14064049_10154561859572268_8199250885273091585_nI am in process of transitioning to a new single existence based in Cambridge, UK.  Having dissolved my old life in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, I am cycling through six weeks of travels and visits with friends and family before the final transit to my new home.  Taking this time, this pause between actions, has been so deeply grounding and nurturing.  The interval has permitted time for grieving and letting go of the old life, transiting through ever-changing emotions as I move toward the gateway to the new life.  As part of this time, I spent five days with my dear friend Nancy and her husband Francois in their sanctuary of a cottage on Lac Sheen in the Quebec woods.  It was a time of deep peace in stunning surroundings, early morning kayaking in perfect stillness, haunting loon calls in the wee hours, heart-to-heart talks, endless creation, afternoon lake swims, wonderful food and the gift of old friendship and new.  I was able to spend some of the time building components of my latest artist’s book, A Walk in Quebec Woods.  With periods of papermaking, suminagashi and acrylic marbling interspersed, it was a blessed time to deepen my bond with these dear friends and to soothe my soul in the waters of their magical lake.  

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1914753_1053798144661581_5564570931144068029_nIt’s been an uncharacteristically long time since I blogged here.  How considerably my life has changed in the last two years.  In the face of such enormous change and transition, adequate words have failed me and I’ve turned away from blogging on a regular basis.  Through it all, I have continued to work, to teach extensively and to write in different venues.  Interestingly, much of my work over the last year has related to art journaling, and I have finally achieved the break away from my attachment words that I sought for so long.
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I am drawn back to this blog at an interesting time.  Months ago, I wrote about the end of my thirty year marriage.  That has entailed a two year long process involving a combination of hard work and slow acceptance.  A year after my four months of travel through the UK and Europe with my daughter, I am now putting a change of life into process that began to formulate in those travels.

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By this time, I am replete from a month of farewell lunches, get-togethers and gatherings.  The tidal wave of love and caring I have received from coast to coast has tumbled me and humbled me, learning the depth of regard in which I am and have been held.  I rode the crest of that wave into my journey to a new life.  I finally resigned from my full time job, sold and disposed of most of my possessions and furniture, packed my suitcase and departed on a journey to finally becoming the fully itinerant artist and teacher I have worked so hard to be.  I am grounding firmly with six weeks of visits to dearest family and friends.  Once steady on my feet and ready for launch, I will board a plane with my daughter to return to our beloved England to make our home there once again.

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Is that the end of the story?  Oh no.  It is the barest beginning of the vision I have.  I have worked more than a decade to build a business that can come with me.  Though based in the United Kingdom, I will begin to more fully and regularly divide my time between Canada and the US and the United Kingdom.  Free of a demanding full time job, I will be able to turn more fully and readily to my studio to bring the many manifestations of my creative vision to life.

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As I dismantle my old life, I am quietly sweeping away my footprints behind me.  I am filled with love and gratitude for the life I have led the last twelve years, and to all those who have shared my path over those years.  It is time for a new path, stepping fully into the artistic life I was born for, and that has grown and grown around me over these years.  Riding the crest of that uplifting wave of love and regard, I go forward.  There is so very much to look forward to, and you will begin to see me in some new ventures and venues as the year advances.  Watch out for upcoming workshops and some new online workshops coming for 2017, two new articles in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine and my work venturing further afield for exhibition.  The images included in this blog post show two recent artist book works completed:  Anonymous and Rime.  You can check them out on my Facebook page!  I look forward to seeing you about.

552288_417112461663489_622665738_nWell, hello dear reader.  It’s been a little while.  I had all sorts of intentions during and following our travels.  I planned to blog profound thoughts about the magical journey of growth and discovery through Europe. I planned a photo-journal piece.  I planned to tell you all about my upcoming events for the New Year.  None of that came to pass.  The instant my feet touched back on Canadian soil, life took me by the scruff of the neck and shook me like an angry dog.  Nothing of what I expected happened when I arrived back home, and a whole lot else unexpected jolted me through the days.  The last three months have been a singularly painful series of awkward leaps from rock to rock, wobbling precariously while trying not to look at the chasm surrounding my feet. Poison darts of pain and sorrow, loss and tragedy, anguish and drama have peppered my hide.  Tonight, I am sitting with a glass of wine and a feeling of fragility, as though at the penetration of one more dart, I will fly apart into a thousand pieces.

