I was recently asked by Sheryl at Flowery Prose if I would be interested in participating in “Blog Hop Around the World”. Sheryl is a blogger who lives only 100 miles south of the city we call home and writes some very interesting blog posts about gardening and other ramblings in our area (plus the odd cool recipe to boot!) I will admit I have never done such a thing before, but hey, there is a first time for everything. “Blog Hop Around the World” focuses on a question/answer format sharing a little bit about our creative processes and what we “do”. I’ve met so many cool people through blogging, so perhaps through “Blog Hop Around the World” you will get to know me a little better and find out a bit more about what I do.
Before I jump into the questions I will share just a little background about myself as it might help as you read the answers to my questions.. The first thing I should mention is that I write three blogs: www.htheblog.wordpress.com , www.islandhomeblog.wordpress.com and www.debrahunter.wordpress.com . “H the Blog” is my catch all blog of family life, time at our cabin, works in progress (painting, photography, fibre art and knitting) and an occasional rant about government, development, the education system or big business (yep I have opinions and they are usually expressed in at least 5000 words!) Island Home Blog focuses on our home and experiences on Pender Island and is a blog filled with scenic views of beaches and beach life close-ups. The “Debra Hunter” blog features images from “Hunter Photographics” (my business), finished paintings, finished hand knit items (another business I have) plus fibre art pieces. The blog www.debrahunter.wordpress.com came about as a blog to share with customers. Originally H the Blog was supposed to fill that niche, but I couldn’t behave and keep my opinions to myself so it was just easier to create another blog (feel free to laugh….hey, I’m honest!). I often get asked “How do you keep three blogs going?”. I actually use the blogs as a way to time manage editing through images, which is usually between 30,000 – 50,000 a year not including photography for my business. I also use the blogs to monitor “work in progress”, and make sure I actually finish the pieces that I start. Blogging actually keeps me organized, which I need as it is pretty easy for our five children to derail me from what needs to be done.
So on with the questions…….
What are you working on?
As you probably have guessed I have a few things on the go at the moment. With my photography business recent work has been business photography, pregnancy photography, family portraits and photo restoration. In the last few years I have done a lot of business type work, which I really enjoy. There have been head shots, general meetings , still life and food photography. I think the thing I most enjoy about this type of work are the people you meet and the discussions you have. At the moment studio head shots is my favorite thing to shoot.
Knitting is currently keeping me busy. I have been knitting coffee and home related items that sell in shops in Red Deer and Banff, Alberta; I am always interested in working with shops that like to promote locally made items. I have also just started a batch of fingerless mitts which I am loving. I knit every day and I knit everywhere….in the car, on the ferry, at the cabin, on play dates. I have also started crocheting mini animals which are HUGELY popular with my children.
My painting focuses on nature. Recently I seem to be following two different themes, one of seaside images inspired by Pender Island, and another a theme of Alberta’s non-urban spaces of forests and rural areas. The last few paintings have frustrated me, the color just hasn’t seemed right, which I think is due to the fact that I have been doing a lot of picky color balancing on the computer with portrait work (this sort of color balancing drives me INSANE!). My most recent painting I did some thing completely different and painted in black and white, and I love it. So this will be the next theme with painting that I explore, at least for a little while.
Fibre art is another art form I pursue. Sometimes it is in the form of useful items while others are just art to look at. Useful items include eco-printed scarves and fabrics and naturally dyed hand tied bracelets. I have a great interest in items for the home and have some new projects sitting in the dye pot waiting to be unbundled and then stitched. For art pieces I have a real interest in Alberta imagery with pieces including fishing and grain elevators; the newest piece features a skull I saw on a fence post (yes I like Georgia O’Keefe!). I recently took a little diversion dabbling in fairy tale imagery; I may work on this theme on the side as it is pretty whimsical stuff.
How does my work differ from others?
