Thursday, August 24, 2006

Good News Amid Total Panic...

Good news that many of our designs out there have been removed from the sites that were hosting them. Like mushrooms, I am sure that they will pop up again because speaking out against something that is wrong does tend to make one a bit of a target, but I needed that sense of accomplishment amid today’s horrid adventures. IF I believed in biorhythms, mine today would have been flat line. Everything that could slow things down, mess things up etc. seemed to be happening on a day when I was determined to get the 3rd to last illustration finished.

While the girls were out at VBS, the phone rang, the fax machine jammed, the washer got off cycle, and some of the socks fell into the garden instead of staying on the clothesline. The girls came home and I fed them a quick lunch, letting them picnic in the living room since Mommy had once again strewn the dining room table with every box of pencil crayons and felt pens that she owned. The girls were a bit wound from the morning’s activities, so I suggested the slip in a DVD to wind down a little. All went well for a while and I got the colouring and markering done then prepared to start inking the picture.

About halfway through the inking process, with the girls getting a bit rambunctious again, I moved my hand too quickly and smudged a whole section of the pigma marker detail!! I could have screamed!! I could have curled up in the corner and sobbed! I wanted to just rip everything to shreds and whirl around in the confetti bits as if trapped in some kind of giant snow globe!! But I didn’t. I did the logical thing and removed the children from the area, sending them to their rooms to play so that they wouldn’t accidentally be chewed up and spat out as I tried to deal with the panic and the “I’VE KILLED IT!!” reaction. This is where drawing by hand doesn’t come with an “undo” command!!! Poor Nick happened to call about then and when he asked if I wanted him to come home soon, I resisted the urge to yell “About 4 hours ago!!!” and instead just bit his head off... Sigh! Poor, patient husband living with a volatile dragon!!!

I had a sudden idea that coating the area with a thin layer of white gouache paint might give me a base to hide things under and camouflage the massive oops... but at that point I needed another soul who understood what I was going through and how hard I was trying not to cry or barf on my drawing!!! Luckily, Teresa was very understanding and supportive, making the appropriate sympathy noises in all the right places, despite the fact that I was interrupting her sweet corn canning. (Thanks!!!!) She agreed that gouache might do the trick, so at least I could get air into my lungs again by the time I ended the call. Upstairs I ran to put a light coat of gouache on the afflicted area before we headed over to a friend’s house for dinner. Tonight was the “thank you” dinner on their new deck which Nick helped build. It was wonderful not to have to cook or do dishes (they own a dishwasher... I am the dishwasher in our house!) but I admit that I didn’t fully relax or breathe deeply until about an hour ago when I finished the drawing. When I called Nick over to have a look, he couldn’t tell where the oops had been, so I am cautiously optimistic that the author and the digital camera won’t pick it up either. If they do, I will do a bit of touch up in Photoshop once the image is digital.

It takes courage to keep working on something when you think all hope is lost. It takes maturity not to walk away from disaster or make it worse in anger and frustration. My kids will see me deal with defeat and turn it into something beautiful. This is the greatest challenge and reward for any creative soul. Never give up.... even when all you see is the ashes!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Because Words Really DO Matter...

Tonight was SO amazing that I almost don’t know where to begin! I’m down to the last 3 illustrations for the book, including the huge double page spread for the centre of the book (which really should count for 2...) and feeling a bit frantic with the deadline for getting everything to the printers for September 6th.

Nick got free tickets to EVENINGSIDE tonight, in the tradition of Peter Gzowski to help raise funds for literacy before the PGI tournament here in Moncton tomorrow. We got the girls favourite baby sitter to come over early so that Nick and I could sneak out for a quick sushi fix before the show started. It was held at the Capitol Theatre downtown, a beautifully restored old theatre and the variety of the program would have made Peter Gzowski proud. For those of you who aren’t Canadians, Peter was a very famous broadcaster , reporter and writer who hosted the CBC radio show MORNINGSIDE for many years. Mr. Canada was a fixture on the radio every morning for many of us growing up. 20 years ago, he got together with a couple of friends and held a golf tournament to raise money for and awareness about literacy. Moncton has actually raised the most money of any city in Canada with its yearly tournament, far more than cities many times its size such as Toronto or Vancouver. It was truly a night to celebrate our cultural diversity and our community’s generosity.

I am such a voracious reader, and I learned to read so early, that for many years, I truly did not grasp what problems those who cannot read face each and every day of their lives. I simply could not imagine someone not wanting to, or even not being able to, curl up with a good book and escape. Let’s face it... I was a reading snob!

