out of my studio, the less weight I feel.






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Lee wrote on Jan 31:

Thank you, for the luck and the compliments!

ramla fatima wrote on Jan 28:

good luck :)

co-director (s) wrote on Jan 26:

That's an amazing production, Lee! One of my most favourite two types of productions I personally dig -- the exquisitely artistic work with a function, and the work that makes you think about: "the whole world + the work = the whole world".
How lucky she/he is to receive this... Plus, more room in your "studio"!


Jan 9

A hiatus within a hiatus?


I’ve misplaced my laptop. I put it “somewhere safe”. It will turn up. These things always do.

I started a post on Dec 19th that I’ll let lie since it wasn’t that profound anyway.

In the intervening weeks I’ve done Christmas things – Christmas concerts (small children singing and dancing! :’D), Christmas food (toooo much food!), visitors, fires, candles! Christmas presents! Some handmade – I bound journals for both my boyos. We made gingerbread houses (late but better than not!) We went out to sled and skate and visit the local historic village. In short everything the season is supposed to be.

Some things were obviously different.

But the great thing about having kids is that even when we weren’t particularly feeling that festive we upped our game to make sure they still had a wonderful time. “Fake it ’til you make it” at it’s best.

And they did.





Leave a Comment (4)

Lee Churchill wrote on Jan 25:

If you would like the snow, please have it! I'd be happy to share! :-D

co-director (m) wrote on Jan 20:

I think even Montreal is jealous of that snow this year :)

Wayne Lim wrote on Jan 20:

I am sooo jealous of all that snowwww!

co-director (m) wrote on Jan 11:

Looks like a lovely hiatus hiatus :) Happy New Year Lee


Dec 13

Dec 13

I had a cold last week. I hate being sick.

I find it offensive, as though the germs are deliberately attacking my ability to get stuff done.

At first I thought it was nothing major, some dry coughing, runny nose. Enough to keep me home from my day job. When I couldn’t go into work on Tuesday morning, I thought “well at least I can get things done around the house.” I walked downstairs put in a load of laundry, walked back up and that was all the energy I had for the day. Zilch accomplished.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, three days later, on Friday, I laid down to take a “short nap” at 9 am and must have turned off my alarm. Because I woke at 1:23pm.

Five days.

Five days of being flat out and getting nothing done.

The rational part of my brain says I obviously needed the rest to heal. The rest of my brain is jumping up and down with clenched hands throwing a temper tantrum of epic proportions. All. That. Time. WASTED!


It seems as though, for me, this hiatus is a lot about letting go. Letting go of self-imposed stress. Self-imposed expectations. Letting go of my ideas of what productivity means (more output, more checks on lists, more action!) and accepting that sometimes what seems to be unproductive is good. My jaw hurts just thinking that but I’m trying to get there.  

In the wee hours of the night when I was lying awake with hamsters running around my brain I started composing this post about the end of my clay class and the things I made and more importantly learned. I will get to that.

But then, like most trains of thought at 3 am, it took a left turn.

And I started thinking about the weather.

When I interned in England in 2002 my supervisor commented that Canadians are obsessed with the weather, she didn’t know of any other nationality who kept such a constant eye on what was happening outside and what was upcoming. At the time I was shocked and I realized it was true.  We are obsessed. But when Mother Nature is out to kill you 8+ months of the year, it’s important to pay attention. Last week it averaged about -30 C. One day, five of the coldest places ON EARTH were in my province. And everyone still has to get to work, buy groceries, and go on living, even if your skin can freeze in 10 minutes.

That internship made me fascinated with how people from other places view so-called mundane things – like distances. I discovered all the other interns, who were from countries around Europe, had a very condensed sense of distances. I had been looking into some side trips to Scotland, France, and the Netherlands. Living in Canada I see it as no big deal to drive 3 hours for a visit. I know lots of people who go that far for a daytrip. I told the other interns I was thinking of driving to Scotland for 3 days and they acted as if I were mad. One woman from the Czech Republic was flabbergasted – her family had a cottage three hours from Prague and they felt it too far to drive for less than a week. As an undergrad I’d drive 8-10 hours home for a 3-day weekend (similar to the trip I thought to take to Scotland). But a half-dozen interns is a small sample, do other people feel the same way? Distance is a set thing, a solid measurable number, but peoples’ perceptions of, and relationship to it, seem so different.

Another thing that interests me lately is peoples’ experience of wildlife – I wonder is it a ‘Canadian-thing’, ‘a Calgary-Thing’, or…what? I live inner city in a city of about 1.2 million people. I often joke to my husband that in the event of a ‘real zombie apocalypse’, at the rate we hike, it would take a week to get to the city limits. My son’s school is even further towards the downtown. But this is an email we received from his school yesterday:

Bobcat Sighting

Good Afternoon,

There has been a bobcat sighted just east of the school towards the big hill.  Please be cautious.

Seriously. Bobcats. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobcat (It’s probably actually a Canadian Lynx but that’s mostly semantics, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_lynx ).

