Tag Archives: basket

Upcycling Grade 2 Artwork

It started with this.IMG_0375I uncovered this painting my daughter did in Grade Two. I guess it was after we had gone on an airplane ride, her first.

I admit that I have trouble throwing some things away. I figured I could use the old schoolwork in a piece of art. So I cut it up.


The paper was the perfect weight for stitching through.

And the piece of paper was big enough to make a decent sized little basket.

I actually sewed the strips in the exact order I cut them.IMG_7145IMG_7146

IMG_7164I was quite pleased with the outcome. A random pattern of red, black, yellow and white.


I’m really glad I took a photograph of the airplane first.

Red Fabric Baskets


These are coiled fabric baskets or bowls which I have sewn using strips of recycled women’s clothing over a jute rope core.

sewing red basket

Each can be used as a beautiful home decor piece for storing just about anything (other than liquids!).

But I have particularly designed these baskets to be purchased as Menses Rite of Passage Gift containers or First Blood Ritual Gifts.

Menarche rite of passage or first menses ceremony is when a girl gets her first period.  As an artist I want to support the empowering and honouring of women by creating coming of age ritual gifts (stay tuned for menopause baskets). Using a ceremonial rite-of-passage empowes a girl’s sense of feminine self-esteem, as well as provides a context for her family and friends to offer wisdom, support and intentional blessing. This can be done one-on-one with mother and daughter or any type of gathering designed particularly with that girl in mind.

Here are some books for finding menarche celebrations:
Becoming Peers: Mentoring Girls into Womanhood by DeAnna Lam
I Am A Woman By Rite by Nancy Brady Cunningham
Life Cycle Celebrations for Women by Marge Sears
Bringing Home the Light: A Jewish Woman’s Handbook of Rituals by E.N. Broner

And some websites supporting menses rituals:
Red Moon
Red Tents In Every Neighborhood

This On-The-Rag basket is a play on words of course. I think that a vessel made from recycled women’s garments, in particular, is a strong link to the matriarchal line, the blood line. A handmade vessel like this would make a lovely handmade gift all on its own and can be used in the home for so many purposes. Or use it as a gift container for any occasion. It’s got soft sides but holds its shape and is very textural. Each is one-of-a-kind.IMG_7067

For a First Blood/Menarche/Coming of Age ritual gift fill one of my baskets with items such as:

Book A Diva’s Guide to Getting Your Period  by DeAnna Lam
Cloth Pads https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/127514073/cloth-pads-bamboo-organic-cotton-10
Red sarong https://www.etsy.com/listing/112644277/red-silk-scarf
Wine Glass https://www.etsy.com/listing/43314857/hand-painted-wine-glasses-poppies
Red Candle https://www.etsy.com/listing/113801427/red-soy-pillar-bloom-unscented-natural
Bath Bubbles https://www.etsy.com/listing/58984791/lemon-lavender-dead-sea-bath-salts
Massage Lotion https://www.etsy.com/listing/85679450/soothing-moon-massage-and-body-oil1-oz
Monthly Cycle Tea https://www.etsy.com/listing/122712246/historical-monthly-cycles-tea-for-ones
Goddess Figurine https://www.etsy.com/listing/113249826/ceramic-goddess-figurine-spiral-leaf
Jewelry https://www.etsy.com/listing/81795873/beaded-art-doll-purple-spirit-goddess
Journal https://www.etsy.com/listing/99908384/red-blank-leather-journal-or-sketchbook

And add a bottle of good red wine, red rose, fresh strawberries or add anything you think would make a young woman feel fabulous. You may purchase my baskets here.


How did you mark your coming of age?

But Will It Hold Water

For about a year I’ve been on a little journey which began when I picked up a brochure (can’t even recall where I got it), a call for entry for Threadworks: A Juried Exhibition of Needle Arts. This is an exhibition, organized every three years by the Ontario Network of Needleworkers’ (ONN) an amazing group of dedicated people, mostly women. Their mandate is to raise the profile of needlework to the general public.

The 2013 theme “Water” really excited me. Selection into the show would be made on the basis of interpretation of the theme (I always focus better if I work around a theme.)  A substantial part of the piece had to be made with a threaded needle and of original design. No kits here baby!

