Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Hallowe'en


Hope you have a marvellous Hallowe'en! I decided to carve a hippo-jack-o-lantern. I'm planning to hand out candy to the kids, with Mom (who doesn't get any kids in her condo, so she invited herself over in exchange for a chili dinner, which sounds like a good deal to me).

It's a big news day in Toronto. No rest for the journalists, so it's just me and Mom.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tips for Craft Sale Season - in Today's Parent, November issue


TodaysParentToday's Parent interviewed me recently about my tips for making a successful craft show display. The resulting article appears in the November issue, page 140, in the Toronto News About Town: shopping, tips & bright ideas section! You can see it electronically and download the issue here. They selected my Frog and Lily linocut (and a tiny head shot by RJH). I'm flattered to see they've identified me as an 'expert'.

On page 144, they have 'to market, to market', a guide to Toronto seasonal craft markets and more, including the Shopcats Pop-Up Winter Show at Scadding Court, which runs through to December. This nifty shipping-container housed shop is one of very few places I'll be showing my prints this season.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nearing the end of the alphabet

These letters are all available in at least 5 colours or patterns. Each sheet is only 14.8 cm or 5⅞ inches square.

S is for snail

R is for rooster

W is for (humpback) whale

V is for (turkey) vulture

X is for Xenopus, the African clawed frog or platanna

Only two letters left to go: Y and Z. I'm almost finished my quilt too. I went and bought the batting and fabric I needed so I really want to complete the alphabet and the quilt both.

Today, however, I must go bake a birthday cake for my father.

Hope you're enjoying your weekend!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

In the Round

RoundI've been preparing artwork for a great little gallery next to Trinity-Bellwoods park, called Graven Feather. The artists who run the gallery are printmakers (and the nicest gallery owners I've ever met). They use half their space as a print studio and teaching space and regularly hold shows in the surrounding space. I like to pop in whenever I go to the Paper Place to feed my washi habit gather more supplies. I was there early in the summer and heard about this large group show: artists were invited to create works on round cardboard coasters. They hoped to cover their walls with them. I thought it was a great idea, but I wasn't certain I would want to participate in an artshow in my 9th month of pregnancy. But, they recently sent me an email to ask me to publicize their call for artists to the Toronto Etsy Street Team and specifically invited me to take part and I couldn't resist. So, when I was at the Ex for the Fall Home Show, I stopped by to register and get my six coasters. The idea is that artists fill the ~ 4" or 10 cm diameter coaster footprint and can even build outward into the third dimension (which really intrigued me, though most of what I do is pretty 2D). So, some of my creations here are maybe more like 2.5D (not that I'm nerdy enough to calculate their fractal dimension or anything...).


I had to include a white squirrel, considering the gallery's proximity to Trinity-Bellwoods and White Squirrel Way. So, I printed my 'Legendary White Squirrel of Trinity-Bellwoods' block onto Japanese kozo paper and wood veneer, to make this multimedia 'White Squirrel'.


I left registration late so didn't have the time to carve any circular blocks expressly for this project - but I knew my miniprints would work well. I printed my 'Winged Walrus' block on a silvery pearlescent cardstock, kozo and assorted translucent Japanese tissue papers to make this piece.


I likewise reused my 'T.Rex with Flowers' block to make this collaged linocut with multiple Japanese and other papers, and some embellishing with pen and ink.


I've used my 'Hand-Held Harpy' miniprint block to make a series of multimedia pieces. This one includes the linocut on various washi, embroidery floss and nylon ribbon with some pen and ink and pencil.


I particularly liked how the fossil skeletons turned out, so I made 'Fossil Cliffs' using a detail of the 'Mary Anning' linocut on kozo paper.


I wanted to use my sailing ship from 'Sails' and imagined the vessel sailing right out of the plane of the coaster. What I came up with, in order to use my existing block, has the vessel directed about 30o out of the plane. I printed it on heavy, wood-like, textured, Japanese cardstock, which I folded into shape. I added a linocut printed deck to the vessel (which you can see if you look down at it, but is a challenge to photograph). Each of the sails, printed on a variety of patterned (mostly screenprinted) Japanese is papers is bent, rolled and folded to make it protrude, like it is billowing in the wind. Then, all the rigging which I have previously just printed in ink, I painstakingly sewed, wove and knotted in linen thread. The piece also includes translucent, Japanese tissue papers and washi tape. A low angle shot might give you more sense of the depth.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chien-Shiung Wu, Courageous Hero of Physics

Mme Wu
Check out this Ada Lovelace Day post on the Scientific American Guest Blog by Maia Weinstock.

It's an engaging biography of the 'First Lady of Physics', sometimes called the 'Chinese Marie Curie', the incomparable experimentalist Chien-Shiung Wu. It features my linocut 'Madame Wu and the Violation of Parity'! I'm a fan of Wu's and have read other biographies, but I learned some new details, particularly about her early life and career, and about the theoretical debates prior to her experiment. I hadn't realized that Feynmann first floated the idea that perhaps parity was not conserved, before the theorists Lee and Yang delved in, and then sought Wu's advice in the hopes she could design and execute an experiment corroborating their theory. 

