Sunday, January 24, 2016


Last year, at the end of a hot dry summer there was a wind storm
we didn't know it was coming, it had been so dry and the forecast was for a rain event
instead we got high winds and all the trees still laden with their leaves
and brittle from the long hot summer, were sails and got hooked and torn
and spiraled and fell when that wind came. We got stuck in it, going for a walk at the last minute,
not realizing how strong it was and how the trees were easy victims, unprepared as they were.
A big leaf maple came down near my piles and I have felt unable to begin clearing away the debris
even though I know the piles will grow as a result

The last post on this topic

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Inspiration this week: Rita Joe, Mi'kmaq Poet

I was only a housewife with a dream to bring laughter to the sad
eyes of my people and trusting the anchor we live by to complete
the woven tale we are still telling. Quoted from the back cover of

her recent book, We Are the Dreamers
I am just an Indian on this land
I am sad, my culture you do not understand.
I am just an Indian to you now
You wrinkle your brow.

Today you greet me with bagpipes
Today you sing your songs to me
Today we shake hands and see
How we keep good company.

Today I will tell stories
Today I play the drum and dance
Today I will say what is on my mind
For being friends is our goal.

Today I will show I am just like you
Today I will show what is true
Today I will show we can be friends
Together we agree.

Today I will tell about my race
Today I will share what is mine
Today I will give you my heart
This is all we own.

Today I show.
Hello everybody, my name is Rita Joe.

Rita (Bernard) Joe was born in Whycocomagh, Cape Breton Island, on March 15, 1932. At the young age of ten she was orphaned and shortly after was sent to the Indian Residential School, located in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. She later moved to Eskasoni where she met her husband, Frank Joe; they married in 1954. They lived all of their lives in Eskasoni, raising a family of 10 children.

In the 1960s, Rita first began to write poetry, primarily as a mechanism in which to challenge existing negative stereotypes regarding aboriginal people. She wrote about the manner in which the Mi'kmaq viewed the world, about Mi'kmaw traditions, culture and especially about the beauty of the Mi'kmaw language. She believed that her poetry demonstrated a gentle persuasion in changing people's negatives views of aboriginal people.

Rita's poetry became celebrated nationally and through her lifetime she went on to publish seven books. She became known as the Poet Laureate of the Mi'kmaq people for her accomplished writings and also received many awards, including the Order of Canada in 1990 and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1997. She also was known for her two song recordings, The Oka Song, and Drumbeat is the Heartbeat of the Nation.

Rita Joe died March 20, 2007 at the age of 75 after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


The east wall of my living room. My mothers diplomas among other things.

January again. The beginning of a new year. As usual I am reflecting. I spend a lot of my time thinking about my creative practice. I walk and look up at the trees and I take notice of what is happening in the sky. I feel small and glad. To be alive. I think being an artist is maybe the same thing as what it means to be a person. You just keeping getting up each day and making an effort. Art is just a metaphor for life, we seek it, that feeling of understanding, of realization, of contentment. It is natural to want to make order out of chaos. Housekeeping is part of it. Without concern for form, with no product in mind. Laying hands on natural things. Domestic earth arts. Lately my making has been around sewing and cooking and building up the most beautiful compost pile.  I consider my lifestyle as striving toward piousness. Without god obviously.  My job is to observe and reflect, and yes, to serve the planet in some way. We are curious to learn about the natural world. We create a life that is artful in it's approach. We are wild, and lets face it. We want to do what we want to do. That cannot be sold. To create nothing except that which can be broken down and absorbed back into the earth. Clothing, books, piles of sticks. Can the practice be the art. The beginning of the year. I am reflective. In the midst of everything. Bowie is dead. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Social Media, What is it good for?

There is a storm outside and there is a storm inside me. Everyday I log into social media sites much the way an addict practices addiction. Compulsively, with enthusiasm trailed by regret. More than a dozen times a day, I pick up my phone and make my way through my different accounts.

It's dark out all the time now, we've been through a tough fall, my husband getting used to a new job, all of us mourning the suicide of our daughters boyfriend, Paris on lock-down. White people are outraged. I watch it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

News through the filter of Facebook is contrived, let alone the media itself is so very skewed by revenue. The honest truth is that I feel better when I avoid social media all together. When I can search out information on my own, read an article or two, not just skim the headlines in my feed. I'm doing it, you're doing it. We're selling ourselves short. Facebook makes us shallow and vain.