The theme of water is a timely one. Fresh water is our greatest natural resource. We are losing control and access to it, drop by drop. I believe the right to safe, clean drinking water is a human right. We are nearing the end of the United Nations International Decade For Action “Water for Life” 2005-2015.  Its’ resolution states:

“The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights”. Comment No. 15 also defined the right to water as the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.

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Water Quality

This really strong connection to clean water comes from my chemist father, W. M. Ward, who began the first public health laboratory in Manitoba in 1942. He chaired the Federal-Provincial Working Group on Drinking Water, the body who published the standards for Canadian drinking water quality in 1978. These are still in use today.

I have a compelling desire to be close to a large body of water on a regular basis. I need to hear the waves (no doubt this is why I named my Etsy store, WaveSong.) I grew up on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. It is the 10th largest fresh water lake in the world and the most eutrophied (that’s bad). It’s struggling to balance too much agricultural run-off, with excess nutrients and pesticides, and sewage discharge which causes toxic algae.*

For the last year I’ve had this idea of water and needlework sloshing around in my brain while the Threadworks Call For Entry sat on my desk. My intention was to make my entry in the summer. Last summer came and went. I totally forgot about the brochure. I actually didn’t even think about it again until this March when visiting our wonderful little local art gallery, Gallery in the Grove. Strewn on the entrance table were some Artist’s Call For Entry brochures from various Canadian galleries. Oh yah, now I remember! When I got home, I excavated the brochure from the pile on my desk. My brain woke up and my journey went into high speed. I had just over three weeks to get a piece from conception (but I did already have a small drop of an idea percolating) to completion. I looked at my calendar… not much booked. It was doable.


1960’s Lake Erie Chart

My basic idea was a coiled basket, a vessel, sort of a rag basket, but made from paper, particularly nautical charts or maps of the Great Lakes Erie, Huron and Ontario, recycled from my deceased uncle’s sailboat.

When it comes to my artwork, I’m a bit obsessed with recycling. Maybe it’s just because I’m super cheap when it comes to supplies. Or because, as my son calls me, I’m a ‘functional hoarder’. I scoop up thread, paper, old maps, rope, fabric, clothes, mostly all from yard sales and thrift shops. I don’t necessarily have a specific project in mind when buying. Everything gets added to my magpie stash. Any good artist needs a stash.

Actually containers are one of my favourite things. And maps. And I loved the idea of a vessel for this water-themed show. I’ve hand-stitched and machine-sewn lots of coiled baskets before. I had been experimenting with some techniques of sewing coiled baskets with paper instead of fabric.  After breaking numerous needles, what seemed to work was when I settled on one intended for sewing leather.

Sew….. I journeyed into constructing this vessel on my sewing machine.


Driving it for many hours I realized that the lake-like shape which I wanted to produce would be a bugger to fanangle on a machine. Unlike throwing a clay pot on a potter’s wheel, I couldn’t just go upwards equally on all sides which I normally do for most of my baskets. IMG_6870I wanted this one to look like a dried-up lake bed, a contour elevation map and a vessel all rolled into one!

The name for the piece sang out while I was  driving my machine…

“But Will It Hold Water”

Of course this is a play on words. When we have a new idea, “will it hold water?” is a term we use for “is it worthy, does it have merit?” There are holes in this basket. Would the vessel float? Our freshwater bodies, will they hold water? This convoluted idea of mine. My weird humour. Was it worth so much of my time? Yes, I needed to finish this journey.

The actually process of sewing is kind of fun, at the start. I’m visual and auditory. I like hearing the needle punch through the paper. But it’s really hard on the hands to wrap the paper tightly and maintain the angle of the work. And then, of course, the bobbin runs out at the most inopportune moment (enter expletive here….)  Stitching was a bitch and I nearly threw in the towel. But I had already put too much effort and time into the process to give up. Determined I was!IMG_6871

Gratefully, my artistic muse, who only lives a few doors down, dropped everything a scooted over. Her encouragement gave me the stamina to continue when my spirits were low, my hands were aching and I questioned why I was using one of the most difficult means of construction available to a needleworker.

Trust the process, I’ve been taught.