Then along came my daughter, Bethany. Unlike her older sister, Bethany showed little interest in reading and putting letters, sounds or words together. This could have had something to do with the fact that Erin, four years older and eager to prove her superiority, would always jump in and read the word before Bethany was halfway through sounding out the first syllable! Suddenly, I could see that to learn to read was harder for some than others. At one point I despaired that Bethany would never read well in English before she went into Grade 1 Immersion... and then the reading bug bit! While she prefers to read Neopets magazines and the text in the Harvest Moon games, she will also pull out a picture book now and then to curl up with.

What must it be like to not love and revere the written word? What must it be like to be terrified that someone will ask you to read something and your secret will be out?? Tonight’s fundraiser and tomorrow’s tournament are all about helping others to learn to read.

What a night it was!! From the comedy of our local Hubcap Comedy Troop and Laura Earl to incredible readings by New Brunswick’s Lieutenant Governor the Honorable Herménégilde Chiasson and Myriam Cyr to incredible music by Blues master Marc-André Léger, Oumou Soumaré’s African songs and 3 songs by Canadian Idol Top 5 finalist Casey LeBlanc I’m not sure how loudly Erin will squeal when she wakes up tomorrow morning and finds the autographed copy of the new album from Braided . Erin is determined to audition for Canadian Idol as soon as she turns 16. It was fun for Casey to be back at the Capitol Theatre because that was where she auditioned for the show in the first place!

The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the readings by Peter Mansbridge and local radio host Rhonda Whittaker. They read some of the letters that Canadians has written in to Peter’s Morningside show over the years and shared stories about how important literacy became to him once a guest shared what a problem illiteracy was more than 20 years ago.

It was fun to meet him after the evening was over. I was wearing my 3” heels and I think he was a bit surprised at having to look up to Nick and I. He’s fairly tall himself, incredible well spoken and generous in carrying on this wonderful tradition in Peter’s memory.

Those of you who read this blog are not the ones who need help, but I am thinking about creating a special dragon with a book to add to the sample page of our website once things calm down a bit. Those who attend my classes at the CSNF in October will probably be the first to get their claws on this as a class treat, but I think it is important to create something to raise awareness, celebrate a love of reading and of course urge people to read to a child or volunteer their time to help someone learn to read.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Moving On Does Not Mean Goodbye!

The outpouring of messages that drifted into my e-mail since my last post, the comments posted here and on my Multiply site have prompted me to blog tonight to clarify what I meant.

Part of the switch for this blog and our website in the last year has been to reflect the greater view of my life as an artist, instead of only a needlework designer. I have always loved to make pictures, create images, play with craft supplies, dream and imagine possibilities that don’t have to be anchored by laws of physics or practicality. To be creative is to always look for the possible impossible. To dream of unicorns and dragons.

For the past 12 years, I have been making most of my publicly recognized images with needle and thread. Ever since I began doing cross stitch, I have imagined pictures made up of little stitches, written poems that begged to have bands of stitches or tiny images enhance the words or added sparkle and shine to imaginary creatures that I could never have done with watercolour or pencil. The fact that some of my ideas literally do not leave me in peace until I put them onto graph paper will not change... I doubt I will ever walk away from needlework completely, because it brings me the most amazing satisfaction to watch something grow stitch by stitch until suddenly... you have a picture!!

What has kept me enthused about stitching this summer, amid all the chaos of the show we traveled to and the book illustrations, is looking forward to the CSNF show in Toronto later this fall. Like the chance to meet store owners in person at a trade show, this incredible multi-craft extravaganza lets me RECHARGE my creative batteries instead of depleting them. Spending time with stitchers is one of the most rewarding experiences I can think of... to get their feedback on a new design that comes out as a class before the rest of the world sees it... to spend time laughing and celebrating what we love about stitching... to fondle new fibres or play with new beads. That is what keeps me going through the grind of reporting illegal sites or firing off letters about infringements I see to other designers.

All creativity involves risk. No one knows that better than creative souls in our modern society. Arts and Music programs are slashed in schools. Songs, movies and patterns are traded electronically by people who truly don’t care that they are breaking the law. Ideas shared could be ideas stolen. But in a world that seems to focus so much on the negative and the horrific, those who create offer places of refuge, peace and enjoyment.

I just laughed and snorted my way through The Second Summoning by Tanya Huff that I found before our trip. Having the story set in Toronto and other parts of Ontario was just the icing on the cake. For the few hours it took me to devour the book (I’ve always been a speed reader in English. I’m about average pace in French) I was totally captivated by her witty style and knack for throwing in the neatest zingers. The book has now been fondly placed among the several hundred books that clog our basement shelves, to be enjoyed again someday.

This morning, after I pretty much averted the flooding of my office due to a freak 2 hours of rainfall (the carpet beneath the window is still a little soggy from the waterfall when I got the pump into the window well) the soothing sounds of Pachabel’s Canon restored my sense of calm as I settled down to complete another illustration. Just 5 more to go!!!

Without the creativity of others, my life would be so much poorer...

I just still don’t understand why or when it became acceptable to steal it?