Mary Anning, Great Fossil Hunter & Paleontology Pioneer for Ada Lovelace Day

AdaLovelaceIIToday is the fifth annual international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology, science and math, Ada Lovelace Day 2013 (ALD13). I'm sure you'll all recall, Ada, brilliant proto-software engineer, daughter of absentee father, the mad, bad, and dangerous to know, Lord Byron, she was able to describe and conceptualize software for Charles Babbage's computing engine, before the concepts of software, hardware, or even Babbage's own machine existed! She foresaw that computers would be useful for more than mere number-crunching. For this she is rightly recognized as visionary - at least by those of us who know who she was. She figured out how to compute Bernouilli numbers with a Babbage analytical engine. Tragically, she died at only 36. Today, in Ada's name, people around the world are blogging 

I've been thinking for a while about whom I would like to portray, in a new print, and write about for Ada Lovelace Day. Emmy Noether has been on my 'to do' list for a while.  When I was taught Noether's Theorem, which related symmetries to conservation laws, I was absolutely flabbergasted. It's one of the most profound ideas in physics (and hence a pretty fundamental aspect of the universe as we know it). It's downright astounding that she isn't a household name (and remember, we do know the names of many male theoreticians even if an understanding of their work is uncommon). I experienced one of those - perhaps transcendental - flashes of insight where I suddenly 'saw' how the theorem was true. I think those moments actual explain why many people choose to be scientists; there's nothing like it. I don't know that I can explain it fully and I'm not sure I can explain the beauty of Noether's Theorem without spontaneously trying to teach anyone willing to listen a term of classical mechanics. I definitely do not know how to convey its meaning in a portrait... though as you can see from my portrait of Lady Ada Lovelace that I am willing to carve actual equations (in reverse, no less!) to show what a person accomplished, but the fact is that even if you do not understand the computation of Bernouilli numbers the meaning of the print is conveyed; Ada showed how the calculations could be done mechanically, on Charles Babbage's wondrous computing engine. To really let anyone understand Noether's tremendous accomplishment, I would need to make Noether's Theorem transparent... though I'm sure most artists would not feel constrained by this requirement. As I've yet to figure out how to do so, I wanted to select someone's whose achievements were more accessible and obvious to understand.
Mary Anning

Mary Anning (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847) was the wrong class, the wrong sex and even the wrong religious denomination to gain the education, opportunity to work and communicate her results or to garner any respect as a pioneering paleontologist. Further, during her lifetime most people in Britain and elsewhere thought the Earth was a mere few thousand years old, based on a very literal interpretation of the Bible and found the idea of extinction did not fit in with the story of creation. Yet, her fossil discoveries, meticulous collection, documentation and independent work to fully understand the anatomy of the amazing Jurassic creatures she encountered in famed Blue Lias cliffs of Lyme Regis, Dorset, England, were so undeniable that she gained the recognition, admiration and respect of the paleontologists of the day. Others working in the field at the time were almost uniformly male, upper class and Anglican - most of them in fact were clergymen; while Dissenters like Anning were banned from university, the army and several professions. It's hard to fathom today the way that the contributions of working class people could be blatantly ignored or appropriated by their so-called 'betters'. During her lifetime she was barred from even attending meetings of the Geological Society of London (let alone applying for membership) because of her sex and many wealthy "paleontologists" published claims of discovery based on having purchased fossils from Anning and other working class fossil hunters (neglecting to mention Anning's name or contribution). Nonetheless, many contemporary geologists and paleontologists became so impressed with her knowledge that they would visit her to consult on the anatomy and classification of fossil finds as well as collaborate on what we would today call field studies, including her friend Henry De la Beche, William Buckland (who acknowledged her role in recognizing the significance of coprolite to the Geological Society), Richard OwenThomas Hawkins (whom she chastised for 'enhancing' his fossil skeletons by mixing finds before this unscientific habit resulted in scandal), Roderick Murchison, the famed Swiss palaeontologist Louis Agassiz (who thanked her in his book Studies of Fossil Fish, and named two species in her honour). She corresponded with the foremost geologists of her day, Charles Lyell, and Adam Sedgwick who taught Darwin. 

MaryAnningDetail Her family was poor and her parents struggled with adequately support their 10 children (only two of whom survived infancy and childhood). Mary's formal education only included reading and writing which she was taught by the local Congregationalist school. Her father was a cabinet maker (who tragically died young) who like other locals supplemented his income by selling 'curios' to tourists, which were mainly ammonite fossils called 'snake stones' at the time. I've shown two of these spiral, fossil shells of these extinct cephalopods in my print. Mary made her living by selling fossils from a small roadside stand and ultimately a small store she set up in her home. She made her first significant find, the first ichthyosaur skeleton to be correctly identified, with her brother Joseph when she was only 12 years old. I've shown Mary Anning standing in front of the Blue Lias cliffs in front of an ichthyosaur skeleton, like the one she painstakingly excavated. She discovered and excavated the the first two plesiosaur skeletons ever found and the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany as well as many important fossil fish. I've also taken the artistic license to show a plesiosaurus fossil above her, based on one she herself found. The cliffs I've illustrated are so packed with fossils, not to underplay the work of finding these fossils, but to try and illustrate the some of the huge scope of her finds. She also worked on invertebrates. Her research showed that belemnite fossils contained fossilised ink sacs like those of modern cephalopods. She was also the first to recognize that coprolites, known as bezoar stones at the time, were fossilised... well, animal droppings (feces). While this sounds distinctly unglamorous, the study of coprolites pioneered by Anning and Buckland were vital to understanding ancient ecosystems. Her friend Henry De la Beche painted the first widely circulated representation of a prehistoric (deep time) scene, based on her finds, and he sold prints to benefit her financially.