My marriage of thirty years has ended.  There, I’ve said it publicly.  After a year and a half of anguish and pain and vague-booking, there comes a point where you just have to face up and fess up.  I don’t plan to go into revealing detail.  I do not seek sympathy.  The end of a deep, profound and lifelong relationship is never easy or painless and it’s been written about a million times.  That’s not my purpose for writing this post.  My focus has homed in on one particular consequence of my impending divorce that has driven me closer to heartbreak than any other.

In order to afford my home alone, I have to rent out a room.  My home contains three bedrooms:  mine, my daughter’s and my studio.  And so, with no palatable alternative choice than to sell my home, I took the only decision I could.  I must give up my studio to have a room to let out.

Ten years.  For ten blessed years, I have enjoyed my own creative space.  There has been a rending inside to give it up.  My steps have been slow, my actions listless and fragmented.  I have worked in fits and bursts to begin the transfer of my desk and some materials to a much reduced work area in my own bedroom, all the while my spirit screaming in protest.  I got a certain way and then ground to a halt.  My heart has been breaking to lose the sanctuary of that precious space, and I came to know in my deepest soul what it has meant to my creative development.

Working slowly through the process of clearing, understanding comes to me in fragments.  That a transformation is taking place.  That letting go of this physical space would be a leap of faith into the one I have built inside myself.  That I have to prepare for a different future. That I don’t know at all what the future beyond the next six months looks like, and how that scares me.  I continued to stall, trying to ready my spirit for the rending.  This womb-like, precious space upon which I can close the door has become as essential to me as breathing.  Even when I am not working in it, there is the knowledge of it, the comfort of that knowledge, held like a pearl against my heart.

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While this procrastination and processing went on, I turned my attention to other matters.  I stalled out on the work to move my creative space.  Nothing much happened for a week or two.

And then, a few days ago, the Universe stepped in to take the decision out of my hands.  A faulty sprinkler main on the third floor resulted in seven flooded units.  The flooding included my bedroom and studio, damaging or destroying half of my materials, boxes of documents and family photo albums, portfolios of artwork, handmade papers, leathers and old books.  Suddenly, the precious buffer I had built against the world lay in a sodden mess around me.  Something inside me seemed to break loose.

2016-01-13 16.38.24My first response was to weep.  Exhausted, overwhelmed and overloaded, I wept.  On the second day, as we worked to pull everything out, I wept again from exhaustion and heartbreak, from overload and embarrassment at the sheer volume.  I possess one drawing done by my artist brother, the most talented artist among the five children of my family, the brother who died in March.  Holding the wet, stained, torn drawing in my hands, again I wept.  And then I gathered myself up and I set to work.

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By the end of the second day, my sanctuary was an empty shell with ripped up carpet, about to lose drywall and ceiling.  The entire salvageable contents of my studio were stacked in the middle of my living room, awaiting insurance adjusters.  My home was strewn with books, artwork and papers drying on every available surface, the deck piled with the unsalvageable paper and materials.  I felt fragile.  I lay on the couch late into the night in the silence of the empty house, surrounded by the dark hulks of upended furniture and piled belongings, and wept out all the accumulated pain, all the anguish of the last eighteen months, far beyond the loss of my studio.  And then I slept.

2016-01-13 16.38.38On the third day, I woke into a feeling of grace and acceptance, my heart at peace with a certainty that an important course correction was taking place.  I needed to let go.  I needed to emerge from behind the barricading walls of a studio full of amulets and talismans and touchstones and anchors.  I needed to trust that the creative space I had built existed within me and was not dependent on location.  I needed to trust in the strength of that structure and prepare myself for a different way of working.  I needed to release the mountain of art materials and teaching supplies, of old artwork and product and memorabilia to concentrate on what I enjoyed and did well.  The Universe had known it, even if I hadn’t.  It stepped in to force my hand.