I think it's preferable to develop ones own opinions based on facts from multiple sources rather than from the biggest group think exercise ever. Somehow the Facebook algorithm only shares news about certain topics and this troubles me. I feel like difficult subjects are less likely to be seen. I posted a Guardian article this morning and didn't get a single like. Had I posted a photo of my daughter as a baby I would have received a lot. Facebook seems to train us to share certain content by rewarding us with likes.

It is better for me to do and keep doing, rather than do, broadcast, and then check-in relentlessly to see who has approved of my doings. It's a sad empty feeling and more and more I find myself staring longingly at my device, wishing for something to happen, instead of making something happen. Constantly comparing yourself to others can be destructive and time consuming.

Overall I am trying to check in less and when I have the urge to look at my phone that is a cue for me to refocus on my work or pick up my knitting or reading. Sometimes I succeed and other days I fail, some days I bargain.

Is it all bad? Personal development done privately in quiet spaces is ideal but one cannot ignore the aspirational qualities of social media, and like it or not it exists in our society. Does this make us falsely more cautious about how we represent ourselves, or do those representations stand up as a higher view of our selves, an ideal to work toward.

I hope for the latter.

I believe strongly in the importance of daily exercise. I walk 3 miles each day, up and down my rural road. I often record observations of those daily walks to use as markers to myself and also to help inspire others in their daily practice of movement. This is one of the positive aspects of a site like Instagram, building connection and community through the use of common hashtags. In this way we connect to others and this is beneficial for creatives I believe.

I live in a place of tremendous natural beauty, I enjoy documenting my surroundings. These photos are a record and also a clue to what I am reacting to in my environment and why. Occasionally I make a good picture and I genuinely want to share it with others whose opinion matters to me.

These days, I use Facebook less and less. I rarely type in a status update any longer for fear of the resulting sidebar ads. It's bad enough that my search histories reflect what appears in my news feed.  

Instagram is charming and easy and a picture is worth a thousand words. I find the feed inspiring and my own feed has become a great archive of my daily activities which I find useful for seeing my progress. Plus, I care about posting interesting well composed photos as a part of my #dailypractice. More and more I see social media as a great archive and record of my state of mind and that is actually a useful tool for me. I look back and see difficult moments represented in photos and written clues. When I first used Facebook I suppose I might have been more direct (although restrained, as I was trained to be in public) in my expression of my feelings about things that were happening in my life. Life changes of course and I can see how my relationship to social media as it develops as a norm within our culture is changing as well.  The creepy algorithm that directs what Facebook presents to me is troubling but I accept that it exists, so I use it cautiously.

There was a time I thought I could go without social media altogether but I must be honest, there is a tiny voice in me that wants to shout out to the other humans in the universe now and then, you never know what you will get back. The feeling of being connected to others is affirming. We are all going through similar life challenges.

Moderation and self reflection go a long way when faced with how to interact with social media. This experiment whose effects—developing for a decade now—will be felt and discussed for a long time. In my opinion it is an interesting tool but it's not the whole universe. Ok, better get this on Twitter...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Crash Course in Grief

Create a space to mourn and connect

How did you tell me? 

It came gradually. The words slow from your mouth. He is dead. Car crash. I know immediately. Suicide. You blinked, and your whole life changed. Your eyes are open, readjusting to a new reality. This boy, we were just getting to know is gone, forever at 18. Your heart is broken, mine is broken for you and for Calvin.

I bang pots making noise, so you can hear me in your room, so you know I am nearby.

I don't know how to mourn the loss of this much innocence and potential, but here I am, taking a crash-course. Getting through the first few days was key, setting a pace. We eat regularly and take quiet walks. The time crawls by. We watch animated movies. Your friends come to visit. On the third day after the death I decided to make a simple alter in our living room, a special place I could connect with my feelings about the loss of Calvin. There is a candle to light and let burn out into the night. There are 18 smooth glass stepping stones, one for each year of his short life. There is a small plate for offerings of food, and a vessel for notes of comfort, and questioning.

Grief is a mental and physical experience. I remember this from when my mother died 18 yrs ago. I know we will need time to think deeply about what has happened, so I have decided that we should observe a 49 day period of mourning. I am borrowing the time frame from a Buddhist tradition. They believe it takes these days for the soul to be reincarnated. We will take these 7 weeks to be purposeful in our grieving, and ever gentle with ourselves in these fragile times. I am determined that we can grow through this experience, that there will be something positive that comes from it. We have passed through the first week already.

