Category Archives: News

Medaille House Labyrinth

Medaille House Labyrinth, London Ontario - Sandi Spaulding Photographer

Medaille House Labyrinth, London Ontario – photo Sandi Spaulding

In 1998 I spearheaded a labyrinth building project at Medaille House Retreat Centre in London, Ontario.  A 60′ diametre labyrinth based on the classical 11 circuit Chartres Cathedral design.

What prompted my memory of this event was finding this cardboard template tucked away in my storage room. Before tossing this in the recycling bin I wanted to document the story of this labyrinth. Because it’s now gone and so is the retreat house.


Labyrinth lunation template

The Sister’s of St Joseph in London ran a beautiful retreat house with acres of forest on the north bank of the Thames River. Many times during the 1990’s the house and the wisdom of the Sisters had been a refuge for me.

Original retreat house, now demolished

Original retreat house, now decommissioned and lovingly demolished and recycled

They desired to add a labyrinth to their park-like grounds as a walking meditation tool for their retreatants.

Laying out the pattern was an entire day’s work with the help of a few of the sisters. We decided to orientate the labyrinth so when you entered beside a huge old tree stump you would be facing west. A small tree would be in the very centre.

measuring tool and spray paint cans

measuring tool and spray paint cans

painting the outer wall

painting the outer wall

starting lunations on the edge

starting lunations on the edge

Medaille Labyrinth 8

facing northwest

Medaille Labyrinth 6

facing south

giant old stump was the entry point, photo is facing east towards the retreat house

giant old stump was the entry point (photo is facing east towards the retreat house)

after a long labour, we gave birth to a finished labyrinth (facing west)

after a long labour, we gave birth to a finished labyrinth (facing west)

A few months later the painted pattern was covered with river rocks. It lasted for many years until the Sisters decided to decommission it because they were creating a new structure on the lot. They opened a new retreat centre and built a beautiful brick labyrinth in the new location. It has also subsequently closed as well.

Labyrinth Encased After an Ice Storm photo by Sandi Spaulding

Labyrinth Encased After an Ice Storm photo by Sandi Spaulding

I am indebted to Sandi Spaulding for her photographic archive of this labyrinth.

For more information about labyrinths check out The Labyrinth Society.

Have you ever walked a labyrinth?

Lee Jean Patches

You do stupid things when you’re a teenager. Hopefully those stupid things aren’t morally, legally or ethically wrong. Sometimes they are just silly!

When I was a teenager there was a really weird fad. Stealing Lee jean patches!

If you were fortunate enough to be able to afford them, the cool thing was wearing Levi jeans, or Lee’s. They had a leather patch sewn to the back.


The fad was (you may not believe this) we tried stealing other people’s patches. Literally sneaking up behind someone and grabbing the leather patch with your fingers and pulling it off. Some people cheated and by hand, reinforced the stitching on their patches with extra strong thread so they couldn’t be ripped off.

It was a prestigious thing to be able to say you stole so-and-so’s Lee patch. It was a fairly short-lived fad as I recall.

I’ve been cleaning out some old boxes and found my patch collection. I had written on the backs of each the names of the people, mostly guys, who I had ripped off. Literally!


Some of my girlfriends collected enough that they sewed them together to make a belt.

Such a stupid fad. Anybody else remember this 1970’s craze or was it solely a Manitoba phenom?


Heather Lair – Celestial Body


Heather Lair (1956 – 2013), Gimli, MB, Canada, was an amazing artist. Her passion, amongst other things, was textiles. I will miss her beautiful smile, piercing eyes, lilting voice, nimble fingers, generosity of spirit and positive attitude. Our brief friendship was treasured.

Celestial bodies IV

Celestial bodies IV, August 2008 by Heather Lair

We feel privileged to have one of her quilts gracing our abode. Every time I look at it now I will remember her. She is a celestial body.

Ann Beam – The Woman Who Never Sits

I was browsing through the tourist brochures while recently on the lounge deck of the MS Chi Cheemaun ferry to Manitoulin Island.  “The Art Map: Year Round Trail Guide to Galleries, Art Studios and Events” popped out at me. I’m the type of person who is willing to step out of my comfort zone if I sense that I might find some deep connection. This is my definition of adventure.


My husband and I had perhaps 3 hours to putz around Manitoulin Island enroute to the West.  We could swing into the hamlet of M’Chigeeg to see Neon Raven Gallery. So we followed the lively little signs “The Heart of the Art” from the ferry dock. Pulling up the driveway, past the vegetable garden, the banks of solar panels and sighting an adobe-style home and studio I said to myself, “this oughta be interesting.” Out popped a lively hippie woman and said, “I thought you might be my daughter, she’s supposed to be here any minute with my grandchild.”


Ann Beam is a painter, multi-media artist, sculptor, ceramicist, author and wonderful human being. What a joy to be exposed to her world, if even for such a brief time.

Ann Beam autographing a book for me

Ann Beam autographing her book for me

Being welcomed into her studio is like walking into her brain. Works in progress, finished pieces, shadowboxes from long ago, cards, books, pieces of her husband’s potteryher daughter’s art.

It felt like I was experiencing a remnant from another decade. But her art is far from an environmentalist flower child’s meanderings. We were quickly immersed in her vortex of creativity. Currently she is working on large mixed media paintings in corrugated cardboard, found pieces (AKA trash) and photo transfers with acrylic for an upcoming show.

IMG_7466In a number of her paintings she has employed the atmospheric edge of our blue planet. Chris Hadfield would like these paintings, I thought.

Medicine Box 4, "Dr. Bach and the Rescue Remedy"

Medicine Box 4, “Dr. Bach and the Rescue Remedy”


“Wheel”, 60″ x 48″

Her explanation of this painting/collage “Wheel” was that she saw a nine pointed star in the bicycle wheel. The Buddha (it could have been any deity, but that’s the one she chose, even though she’s not a Buddhist she said) is showing us how to sit in a relaxed way, showing us that we all can relax.

IMG_7457Days later I got around to reading the little book I purchased from her, the catalog of her 2008 Earth and Shell exhibit. As I read it I thought, “what can I find online about her?” Turns out she and her husband, Carl Beam, were an incredibly influential couple in the Canadian art scene. As I read their CVs I was humbled to think that I had ‘accidentally’ run across such artistic wisdom. That I had briefly wet my feet in the brook of the ancients. Turns out we actually did that, because it was because of Ann we found our way to Bridal Veil Falls and hiked for the afternoon.

I regret not having known who Ann was before I drove up her driveway.  It felt like I was with an endangered species, a full time artist. Well into her second half of life she was still busy rendering myth to the uninitiated masses, even with the physical absence of her husband/artist/lover who died in 2005. I felt a tinge of sadness for her. The body of work they built together is a national treasure and should be a historical landmark.

It was no coincidence that I happened upon the brochure on the ferry. It was the only one in which Ann had decided to advertise this season. I only wish I had taken the time to sit with “Ann who never sits’. As an aural shaman and artist there is so much I would have liked to soak in. I could have sat at her feet for days.

"Earth and Shell", 40" x 30" watercolour, sand and stones on handmade St Armand paper

“Earth and Shell”, 40″ x 30″ watercolour, sand and stones on handmade St Armand paper, 2008 and “Earth Incorporating”, 4’x6’,  recycled packaging and found objects and canvas on panel , acrylic, 2010

“Shells are a visual record of that Creational Sound, pouring into the world…inaudibly” – Ann Beam

"from Ann (who never sits)"

“from Ann (who never sits)”