2016-01-15 20.39.32Suddenly, despite effort and loss adjusters and insurance claims and a home in chaos and plans thrown into disarray, there was a lift in my heart.  The act of emptying my studio had been forced upon me.  In doing so, in seeing the task done, I felt released.  The burden of the decision making was lifted from my shoulders, the choices and decisions of what to keep and what to discard reduced by half.  I had been able to step through that doorway.  I felt liberated and gifted with an opportunity to reset, to redesign and revision.  To prepare.

And there, in that moment, I let go.

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  This year, I am undertaking a four-month leave of absence from my work, studio practice and teaching in order to travel the UK and Europe with my 16-year-old daughter.  My studio is packed up, my home rented out and my life on hold.   

We are now nearly seven weeks into this 15-week adventure.  When I left off my last post, we were still drifting about Norfolk in idle exploration.  Since then, we have completed more than three weeks of WWOOFing – volunteering our labour on organic farms in exchange for food and lodging.  Evenings and days off, we bus around Cambridgeshire, endlessly curious to discover, see and experience.
 The intellectual tasks of planning and organizing placements could not prepare me for the profound impact this life would have on my spirit and psyche.  The trip was intended as a gift for my daughter, yet has filled my lap with gifts of a different sort.   

 The greatest gift has been to my relationship with my daughter.  Teenagehood and menopause make for volatile housemates.  After a couple of years of constant conflict, we were far apart and individually worried about how we could possibly survive this trip.  Prior to our departure, I joked that we would either grow closer or only one of us would come back alive.  

These weeks have seen us in each other’s company 24 hours a day, sharing a tent or a room.  We ought to have been ripping each other’s throats out by now.  Yet, curiously, the reality has been quite different.  We talk.  Deeply.  We laugh uproariously in a way we never have.  We cry sometimes as the multiple griefs of the last two years work their way out of our flesh.  And we are silent together.  The little conflict that has arisen has been openly resolved.  I see a deepening maturity in her.  I see a deepening wisdom in myself.  The  profound gift of an opportunity to see each other differently has allowed us to break the pattern and forge a new path.  I love this girl more fiercely than ever.  Over these weeks, I have come to know how very much I like her.  Better still, I have learned to truly respect her.  I have witnessed a similar dawning in her eyes.  And through the gift of this time, I have finally learned to let go. 

 As this learning has come home to me, I have felt my spirit open like a flower.  We have spent these weeks living alongside others, often complete strangers thrown together.  Through it, I have felt by times exhilarated, anxious, joyful, scared, happy and resentful.  Everything about this trip has stripped me bare and hammered me hard in the areas I most desperately need to learn and develop.  Every day, I learn lessons of restraint, of humility, of service and sacrifice.  Of circumspection and respect.  Every day, I find these gifts within myself, resources to draw upon as I feed my soul from the land’s beautiful cycles.  From this time, new friendships are growing, my circle is widening and I am learning new things and remembering old ones I thought I had long forgotten.  Through it all, I am deeply, profoundly, lastingly in love.  Prayers of gratitude tremble on my lips a dozen times a day.  I am so grateful for the learning.   

 

  What momentous times!  Teaching assignments completed, the year advancing, we are already three weeks into our Grand Adventure before there has been a chance to share it with you.   After spending two weeks around family in Norfolk, England, we are enjoying some time with dear friends near Lichfield, Staffordshire before moving on to a sequence of organic farm placements around the UK.   

    
 My studio is packed up, my tools reduced to a neat little travel binding kit I contrived in a spectacle case, and my eye and mind are teeming with ideas and nourishment from this complete change of pace and lifestyle. 

  This is a whole new experience for both of us.  Serious travel, not on ‘vacation’ as such, it has been hard to downshift mental and physical pace.  Hard to resist my natural propensity to collect, learning to be present with the places and moments empty-handed.  I am sketching and journaling nearly every day and just feeding, feeding, feeding the fires within.  My work coffers at home are empty after selling several pieces before I left, so I am gearing toward a period of high production over the winter.  I’ll have plentiful material to draw upon! 