A difficult farewell

I added pictures of Calvin to his alter after the Memorial today. It was wonderful to see how many friends he had and how supported his family will be. I have never felt so sad though, it is hard to see so many broken-hearted people. Among them, my one and only child. I will not rush this time. I will savor the humanness I feel. I will hold Calvin in my heart. I will speak his name. From this emotional chaos we will make order. We will make a circle around each other. We will weave this lost boy into our soft tissue. And carry him along.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Week 2, October 5-11: SMALL

handmade / living with less / quality over quantity / capsule wardrobe / indie fashion / small-batch makers / sustainability

When we make our own things the activity feeds us, slows us down and puts us in touch with a slower pace. For me, breaking things into tasks helps me move multiple projects along in a manageable way. I tend to sew in drips and drabs, sewing a seam here and there throughout a day. It is a pleasant and simple activity when broken into it's component parts.

When I look at the clothes I wear regularly, most of them are made by me, in fact as I make a mental list, it's impressive how many items I have produced over the years that I still wear. (taking a moment for small pat on back). This gives me impetus to try a little harder and add some new items.

This dress is part of a capsule wardrobe I'm developing for myself. The first one was made from a home made pattern based on a beloved J.Jill linen dress in black. I wore it to death. I have also worn the top two of these dresses more than is reasonable. I should really lengthen the pattern at the waist and spend more time finishing the garment. The top right is the one that I have been relying on for layering up over pants, with long sleeves underneath, or little button up shirts over top. These are mostly linen and cotton. I have considered making a version in Ponte de Roma or something a bit warmer for winter. You get a lot of bang for your buck in a simple dress, that is for sure.

So far this month I have finished the Miette Skirt in brown corduroy but honestly the fabric is way too heavy. I am thinking of deconstructing it and making it smaller, all the way around and then find some better weight fabric for the waste band and ties. Ah the joy of remaking...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Slow Fashion October

 I came across this on the internet last week and decided I would join in on Slow Fashion October, since it's something I am already doing, basically every month is a slow fashion month for me. 
The following prompt accompanied the post, so here goes.

Week 1,  October 1-4: YOU
First let’s introduce ourselves: Where are you at with all this / What first got you interested in Slow Fashion / What are your skills / What do you hope to get out of Slow Fashion October / What are your personal goals for the month / Do you have a special project you plan to tackle this month? 

Hi I'm Rowan, I am a 51yr old graphic designer and artist. I've made my own clothes on and off since I was in middle school. My mom always sewed her own clothes and also made things for us until we were at that regretful age when you suddenly can't tolerate home-made.  Obviously this is a generational thing. I was never a killer seamstress, tending toward lovely fabrics and super simple patterns that occasionally came across as dowdy but I have persevered and feel like I have a better grasp of how to make things fit better and of course my style has evolved over time.

Slow Fashion for me is becoming a political statement. More and more I feel I want to reject what fashion tells me I should like and buy. I hate how cheap everything has become. I want to dress practically for my lifestyle. I want my clothes to fit my body. I'm amazed by how long some clothes can stay in my wardrobe and be in service for years while others lose their usefulness. When I bought clothes I tried to adopt the spend more less often approach. 

My skills are varied. I sew, knit and felt. I am curious and will try just about anything once. My dad bought me a sewing machine when I graduated from high school and I still sew with it today. I just bought myself a used serger this spring, I'm super stoked about it. I am not the best crafts person but I am always trying to improve.

I hope to get inspiration to chip away at my sewing projects all month and into the future. I'm slowly formulating my wardrobe plan, taking note of what I like to make and wear and what looks good on. 

My personal goals are to finish a few projects already on the go and start a few more. 

No special goals to be stated, I just want to keep on making things. I'm excited to see what other folks are making.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Typical get up.

Sensible working outfit. Needs to be comfortable and durable in case I want to run my chainsaw. Pockets are a must. Large jewelry takes attention away from wear and tear on basic pieces of; pullover top, criss cross linen apron, second hand guess jeans. And boots! Of which there are many pairs to choose. Depending on weather and activity and ground to be covered on any given day. For a person who whines constantly about a lack of access to cute shoes, I sure have a lot of footwear.

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