I had been wondering why we hadn’t had as many hares around the yard this year. There’s usually two-four who camp out on our front lawn, plus ones we see roaming the back alley. Now I guess I have my answer.


And I was worried letting Arthur walk to school because of reckless drivers!  Ha!

Do people in other places/cities/countries have things like this happen? Bobcats this far into town are a new thing, but hares, deer, coyotes, cougars, and even the occasional bear are all normal-ish to have in the suburbs here. It seems to me that Calgary is unusual in having so much wildlife, or am I wrong?


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Dec 5

Dec 5

I love Christmas. Mostly.

I love lights, treat foods, music, the tree, the presents (to a degree…).

I love the preparations – cooking, and making, and visiting Christmas markets.

One of our biggest traditions is unpacking the tree and setting it up. We take out all the special ornaments and talk about where each one came from – these from Mommy’s Aunt for each of the boys’ first Christmas’s…this bell Mommy gave to Daddy…this was from Nanny and Poppy… each has a story and memory. This year it’s going to be melancholy. Over 20 years more than a few came from my mother-in-law. Telling those stories is going to be hard. I always want my boys to remember the joy and adoration she felt for them. But I know Ned at 4 will have no solid memories of her. Only shadow memories of the stories we’ve repeated so often he thinks he remembers. That hurts my heart in ways I can’t even articulate.

I thought this was going to be a cheerful post about the Christmas markets we went to this weekend and how we all loved it.

But apparently not.


Some of my clay came back, fortunately not too dark. The rest will hopefully go though the kiln this week.

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Nov 28

Nov 28

(and yes, I posted this Dec 5th. I seem to be making a habit of writing and then posting late.  😥 )

This has been a good week.

Despite lots of things going on I could feel anxious about I feel cheerful and marginally hopeful. Always a good feeling – and then my dark side says “We’ll see how long it lasts” – but whatever, today it is good.

I made several things – we did glazing in Clay class so that was kind of thrilling (last day sadly but yeah, I work there so I can keep doing more!) I had a lot of works to glaze and have never really done it before so it’s totally one big experiment.  I have a couple pieces I really want to turn out for Christmas presents but otherwise am just excited to see what happens in the kiln. We had the choice of staining some pieces under the glaze to bring out the texture – I was possibly a little too enthusiastic and may end up with very Nightmare before Christmas style decorations.

At my other job we have an ‘upcycled art’ charity auction each year, my colleagues and I decided to contribute. :’P


Super silly but still fun. I made the ring and they made the stand from materials we found in the lab.

And I did a few press molded eggs from a porcelain sample a friend gave me. I’m super enjoying carving them.  I haven’t carved anything in at least a decade and had forgotten how wonderful it feels when a blade is slicing just perfectly through the material.

img_3947 eggs2 eggs1


We started putting up Christmas lights – they’re always my favorite part. Even without decorations, just sitting and seeing the lights on the tree feels cozy and relaxing.



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Nov 8

Nov 8

So both my boys have had their birthdays – 4 and 8! Amazing. They were super stoked. I find it pretty fun but also melancholy.


Every new stage is (mostly) fascinating, but also it means the ending of other stages – neither says ‘bluebellies’ for blueberries anymore or blellow! For yellow. There’s no more random sitting because they’ve lost their balance, or insane babbling that they are convinced is real conversation. Though Edward did decide to but small ‘Nerds’ candies up his nose last week. And Arthur figured out how to use a solar panel to make the hand generator in his electric circuits set spin backwards…SO there’s still plenty of things to look forward too.

More pieces came out of the kiln, and I worked on a sculpture – an Atlantic puffin, the provincial bird for my native Newfoundland. The other pieces were really just fun to work on, the puffin was too, until last night when I needed to hollow out the centre so it would dry evenly and fire properly.  It was terrifying as I ‘gutted’ my puffin! I had to use a wire to cut off its chest – under the chin, along the wings and out horizontally over the feet. Then use a tool to dig around the inside, hoping not to puncture a side or leave any area too thick.

Truly sweat worthy stuff. 😀

img_3852 img_3811

And yes, I am blocking the US elections from my awareness. I will find out tomorrow if I have to sweat over that.


It’s taken me longer to write then I had thought. It’s now the 9th and Trump won. I’m speechless. I have friends and family who are American or who live in the States. I have no idea what this is going to mean for their marriages, their immigration statuses, their healthcare. I had to explain to Arthur that what he had heard, that Trump said he’d build a wall to separate the US and Canada, was true but the concept was absurd. The wall would, literally, be the length of the Great Wall of China. The idea of building it along a border that hasn’t seen a military skirmish in 200 years is asinine.

And now it is currently the 16th!

I can’t believe I started this post over a week ago. We had Remembrance Day, did a big declutter project, got ready for guests, greeted said guests, have a sick little boy (a 4-year-old with a head cold is both unbearably cute and tragic), and did all the normal acts of life – work, school, meals…and laundry. The never ending piles of laundry.

We had snow. Which is past due but still unwelcome. I am not a winter person.

It’s five weeks to Christmas and I haven’t given it a single thought. Zero prep. Zero anticipation. I normally try to do something handmade each year. Don’t think I’m going to manage it at the moment. I haven’t even started pumping the boys for Christmas present ideas.