 Finding different selves, different relationships with ourselves, each other and our friends and family along the way, this is a stretching and testing experience for us all.  My daughter and I have learned a new respect for each other.  When people said this would be life changing, I wasn’t sure.  Yet the gifts that are delivered every day humble and stretch me.  What more could I hope for than the gift of growth?  I hope your own summer is delivering gifts to your door.  Enjoy! 

 

Oh my dears, Spring is in my blood!  My eyes see her colours everywhere; drink in the high, flawless azure of the Alberta sky; scent the rich loam thawing under the sun’s gentle caress.  The blood is racing in my veins like sap rising.  I’ll have to strap myself to the saddle to keep my seat on the gallop this season will bring.

There is so much to do.  I will be teaching solidly through March, April and May, before taking off on a three-and-a-half-month adventure with my daughter . . . .

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March and April

The first offering is a two-part workshop, “The Book as Art”, being held here in our stunning Bow Valley of Alberta.  I have not offered a workshop like this here since 2011.  It’s my custom to repay my community every year for its support by offering locally-delivered workshops at greatly discounted rates. I am offering these workshops for just $100 plus a $15 materials fee for two 12-6pm days.  This is a third or less of what you might expect pay to join me for these workshops elsewhere, so it’s well worth the journey if you’re willing to make it.  Part 1 is 21 March 2015, and part 2 is 4 April 2015.  If you are interested to take a spot or two, please message me through my contact form.

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I am also offering my training workshop “The Care and Mending of Books” at various times and locations in Alberta.  This is a workshop I have delivered to the staff of public, university and school libraries for a few years.  I taught it at the Canadian Library Association Conference in Victoria, BC last May and have now been asked to offer it in Alberta.  This is a full-day workshop and I have one or two places available at the Three Hills Public Library, Three Hills, Alberta on 28 March, and also at the Paul D. Fleck Library at the Banff Centre in Banff on April 7th.   The cost is $150 per person.  Please contact me if you are interested in attending.

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The Care and Mending of Books Workshop

A healthy collection is a happy collection!  Is packing tape your best book mending friend?  Join Dea Fischer of Canmore Public Library to learn the skills and tools you need to mend and repair your own materials.  Extend the life of your collection materials at minimum cost, and reduce your reliance on bindery fees and replacement materials.

In our morning session, you will learn and practice repair techniques on several most common repairs (e.g., broken spine, torn pages, replacing pages, repairing torn hinges).  In our afternoon session, you will learn and practice more advanced mending and conservation techniques, including re-casing a book, replacing a spine, repairing and reinforcing corners.  During the day, you will also learn aspects of collection maintenance and handling, and some reinforcement techniques to avoid or delay some common problems.  You will also participate in a question and answer session to deal with your mending and repair questions.

May

Then, in mid-May, I am flying to Portland, Maine.  I am excited and delighted to be the featured artist at a getaway with Idyllworks of Maine!

Idyllworks offers extraordinary getaways for busy women around the globe to connect and unwind. Designed to encourage relaxation and spark creativity, each of their getaways is a unique opportunity that I’m thrilled to be a part of.

One of the perks of making a living as an artist is that I get to share my craft with others. At this getaway I’ll have the opportunity to teach an intimate group in a beautiful setting about what I do and spend the weekend with them as they embrace their own creative spirit.

I’ll be working with guests to hand construct your own unique and beautiful long-stitch journal.  You will then go on to work with another featured artist, Leslie Beattie, to work on content for your lovely journals.  As an added bonus, this getaway takes place in gorgeous coastal Maine. When we’re not developing our artistic skills, there will be plenty of time to explore the surrounding areas or relax on the porch and take in the views from Grey Havens Inn.

Find out more about the getaway here. It’s worth mentioning that Idyllworks accepts both full retreat registration and also day registration for those living more locally.  I would love to have you share this incredible experience with me!

Idyllworks_for_Day_Students__Page_1 What’s next?