With my knitting, painting and fibre art everything comes down to nature. Nature is the big influence. Our family is happier in the bush or by the ocean than in the city and it really shows in the work. My paintings are all nature based in some capacity, they are the paths and beaches that we walk. The yarns and fabrics I use I naturally dye by hand. Many of the dyes I make from flowers from my garden (marigolds) or plants I collect growing as weeds in ditches (tansy and goldenrod); I also have world’s biggest dye plant, an arbutus tree, in my front yard in Pender that sheds bark that dyes. My latest eco-print fabric is also using native leaves. All my knit items are from Canadian produced wool milled right here in Alberta. I actually popped down to the mill a few days ago and it was amazing. I hand dye all my wool with natural dyes in micro batches and hand knit. I try to focus on using locally produced, grown and collected items if possible, plus a few recycled bits along the way.
Why do I create what I do?
Quite honestly, because I can’t sit still. My hands always have to be busy. For instance if I know we are going somewhere and the drive is about an hour long I will undoubtedly have some knitting, some stitching, a sketchbook and a camera with me so that I have something to do and don’t get bored. I have projects on the go everywhere in the house.
I am also one of those people who looks at something and decides they can do it. I like to “make”. Not just with artwork, but everything. I grew up seeing a lot of things made by hand. My mom taught us to knit, sew and embroider. I remember my grandmother making quilts by hand and knitting; in fact she had a quilting frame hanging above the table in her farmhouse, so having projects all over the place is clearly a family trait.
I truly believe in the concept of “hand made” and of craftsmanship. I always loved the visual side of art and craft, which is probably how I ended up with diplomas in both Fine Arts and Design and Photographic Technology, but things being made by hand is pretty special.
(Buttons being made by hand.)
How does my creative process work?
Each media I work in has a bit of a different process.
Photography, even though you have your own style, is often client directed. After so many years of shooting I still struggle with the concept of photography being art, even with my personal photography. Perhaps it is too machine focused, perhaps it is just too easy to create great images. This is something I think about often.
Paintings usually begin with an experience, a walk on a beach, a snowshoe or hike through the woods. Sometimes I will paint live on the beach but more often I work from images I have photographed. Recently I have started working from images stored on my iPad which has been interesting. A painting done on the beach is usually a small piece done in less than an hour while a large canvas on an easel (3-5 feet wide) will take months for me to finish. I have a wall easel up in one of the main areas of our house so there is always a big piece waiting to be worked on. Painting usually involves large quantities of tea and listening to endless CBC Radio; I guess I like painting listening to discussions over music. I have always had problems getting a regular flow going with a painting, just as things are going well a huge photography job usually comes up and painting is brushed to the side for a month or more. The last few weeks I have started doing small pieces in an effort to get a better routine established while not needing as large of a time commitment.
Knitting always starts with a massive dye session of pots bubbling and yarn dyeing and being hung out. Much of what I knit I know the numbers of stitches and lengths and increases in my head which makes the structure part easy. I love stranded knitting, knitting in patterns with multiple colors of yarn. I make it up as I go along which allows pieces to be unique. I am always tweaking items and working on new items to knit, and adding in other elements like beading, doing some after dyeing and also fulling. I seem to have a lot of new items that I am “working on”, that just need a little tweaking. The process of “try, try again”.
How I approach fibre art depends on the piece. With the Alberta series I start with tying and dyeing cotton with multiple colors, I cut a lino block, print it on the fabric and then stitch and bead (for a very long time!). With pieces made from silk I usually just raid the stash of silk scraps I have, piece it together and stitch and bead. Eco-printing usually happens on a whim, I mordant up the cloth and then try out different vegetation combinations not knowing what the result will really be. It is really fun as there are no guarantees. I like fibre art as it is portable, I can take stitching anywhere. I also like that it has no rules, I think it sits on the line between art and craft. I do think a lot of people don’t “get it” . Somehow artwork made from cloth, stitching and beading isn’t given the same respect as paint on canvas (which IS cloth!). Does it matter…..probably not as long as you enjoy what you are doing and like the visual results.
I hope you enjoyed a little look at what I do. I have passed this blog hop on to two very talented Albertans, Valerie Baber of Valerie Baber Designs – Intricate Knits and Linda Cote of Musings From The Studio . Valerie produces artful knitting and crochet, while Linda creates wonderful images through printmaking. These bloggers will surely amaze and inspire you. They will be sharing their creative processes with you next week.
Well I really wasn’t planning on posting for the 4:00 am to 5:00 am time slot, but life has a funny way of making things happen.