The piece morphed from an oval mat shape to a dried lake bed, 3D contour map to a wave-like pieces splashing around one end. In the end it really was a process. I was thrilled with the outcome. It was an idea which seemed to work. But would anybody else ‘get it’, most importantly the jurors? What artist doesn’t struggle with that need to translate one’s ideas into matter? The alchemy of spinning straw into gold.IMG_0383


And then I had to construct the shipping box. This is another story completely! If it got accepted into the show it also had the possibility of being chosen for the 3 year travelling exhibit. There were strict guidelines to follow in the Call For Entry.  In order to protect the vessel I had to build a large shell of styrofoam (so totally un-environmentally sound that this incongruity did not get lost on me) surrounded by corrougated cardboard. Help came from my wanna-be engineer husband.


On delivery day we drove the three hours to Fergus, Ontario, a lovely town in Mennonite country. I had not entered a juried art show in awhile. “What did I have to lose?” I kept telling myself. A small entry fee, a beautiful spring day outing with my daughter, and, oh ya, hours and hours hunched over the sewing machine! Over 150 entries to be juried and they would only accept about 50. I was a little nervous. I felt like I was leaving my baby at the doctor’s office. I would’t hear for a few days whether my effort would be recognized as the brilliant piece it was. : )


Well this morning in my ‘Inbox’ was the correspondence an artist lives for, recognition from your colleagues that you were on the right track. “But Will It Hold Water” was accepted into Threadworks 2103 and I also won a Juror’s Choice Award (happy dance)!! They did ‘get it’ and my message about fresh water is going to a wider audience to make viewers ponder.

Threadworks is a special project of ONN in association with Wellington County Museum and Archives. The inaugural exhibition is mounted there, then will travel to museums and galleries across Ontario.

If you would like to see my piece (which looks much more impressive in person, it’s very hard to photograph) I am inviting you to see this spectacular collection of needlework any time from April 20 until June 9, 2013 or join me at the Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony:  April 28, 2:00 to 4:00 pm, Wellington County Museum and Archives, Fergus, ON. (Stayed tuned for the obligatory award ceremony photos and the itinerary of the travelling exhibit. It may be on it’s way to a location near you.)

I thought my little journey was about to end. It just took a three year detour!

2013 Threadworks Poster

update: April 28, 2013 See Awards Ceremony post.

* To support the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, doing research on this terrible problem, please click here.

Coiled Paper Basket

My husband owns a neat software company. They were cleaning out the cupboard last week and decided to recycle a boxful of out-of-date brochures.IMG_6969I love paper so I rescued a few and this is what they morphed into.


Strips of ripped paper wrapped over jute rope in a traditional coiling method. I like the chinking sound of the sewing machine needle going through glossy paper even though it’s a b*#@h to sew through.

FrameReady 5 was released 10 years ago. He’s now up to FrameReady Version 9, soon to be released this Spring.

I love making something new out of something discarded.

Altered Map Encaustic Bowl

Today I engaged in some dedicated time in my studio to experiment with new processes. I’ve always enjoyed working with paper, especially maps*. And I’ve done coiled basketry for years. I recently learned encaustic, basically painting with hot beeswax. I thought I would try to combine them all. I came up with an altered map encaustic vessel.

(If you curious to know why my globe is upside down read this post.)

IMG_6670I started with this flat paper National Geographic map of Florida which I found at a yard sale. Yes, I rip up old maps. Horrors you say! I rip up old books too which may make some of you cringe as well. Because I like recreating one thing into another beautiful and useful new object. (It’s alright to deposit old road maps, atlases and the like, on my front porch). 
Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 6.16.55 PM

I ripped the map into strips and with jute macrame rope, coiled the paper around the rope and sewed up the vessel using a heavy duty stitched zig-zag. Shaping it is the hard part, like throwing a pot on a wheel. Keeping it from getting wonky is tricky. That’s if you want to keep it straight! My style is definitely not symmetrical.

Next I painted the entire bowl with encaustic medium using a hake brush. Layering and layering until all of the paper was basically covered. I suppose if I had done another couple of layers it could have been waterproof. My husband, funny guy that he is, suggested that it wouldn’t be a good idea to use it for his morning cereal. And it’s a whole lot too big for that.IMG_6665IMG_6677I like the thick, crusty wax parts and the drips. IMG_6674

A little buffing with a cotton rag and voila!  A bowl, substantial enough to easily hold something solid and smelling like honey too.IMG_6671

I suppose I should entitle this one “Florida Reimagined”.IMG_6673This is just a prototype so watch my Etsy shop for more to come.

Check out my encaustic board on Pinterest.

* This altered map is on the CBS sitcom set of Mike & Molly.