June through October this year, I am so excited to be taking a leave of absence in order to travel through the UK and Europe with my beautiful, soon-to-be-graduating daughter, Millie.  It’s in the nature of a grad trip and the chance to move her toward her goal of attending the UK art school her father graduated from.  I am working on setting up some teaching in the UK while I’m there, so watch this space and I’ll let you know.

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And of course, if you aren’t able to join me for one of these great workshop opportunities, I have an instructional DVD and download with Cloth Paper Scissors: “Handmade Book Essentials”, and a web seminar, “Tags, Flags and Memories” available from the Interweave Store and Craft Daily.  Whatever you do, I hope you will get out, get your hands mucky and your heart singing this spring!

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This is my Fifty-one-year-old-day-off-face selfie. Freshly scrubbed, no makeup or hairdo. Looking in those windows to see how I’m faring in this enormous life transition. A bit less tear-swollen, a little less haunted maybe. Still standing. Feeling love and empathy and caring and gratitude for my husband and my daughter as we help each other through each day with loving kindness. One more day.

2014 will bear a single word to mark its passage:  Transition

I have wrestled around with what the next blog post would be, with how on earth I would address the changes occurring in my life.  In my perspective.  In my learning.  In my family.  In the very fabric of my Self.  Then, today, I saw this quote from Ernest Hemingway:

about-what-hurts-670x321Today, I am deep in a pile of pillows and quilts, nursing aches and pains everywhere as the ubiquitous ‘flu virus burns its way through my body.  It is another day like so many there have been over the last four or five months, when I am alone in a silent and empty house, filled with the loudness of silence created by absence.  I read this quote and was immediately resolved to tell it how it is.  Not pretty.  Not easy.  Not sweet.  Life hurts like hell at this time in my life.  I’ve carried on with my work, my life, my service to my community, my caring for my home and family.  Behind it all, I am weeping.  Three months ago, my husband of nearly 30 years and I separated.  In the aftermath, all I ever thought I knew has crashed into brittle shards, and I am engulfed by silence, deafened by the blast wave.

The whys and hows are known to a few, and really aren’t the issue.  We continue every day to work as a family to help each of us through this time with loving kindness.  We are close.  We are working hard.  We will resolve, and we will move forward, one way or another.  Whatever the eventual outcome will be, we have been grieving the separation for three months now, with no ease yet coming to our divided life.  I turn to my studio, to the pages of my journal, to my tools and supplies and can find no expression of the revolution going on inside me.  The soul agony and grief cannot be denied, but there is some good to come from it too.  We have some distance, an ability to back up far enough to get the whole picture into the viewfinder; to see what is good and what is not good; to see what we treasure and refuse to lose.  It has been hard to speak brutal truths to myself, to be honest about my ways of doing things that helped bring us to where we are.  To find strength to learn and grow without sinking into self blame.

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Teaching at CREATE in both Dallas and Seattle this fall gave me a chance for distance and thought.  It was with deep sadness that I received the recent announcement that CREATE has come to an end.  I am so deeply grateful for the creativity, travel and kindred spirits my participation in CREATE brought me.  How much I will miss the opportunity to see all of you!  Among the other endings of my life, this news brought home the deep sense that life is going into a major transition.  The path before my creative feet is well illuminated, and I feel sure of the direction I should take while I wait to learn what comes next.  Change1

I have been overwhelmed by the gifts this year has also brought.  The growing opportunities, the open-hearted reception to my work when I have finally let these difficult stories be told and expressed. The work that has emerged from my hands over the last two or three years has all been about healing journeys.  In the next month, an editorial article will be published in Pages magazine featuring the body of work created around the loss of our children and the birth and life of our daughter.  The series is long from finished, and even in this, I believe the story is not over.  There is a new beginning in here somewhere.  I don’t know what it is yet, or whether it will be with my life partner’s hand in mine or alone.  But somewhere in amongst all the tears and the grief and the pain, there is a kernel of hope in the future.  The last few months have been all about endings.  An ending of one thing always heralds the beginning of something else.  I can feel its approach, even if I can’t yet make out its features in the gloom.  holding hands