We had just finished two solid days of stripping the main floor of our home apart after the discovery of a mouse. Yes I know it was a mouse because a few nights ago it decided to jump out at me in the bathroom in the middle of the night….. I hate it when that happens. We have never before had mice in this house, we’ve had them in our garage (and squirrels too!), but never in the house. For the last few weeks I kept telling my husband that “I heard something.” and he would just say it was one of the kids moving in their sleep. Well is wasn’t…….so WASN’T.
We went away for about 10 days and in that time frame the mice had a party. The hip mouse party hangouts appeared to be our kid’s rooms plus under one couch. For ages I have been telling the kids “Don’t eat all over the house, don’t leave food lying around, we are going to have mice and bugs!” Well, Mom was right. The mice came and conquered. In the one bedroom it really wasn’t the kid’s fault, the mice found a juggling ball that was filled with some sort of grain and had a nibble fest all under the beds. Under the couch WAS the kid’s fault; let’s just say they don’t try to be tidy eaters so there were crumbs galore. However the room our oldest sons share must have been “Mouse Heaven”. Clearly they weren’t following the rule of “Don’t eat in your room.”. Upon discovery of the mouse activity I started to strip the room down completely. Among the various wrappers and food bits I found not one, but TWO types of cheese. Yes indeed, our invading mice had a choice of CHEDDAR and EDAM. Thanks boys!
After two solid days of taking our house apart, cleaning it and putting it back together and not hearing any mice I thought maybe the little critters had vacated the place. Well that was until just before bed last night when I went to close the cupboard and heard a “ting”. Just “ting”. Now I was going to let it go but my husband wasn’t convinced it was “nothing”. He decided to take a look. I knew it wasn’t going to go well when he suggested I go into the family room and close the door while he “took a look”. So time passes, I hear noises, then I hear my husband waking up our eldest (in the middle of the night) to “help”. At this point I know it can’t be good as I have been kept out of the loop. There are definitely mice involved, I keep the door of the room shut (and put pillows across the gap at the bottom of the door!).
Now the next part of the story is a bit second hand. My husband had a “PLAN”. (I must interrupt the story to say my husband gets QUITE obsessive with critter invasions!) Evidently my husband and son were sitting silently, waiting to hear the mouse. My husband had given my son a huge towel. My husband was going to rustle out the mouse and when the mouse ran our son was to throw the towel on the mouse fast. I also know at one point my husband said to our son “are you ready because the mice move fast?” followed by our son saying “I WAS BORN READY!” (LOL!)
I know at some point WATER was involved….no idea how or why….sometimes it is just best not to know all the details. Eventually I decided to check out what was happening as it was nearing 4:00 am. This is what I found……………
Evidently the rest the mice had chewed through, including a huge bag of Dorito’s. At this point we were able to at least name one of the mice, we’ll call him “Max”, after our Dorito eating son (who was also directly responsible for the cheddar an edam that fed the mice so well!). This was NOT good. I asked “where are the mice?”. They didn’t know ( I guess the magic towel didn’t work!). I said “Did you check the littles room?”, which was the room right next to the cupboard. So our son, well past 4:00 am , went to investigate.
By now the house is AGAIN being torn apart. Not good. It is time to get serious and go for the traps. First my husband, having grown up in a vegetarian household, went for the humane live traps.
It was now 5:00 am and my husband was setting live traps and snap traps all over the place. He had gone to Canadian Tire earlier in the day and bought an arsenal of mousetraps, and for good measure a squirrel trap ( and he thought about the raccoon trap too but resisted – another story!) My dad also popped by with more mouse traps as you can never have too many!
At this point I had seen enough. Traps being set. Traps going off unexpectedly. Combinations of cheese (both cheddar and slices) and peanut butter. I decided it was time to go to bed.
I turn on the humidifier, so that I can’t hear the mice scampering around. Then I stack my boots upside down.
Then I went to sleep (knowing there would be a huge mess to sort out the next day!).
Thanks to Northwest frame of Mind for hosting the 1 Day 1 World Project. You can click HERE to read her entry.
Today I am sharing a post from my other blog, http://www.debrahunter.wordpress.com . I thought it would be a nice change to share some of my studio photography from my business Hunter Photographics. This image is from a recent shoot. I like how the sepia tone adds warmth to the image of the mother gently kissing the baby. The square format also adds to the visual interest.