Despite her limited formal education she read the scientific literature of the day, copying technical anatomical diagrams and made her own dissections of animals to make comparative studies with her fossil finds. Despite the many barriers to her, she did succeed in having her 1839 letter to the editor Magazine of Natural History published, which corrected an erroneous claim about the classification of extinct sharks.

Gathering fossils along the cliffs, especially following storms when new fossils could be found due to the recent erosion and during the winter months was dangerous work. The tides could come in quickly and the cliffs were not always stable. She narrowly escaped being crushed in a landslide which claimed the life of her faithful dog Tray.

MaryAnning - a detailThough she resented the way her own work was ignored or appropriated by others, she did become increasingly well-known, as her life advanced and posthumously. She struggled financially for most of her life, and she did receive help from colleagues who held her in high esteem. Nine years before her death she was given an annuity, raised by members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of London.  After she was diagnosed with cancer, in 1846 the Geological Society raised money from its members to help with her expenses and the council of the newly created Dorset County Museum made her an honorary member. When she died, Henry De la Beche wrote and read her eulogy at a Geological Society meeting beginning,
"I cannot close this notice of our losses by death without advertising to that of one, who though not placed among even the easier classes of society, but one who had to earn her daily bread by her labour, yet contributed by her talents and untiring researches in no small degree to our knowledge of the great Enalio-Saurians, and other forms of organic life entombed in the vicinity of Lyme Regis ..."
Members of the Society commissioned stained glass windows in her parish church in her memory. Charles Dickens wrote of her in 1865 that "[t]he carpenter's daughter has won a name for herself, and has deserved to win it." 

She has since been recognized for her scientific contributions by the Royal Society, paleontologists, geologists, historians of science and even in some popular culture. She is the subject of the well-known tongue-twister
She sells seashells on the seashore
The shells she sells are seashells, I'm sure
So if she sells seashells on the seashore
Then I'm sure she sells seashore shells.
She appears in in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969) by John Fowles, and she is the subject of the historical novels Remarkable Creatures (2009) by Tracy Chevalier and Curiosity (2010) by Joan Thomas.

This post contains much information from the remarkably thorough wikipedia entry on Mary Anning, the Natural History Museaum biography of Mary Anning (which calls her "the greatest fossil hunter ever known") and though it was a novel and takes some license with personal relationships for the sake of an engaging story, the very enjoyable 'Curiosity' (2010) by Joan Thomas (which I reviewed here). 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Change Table

change table

RJH built a change table! Isn't it awesome? He's pretty handy, but he basically taught himself to make furniture. The drawers have dovetail joints and the piece holding the change pad has box joints. There are magazines about woodworking scattered thoughout the house. He found instructions inspired by a piece you could purchase for an outrageous sum from Restoration Hardware, and then made all sorts of changes where he thought they were cutting corners (why use screws if you can use dowels!). Then when he was finishing he found the original which had inspired the plans and realized that he actually built something far more sturdy and complex.

I had a good laugh when Portlandia did a skit about a local monthly newspaper's "Man Issue" about a well, basically a hipster douche who decides to become a (as it turns out, very bad) furniture maker and the women swoon and say things like how he could make a crib for their baby. RJH said defensively that he was only making a change table... and that I was laughing a little too hard. But of course, he did an amazing job, is very unhipsterish and did this on top of working very long hours at work.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fall Home Show

etsyFHS3I went to check out the Fall Home Show with Mom today. I think the Etsy booth was the loveliest. Everything in it was made by a Canadian Etsy seller - everything from furniture to art to vintage finds.


You can see my thermochromic Schrödinger's cat and the cloned sheep in Hello Dolly! on the table. Chemistry, showing the couple and the molecular structure of their pheremones is in the cabinet.

There were some familiar pieces by local talents like Avril Loreti and Miss Quite Contrary, who I know from the Toronto Etsy Street team, and other great makers and curators from coast to coast.

Etsy Canada has posted some photos and more are expected on the HGTV site soon. Love their by-line 'Decorate your home with meaning'

Thursday, October 3, 2013

more letters

I've also been working away at the alphabet of monograms. Just R,S, V, W, X, Y, and Z left! I've made h for hippo, k for koala and p for parrot.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

ships & unicorns & exotic papers

I haven't posted all of my most recent work. Here is some of what I've been working on.... partially because sending work off to be sold in shops has forced me to look over my inventory and my hoard collection of beautiful and exotic papers. As well as copious amounts of Japanese washi, I have Chinese papers, and everything from wood veneer paper to papyrus.