I started reading a couple books (the Tao of Watercolour and The Zen of Creative Painting by Jeanne Carbonetti) that I happened across at my teaching job. I’m not finding them engrossing, a couple ideas I want to try out with students, but a little esoteric for me overall. Part of the Zen of Painting involves Jungian analysis of mandalas. I struggle with the idea that a universal system of archetypes can be imposed on individual artistic choices, especially if choices are limited by say the palette available in a box of oil pastels. Why did I choose yellow? Well, because out of 12 pastels it worked best in that spot? If I had access to 100’s of colours would I have chosen yellow, or specifically that yellow? Who knows?

I found my copy of “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron to reread. I haven’t cracked it yet though.

In clay class I trimmed the wheel projects from last week. So funny. So crooked and wobbly!  I also got back some buttons I made! Just a little experiment to play with glazing. I tried painting the bowls and some buttons with slip, should be pretty cool. Supposedly they will come back royal blue and black. And after class I made more button-like-thingys! I have a love for all things wee and so I made tons of little bits – everything from tiny tiny 1 cm stars to 3 cm circles.  With rectangles and ovals as well.

Photo credit goes to Susan Thorpe, the Ceramics Technician – Thanks Susan!


Nov 17 – this is getting ridiculous! I need to get this posted.

Nov 21 – I lost my password and had to get it replaced (thanks!) and then it was the weekend. Saturday morning I taught. Such goofballs for students in those classes! Way more interested in chatting about the latest books or Pokémon than focusing on making art. That afternoon I painted with my boys. Also goofballs! Sunday…what did we do Sunday? It was just yesterday but I’m blanking. 

Saturday night I got to try out an experiment with polymer clay that I’ve been excited for. I made a plaster mold from an egg, I love the sheer decadence of Faberge eggs, and thought maybe I could play around with the form. It sucked. I used a translucent ‘flesh’ colour and it was gross. I’ll try again with another colour (iridescent royal blue?) but am thinking that maybe polymer clay won’t be a good base for this project. There’s a new ‘real’ clay (vs. polymer clay) that’s come out called “Polar Ice” (https://plainsmanclays.com/data/MPOLAR1.HTM), some of the ceramicists I know are playing with it. I might see if I can get some.    

Ideas and more ideas, always ideas.


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Lee Churchill wrote on Nov 23:

It's so much fun! I'm having a whale of a time. For me right now it's definitely not art and at the moment I think it's too exciting to be meditation but it is awesome play. And I'm realizing I really needed that. My 'art-stress' really disconnected me from the fundamental joyful engagement I used to have - the love of making for the sake of making. The pottery has been amazing to revive the fizzy excitement I get from starting a new project and working through all the technical and aesthetic challenges. It's euphoric.
And yes, hopefully I'll be happy enough with some things that they will end up as Christmas presents. :-)

co-director (S) wrote on Nov 23:

Isn't pottery fun? I've been deciding if I'll call what I'm doing now art or Etzy or christmas presents or meditation.


Oct 31 B

On a happier note, I started my clay class. I mentioned in my earlier writing that I’m really not familiar with it as a medium and so wanted to try it.

Always things are multifold.

I am not experienced – back in my undergrad (1996-ish) my intro to sculpture class had a couple projects we did in clay but mostly we played around without much guidance. I haven’t touched it since other than to do very simple projects with my 6-8 year old art classes. The art centre sees me taking this class as professional development (so it’s free!), it gives me the liberty of being a student, and it increases the help I can give my students. Triple win.

So far, I got one ‘flower’ pinch pot made before we left for the funeral and last Friday I took the afternoon and managed to do three projects to catch up on what I missed. A coil ‘bowl-candy dish-thingy,’ a coil Christmas tree; and a slab water pitcher. We’ll see how they turn out. I’m hoping they’ll go into the kiln this week. No photos of any of them yet, it totally slipped my mind at the time. The flower was bisque fired and it’s waiting to be glazed, possibly the most exciting part of the process for me! I love the transformations I see from the matte, pastel pieces that go into the kilns vs. the vibrant shiny works that come out.

I’m finding clay fascinating. It’s such as malleable medium but also not. Figuring how to keep the clay supple and not get cracking is definitely a very different challenge from paint and glues. It’s been a long time since I worked bigger than 5 cm in 3-D, remembering to check all around the piece to make sure the lines and shapes are pleasing is taking concentration.  

I loved that almost four hours passed in the blink of an eye.

I was working in the studio with three people who have worked with clay for decades between them. I loved being able to pick their brains and immediately put their knowledge into practice. A whole body of information, tips, tricks, and suggestions that I have barely touched the surface of. A whole new vocabulary – vitrification, slip, leather hard, wedging, cones… New tools! Pin tools, scrapers, ribs, ribbon tools!  

I felt calm and centred and excited and it was good.


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co-director (m) wrote on Nov 2:

I think co-director (s) will have an affinity for this project. She likes to get into the ceramic studio when she can.


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