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.
Coffee Sweaters made of naturally hand dyed and hand knit locally produce wool.
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.
“Grain Elevator and Tansy” (2014) 14.75 inches by 15.25 inches
starting to cut the lino cut
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.
making tansy dye
yarns dyed in (from left): pomegranate, lac, tansy, logwood, lac , turmeric, pomegranate, logwood
hand made buttons from our tree
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”.
Fulled wool squares dyed in tansy and madder (still wet).
Cotton yarn dyed in logwood, lac, cutch and tansy.
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.
marigolds for dyeing
making marigold dye
dyeing the cotton in the marigold dye
drawing the image on the lino block
carving the lino block
fabric dyed in marigold, madder and cutch
block printing the fish
two printed pieces, one iron dipped and one not
“A Catch of 10”
7 inches by 16.5 inches
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.
Art and photography by Debra Hunter