(Please click on the above images to view full size.)
I thought I would share a quick little update of what I am working on this week.
The computer has me busy retouching portrait orders including the lovely little newborn pictured above. Some of you may also read my other blog, www.debrahunter.wordpress.com and have already seen a post showing off this little one.
I also shared on that blog the story behind the painting “Orville’s Barn”. This is another of my quick paintings, this time on a very small scale with it being only 6 inches by 6 inches. Painting was a pleasant way to spend Saturday evening.
Crocheting has taken an amusing turn. First it was a miniature snowy owl, now it is a rather crazed looking beaver………with a hat and scarf ( of course!). The little guy is made out of locally milled yarn and naturally dyed in cutch and lac. The next crazy critter on the hook is a bear. One wonders when the crochet critter madness will end!
There are also three new items on the knitting needles, two for the home and one to wear, I will share the finished products soon. I love the patterns that can be created with stranded knitting. The possibilities are endless.
It is also time to start working on another fibre art piece……or finish a half started one.
There are a lot of creative things happening this week.
Photography, art and handmades by Debra Hunter
We spend a lot if time on the road. The best drives are on the road less travelled or evening drives on quiet roads.
Here are a few images from yesterday evening. It is interesting to watch the changing sky.
(Please ignore the bug smudges on the windshield, as soon as we clean it it is coated again 3 minutes later!)
Last night I completed “The Star Money”, a flurry of beads and stitching. This piece is based on the Grimm’s fairy Tale of the same name. The piece measures 17 inches by 17 inches. I have shared a few more details on this piece over at my other blog.
Artwork by Debra Hunter
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
I feel like I have been neglecting this blog a little bit, but I have been spending my normal blogging time beading and stitching. Most of the past week I have focused on beading. I think glitzy, sparkling, beaded stars are just perfect for a fairy tale themed piece.
Artwork by Debra Hunter
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
This time slot of 2:00-3:00 am lined up nicely with our return trip from the coast. Originally we were going to take the last ferry off the island on Saturday, make our way just past Vancouver (BC, Canada) and drive the bulk of the journey on Sunday. This idea seemed practical in theory, but once we saw how busy the island was with tourists we knew getting a hotel room for seven on a Saturday in prime vacation season was going to be a near impossible task. Instead we enjoyed one more night in our house on the island and headed out on the first ferry of the day. Being a Sunday the direct ferry runs later, so to hit the mainland as early as possible we first took the ferry to Swartz Bay (near Victoria, BC) and then a second ferry across to the mainland. Later ferries meant we were still on the road at 2:00 am.
In general we spend A LOT of time on the road…….cabin every weekend May to October…….in a good year 10 trips to the coast (we’d like to do more!). Having things to do in the car is super important. I can’t read in the car as it makes me car sick, and I lose interest in looking at my phone or iPad pretty quickly. Mostly how I pass my time in the car is knitting, stitching and sometimes playing the harmonica. I always have the harmonica along, a blues harp in G. It is a great way to kill a bit of time and the fact I can play by ear amuses my kids (and it really irritated my piano teacher growing up!). So 2:00 am on the highway was a time for a little live music.
The highways were quiet by now. The crazies were all tucked in their little beds. It was the first time in forever that the QEII highway was actually a sane place to drive. No speeders, no police flying by, no accidents. Just quiet empty road…………..well that was until we reached Red Deer.
Nothing says “Red Deer” like a wailing siren and a speeding cop car. Yep, welcome home. We made it less than 5 minutes within the city limits and we were back to howling sirens ALL…….THE……TIME. It boggles the mind how we can drive all the way from the coast, including THROUGH VANCOUVER, and never hear a siren until we hit Red Deer. But Red Deer sure made up for it. Sirens on the edge of town, as we drove through town, and a whole new batch of sirens as we went into our house. I wish I could say this is an isolated event, but it isn’t. This is what it is like living in Red Deer all the time now, not just at 2:00 or 3:00 am.
We pulled up to our house to find our sidewalk covered with tree branches and leaves, the remnants of a hail storm while we were gone. Into the house we went, gave the kids a snack, and tucked them into bed. Just before going to bed our four year old asked “Are we going to the cabin tomorrow?”. What can I say, our kids are travelers.